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Author Topic: Vic Woman's Legal Bid to Identify Donor Father  (Read 2206 times)
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« on: January 27, 2011, 03:25:45 AM »

A VICTORIAN woman conceived with the help of a sperm donor has taken a rare legal step to find out the identity of her biological father.

In a case that could affect thousands of donor-conceived Victorians, Kimberley Springfield has asked a tribunal to overturn a bureaucratic decision not to take action to help identify the donor.

Ms Springfield's case comes as state and federal parliamentary inquiries due to report in the coming months consider donor conception and the rights of donor-conceived people to access identifying information about their donors.

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In submissions to both inquiries, Ms Springfield, 26, whose sister and at least four half-siblings were conceived with her biological father's sperm, said she had suffered mentally, emotionally and physically from being denied knowledge about her family since she found out how she was conceived five years ago.

"I cannot fathom going through life never knowing where I have come from, my ancestry and my identity," she wrote. "Every day I look at the faces of people around me and wonder, 'Could you be my father, my half-sister, my half-brother, my grandparent'?"

Ms Springfield was born before 1988, when sperm donors were completely anonymous. The identity of her donor is not recorded on the voluntary register of donors kept by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. In Victoria, those born between 1988 and 1997 have the right to access information about the donor if the donor agrees, and only those born after 1997 have an absolute right to information.

Ms Springfield has asked the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to review the registrar's decision to deny her recent request for them to seek the donor's identity from a medical institution and then write to the donor advocating the purpose and benefit of the voluntary register.

Peter Hanks, QC, for Ms Springfield, said the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act stated that "the registrar may from time to time publicise the establishment and purpose of the voluntary register".

He argued this provision needed to be read together with a part of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act dealing with the registrar's general functions.

"It's our case that among those functions is the publicising of the voluntary register," Mr Hanks said.

But Rachel Ellyard, for the registrar, said Ms Springfield's request was specific and far beyond what the law intended.

"It's a request someone be effectively identified, located and encouraged to be included on the voluntary register," Ms Ellyard said. "This isn't about the rights and wrongs of why she would want to do that but it's a request that goes far beyond the ART [Assisted Reproductive Treatment] Act."

Tribunal senior member John Billings reserved his decision.

In submissions to the two inquiries on donor conception, Ms Springfield wrote: "People need to know their genetic history and family in order to find their place of belonging in the world."

A Senate inquiry into donor conception in Australia, due to report next month, has heard from many parents, fertility specialists and counsellors who have called for national laws to establish a compulsory national donor register.

The Victorian government's law reform committee said in an interim report late last year that steps should be taken to protect the records of sperm and egg donors in Victoria while the inquiry considers who should have access to the donor records.
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