Israel Mulls Allowing Some Children Born of Sperm Donations to Learn Biological Father’s Identity

Health Ministry pushing bill, which would leave decision up to mother, donor and child upon turning 18

Babies at the Dyada enrichment program for small children, November 2015.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Health Ministry is promoting a bill that would see the instatement of a new plan for sperm donation, in which children born from such donations could, in some cases, find out the identity of their biological fathers.

The plan would be optional, alongside the anonymous donation plan already established, and require that male donors agree beforehand for their identity to be revealed. According to the bill, a donor’s identity would remain anonymous to women receiving the donation, but could be revealed to a donor child who has reached age 18.

The bill, as reported on Wednesday by Yedioth Ahronoth, would allow donors to choose the new plan after a meeting with a special approval committee, during which the full consequences of the decision would be explained.

Moti Milrod

Upon receiving the donation, the mother would be able to choose if her child would be able to request the identity of the father in the future. The donor’s identity would then remain anonymous until the child files a request after his or her 18th birthday. As the request is filed, the biological father would be notified.

The full plan was detailed in a wide-ranging bill initiated by the Health Ministry, meant to regulate and organize the management of sperm banks in Israel, and is currently being formed in cooperation with the Justice Ministry. The bill is expected to come before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in the next few months.

“Claims have arisen over the last few years that a person born from a sperm donation has a right to know his genetic background and to receive other details about his biological father,” attorney Mira Hibner, the Health Ministry’s legal adviser told Haaretz. “Because of this, similar plans have been established in a number of countries in the world. It’s too early to guess how the new plan will be received.

“The donor’s identity will be kept in a closed and guarded central registry so that no one has access to it,” said Hibner, noting that donors wouldn’t be allowed any flexibility if they change their minds after the donation. “However, we’ve left an opening for cases in which it will be justified to maintain the anonymity for special, exceptional reasons.”

Plans allowing donors’ identities to be revealed exist today in a number of countries in the world. In Sweden, a 1985 law stipulates that sperm donation is not anonymous, and the child can receive information on the identity of his or her biological father at the age of 18.

In Holland, anonymous sperm donations have been forbidden since 2004, and the child has the right to know the father’s identity upon reaching age 16. This policy lead to a dramatic decrease in the number of sperm donations in the country, and sent many woman to neighboring Belgium to receive sperm donations.

Norway outlawed anonymous sperm donations in 2003 and in Austria, a child born of a sperm donation can receive information on the biological father’s identity at the age of 14.