I'm in the midst of attending a conference where it is clear that most of the participants feel very strongly against both commercialized egg and sperm donation, as well as against anonymous gamete donation. These are not rare positions in Canadian circles, and are well-regarded in legal and other academic circles. In its most basic terms, the argument against commercialization of human gametes is that it is morally repugnant to put a price on that which creates life and/or that it may induce women to participate in a non-necessary medical procedure. The argument against anonymous gamete donation, at its most basic, is that it is not in the best interest of the children conceived from the use of these donor gametes who have the right to know their biological origins.
For years now, ever since the Assisted Human Reproduction Act became law back in 2004 and prohibited the purchase of donor gametes from a donor or a person acting on behalf of a donor, most donor sperm used in Canada has been imported via the U.S. or other countries. Much of that sperm is paid for by the sperm bank in a jurisdiction where it is legal to pay for gametes. The sperm is then purchased either by an importer of sperm from Canada or directly by Canadian parents. Over the past couple of years, the same situation has become viable when it comes to donor eggs as the technology to vitrify and thaw the ova is now available so now there are not only sperm banks but egg banks, too.
My best guess is that because of the restrictive and shockingly severe criminal sanctions in the AHRA (i.e. up to 10 years in jail and/or $500,000 fine), more and more Canadian clinics and patients are going to turn to importing donor eggs as opposed to going through donor ova cycles here. To make a long story short, whether or not this is legal is a nuanced answer where the devil is in the details but suffice it to say that I think it is possible to carefully work within the confines of the AHRA to import ova into Canada in a legal manner.
The problem? Here it is: at this point, most egg banks in the U.S. offer only anonymously donated eggs (it seems to me that the push to use known or open-id gametes is generally much stronger in Canada than the U.S.). Further, my best guess is that all of the egg banks pay the donors for the eggs. Accordingly, in a quest to prohibit commercialized gamete donation and anonymous donation, we have pushed Canadian clinics and parents toward what many will undoubtedly see as a legally preferable process than trying to negotiate the legislative minefield that is the AHRA (which fails to clarify what is an appropriate reimbursement with the potential penalty ranging from 5-10 years in jail and/or $250,000-$500,000 in fines).
This will likely result in far increased use of banked ova which were paid for in the U.S. and provided on an anonymous basis. Further, whereas when a donor participates in an egg donation cycle in Canada, we can oversee many aspects of the process -- we know she has publicly funded health care available to her, we can monitor the quality of her care, there are laws specifically targeted to ensure that she consents to the procedure, there is a legal system available to her if she were to suffer damages, and there are resources (such as lawyers, psychologists, etc.) available to her.
We lose all such control over the process of egg donation and the resources available to a donor when the donation cycle happens outside of our borders. So, while the criminal provisions of the AHRA may end up keeping our backyard clean, it is at the loss of being able to do a better job with a uniquely Canadian perspective and bent regarding assisted reproductive technologies at the expense of the donors and the children born through the use of donor gametes.
In January, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/04/chances-of-having-twins_n_1183674.html">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> reported that the numbers of twins in the U.S. has jumped in the last three decades: In 2009, 1 in every 30 babies born in the U.S. was a twin, compared to just 1 in every 53 in 1980. Why? Chalk it up to more and more couples using assisted reproductive technology, as well as an increase in women waiting to have kids until their 30s when the odds of having twins increases,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/04/chances-of-having-twins_n_1183674.html"> AP said.</a>
In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new figures on autism spectrum disorder in the U.S. and they were up: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/30/autism-rate-increase-repo_n_1390721.html">1 in 88 children</a> is now believed to have autism, compared to the previous estimate of 1 in 110. Experts attribute much of the increase to better screening and diagnosis, AP reported, but that does not mean the findings aren't cause for concern. "Autism is now officially becoming an epidemic in the United States," Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, said at a news conference.
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/alcohol-during-pregnancy-_n_1686953.html">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> survey from July found that 1 in 13 pregnant women in the U.S. drink alcohol. And of those who said they drank, 1 in 5 admitted to going on at least one binge -- having four or more drinks at once. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/22/drinking-alcohol-pregnant-effects-children_n_1822880.html">A study</a> that came out a month later found that drinking during pregnancy has long-lasting effects on children's size.
More and more kids are swallowing batteries, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found, sending thousands of children to the ER each year. Between 1997 and 2010, nearly 30,000 kids up to age 4 were taken to the emergency room for battery related injuries, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/swallowed-batteries-kids_n_1844412.html">MyHealthNewsDaily reported</a> in August. More than half of the cases involved small, circular button batteries.
In August, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/new-circumcision-guidelin_n_1826069.html">American Academy of Pediatrics</a> -- the U.S.' major pediatrics organization -- revised its policy on infant male circumcision, saying that the health benefits outweigh the risks. But the new guideline stopped short of recommending it routinely, stating instead that it should simply be available to parents who choose it for their sons. To the great surprise of no one, the policy was an immediate source of debate, with one "intactivist" leader <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/new-circumcision-guidelin_n_1826069.html">telling HuffPost</a> that the AAP had failed to address what she called the "real risks and harms of circumcision."
Also in August, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/breastfeeding-rates-cdc_n_1734381.html">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> announced that more moms in the U.S. are breastfeeding their babies. Some 47 percent of moms breastfed their babies for at least six months in 2009 (the latest year for which there is data). That's up from 44 percent the year before. "The headlines 10 years back were, 'Mothers don't breastfeed enough; Is something wrong with mothers?'"Dr. Alison Stuebe, an OB-GYN and assistant professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/breastfeeding-rates-cdc_n_1734381.html">told HuffPost</a>. "We've recognized that this is crazy. Let's fix the system rather than going after moms.'"
The number of kids and teens being prescribed antipsychotics has soared, an August study in the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/09/antipsychotics-adhd-study_n_1760602.html">Archives of General Psychiatry</a> found. Psychiatrists now prescribe the drugs in one out of every three office visits with children, and increasingly for off label use -- namely, the treatment of ADHD. The latter in particular, experts <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/09/antipsychotics-adhd-study_n_1760602.html">told HuffPost</a>, is cause for serious concern: "Although antipsychotic medications can deliver rapid improvement in children with severe conduct problems and aggressive behaviors, it is not clear whether they are helpful for the larger group of children with ADHD," study author Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, said.
Nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, is a good way for women to manage some of the pain that accompanies labor, a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/13/laughing-gas-delivery_n_1881496.html">Cochrane review</a> from September said. Though it's not at all popular here in the U.S. -- only 1 percent of women use laughing gas during birth, compared to the 60 percent of women who have an epidural during vaginal delivery -- the review concluded that it is both effective and safe for mom and baby.
Though sleep training can be a source of contention among parents and parenting experts alike, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/10/infant-sleep-training_n_1865767.html">an Australian study</a> published in September concluded that two of the most popular methods are perfectly safe. "Controlled comforting" (basically a modified form of cry-it-out) and "camping out" (when parents sit in the room with their babies and pat or comfort them, but do not feed or cuddle them to sleep), did not have any impact -- good or bad -- on children when researchers looked at them at age 6.
They're still rare, but severe complications from birth are on the rise in the U.S., <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/us-birth-complications_n_2008771.html">Reuters reported</a> back in October. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that between 1998 and 2009, the rate of major complications, including things like severe bleeding and kidney failure, essentially doubled. Though <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/us-birth-complications_n_2008771.html">experts stressed</a> that most women who give birth are perfectly fine, there has been an increase in women giving birth at older ages, as well as women who are obese or have certain health conditions that up their risk, such as high blood pressure.
Research published in October in the journal <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/20/boys-puberty_n_1987979.html">Pediatrics</a> showed that boys in the U.S. are entering into puberty at ever earlier ages: On average, boys are starting puberty six months to two years sooner than previous data showed. The study, which is among the first to look at the issue of early-onset puberty in boys, found that white and Hispanic boys now start to show signs of puberty when they are 10, while African American boys may start to show signs when they are 9 years old. What exactly this means isn't yet clear, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/20/boys-puberty_n_1987979.html">study researchers said</a>, but it flags an issue that warrants further investigation.
A lot of parents limit the amount of TV their kids watch each day, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/01/children-tv-exposure-study_n_1923719.html">research published in October</a> found that many are nonetheless exposed to a lot of it -- in the background. The study, which ran in the journal <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/01/children-tv-exposure-study_n_1923719.html">Pediatrics,</a> found that kids are generally exposed to at least 4 hours of background TV per day (meaning it's on in the same room they're in, even if they're not watching directly) and children under the age of 2 are exposed to 5.5 hours every day.
A November study in the journal <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/08/antidepressants-pregnancy_n_2094155.html">Human Reproduction</a> caused quite a stir when it suggested that SSRIs, a type of antidepressants, may increase the risk of complications when taken during pregnancy. Problems include risk of miscarriage, birth defects, neurobehavioral problems and more, the study researchers said. But there was significant push back from many mental health experts who rushed to write letters to the editor saying that the study ignored the many risks of untreated depression.
In November, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/13/us-preterm-birth-rate-hit_n_2118244.html">March of Dimes</a> released its annual preemie birth rate report card and, overall, the news was good: The U.S. preterm birth rate was the lowest it has been in a decade, dropping to 11.7 percent. While that is certainly welcome news, the U.S. still has a long way to go, March of Dimes experts <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/13/us-preterm-birth-rate-hit_n_2118244.html">told HuffPost.</a> Overall, the country still only earned a "C" and only four states (Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire and Maine) earned an "A."
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