The Denver Gazette

Sperm, egg donors must give names

At age 18, those conceived as such can get identity of parents

BY HANNAH METZGER The Denver Gazette

Anonymously donating sperm and eggs will be a thing of the past in Colorado beginning in 2025, after Gov. Jared Polis signed the nation’s first law prohibiting the practice Tuesday.

Senate Bill 224 will require that donors agree to have their identity released to children conceived from their donations when they turn 18. The bill will also increase the minimum age of donors to 21, limit them to contributing to no more than 25 families and give families access to donors’ updated medical records.

Sponsors of the bill, which will roll out from 2023 to 2025, said it will allow donor-conceived people to access critical information about their medical and genetic backgrounds, as well as help mitigate concerns about excessive donating and accidental incest.

“It is just the right thing to do,” said Senate

President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, who sponsored the bill. “We are going to be the first state in the country that has a policy like this, that says that there is an inherent right for an individual to know where they come from, who they are, what their identity is. Because that helps us form who we’re going to be.”

Fenberg said the current anonymity of the assisted reproduction industry promotes fraud, encouraging donors to lie on their applications and allowing nefarious actors to take advantage of blind donations.

A Grand Junction fertility doctor, Paul B. Jones, was recently accused of using his own sperm to father at least 17 children with 12 women from 1975 to 1977.

The victims said they were told the sperm came from anonymous donors — before DNA tests connected their now-adult children to Jones. In April, a jury awarded $8.75 million to the families.

Similarly, in 2014, an Indiana woman identified more than 50 half-siblings through commercial DNA tests, all of whom were fathered by a fertility doctor, Donald Cline.

The bipartisan-sponsored bill passed the Legislature with broad support from Republicans and Democrats, receiving unanimous approval in the Senate and a 53-12 vote in the House. The 12 opponents, 11 of whom are Republicans, raised issue with the law being the first of its kind in the U.S.

“It’s going into uncharted ground,” said Rep. Shane Sandridge, R- Colorado Springs, while voting against the bill in the House. “We can’t look at other states and see how they did it or what unintended consequences are associated with this.”

Sandridge said he is concerned about the bill turning people off from donating sperm and eggs in Colorado — a worry members of the assisted-reproduction industry share. During a public hearing on the bill, multiple owners of sperm banks said the bill lacks protections for donors.

In Colorado, there are 42 fertility clinics and four gamete banks, according to the state. Nationally, an estimated 30,000-60,000 children are conceived using donors every year.

Bill sponsor Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, said the measure comes from the rise of commercial DNA technology, such as 23andMe and Ancestry, that allows donor-conceived people to easily and often accidentally identify their donors and unknown family members. He said the bill would only solidify the importance of transparency and accountability in donating.

“The era of anonymity is over. Through technology, no one can donate and have 100 offspring or more and somehow hide behind this veil that they will forever be unknown,” Soper said. “This will pave the way for other states. They will eventually call this the Colorado model.”

The bill received significant support from donor-conceived children and their families and from some donors. Backers include the U.S. Donor Conceived Council, We Are Egg Donors, GSMoms and Advocate Genetics.

At the hearing, donor-conceived people spoke about struggling to contact donors to learn about genetic medical issues. One mother said her donor-conceived daughter was born with a birth defect from her donor that was not reported on the medical record. She said she later found out the medical history was self-reported and never updated.

The bill would require licensing for sperm banks, egg banks and fertility clinics beginning in 2025, and the facilities would be required to maintain updated contact information and medical history of all donors.

Other donor-conceived people praised the portion of the bill that would cap the number of families donors can contribute to, telling stories of discovering in adulthood that they have dozens of siblings they never knew about.

“More than a million people in the United States have been created via sperm and egg donation with little consideration by the industry and others to their future needs or interests,” said Erin Jackson, president of the U.S. Donor Conceived Council.

“With the enactment of this law, the industry can no longer ignore our voices.”





The Gazette, Colorado Springs