Families and Couples

Assisted Reproduction: From the "Parental Project" to the Birth of the Child


Sometimes the desire to become a parent is complicated by circumstances. Fortunately, there are several ways to start a family. One of these is assisted reproduction. 

Three possible methods

Assisted reproduction can occur in three ways: medically assisted reproduction, assisted reproduction with “artisanal” insemination and reproduction with the help of a friend.

Medically assisted reproduction can occur through artificial insemination in a clinic or other medical setting. This method involves taking the donor’s sperm and artificially inseminating it into the woman. Another method is in vitro fertilization, where eggs from the mother-to-be or another woman are fertilized in a laboratory using sperm from the spouse or a donor. The fertilized eggs are then implanted into the woman’s uterus.

If a heterosexual couple receives medical assistance to conceive a child with their own reproductive cells (eggs and sperm cells), this is also considered medically assisted reproduction. However, the rules on filiation by blood apply to determine who are the child’s parents.

Another method is “assisted reproduction with artisanal insemination”, also called “assisted procreation with artisanal insemination”. In this case, the child is conceived via insemination (usually at home) with the help of a sperm donor. This can be done with a syringe, for example.

The third possible method involves asking a friend for help to conceive a child. A single woman, a lesbian couple or a heterosexual couple can use this method. In this case, the woman is naturally inseminated by the friend during sex.

Determining filiation: a “parental project” is required

The law uses the expression “parental project” to refer to a couple’s or a person’s decision to have a child using the sperm or egg of another person. A heterosexual couple, a lesbian couple or a single woman can form a parental project. 

The roles are clear in the case of medically assisted reproduction or assisted reproduction with artisanal insemination: the sperm donor or the egg donor has no rights to the child. Instead, the person or persons who formulated the parental project will be the child’s parents under the law.

The rules are different in the case where a friend helps to conceive the child. In this situation, it’s important to carefully choose the donor/friend. No matter what agreement was reached, the friend has a year after the child’s birth to claim paternity. He can therefore compromise the bond of filiation between the child and the mother’s spouse.

Writing down the parental project

No matter what method is used, it’s a good idea to prepare a signed document where everyone recognizes the existence of the parental project. For instance, nine months or even years later, it can be difficult to prove what everybody’s intentions were at the time the child was conceived.

Surrogate mother: risky in Quebec

A surrogate mother is a woman who agrees to lend her womb to carry the baby. Sometimes she also gives the eggs necessary to conceive the child. Once she delivers the baby, she gives the child to the person or couple who retained her services, whether for free or for payment.

Though it’s not a crime to have a surrogate mother carry a child, paying her for her services is an offence. It’s also an offence to ask a person under the age of 21 to be a surrogate. In addition, the law says that an agreement entered into with a surrogate mother is invalid in Quebec. Therefore, a contract with a surrogate is very risky for these reasons:

  • The surrogate mother can decide to keep the baby.
  • The clients may decide they no longer want the child.
  • If the client’s sperm is used, he will be the child’s father with all the related rights and responsibilities, which may complicate things significantly.
  • In the eyes of the law, the surrogate mother is the child’s official mother and she can’t be replaced in this role unless the child is then adopted.

A common solution for couples who can’t conceive is adoption. For more information, refer to Éducaloi’s articles on adopting a child in Quebec and international adoption.  

Sperm donor

A sperm donor can’t be legally recognized as the parent of a child born via medically assisted reproduction or assisted reproduction with artisanal insemination. Also, any information that could help identify the donor is confidential.

However, there’s an exception if the child’s health could be affected by not having this information. In this case, they can ask the court to make this information available, and the information will be transmitted only to the doctors concerned.  

This option is also open to the child’s descendants if they need the information about their genes for the same reasons.