In an opinion published on 26th January 2006, the National Consultative Bioethics Committee (CCNE), which acted on its own initiative four years ago, divulges its thoughts and recommendations about the issue of anonymity, parentage secret and access to the origins in a society where the biologic parentage and the social or emotional affiliation are more and more dissociated.
Increasing dissociation of biological parentage and social affiliation
Today, 5 to 7% of children, representing 40,000 to 58,000, are born every year in “unusual conditions” (anonymous birth, medically assisted procreation with donors of gametes or donation of embryos, etc). Thus, more and more often the question of the secret relative to the mode of conception, the anonymity of the biological parent(s) and the demand to the access of the origins arises. In addition, the CCNE extends its thoughts to tackle the surrogate motherhood and the access to MAP (medically assisted procreation) or the adoption by homosexual persons.
Secret removal and maintenance of anonymity
The CCNE encourages the secret removal for the mode of conception as soon as possible by the parents themselves and invites them to be aware of the “devastating effects of delaying in revealing this secret”. In the other hand, the removal of anonymity is not recommended for the gamete or embryo donors, (gametes are not parents), but the CCNE is in favour of a child being able to access “non-identifying” information, once he/she is of age. Regarding anonymous birth, the CCNE sees a major progress in the creation of the CNAOP (National Council for Access to Information about Personal Origins) and encourages the extension of its competences. Actually, since the law of 22nd January 2002, relative to the access of personal origins for adopted persons and children in state care, a child who is of age can have access, if he/she asks for it, to identifying information about his/her origin, after express agreement of his/her biological mother if she left information in sealed envelop.
Homoparentality and surrogate motherhood
Regarding the desire of homosexual couples to have children, “a very current issue but maybe excessive in its significance”, members of the Committee are not opposed to adoption. In the other hand, they are hesitant about the resort to the MAP which is limited by the law to a medical purpose and to the treatment of couple sterility. At least, regarding the surrogate pregnancies or surrogate motherhood, the CCNE still emits great reserves because of the body merchandizing and the confusion risks of motherhood for the child.
Availability of gametes and embryos
In appendix I of opinion No 90, the CCNE proposes an international approach of the regulation aspects. If some countries, like United Kingdom, accept surrogate mothers and gamete and embryo donation, they often encourage the removal of the anonymity in the child’s interest. Everywhere, we can feel anxiety, relative to the consequences for the child, for gamete availability. This anxiety explains that in numerous countries, oocyte donation and embryo implantation are prohibited as in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Norway, Germany…
Anonymity to prevent infanticides
Anonymous childbirth, which was for a long time a French exception of a legislation controlling secret motherhood and which does not impose to the biological parents to declare their identity during the recording of the baby, is followed abroad. The obligation to indicate the name of the mother generated an increase of illegal abandonment of babies, indeed infanticides, and today several countries are thinking about childbirth anonymity. Germany, Switzerland, Austria among others, established “Babyklappen”, transparent baby boxes installed in the street. A self heating bed allows collecting the baby and a seal is at mother’s disposal to leave fingerprints enabling her to be identified. As soon as a child is left, an electronic alarm alerts staff which will take care of the baby.
Protecting the baby life, encouraging the right to know one’s origins, encouraging the dissociation of affiliations by encouraging gamete and embryo donations? Is not the defence of baby’s interest the only question?