The German Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in favor of children of sperm donors’ right to know the identity of their biological father. As gray areas to the preexisting law have now been clarified, the BGH asserts that the child’s right to know holds “generally a greater weight” than the requests of anonymity by the donor. This marks the first time the BGH has taken a firm stance in favor of one side.
Before this decision, the preexisting law in place stated that the child or children of the donor could not request the identity of their father until reaching the age of 16. Two sisters, age 12 and 17, however, decided to dispute the rule in place, bringing their case to the BGH for overview. Even though the parents of the plaintiff waived the sisters’ right to know their biological father at conception, the court still ruled in their favor. According to the judges’ new decision, “there is no specific minimum age necessary for the child.” Few stipulations followed, most notably that the parents must be able to prove the child has requested the information. Also, the private life of the donor must be taken into account.
This overturn seems to stem from the progression of laws allowing individuals to know their parentage, dating back to 1989. That year, the BGH decided that every person has the right to know their roots. However, a 2007 law complicated this, allowing fertility clinics to only disclose information on their donors based on the requests of anonymity made by the men. Regardless, clinics were still obliged to keep donor records on hand for 30 years after donation, as per this ruling.
It was not until 2013 that the law changed in favor of the children’s right to know, allowing the child to request information when they reached the designated age. Judges like BGH justice Hans Joachim Dose seemed to waiver on who clinics had their main responsibility to, stating both the children’s rights carried weight, as well as the father’s right to anonymity. On Wednesday, though, a clear decision in favor of the children was reached.
As of now, the German population has an estimated 100,000 citizens fathered by sperm donors. Each year 1,500 to 5,000 children are conceived through sperm donation. It remains to be seen how this recent ruling will affect these numbers.