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Olivia Pratten’s suit to end second class citizenship for Canadian donor conceived individuals

Much as I am sick to death of seeing headlines refering to adults as perpetual “children,” some of the reporting on Olivia Pratten’s suit has otherwise actually been fairly good.

Pulling but two examples from earlier today:

This Vancouver Sun piece goes into a fair amount of detail, shining a momentary spotlight on the lives of donor conceived (dc) people, what’s at stake in the trial, and many of the issues they face, particularly in trying to reconstruct their family histories:

Filmmaker found his sperm donor ‘bio-dad,’ Vancouver trial told

Pratten contends that those born through “gamete” donation of sperm and eggs should have the same rights to information about their biological parents as adopted children when they reach 19.

She wants to have B.C.’s Adoption Act struck down as unconstitutional.

She wants it replaced with legislation that will preserve the records of gamete donors, which now only have to be kept for six years, so they can be revealed to gamate offspring when they turn 19

By way of a second example, one I’ll spend a bit more time on, see:

Children have ‘fundamental’ right to father’s identity, sperm donor trial hears

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, Olivia Pratten is a pioneer, bringing a suit in an attempt to establish a fundamental right to identity.

The strategic arguments her attorney is utilizing form a multi-pronged attack:

  • from the right to know ancestral history,
  • to the need to access personal medical history (which is an argument I have written about a great deal and utimately reject. I’ve argued such is not necessarily pertinent, as it lies in the realm of the interpersonal rather than anything the state can grant an individual.  I.e. a familial medical history is usually not included in documents that reveal parents or donors identities, that history instead, is usually gathered inter-personally, in the context of consensual conversations with the individuals or other family members themselves.)
  • to the critical importance of equal treatment under law,
  • on through to the core claim of the fundamental identity right of individuals.

Lawyer Joseph Arvay argued before a B.C. Supreme Court judge Monday that Pratten, 28, and thousands of others who are offspring of anonymous sperm or egg donors have a “fundamental” right to know the identity of their biological parents.

Denial of that fundamental identity right of individuals has led to an unequal protection status and default second class citizenship for entire classes of people:

Pratten’s lawsuit against the provincial government — believed to be the first of its kind in Canada — seeks to amend the B.C. Adoption Act to require physicians to keep permanent records of all egg, sperm or embryo donors and to allow offspring to access those records when they turn 19, if they so choose.

If adopted children have the right to know about their birth parents when they turn 19, then offspring of “gamete” donors should have the same right to know about theirs, Arvay said.

Not having that right relegates Pratten to “second-class citizen” status and represents the province’s “wholesale abandonment” of equality rights, said Arvay, who is a veteran constitutional lawyer.

It is important to note that even if her case succeeds, her records appear to have been destroyed years ago.

Even if she wins, it is most likely she will still be left with no history or match of her own. Thus she is now fighting for the right to identity for others.

Central to her legal efforts is the demand that records be kept and not destroyed so other donor conceived individuals will not be left permanently identity-less as she has been.

The B.C. attorney general and the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons had previously tried to argue that the case was moot because the records Pratten were seeking had been destroyed.

But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper ruled Sept. 15 the case could proceed, saying that Pratten’s systemic challenge stands to affect others conceived through gamete donation.

For the moment, though, the court has taken a pause due to the “reprehensible” actions of the B.C. Attorney General’s ministry:

The trial got off to a rocky start Monday when Pratten’s lawyer complained to the judge that he received 90 pages of written arguments from the opposing side 10 minutes before the trial began.

Arvay called the actions of the B.C. attorney general’s ministry “reprehensible.”

The judge stopped the proceedings until Monday afternoon to allow lawyers to review the document.

Sitting far on the sidelines yet watching the case closely, I suppose you could say, I find myself simply stunned.

This is a case of vital importance to the human rights of an entire class of Canadians and yet the B.C. A.G.’s office has left the impression of ‘doing it’s homework on the playground mere minutes before the start of class bell was rung.’

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