Laws that govern sperm and egg donors and surrogacy are being called outdated and out of touch with modern Kiwi families.

Charity Fertility NZ wants to see a law review of how much compensation egg and sperm donors and surrogates can receive - in hope it will reduce monstrous wait times.

The wait for Kiwis wanting to conceive can be over two years for a sperm donation and a year for an egg donation. Getting a surrogate is near impossible unless you can find one yourself - so many go abroad to access commercial surrogacy.

Juanita Copeland, whose daughter was conceived using IVF, said the couples who need donor sperm and eggs are already under huge pressure to get pregnant quickly. The Fertility NZ executive committee member believed offering more adequate compensation would attract more donors and cut down wait times.

Advertisement
Fertility NZ executive committee member Juanita Copeland, 40, her husband Terry Copeland, 50, and their daughter Hazel, 4, who was conceived through IVF. Photo / Supplied
Fertility NZ executive committee member Juanita Copeland, 40, her husband Terry Copeland, 50, and their daughter Hazel, 4, who was conceived through IVF. Photo / Supplied

Fertility Associates currently pay $1650 for egg donors and sperm donors are reimbursed $70 per visit.

"It really does just cover costs," Copeland told the Herald.

"No one will ever make money off being a surrogate or donor.

"We would like to see more financial recognition for what they do. It really needs a law change, everything is done fairly ad hoc."

Surrogacy applications considered by the Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology have fluctuated between 12 and 25 over the last five years. But international surrogacies have steadily risen, family law expert Margaret Casey QC said.

Casey, who oversees the majority of international surrogacy cases in New Zealand, said five years ago she saw one or two babies a year; now it's up to 20.

She said most people go to America where commercial surrogacy is available for around $100,000 in some states.

Casey agreed that legislation could be better, like Tasmania's surrogacy-specific laws that sees the transfer of parentage through a parental order - rather than an adoption order. It also allows compensation for any time taken off work and expenses like child care.

Advertisement

"That's the model we should have in New Zealand, simple to read and it preserves the right of the woman who gives birth.

"I would just bring it straight across the Tasman, you wouldn't have to change anything.

"People don't like having to adopt, they don't like the connotation associated with the old legal process. They don't like the word or fact they can't legally compensate the surrogate for all the out-of-pocket expenses they do have."

But it's not simple, Casey explained. Currently an international surrogacy is a "statutory jigsaw" and involves up to five different acts - including the Status of Children Act, the Adoption Act 1955, the Marriage Amendment Act 2013, the Immigration Act and the Human Assisted Reproduction Act 2014.

While some change was needed, other parts of New Zealand law were progressive and "ahead of the pack" when compared to the rest of the world, she said. She cited the fact children get access to information about their egg or sperm donor when they turn 18.

"New Zealand recognises that it doesn't matter what adults think, a child has the right to this information about their identity.

"That comes from our appreciation of Maori culture, whakapapa, our genealogy and in response to the bad experiences people had with closed adoption."

Casey also believed children should have two birth certificates. One with their basic information for general use and another that has a detailed account of all the donors, birth parents, biological parents and other information.

"We're creating these children in unique ways and the child will ask questions as they mature.

"People forget or change their mind about what information they're prepared to share, or information is lost... We should be getting real and normalising it."

Copeland said Fertility NZ intended to approach the new Minister of Health David Clark and discuss a law review.

"We would like these new areas of creating families more adequately legislated for."

Clark could not be reached for comment.

​'It could have easily been a tragedy'

Nelson-Tasman region couple Stacy and Jess conceived Evie using donor sperm and IVF. Photo / Nelson Weekly
Nelson-Tasman region couple Stacy and Jess conceived Evie using donor sperm and IVF. Photo / Nelson Weekly

A lesbian couple, who were able to conceive their daughter using donor sperm and IVF, want the law to catch up with modern Kiwi families.

Jess and Stacy, who don't want to use their last names, are considering petitioning the Government to get their names both listed as "mother" on the birth certificate.

The Nelson-Tasman region couple got pregnant using Jess' eggs, fertilising them with donor sperm and transferring them to Stacy, 31, who carried their baby.

The process was complicated slightly because Jess, 28, has Stickler Syndrome - a hereditary condition that causes blindness and joint problems. Because of this they were eligible for public funding to have their embryos tested and then the unaffected ones were transferred for a pregnancy.

The birth was also eventful as baby Evie had meconium aspiration - she had done her first poo inside the womb and breathed it in. It was only her lack of movement that caused Stacy to become worried and go to hospital where she was quickly taken for an emergency caesarean.

"She's that much more precious because it could have easily been a tragedy," Jess said.

"She's 10 weeks now... You're tired all the time but it's so worth it. She's already growing into this amazing little human. She's smiling and figured out she's got hands and feet now which is hilarious. We're both enjoying it."

But the couple became frustrated when it came to filling out official documents. Jess had to list her name under "other" on the birth certificate and under "father" on their online application for an accommodation supplement.

"It's not good. Biologically she's my child and we're both equally Evie's mother.

"All they have to do is put a 'm' in front of 'other'. It's not difficult."

The couple raised their issues with the Department of Internal Affairs and the Human Rights Commission, but were told that was a "Government-level" problem and offered mediation.

They want to petition the Government to change how parents are defined.

"They've passed the marriage equality bill, surely the next logical step is both people want to have children. We should change legislation around what is a parent.

"Government agencies are not quite up to speed with modern New Zealand families."

The couple advise others contemplating having a baby in a similar way to enquire sooner rather than later, ask lots of questions and approach it one step at a time.

"In our case we wouldn't have Evie if not for the doctor and clinic. We couldn't imagine life without her. She's too gorgeous."

In response
A Human Rights Commission spokeswoman said there were a number of areas where current law, policy and practice might not be well-aligned with social and technological changes in the areas of conception, birth and family structures. She said they could offer mediation.

"It's important that people continue to raise and highlight instances where legislation and practice needs to be updated to ensure it is reflective of our diverse families and communities.

"While some matters can only be addressed through legislative reform, there are many other areas where government departments and private organisations can make small practical changes to ensure their processes and practices are more user-friendly and appropriately accommodate the variety of family units, sexual orientations and gender identities within our communities."

Department of Internal Affairs spokesman Steve Corbett said the online birth registration from had recently been updated for children born as a result of assisted reproduction procedures. There is a section for 'mother' and also one entitled 'other parent' he said.

"Whilst the Department acknowledges that this wording may not be preferable for all situations, it is a move which recognises the many different characteristics of relationships."

Ministry of Social Development spokeswoman Louise Beaumont said they were updating all of their forms to be more responsive to clients' circumstances. Most had been amended to say 'other parent' or 'parent one' and 'parent two' but some had not been changed yet.

"We are making it a priority. In the meantime, we can reassure the couple concerned that the omission will not affect their application."