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Bill seeks to clarify legal parents of children born through fertility treatment in Japan

An employee of an obstetrics and gynecology clinic in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward is seen conducting fertility treatment using assisted reproductive technology on Sept. 23, 2020. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki Harada)

TOKYO -- Five ruling and opposition parties and groups submitted a bill to the House of Councillors on Nov. 16 that deems that babies born through egg or sperm donations would legally be the children of the birth mother and, in the latter case, the husband who agreed to the use of donated sperm.

    The draft adds special provisions to the Civil Code to clarify legal parent-child relationships for couples who have fertility treatment and use assisted reproductive technology to give birth. The bill, submitted by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), its coalition partner Komeito, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and two other groups, will be initially reviewed in the upper house, and those behind the move hope for enactment by the end of the current Diet session.

    Kozo Akino, upper house Diet affairs chief of Komeito, said during a press conference after the submission of the bill, "The provisions aim to make parent-child relationships secure, and establish a basic principle for assisted reproductive technology as a whole."

    Although it is thought that more than 10,000 babies have been born in Japan using sperm provided by a third party, the Civil Code does not have provisions defining who are the legal parents of children born through assisted reproduction medicine involving a third party. The newly submitted bill specifies that the woman who gave birth to the child is the mother, in the case that the egg was donated by a third person. The bill also states that when the baby is born using sperm from a third person, the mother's husband is irrefutably the father if he agreed to the sperm's use.

    Meanwhile, additional clauses in the bill state that "necessary legal measures will be taken within a target of roughly two years," regarding children's right to know their genetic parents, and regulations on whether to permit surrogate deliveries.

    Akino pointed out, "There are many matters for which we have not been able to obtain the Japanese public's consensus." If the bill is passed, a nonpartisan parliamentary group will be formed to begin further discussions, he said.

    (Japanese original by Satoko Nakagawa, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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