Moncton mom fights to decriminalize paying surrogates, egg and sperm donors

Carolynn Dubé of Moncton was in Ottawa this week, where she joined Quebec Liberal MP Anthony Housefather on Parliament Hill to call for changes to the laws around surrogacy and egg and sperm donation in Canada.

Carolynn Dubé is supporting a private member's bill to change the Assisted Human Reproduction Act

Carolynn Dubé of Moncton was in Ottawa this week to support a private member's bill that would lift restrictions on paying surrogates and egg and sperm donors. (Fertility Matters Canada)

Carolynn Dubé knows how it feels to desperately want to start a family but not be able to.

The Moncton woman's struggle with infertility led her to Ottawa this week, where she joined Quebec Liberal MP Anthony Housefather on Parliament Hill to call for changes to the laws around surrogacy and egg and sperm donation in Canada.

"The biggest thing is to remove the criminalization of paying a surrogate and-or a donor of egg or sperm for their services," Dubé told Information Morning Moncton.

Carolynn Dube, executive director of Fertility Matters Canada thinks it is time to change laws in Canada that prevent surrogates and sperm and egg donors from being paid. 12:44

Dubé, who is the executive director of Fertility Matters Canada, was there when Housefather introduced a private member's bill that would change the laws that have been in place in Canada since 2004.

"It's 2018 and we do things differently and the laws are not working because, in fact, we're pushing Canadians outside of Canada," Dubé said.

"One in six Canadian couples will experience infertility and many more same sex couples and single families also need access to that care, and when you go outside of this country, it is incredibly expensive to find a donor, find a surrogate."

Anthony Housefather, a Liberal MP from Quebec, introduced a private member’s bill in Parliament this week that would decriminalize payments to surrogates, egg and sperm donors. (CBC)

Infertility not a criminal issue, says Dubé

Dubé said if the private member's bill is passed, it would no longer be illegal to pay a surrogate or the donor of an egg or sperm for their services.

"What happens is when you remove this criminal act, it then goes back to provincial jurisdiction... it becomes a health issue."

She would like to see surrogacy agencies in Canada which would be regulated by provincial governments and would look similar to an adoption agency.

"The current Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits payments and applies steep penalties, creating a significant roadblock for those facing fertility challenges," according to the Canadian Fertility Society.

"Prospective parents sometimes resort to the unregulated and precarious Canadian underground market with no protection for either party. Others turn to expensive cross border purchases."

Dubé said the punishment for paying a surrogate or egg or sperm donor is as high as a $500,000 fine and 10 years in prison. She said many Canadians have no choice but to leave the country at a huge cost.

"I was speaking with someone this week who had a surrogate in Arizona, a donor in New York, had treatment in Cincinnati and the baby was born back in Arizona and they live in the Maritimes — so you can imagine how much that adds up," she said.

"But if you were able to access a donor somewhere in New Brunswick or in the Maritime provinces you are able to have your treatment done in Moncton... you don't have to take as much time off work, you're paying in Canadian dollars — all of those things make it much more accessible for Canadians."

Stigma still exists

Dubé and her husband were diagnosed as an "infertile couple" in 2012 and were told the only way they could conceive would be through in-vitro fertilization.

The couple has been through the process and has been successful. They have a four-year-old son and Dubé is pregnant with twins.

"It's very stressful, it's very time consuming, it can be very expensive... and we realized early on that it was very important for us to advocate on others behalf," she said.

Dubé wants people to contact their MPs and to push for changes to the law so infertility treatment will be more accessible to all Canadians.

"It's very innate to want to start a family and so when something is wrong and it's not going as planned there's some embarrassment... it can be incredibly difficult and there is some stigma," she said.

"We encourage people to share their stories so they don't feel as isolated and alone."​

with files from Information Morning Moncton