SPERM donors will lose their right to anonymity under new Government plans announced today. Children born using donated sperm, eggs and embryos will be able to trace their biological parents once they turn 18. If the plans receive parliamentary approval, they will apply to donations given after April 1 2005.
Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson made the announcement today at the annual conference of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in London.
She said: "I firmly believe donor-conceived people have a right to information about their genetic origins that is currently denied them, including the identity of their donor.
"There is a growing body of opinion, which I agree with, that donor-conceived people should not be treated so differently from adopted people.
"Today's new regulations will align their positions, removing the major discrepancy that exists between the rights of donor-conceived people and those of adopted people."
The news was welcomed by support groups for donor-assisted conception who said it would prevent them being denied important parts of their background.
But the plans were slammed by fertility experts who fear it will lead to a shortage of donations - reports &to=http://www.thesun.co.uk' target=_blank>THE SUN
According to &to=http://www.news.bbc.co.uk' target=_blank>BBC Suzi Leather, chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, says that the clause is "nonsense".
She claims that it discriminates against single and lesbian women - and out of step with "changes in society."
But Jack O'Sullivan, of Fathers Direct, said studies showed the benefits of the presence of a male figure.
At present, doctors are required to take account of the "need of the child for a father" prior to allowing women to go ahead with fertility treatment. She said that one in four families was now headed by a single parent - and that the government had moved to recognise gay marriages. She said it was more important to assess women on their medical and social circumstances than the exact arrangement of their relationships.
"I don't think single and lesbian women should be excluded on those grounds," she said.
Some clinics do currently offer fertility treatment to lesbian women - although to fulfil the letter of the law, the women have to show that some form of father figure, such as an uncle or grandparent, will be available to the child. Jack O'Sullivan, whose Fathers Direct group campaigns for the rights of fathers, said that while discrimination against single and lesbian women was wrong, the benefits of a father figure were proven by scientific studies.
He said: "Fathers matter and it would be a mistake to downgrade that important role."
A spokesman for the charity Life said: "Suzi Leather's comments that a child's need for a father is somehow outdated is a slap in the face for all men who have campaigned for so long in favour of equal recognition for the vital role that the father plays in the upbringing of a child."