6 in 10 Belgian sperm donor children have biological Danish fathers
As many as 60% of donor children born in Belgium have a Danish biological father, according to Het Laatste Nieuws.
There are 8,000-9,000 artificial inseminations in Belgium every year, leading to the birth of some 600 to 900 babies per year.
As couples postpone having children till later in life, fertility becomes an issue making access to sperm banks key. The birthrate in Belgium was 1.57 births per woman in 2019, according to World Bank figures.
Shortage of donations
Despite the figures, Belgium has faced a shortage of sperm donors recently, so demand outweighs supply. Reproduction centres have had to use foreign sperm donors to help patients, according to the fertility centre at Saint Pierre University Hospital.
That isn't the case in Denmark where the sperm bank market is booming, with multiple sperm banks such as Nordic Cryo Bank, European Sperm Bank and Cryos. Danish semen is used by women around the world, with 90% of it going to women in other EU countries, reported the Irish Times.
The reasons vary depending on a country's approach to bioethics and business. In Denmark, a sperm donor receives €25 to €115 per sample, while in Belgium sperm donations have to be done on a voluntary basis, meaning the donor does not get paid.
To be or not to be anonymous
Keeping the identity of the sperm donor anonymous is up for debate across many European countries. Yet allowing donor anonymity is crucial, Ayo Wahlberg, an anthropology professor at the University of Copenhagen, told the Irish Times
“The repeal of anonymity in many parts of the western world totally changed the game” in the past 10 to 15 years, Wahlberg said. While most European countries don't allow anonymity, Denmark still does. “As soon as [anti-anonymity] legislation kicks in, numbers plummet,” said Wahlberg.
In Belgium, fertility clinics advise sperm donations to remain anonymous, although a non-anonymous donation can be discussed between the donor and receiving party.
Recently, an amendment to the law in Belgium would let donor offspring get identifying information about the donor when they turn 18. Yet only 20% of sperm donors wish to donate sperm in that case, according to a study from AZ Jan Palfijn Hospital in Ghent.
© Belga Photo Henning Bagger