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Variations on a Right: The Knowledge of One's Origins in France. From Childbirth Under X to Medically Assisted Procreation

Cécile Ensellem

This article examines the various stances in France about the individual’s right to learn about his or her origins. In 2002, it was still possible to choose to give birth anonymously in cases where the child was to be given up at birth; however, birth mothers were invited to leave their identity information with the Conseil national pour l’accès aux origines personnelles, a national committee established to field questions about personal origin. This committee was authorized to give the birth mother’s information to the child, only if requested, and once the child had reached the age of majority. In the same year, the anonymity of individuals who donated gametes for medically assisted procreation procedures was upheld, without a similar system for collecting information being established. A close examination of the differences in the handling of these two situations leads us to focus on the criteria that define parenthood, motherhood and origins – criteria that the recent debates about surrogacy are currently questioning, if not beginning to redefine.