Assisted reproduction

CRIN wants to encourage a debate on children’s rights in the context of assisted reproduction. Read our discussion paper A Children's Rights Approach to Assisted Reproduction.

What is assisted reproduction?

Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are the tools and techniques used to achieve pregnancy when this is not possible naturally, for example fertility medication and in vitro fertilisation. CRIN focuses on in vitro fertilisation and third party assisted reproduction (egg and sperm donation and surrogacy) because these raise additional children’s rights concerns to those posed by conventional human reproduction. Read more on ARTs.

Why is this a children’s rights issue?

The way in which assisted reproduction is governed has implications for all children’s rights, for example:

  • The use of ARTs may amount to the sale of children where this is not clearly regulated.
  • Restrictive laws on the use of ARTs have a negative impact on the legal status and rights of children born as a result. This is because they may not have access to information about their biological origins. Where the process involves more than one country, children may also not be recognised as a citizen of either of the countries with which they have a connection. In addition, their legal ties with one or both parents may be jeopardised. 
  • There are questions about whether and in what circumstances children should have a right to access assisted reproductive technologies independently, for example as survivors of conditions leading to reduced fertility.
  • Children’s rights may also be used to deny adults access to ARTs. Some of the arguments against ARTs, such as the fact that more embryos than needed are created meaning some are destroyed, and the screening of embryos for disease, raise complex bioethical questions and produce friction between different groups. Yet children’s rights can be a way of balancing these tensions.
  • The fact that this area of law and policy is still underdeveloped presents an opportunity to ensure that children’s rights are built into standards from the outset, avoiding legal advocacy later.   

Read our discussion paper on A Children's Rights Approach to Assisted Reproduction, looking at the full range of children’s rights issues in the context of assisted reproduction. We have identified a number of questions that require further discussion.


If you are working on these issues, or have comments on the questions below, please get in touch at [email protected].

  • Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is the screening of embryos before they are implanted to check for serious chromosome or genetic conditions, which may promote a future child’s right to health. But what does this mean for the rights of people with disabilities? Would banning PGD or limiting its use undermine women’s access to abortion?
  • Would decisions be better guided by considering the impact of a condition on a person’s quality of life in particular (which should not be quantified by a lack of government resources)? Would this avoid assumptions about what the life of someone living with a certain condition is like and the value of that life?
  • Should commercial surrogacy be permitted? Do women have a right to be compensated for their work and loss of earnings in this context? Should surrogacy be regulated in the same way as international adoption i.e. ensuring that children’s rights are respected throughout and prohibiting improper financial gain?
  • Conflicts over parentage between parties to a surrogacy agreement must be resolved in the best interests of the child, but what does this mean in practice? What can be done to minimise such situations?

For a selection of case law and legislation in the field of surrogacy, read our special edition e-newsletter on surrogacy and children's rights

Read more about international surrogacy arrangements and the drafting of “Principles for a better protection of children’s rights