The Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) Act 2004 was initially introduced into Parliament as a private member’s bill by MP Dianne Yates in 1996, and went through many iterations before being passed as a government bill in 2004. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, passed in the United Kingdom in 1990, provided a conceptual framework for New Zealand’s bill.
The overarching purpose of the HART Act is “to secure the benefits of assisted reproductive procedures, established procedures, and human reproductive research for individuals and for society in general by taking appropriate measures for the protection and promotion of the health, safety, dignity, and rights of all individuals, but particularly those of women and children, in the use of these procedures and research”.
Specific to donor conceived individuals, the Act establishes “a comprehensive information-keeping regime to ensure that people born from donated embryos or donated cells can find out about their genetic origins”.
Guiding principles of the Act include that:
1. “the health and well-being of children born as a result of the performance of an assisted reproductive procedure or an established procedure should be an important consideration in all decisions about that procedure”;
3. “the needs, values, and beliefs of Māori should be considered and treated with respect”
Part 3 of the HART Act: Information about donors of donated embryos or donated cells and donor offspring
The HART Act enshrines in law the concept that donor-conceived individuals’ interest in knowing their genetic origins is prioritised over competing interests, and introduces a mandatory donor register.
Donor offspring over the age of eighteen years, or their guardian if under 18 years, may access information form this register, including a donor’s identity, either through a fertility provider or the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995.Under the Act providers must give advice to prospective donors and prospective guardians about which information about donors is kept in the register, how long such information is kept, and the rights of donors and donor conceived offspring under the Act. Importantly, providers must also advise prospective guardians about the importance of telling offspring about the nature of their conception, and the availability of counselling.
Under the HART Act provisions donor conceived offspring may also gain information about a donor sibling providing the donor sibling or their guardian has provided consent. A donor offspring who is over 18 years may give a provider consent to the disclosure of identifying information about the donor offspring to any named donor.