7 surprising IVF laws from around the world

IVF is subject to very strict regulations worldwide, but these rules can vary a lot between countries. If you’re thinking of doing your IVF in another country, it’s worth researching the various laws and regulations that apply to each nation. 

While the laws in different countries might seem strange to an outsider, they make more sense according to how each country views the creation of life by doctors and scientists. IVF isn’t taken lightly in an ethical sense by any country, and each nation has its own way of handling those ethical concerns. This means that things that are completely straightforward in one country can be punishable with fines and jail in another – while aspects of IVF that are completely illegal in your home country, may be considered normal in other countries. Here are 7 shocking IVF laws from around the world:

Paid egg and sperm donation in Canada is a more serious crime than inciting genocide

Yes, you did read that right. While donating eggs and sperm in Canada is not itself a crime, paying someone to donate their eggs is an extremely serious offence

Canada’s Assisted Human Reproduction Act 2004 prohibits commercial egg donation in Canada, and people who break this law can face a fine of up to half a million dollars, or face ten years in jail. The really crazy part? The penalty for advocating genocide – using hate speech to justify and incite violence against a protected group, carries a maximum of five years in prison. 

“Section 318: Advocating genocide

Section 318 makes it an offence to advocate or promote genocide, which is defined as killing members of an identifiable group, or inflicting conditions of life on a group which are calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the group. The offence is indictable, and carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment not exceeding five years. There is no minimum punishment. The consent of the provincial Attorney General is required for a charge to be laid under this section.”

Government of Canada – Justice Laws website

While Canada justifies these extreme penalties with concerns about the ethics of buying and selling eggs, a documentary about egg donation in Canada called the Secret Society, claims that “These laws perpetuate the secrecy surrounding egg donation and create a bizarrely complex world of assisted reproduction in this country.”

IVF in Turkey requires proof of marriage – but gay marriage doesn’t count!

IVF in Turkey is a popular option for couples who don’t want to pay UK and USA prices for treatment. However, the country’s strict laws only allow married couples to receive treatment for IVF.

If you want to have IVF in Turkey, you must produce proof of your marriage. However, despite gay marriage being as legal as heterosexual marriage in the UK and other countries who are more progressive when it comes to gay rights, married gay people are sadly prohibited by law from IVF treatment in Turkey. Turkey even boycotted the Eurovision song contest in protest at LGBTQ performers, so it’s unlikely that the high-quality care of Turkey’s clinics will be open to gay women any time soon.

Brazillian surrogacy requires the gestational carrier to be related to the family

Most modern surrogacy arrangements are facilitated by IVF or IUI, which makes it easier to regulate surrogacy. There are various laws around surrogacy in Brazil, including age limits on the gestational carrier and the intended parents. 

The only surrogacy that is sanctioned by the state is via a relative. This means that sisters, cousins and even daughters can be surrogates, but unrelated people cannot. Commercial surrogacy is completely banned, and altruistic surrogacy must meet a strict list of requirements, which includes being related to one of the intended parents. Perhaps surprisingly for Brazil, homosexual couples are allowed to have children via surrogacy.

Only 9 countries allow sex selection of embryos

Embryos become biologically male or female depending on the sperm that fertilizes them. It’s possible to tell in advance which sperm will produce a male embryo, and which are going to produce a biologically female child. It’s also possible to sort the sperm to produce embryos of one sex or another. It’s also completely illegal to do this in most countries. There are complex ethical arguments both for and against this practice. 

The UK allows for sex selection of embryos in very limited circumstances, such as when a genetic illness may manifest in one sex but not the other. The countries that allow sex selection are the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Greece, Libya and Israel.

Japan will store frozen eggs for the duration of reproductive age – and even pays for it!

Most countries have strict limits on the length of time that embryos and eggs can be stored. This is around 10 years in many countries, and after that the genetic material is destroyed. However, in Japan eggs can be stored as long as the intended mother is deemed fertile – as long as the couple are still married. Japan will even pay for the procedure for some women!

Israel has allowed sperm retrieval from brain dead patients

The tragic scenario of the wife of a brain-dead patient wanting to be impregnated with her husband’s sperm sounds like the plot of a far-out movie. However, this is possible in Israel with a court order. Most countries require sperm donations to be destroyed after the donor’s death, unless explicit permission was granted by the donor.

Fewer than 15 countries allow same sex couples to access treatment

While attitudes to same sex families are becoming more progressive, for non-heterosexual families access to IVF is still impossible in many countries. 

We’re proud to say that the UK does not prohibit same sex couples from accessing treatment, and we’re joined by the USA, Finland, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina.

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