Wel­fare of chil­dren is first pri­or­ity when craft­ing re­pro­duc­tive laws

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

There have been rapid ad­vances in as­sisted re­pro­duc­tive medicine, such as im­proved tech­niques for achiev­ing preg­nancy via eggs or sperm do­nated by third par­ties and for sur­ro­gate moth­er­hood.

Broad-based dis­cus­sion is re­quired for im­prov­ing leg­is­la­tion on these top­ics.

The Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party’s pro­ject team, com­prised of mem­bers of the health, la­bor and wel­fare di­vi­sion and ju­di­cial af­fairs di­vi­sion, has com­piled a bill to be re­lated to Ja­pan’s Civil Code re­gard­ing as­sisted re­pro­duc­tive medicine.

The ma­jor pil­lar of the bill is a stip­u­la­tion that, re­gard­ing child­birth achieved via donor eggs, the woman who gives birth must be rec­og­nized as the baby’s mother.

The party plans to sub­mit the bill to the cur­rent Diet ses­sion.

The Civil Code did not con­tem­plate child­birth through as­sisted re­pro­duc­tive medicine in­volv­ing third par­ties, and it has no clear stip­u­la­tions re­gard­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween a child and the par­ents in such cir­cum­stances.

We can un­der­stand the LDP’s aim of sta­bi­liz­ing the law’s treat­ment of the par­ent-child re­la­tion­ship from a view­point of child wel­fare, by es­tab­lish­ing a new law be­side the Civil Code.

Many peo­ple will prob­a­bly agree with a rule that the woman who ac­tu­ally gives birth with the will to raise the baby must be rec­og­nized as the baby’s mother, rather than the “ge­netic mother” who do­nates eggs.

Mean­while, in the case of sur­ro­gacy, which in­volves a third­party woman who gives birth us­ing an egg from the wife and the sperm of her hus­band, a par­entchild re­la­tion­ship be­tween the wife and the child can­not be rec­og­nized.

As Ja­pan’s Supreme Court has handed down a judg­ment sim­i­lar to this, the bill has come in line with this way of think­ing.

The Ja­pan So­ci­ety of Ob­stet­rics and Gyne­col­ogy has made clear through an­nounce­ments and other means that it does not ap­prove of in-vitro fer­til­iza­tion us­ing donor eggs nor sur­ro­gate preg­nancy in Ja­pan.

But le­gal pro­vi­sions have yet to be drafted con­cern­ing as­sisted re­pro­duc­tive medicine. The LDP’s team has put off for­mu­lat­ing any con­crete statu­tory rules on these is­sues for now.

Tech­niques Out­pace Laws

It was made known last month that there have been in- vitro fer­til­iza­tions us­ing eggs do­nated by vol­un­teers for women with an ovar­ian dis­or­der.

The fer­til­iza­tions were car­ried out un­der the aus­pices of a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion es­tab­lished by a doc­tor en­gaged in fer­til­ity treat­ment and a group of pa­tients.

This de­vel­op­ment re­veals the real state of af­fairs: Prac­ti­cal ef­forts on the med­i­cal fron­tier have been go­ing ahead while there are no statu­tory rules in place.

It is es­ti­mated that each year more than 100 Ja­panese women give birth to ba­bies con­ceived over­seas us­ing donor eggs.

Re­gard­ing sur­ro­gate preg­nancy, in­ci­dents have oc­curred over­seas such as a cou­ple re­fus­ing to ac­cept a baby born to a sur­ro­gate be­cause of a pos­si­ble dis­abil­ity or a sur­ro­gate mother re­fus­ing to hand over the baby.

An ar­range­ment un­der which a sta­ble up­bring­ing of a child is en­sured is es­sen­tial.

As for the use of donor sperm, an es­tab­lished fer­til­ity treat­ment, there has been a grow­ing num­ber of cases in re­cent years in which the re­sult­ing child wants to know his or her ge­netic fa­ther.

There is con­cern that should sperm donors be iden­ti­fied, sperm do­na­tions will de­cline.

It is nec­es­sary to fur­ther dis­cuss the is­sue of what to do with in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the ori­gins of those who are born through as­sisted re­pro­duc­tive tech­nol­ogy.

Amid an in­crease in the num­ber of women hav­ing ba­bies later in life, there are many cou­ples who want to take ad­van­tage of as­sisted re­pro­duc­tive medicine.

Is it al­low­able, how­ever, to have third par­ties as­sume phys­i­cal bur­dens in the first place, such as preg­nancy and child­birth or do­na­tion of eggs?

It is es­sen­tial to dis­cuss these fun­da­men­tal is­sues.

The most im­por­tant thing is to have a per­spec­tive that puts top pri­or­ity on the hap­pi­ness of those chil­dren to be born through re­pro­duc­tive medicine. This is an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by The Yomi­uri Shim­bun on Aug. 12.

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