Test-tube baby U-turn to allow non-Chinese donors

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 September, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 1994, 12:00am

LEGISLATORS and Eurasians have welcomed a decision by the Family Planning Association (FPA) to back down on its controversial policy of limiting access to its artificial insemination programme to Chinese.

The FPA announced last week that men of all races would soon be able to donate sperm after two weeks of wide-ranging criticism of the agency's policy, which was described as racist.

All donor sperm will continue to be stored in separate straws, with characteristics of the donor noted so that prospective recipients can choose the racial make-up and have some influence in determining the characteristics of children.

Restaurant manager Maeve Flood Murphy, who has a Japanese mother and Irish father, described the move as 'very good news indeed'.

'The more Eurasian ladies about, the better,' Ms Murphy said. 'The situation before was clearly racist.' Independent legislator Elsie Tu was also pleased.

'This is a good thing. I always thought the discriminatory nature of sperm donation should be abolished, providing that people know what nationality it is from and can choose,' Mrs Tu said.

The about-turn came despite a pledge by association executive director Margaret Kwan Shuk-wa to maintain the restriction, unless it was forced by law to drop it.

'There will be no change to the policy,' she said in an interview with the Sunday Morning Post on September 8 and published three days later.

'If the law changed then it could be reviewed.' Dr Kwan was also strongly criticised over her justification for imposing the Chinese-only policy by saying it was 'not appropriate' for the programme to produce babies of mixed race as they were not acceptable under Chinese 'tradition and culture', and 'Hong Kong is really a Chinese community'.

'This is something of cross-culture,' she said in the interview. 'This is not appropriate.' The policy drew severe criticism, including from legislators, doctors, and Health and Welfare Branch officials.

A Health and Welfare Branch spokesman denied the policy back-flip had been performed under pressure from the Government but reiterated racism was not acceptable to the administration.

Dr Kwan, who assumed her present position in 1989, was not available for comment yesterday.

In 1992 she provoked a storm of controversy by claiming, in the midst of a series of particularly brutal rapes, that girls who wore short skirts invited rape. And in July this year, she made a public apology after the association produced a pamphlet for children claiming homosexuality could be cured by counselling.

Despite dropping racial discrimination from its official policy, the artificial insemination programme remains open only to married couples.