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Parents protest ban on sale of eggs and sperm

Shane Kraemer is an Ottawa hotel lobby with a toy cell phone on his ear, repeating 'hello? hello?'

He grabs his father Ingo's real cell phone and puts it to his other ear. His mother Jennifer calls him "Shaney bear" and holds his favourite hot rod car.

His parents say there's a good chance Shane, a rambunctious two-year-old, wouldn't be here today if the federal government's controversial human reproductive technology bill to ban the sale of human sperm, eggs and embryos, was law.

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The Toronto toddler is a test tube baby. Ms. Kraemer, a 44-year-old human resources executive, and her husband, an engineering consultant, tried several times unsuccessfully to conceive using donor eggs and in-vitro infertilization (IVF). She suffered one miscarriage before Shane was born.

"We went through seven years of hell to get him," she said.

Infertility experts say the federal government's human reproductive technology legislation, which will ban human cloning and include regulations on stem-cell research goes too far in banning the sale of eggs, human sperm.

"It's the difference between being a family and not being a family," said Mr. Kraemer, 48.

On Wednesday, they will be joining other couples who have relied on fertility treatments such as egg donors, sperm donors and surrogate mothers to have children to protest the bill at a Senate hearing on the legislation. The parents plan to take their children to the Senate hearing.

Beverly Hanck, executive director of the Montreal-based Infertility Awareness Association of Canada, said the bill's characterization of current fertility treatments as "commercializing" reproductive technology is wrong.

Currently, women can sell one cycle of their eggs for between $2,500 to $3,500 while men are typically paid $70 for one sample of sperm. Women generally have to spend 56 hours in a clinic for the procedure, said Ms. Kraemer. Couples in Canada typically pay surrogate mothers $18,000.

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Critics of the legislation such as Ms. Hanck say that infertile couples will have fewer and fewer options if donors aren't paid.

"There are 500,000 people in Canada who are infertile," she said. "This is a flawed bill. We'd rather see it amended."

The House of Commons has already approved Bill C-6 and it only needs the Senate's approval to make it law.

The Senate committee plans to end its hearings in a few weeks, which would leave time to get final approval in the Senate before Prime Minister Paul Martin calls an election, which is expected in April.

The long-delayed bill would allow stem cell research on human embryos and ban human cloning in Canada. The federal government appointed a royal commission on reproductive technologies in 1989.

The debate over stem cell research on human embryos pits the promise of medical breakthroughs against opponents who view it as an assault on the sanctity of human life.

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The Roman Catholic Church and anti-abortion politicians oppose the bill's provision allowing research on embryos left over from fertility treatments.

Ms. Hanck said the issue of assisted reproduction has been overshadowed by the debate involving embryonic stem-cell research.

The bill prohibits the sale of sperm and ova and makes commercial surrogacy illegal. Surrogate mothers can, however, be reimbursed for expenses and loss of work-related income.

The bill would also create the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada to monitor clinics that deal with in vitro fertilizations and fertility. The agency would be involved in licensing, protecting the health of those undergoing fertility procedures, and in the collection of data.

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