07/27/2014 11:21 EDT | Updated 07/28/2014 06:59 EDT

Calgary Fertility Clinic Restricts Donations Based On Ethnicity, To Prevent 'Rainbow Families'

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A single woman sought in vitro fertilization treatments from Calgary's sole private fertility clinic last March, but tells the Calgary Herald she was surprised to find out they could not accommodate her request.

"Catherine," 38, was informed during the consultation period that the centre had a restrictive policy on sperm, egg or embryo donations from contributors who did not share her ethnic background. Catherine has chosen not to disclose her last name, and could be using a pseudonym to protect her identity.

According to the Herald, the Regional Fertility Program clinic has maintained this single-ethnicity policy since it opened back in the 1980s. Both couples and singles face the same refusal if they seek donor material from those who are not an ethnic match. Similarly, interracial couples are offered a choice between each partner's ethnic profiles.

“I’m not sure that we should be creating rainbow families just because some single woman decides that that’s what she wants,” said Dr. Calvin Greene, the centre's administrative director. “That’s her prerogative, but that’s not her prerogative in our clinic.”

Catherine, who is Caucasian, was seeking a non-ethnic match after she was disappointed by the amount of suitable donors who had not been selected by other patients in the city.

“Frankly, it’s appalling how many people have the same donors, probably because of this policy,” said Catherine. “A friend of mine just went through this process and used the donor that I would have picked.”

Catherine also said she was "absolutely floored" by this type of decision making.

The Regional Fertility Program has come under fire for this policy in the past, but the Alberta Human Rights Commission chose to keep it in place five years ago after a similar complaint was filed. A Caucasian couple looked to use non-Caucasian sperm, but the facility's psychologist deemed this inappropriate since they did not have a cultural connection to the donor's ethnicity, and were not infertile.

Defending the facility's platform, Greene also said the clinic's doctors believe “a child of an ethnic background should have the ability to be able to identify with their ethnic roots.”

Though RFP is the only facility of its kind in Calgary, in Edmonton, the city faces a different type of baby blues. The Edmonton Journal writes a doctor shortage is forcing couples to wait for over a year to receive fertility treatments from a clinic operated under Alberta Health Services. These developments also come after the province has announced plans to consider funding in vitro fertilization.

Meanwhile in Vancouver, centres like the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine do not have any ethnic stipulations on their website regarding the reproductive care for their patients.

Do you agree with Dr. Greene's policies on "rainbow families"?

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