After a lengthy investigation, Lea Picard, CEO of Canadian Fertility Consultants, has now been charged with violations of Canada’s assisted-reproduction law, which bans the commercial trade of eggs, sperm, and surrogacy services.
This will be the first major enforcement of the nine-year old law.
The National Post reports:
An Ontario surrogacy consultant and her company have been charged with 27 offences under the little-used assisted-reproduction law and the Criminal Code, the first-ever prosecution for illegally purchasing sperm, eggs or surrogacy services as part of Canada’s thriving fertility industry.
Capping an investigation that lasted more than a year, the RCMP charged Leia Picard this week with five counts of buying or offering to buy sperm or eggs, three counts of buying the services of a surrogate mother, and three of taking cash to arrange such services.
As well as those counts under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, she was also charged with four counts of forgery under the Criminal Code, the force announced Friday morning.
Her company, Canadian Fertility Consultants, also faces eight similar counts under the reproduction act and four forgery charges.
The investigation started after allegations were made to Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, the federal fertility-regulation agency. The agency forwarded the tips to the RCMP, said Cpl. Cathie Glenn, a spokeswoman for the Mounties.
There has been widespread evidence of commercial trade in eggs, sperm and surrogacy services, despite the fact it has been banned under the nine-year-old Act, but until now virtually no enforcement action. Egg and sperm donors in Canada and surrogate mothers are only supposed to be paid enough to cover their expenses.
Amongst other services, Ms. Picard helped arrange for couples to have a surrogate carry a baby for them, which often meant finding a woman to donate eggs.
Clients have told the National Post she was sensitive, efficient and ethical in her work.
This development is unfortunate on so many levels. Ms. Picard, by all accounts, ran an ethical program that allowed those afflicted with infertility to have a child. While Ms. Picard is entitled to the benefit of the doubt until her trial, the truly culpable parties in all of this are lawmakers who pass draconian laws that deprive infertility patients from access to these kind of services. Hopefully Ms. Picard will be acquitted and Canada revisits their short-sighted restrictions on assisted reproduction.