I’m surprised–perhaps even astonished–at the response to the last couple of posts and the comments provided have made me think a good deal more about the question of anonymity for sperm donors. I don’t want to repeat myself or respond specifically to comments her. After all, you can go back and read for yourself.
Instead I want to try approaching the same topic from a different direction. One critical question for me is what power/rights the donor (anonymous or not) should have. This is not something that has been much discussed in my other posts or comments. There we have focussed mostly on the rights of children, which is all well and good. But I think we also need to consider the power we are prepared to give a donor.
If a donor is deemed to be a legal parent than the donor has rights. By exercising those rights the donor can claim power. It’s most obvious that if the donor is a legal parent then the donor has power over the child. Parents always do have power over their children. Though this is probably worth thinking about, it’s not what want to focus on right now.
What matters to me right now is this: if the donor is a legal parent than the donor has rights equal to those of the other legal parent–the mother. (For now I’m going to focus on instances where a single woman wishes to raise her child by herself. There’s a different discussion to be had where the sperm is used by a couple , whether heterosexual or lesbian. I’ll save that for another post.)
In a very real way, this amounts to giving the donor power over that woman as well as her child. She may wish, for example, to send her child to a particular school. The donor, as a legal parent, can object and can insist that he have a role in the decision about education. similarly, the donor can insist on a role in choosing the religion (if any) in which the child is raised. And if the woman want to move to a different city with the child, the legal parent/donor can object that this will diminish his right to spend time with his child and request that a court prevent the move.
I cannot imagine that there are many single women who would accept this kind of intrusion into their lives and their planned families. If a woman in a state where a donor is a legal father (there are a number of them) asked me what to do, I’d suggest they use an anonymous donor in order to avoid this problem.
Of course, if the donor does not have the power of a legal parent, then the same woman might be much more open to the arguments that have been raised in favor of identified or identifiable donors. This is why I think the two issues (donor anonymity and donor status as a legal parent) are inextricably linked. If there children have a need or a right to be able to identify their donors, then the best way to get to that point is to recognize that donors are not legal parents.
I do realize there’s another response to my discussion above–you can conclude that single women shouldn’t be allowed to use ART to create families without fathers. That’s obviously a perspective out there, but it is one I reject.
Perhaps it would be constructive to consider what, if any, rights a donor (as opposed to a child) should have? I don’t think there is any particular need for the rights to be symmetrical. So, for example, I think I could say a child has a right to something from the donor without giving the donor any reciprocal right. My initial inclination, one I might be persuaded to move away from, is to say the donor doesn’t get any rights vis-a-vis the child or the recipient of the sperm. After all, no one forces the donor to donate.