According to statistics from the Fertility Counts Group (formed by members of the European Fertility Society), approximately 25.000 Europeans travel every year within Europe to undergo assisted reproduction treatment, and approximately a third of them travel to Spain. The major movement takes place during the summer time, mainly to Valencia, as couples take advantage of their holidays to deal with their assisted reproduction issues.
In recent years a sea change has occurred when selecting Valencia to undergo this type of treatment. Initially, the main reason for this was that Spanish Law on assisted reproduction allowed for techniques to be used, such as egg donation and embryo genetic selection for instance, which were not allowed in other Countries. The Spanish Assisted Reproduction Act is currently one of the most forward-looking within Europe. With regard to some national laws in other countries, until 2013 in Italy for example the donation of semen was not allowed. This meant one could not freely apply to public donor banks. In fact, single women are actually forbidden to undergo insemination or in-vitro procedures - so too in France. Along with this, the sharing of eggs in Germany, Austria and Italy was also prohibited.
These limitations do not exist in Spain. The 2006 Assisted Reproduction Act clearly sets out that any users of assisted reproduction techniques must be 18-years-old, “whatever their marital state or sexual orientation”, which of course explicitly includes single women and lesbians. For both male (spermatozoids) and female (oocytes) gametes there are on-going donation programmes, on the contrary to what happens in other European countries. All of this allows access to an insemination treatment from a sperm bank, or if this were to prove unsuccessful, the possibility of in-vitro fertilization with no legal impediments.
However, nowadays the care quality offered by Spanish Reproductive Medical Centres tends to be the main reason for us being a popular destination. A good indicator of this is the increasing demand for treatments that can now even be performed in the visitors’ own Countries.
Although Spanish Law is more progressive than others, it is not less strict, given that all the requirements that donors must fulfil are complied with meticulously, as well as total compliance with any analyses that must be carried out.
The most frequent treatments are the ones requiring egg and semen donation. The fact is that gamete donation, as outlined above, is not allowed in some European countries, together with the issue of it being allowed in others, but then not being anonymous! This is when donations become less frequent and waiting lists can be endless.
In this sense, the supportive and selfless culture existing in Spain with regard to donations is well known. Spain can be clearly seen as a leader in donations and transplants, with 34.4 donors per million inhabitants. Organ donations carried out in Spain also make up 17,5% of all those donated within the E.U. Indeed, many Spanish gamete donors are also blood or spinal cord donors.
The profile of foreign patients turning to Valencia is very wide. They range from married couples, single women or gay and lesbian couples - the majority of them visiting us from The United Kingdom, Italy and France. These patients basically require oocyte and semen donation, whereas on a secondary level they come to carry out a pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select healthy embryos when one of the partners is suffering from hereditary health issues.
The term “reproductive tourism” used as a label for this trend is totally inappropriate.
CREA has an international department available, provided with a specific structure and extraordinary staff who advise, look after and personally and closely support these patients coming to Valencia to have assisted reproduction treatment in order to become pregnant.
At CREA we think that any suggestion or inference of this being tourism is not true, as we are not talking about a leisure trip, but having a medical need fulfilled or treated due to a lack of availability, support and even understanding in the patients home country.
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