04/04/2018 21:32 EDT | Updated 04/05/2018 12:08 EDT

It's Time To Discuss Potentially Paying Sperm And Egg Donors: Trudeau

"This is not an easy situation."

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (not pictured) take part in a joint press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians need to have a conversation about whether to allow women and men to be paid to donate eggs or sperm for fertility treatments.

While many strong opinions are expected on this proposed change, Trudeau says he believes it is an important issue that needs to be studied.

"This is not an easy situation, this is a very complex situation," he said Wednesday during a news conference with the head of the NATO military alliance.

"Of course we will need to listen to everyone's perspectives, that we learn about their experiences and that we try to find the best solution for us as a society."

Last month, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather announced plans to introduce a private member's bill that would amend the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

The Canadian Press Images
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather scrums with media in Ottawa on June 14, 2016.

This law, passed in 2004, allows for sperm and eggs to be donated and surrogate mothers to carry someone else's baby, but it imposes a strict ban on paying for these services beyond covering out of pocket expenses; penalties for violating the law include up to 10 years in prison or a $500,000 fine.

Housefather said Wednesday he was "delighted" to hear the prime minister invite public conversation on the issue. Gay and infertile heterosexual couples should not have to live in fear of possible prison time when trying to grow their families, he said.

"We have Canadians going to the U.S. to do egg donation and surrogacy because of the fear of the criminal law in Canada hanging over their heads and we have fear amongst intended parents and surrogates and agencies in Canada that they will do something wrong and trigger criminal sanctions," Housefather said.

"The law deters donors, surrogates and intended parents. And while nobody disputes the provinces need to carefully regulate in these areas, it should not be criminal."

Want-to-be-parents looking to U.S.

Last year, the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society said the current law has resulted in a very limited supply of donated eggs and sperm in Canada, forcing want-to-be parents to look to the United States, where paid donations are legal.

Trudeau said his government will listen to and show respect for all opinions that emerge when Housefather's bill is debated and will "move forward appropriately."

"It's a difficult but important issue but I know that we'll have plenty of time to think about it and talk about it."

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