Sperm, egg and embryo donations are exclusively arranged by the French state via the 23 state owned, Centre d’études et de conservation des œufs et du sperme humains, (CECOS).

While surrogacy is not allowed by law, those parents who receive this treatment in other countries will not be prosecuted. No entry of donor conception is made on the birth registry.

It is estimated that 70.000 children have been conceived by sperm donation in France, and it is thought that the majority remain ignorant about the nature of their conception.

Donor conception in France

The first CECOS opened in 1973. However, the first law on donor conception was passed in 1994, meaning that there were no legal provisions for over 20 years and the CECOS set their own rules for donor conception. Accordingly, there was no limit how many children could be fathered by one donor.

Sperm and egg donations in France are absolutely anonymous. French law prohibits any identifying information about the donor or the recipient and any breach can be punished by fines of up to 30,000 euros or imprisonment of up to two years.

Accordingly, donor conceived persons are unable to obtain any information about their donor. More than this, donor anonymity is regarded as an absolute public policy principle, meaning that even the donor himself cannot waive it.

It is only if the donor conceived person suffers from an illness, that their doctor may have access to the medical data the donor provide at the time of their donation. The state justifies these provisions with the wellbeing of the child and the donor. There are similar rules in adoption regarding the so called anonymous birth (naissance sous x) – however, here, the child can ask the mother later in life if she would be willing to be identified.

Although French law prohibits only the provision of identifying information about the donor, the CECOS refuse to provide any kind of information, for example whether two donor conceived persons share the same donor.

Additionally, DNA tests are forbidden in France unless it is necessary for a court case regarding filiation. This, however, is not the case regarding donor conception, as civil law provides that there is no legal relationship between a donor and the children conceived by donation. Therefore, donor conceived persons in France do not have the possibility of pursuing private DNA tests to find their half siblings or even to rule out that they are marrying a half sibling.

The 1994 law originally provided a limit of five children conceived by one donor, which was increased to 10 children per donor in 2004. However, in reality this limit is not enforced as there is no centralised CECOS donor registry. Therefore, donors can potentially donate at several CECOS. In France files are normally kept for 40 years, but some CECOS are now claiming that they have destroyed or lost files. However, this might also be an attempt to discourage donor conceived persons looking for their genetic heritage.