Is the birth registration system fit for purpose? The rights of donor conceived adults
MARILYN CRAWSHAW, Honorary Fellow, Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York JULIE WALLBANK, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Leeds
Birth registration is a key route through which the
right to know one’s genetic origins, a right enshrined in human rights
conventions and acknowledged in family law, can be protected.
However the separation of legal and
biological parentage resulting from donor-assisted conception treatments has
compromised such provision. Instead, the
right of those affected to know the identity or involvement of their biological
parents is left to the discretion of their legal parents (who sometimes
withhold the information) or to disclosure through accident or otherwise.
This paper outlines a recent case in which a
donor-conceived adult was successful in having the man whom she had previously
understood to be her biological father removed from her birth certificate on
the grounds that this more accurately represents her origins.
It discusses the need to review the birth
registration system to ensure that it enables the identification of biological
as well as legal parents where information about the former is stored in third
party records and suggests ways of achieving this.
It argues that this would encourage early
disclosure by legal parents and affirm state commitment to the human right to
The full version of this article appears in the August 2014 issue of Family Law.