Anonymous Donors And What To Do About Them

My last post, which was quite modest, really, sparked a discussion about anonymous gamete (that’s sperm and egg) donors.   Reading the comments made me think about the topic again.  It’s come up in comments from time to time before and there are a few posts on the subject back there as well. 

I think it is time to revisit the topic and lay out my thinking on it a bit more clearly.  I know, of course, that plenty of people will disagree with me. And I’ll start by stating an underlying assumption that is critical to what follows:    I do not believe gamete donors are or should be seen as parents. 

That’s something I have discussed at length on many occasions.   (Here’s one link, but if you just nose around under the “sperm donor” tag you’ll find plenty of others.)   I think of all the parents–and perhaps particularly all the fathers–I know who work so hard to create and sustain their families, and it frankly offends me to place someone who does nothing more than give up some sperm in the same category. 

I think it is critical for me to lay out my assumption that donors are not parents first because I suspect that this is where I part company from many of those who disagree.   I actually wonder whether there is anyone out there who thinks that sperm donors are not fathers and, at the same time, thinks anonymous donation should be banned.   (The same goes for egg donors, but sperm donation is both significantly more common and substantially less invasive for the donor, and so makes my point better.) 

There’s actually also a substantial irony here.   I find it much easier to consider provisions that would strongly encourage, if not require, some form of donor identification if we are very clear that donors are not parents.   In other words, the insistence that donors are parents actually creates obstacles to the desired end–the abolition of gamete donor anonymity. 

Let me illustrate what I mean.  Suppose a single woman wants to raise a child.   If a donor is not a parent, then perhaps she would agree to using a donor who could be identified in the future.  The donor could not threaten the integrity of her family (the mother/child unit) or her autonomy (she’d still be the only parent.)   On the other hand, if you tell her that the donor will be a parent, then she has reason to seek an unknown and unknowable donor, because that is the only way she can protect herself from having the donor intrude into her life.    

Of course I see that one response is that the single woman has no right to raise a child alone as a single parent.   But why doesn’t she?  I think the argument that she doesn’t must loop back to some assertion that all children have two parents, defined by genetics.  And that’s contrary to my initial assumption.  (You can run through exactly this argument for lesbian couples, too.) 

In the end, it seems to me that the donor=parent question is hopelessly snarled up with the anonymity question.   And curiously, the more I take seriously the arguments that donors should be identified (arguments generally focussed on the well-being of children), the more I am persuaded that we must first be very clear that these donors are not parents.

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101 responses to “Anonymous Donors And What To Do About Them

  1. I agree 100% . As an SMC – a single mom by choice – with a fabulous life with my amzing 4 year old daughter, I did my homework before I conceived to ensure that the donor I used was not a parent in any sense and would have no rights in relation to my child. In Colorado, where I reside, the law explcitiy states that a sperm donor has no legal reltianhip or responsibility to the child. Most of the horror stories I hear about are from women or couples that used known donors and the donor either wants to or is being force to accept responsibility – usually finiancal – for the child. I did use amn open donor so if my duaghtr chooses when she is 18 she cna seek this person ought. At that point, she will be an adult and make her own choice.

  2. I don’t believe this would be an issue if the industry was regulated in the way Naomi Cahn, Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School, recommends:

    w ww . adoptioninstitute . org/policy/2009_02_oldlessons . php

    PDF Full Report
    Evan B. Donaldson
    Adoption Institute
    “Old Lessons For A New World: Applying Adoption Research and Experience to Assisted Reproductive Technology”
    Policy & Practice Perspective

    Specifically – See Discussion & Recommendations starting on page 22

  3. My husband and I went with an anonymous donor. As adults we are perfectly capable of deciding what type of donor fits our needs, I see no reason why that choice should be taken from us. Why should we HAVE to use a donor who is not anon and may want more from us than we care to share? Our babies are part of our very large family and frankly they have no need for their sperm donor. This works for us and was our choice, I respect those that feel differently and I would not force them to our side….I also don’t want to be forced to use an open donor. This is America still right?

  4. If you insist that gamete donors are not parents, then how can you demand that they be identifiable? In my view they should be considered parents unless statute says otherwise. I do not take the view that you do that parenting creates parenthood. Maybe it is because I come from a background where I saw my father at best a couple of times a year and he never performed any parenting role and yet I always thought of him as my father and have had in adulthood a very strong connection with him and continue to do so, whereas my relationship with mother who reared me has always been weak and I’ve not spoken to her in many years.

    • I’ve been persuaded that there are a number of legitimate reasons why a child might wish to identify and even contact a donor. There might be medical need to know something, I suppose, though I am not expert on this. Or a person might have (as I am sure some do) a deeply felt personal need to know. I can respect that. So I can agree that a donor might be an important person and in a perfect world, a child would have access to the identity. None of this needs to make the donor–in the eyes of the law–a parent.

      I think people can identify whoever they want as their parents and some might think of a donor that way. I’m really only concerned with the law. I’ll likely write a bit more on this tomorrow, but basically I don’t see why the law should recognize a donor as a father. And in fact, as I’ve tried to say, I think you are much more likley to reach the end you seek–that the donor can be identified and perhaps contacted by the child–if the donor is NOT a legal father.

  5. I am a donor offspring.
    I think the problem once again comes down to our meaning of these words.
    We can have biological and social parenting. If the meaning of these words were more clearly defined in our society then I guess we would have less problems.
    But perhaps the meanings of these words get clouded by those who wish to use that title to describe themselves. eg social fathers (or what I prefer to call Dads, wanting to call themselves the father).
    The dictionary holds that a parent is a father/mother, a progenitor and even a guardian.
    So by this definition then the sperm donor is a parent whether anyone likes it or not. But then so is the social father/dad.
    I have had 4 parents by this definition. A biological mother, a biological father, a social father/dad and a step-father.
    As an adult and father myself, the comment by someone else about the offspring not having a need for their sperm donor couldn’t be further from the truth. And the hundreds of other offspring that I have communicated with feel the same.
    And yes my sperm donor IS my father. The man who raised me is my dad.

    • I think we are largely in agreement–at least at the beginning. The language we use matters enormously. I want it to be clear that a donor who has no other contact with the child and a social father are in different categories. I think we agree on that?

      I would not use any varient of the word “father” to identify the donor because I think it makes things murkier. To call the donor a “natural father” (I realize this in to what you are suggesting) and the other man a “social father” seems to me to imply that in some way they are in the same category.

      Ultimately I care less about what people in the real world call those near and dear to them. I know kids who call there mothers by their first names and kids who call their mothers every variation of “ma” you can imagine. That’s all fine.

      But as a matter of law–and law matters a great deal at some times in our lives–I would argue that the donor ought not to be recognized as a father. He could perhaps be recognized as a person if interest. I’m not sure what that would look like, but I can think about it. But not a legal parent.

  6. I am a donor offspring but only found out recently because I need a bone marrow donor and my DNA was pronounced odd. I loved the father who brought me up dearly but realise that for decades my birth certificate and information I have given to medical personnel and insurers has been a lie. There is a need for truth, not to replace the people who bring us up, not to extract money or forced contact with a donor, but we need the same rights as adoptees. With the way medicine is going in the future we all have a right to know our genetic heritage.

    • You’ve told a story that is a powerful argument for ensuring access to donors. I do, however, want to resist putting donor kids in the same category as adoptive kids. A woman who gives birth to a child and then gives the child up for adoption was once the child’s legal mother. As I’ve said many times, I don’t think a donor is a legal parent, and so the analogy doesn’t work for me.

      But I don’t need to accept the analogy to accept the main points you raise–that lying is bad, that you might have a right to know and to contact. I can see a solution that could perhaps be acceptable to both of us.

  7. Personally I think that there is no conflict at all with identifying the man who contributed the genetic material to give the child his/her life the genetic father and the man who contributes the time and money to rear the child, the social father. After all, it is very easy to understand that without the genetic father the child would just not exist and there is no denying that the child’s physical, mental and many emotional traits come from his/her genetic father. For anyone to deny that the genetic father is a person of immense significance for the child is just denying a factual reality. On the other hand without the social father taking care of the child and funding it’s growing up, the child would likely grow up poorer, less happy, possibly less skilled and definitely missing a daddy, so therefore the social father’s role is also very important as well. According to this analysis the genetic father’s role is indispensable and the social father’s role is very valuable. Recognizing that both men have a significant role in the child’s life is not a matter for conflict but addressing a reality. Children both need to be looked after (social father) and to know and understand where they come from and why they are, who they are (genetic father).

    • Perhaps then the thing we disagree about is simply language? The man you call “genetic father” I’d call “genetic forebearer” of something such like.

      It could be there is another more important disagreement lurking out there, though. What rights does that genetic person (whatever he is) have? I’m going to take this question up when I post later today, so perhaps we’ll find out if we disagree?

  8. As a ‘donor’ conceived person I would not want to see the word ‘donor’ used as a legal word to define my biological father for several reasons but the most relevant one:

    I believe that it would be discriminating for the law to call a biological father who chooses, pre-conception, to relinquish his parenting rights and/or not to play a parenting role in his biological offspring’s life, (whether through a sperm bank or otherwise) a donor but in any other situation – a man who has sex with a woman/a man who gives his sperm outside of a sperm bank with no intention/desire to parent his biological offspring which are conceived – a biological father. If this was the case then men should not be held liable for any of their biological children they didn’t chose to parent.

    Choice does not make a biological/genetic father (or mother) a donor. They have only agreed to relinquish their parenting rights, pre-conception. In that case I do believe that a biological/genetic father, who goes through a legal relinquishing process, is the best and fair approach.

    I do think (agree with Naomi Cahn) that adoption is the best model.

  9. A shift of viewpoint can be a good thing. A great many donor conceived people do find a great many similarities between themselves & adoptees and many feel that they should have the same rights.
    Here in Australia we have recently had one state government narrowly vote against giving all donor offspring retrospective the right to know the identity of their donor (if their records still exist).
    The tide is turning from a parent centric view to the needs of the adults that we have conceived using 3rd party gametes.

    • It’s useful to think about these sorts of problems from all points of view. In the next post (I just put it up today) I tried to think about what rights the donor (as opposed to the child) should have. I’m not sure that’s something that’s really been much discussed in the comments to this post.

  10. As an egg donor agency, I realize that for the current times, this is best solved through the clinics and agencies should they make the conscious effort to change. At our agency, we ask every one of our donors before they are even added to our database if they understand the importance of being the genetic provider to the potential child and if for 18 years after their donation, they will be responsible to keep us updated with their family medical history and contact information. All donors, after understanding that their private identifying information will still remain confidential, all agree.

    Take note, we are an egg donor agency for the Asian population only, so anonymity is extremely important to many of our clients and donors, due to traditional cultural stigmas. When I hold a telephone consultation with Intended Parents, many of them are excited to know that even if they choose an anonymous relationship with the egg donor (as 95% of them do in our agency), they are excited to know that we make an effort to keep them updated on their potential child’s medical history.

    There are still a few clients who describe up front that they don’t even want the donor to know whether they were successful or not, and do not want any future contact with our agency once the donation is over. They intend to raise their child believing they are the biological parents, and also have not even told their family that egg donation is involved.

    So, I don’t think banning donor anonymity in this country is necessary. There are still Intended Parents (though my personal opinion doesn’t support it) who wish not to have any involvement with the donor, and yet for everyone else we are still able to provide the information they need in case of a medical emergency to keep in touch with the donor. For those anonymous relationships who want the updates, we do include a statement in our legal contracts to make sure both sides keep their contact information and the donor keeps her medical history updated via our agency.

    • Sarah, I think you may want to think again about the work of your agency.

      I do understand the cultural issues that lead many parents to lie to their children.

      However, there is no way that you or the parents can ensure that the truth is never discovered, especially in this day and age.

      What if a child needs to go into the hospital and they do tissue typing or genetic testing on mother and child?

      Is that the right time for the child to discover their true genetic heritage? And the deception they have been living with all of their lives?

      When will the child be allowed to know the truth of their medical history? Will you and the parents hide it from the child for their entire lives?

      For the next 70 years, you are going to be the sole source of accurate medical information?

      What happens when the parents pass away and your agency dissolves? Who then will protect the child when they have an important medical issue and they need genetic truth?

      You work with a minority population.

      If most parents are lying to their children, how will you ensure that the egg donor’s children and the intended mother’s children never marry?

      Also, how do you know that cultural norms will not change dramatically over the next 10, 15 or 20 years?

      When my mother conceived me with the help of a donor in 1967, everyone assumed that secrecy was the best policy — for me and for my family.

      Now, 41 years later, you cannot find a social worker in the United States who would allow adoptive parents to lie to their child about their origins. Everything has changed.

      Just because those things have not changed *yet* in the community you work with does not mean that they will not change in the future.

      The future is where these future children will live — not the present.

      In the meantime, you have setup a system that encourages secrecy and shame within the family — the very place that is supposed to be a safe and loving home for the child.

      How much energy will your intended parents put towards hiding this secret from their child and everyone they know?

      What emotional toll will this take on the family?

      Will it cause divorce? Will it cause distancing from the child? Many of us who are children of donation have experienced this.

      No child should be lied to about such basic information within their own family.

      Many agencies are not as responsible as yours and they do not keep records, those records are not updated, and they do not control the number of births.

      Your message actually proves that banning anonymity is the only way to protect children and ensure that they are not lied to.

      Without a law forcing people to act in the best interest of the child and ultimately, the best interest of the family, people will continue to act on the basis of their own fears.

      We have come a long way from the days of closed adoption and the secrecy and shame it created.

      There is no reason to revisit that era with egg and sperm donation.

      The collusion between you, the parents, and the donor leaves out the most important person in the equation — THE CHILD.

      Don’t you think that most children would WANT TO KNOW their genetic origin?

      If you were adopted, wouldn’t you at least want to know? Even if no one else knew. Even if your culture said that this information is private and cannot be known outside the family.

      Wouldn’t YOU want to know?

      I think you would. I have yet to meet a donor conceived person who agrees with anonymity.

      Not a single one.

      We disagree on almost everything but we all agree on this — we have the right to know.

      Think again and ask your egg donation agency to think again on these issues.

      I encourage you to put better and more intelligent policies in place now — before you are forced to do so.

  11. Fascinating discussion. I was pleased to come across your writings/posts/analyses, Ms. Shapiro. I feel like for too long the “social fathers” have been the ignored party in all the discussion about donor-conceived children.

    I am a Dad to two kids–an 8-yr-old girl and a 4-yr-old boy– who were delivered by my wife using donor sperm. The bank is a well-known one in Northern Virginia and we have about 20 pages of general medical history, information on lineage and siblings, grandparents, likes/dislikes, favorite colors, movies (Jurassic Park), etc.

    We just told our daughter this weekend. My wife had been preparing her by mentioning IVF in conversations when my daughter’s mind would, as is natural at her age, turn to questions of conception — like the old Peanuts strips on the questions we all ask ourselves: Why are we here? What if we’d never been born?

    Our daughter took the news well; in an odd twist (at least to me), she has been more affectionate. She cuddles up to me frequently, cooing “Daddy” like a much younger girl. I think, given her sensitivity, she realizes I need to be reassured about my own role. She is young enough to wonder about her biological father (I don’t have a problem at all saying that, because it’s true, but I do object to the use of the word “parent.”)

    Ms. Shapiro is doing an admirable job emphasizing she is speaking of the legal definitions; the donor-conceived folks who have posted — and I can understand how the use of those words, “donor-conceived,” would bug you, I don’t really like ’em either — are perhaps choosing their words more emotionally and culturally, if that makes any sense.

    Notwithstanding one’s personal experiences, it stands to reason that people who had children through IVF, using sperm or egg donation, are more likely to be committed to raising their kids. Despite my own shortcomings as a parent, I am utterly devoted to my kids and feel that visceral protective tug more strongly all the time. (“Don’t mess with my kid!”)

    I am, of course, also acutely aware that I am not my children’s biological father, that I have not passed on my “genetic heritage” as so lovingly researched by my parents (didya know we go back to the Mayflower?). And that was/is my greatest fear for my daughter — that this whole lineage issue will become a bigger deal as she gets older. She identifies more with my side of the family, where our Celtic origins were celebrated by my late father. So when my daughter perhaps more fully realizes the whole “bloodline” thing, maybe she’ll be angry at us for leaving her a muddled heritage.

    Which is partly why I’d like to find out who the guy is. I need to post something at the DSR site and start searching for this dude. I gather information for a living, so I should be able to track him down. I want her to have the option, and I believe every person on this Earth because of an “indispensable” sperm donor deserves to know who that person is.

    Did we consider the whole anonymity issue before going ahead with the implantation of embryos (my wife’s eggs and Mr. Donor Dude)? Yes, and I definitely have thought about it, before and since. My wife, just because of the kind of person she is, has been less concerned about the impact of the news on our kids.

    So for now, one down and one to go. Our daughter has taken the news wonderfully–I love her more than ever–but I don’t pretend that this issue is ever going away, and I fully support her right to get all the info she can on her biological Dad. And I’ll be doing everything I can to get that information.

    Sorry for the somewhat rambling post, but I hope some will find it worth reading.

    • “Our daughter took the news well; in an odd twist (at least to me), she has been more affectionate. She cuddles up to me frequently, cooing “Daddy” like a much younger girl. I think, given her sensitivity, she realizes I need to be reassured about my own role.”

      Steve- This response is so belated I wonder whether you will read this, but I hope you do. Please listen.

      It is not your daughters responsibility to reassure YOU of her love. It is your responsibility to reassure her.

      What a burden to be placed on such a small child!

  12. Julie,
    I shared your post on a group for donor conceived adults (as well as the DSR) and a fellow ‘donor’ conceived woman, whose name is Vicki, asked to share this with you since she couldn’t figure out how to post herself:

    From Vicki (‘donor’ conceived):
    I think beyond the biological father that his family is my genetic heritage and I have a right to know about it. He donated the sperm but that sperm goes back to his ancestors and they are my ancestors. I don’t care if it was a one night stand or a sperm bank that sperm got into my mother and produced me. He was a part of it and so were his mother, father, grandmother, grandfather and on and on. Their health, their looks, their cultures are all a part of me. So don’t just call him a donor.”

    • I am sympathetic to Vicki’s point. I think I see what she means.

      What I don’t quite understand is why it follows that the label “donor” is unacceptable. But accepting that it is, would “progenitor” or “forebear” (if that’s how you spell it) be better? I would be content with either of those.

      If neither of those work does it have to include the word “father” and if so, why?

      • Julie,
        I shared your response with Vicki and she asked me to post this response to you on her behalf:

        Julie,
        The word father matters because that is exactly what the man is or in my case was, as he is most probably now deceased. I had a “Dad”, the man who raised me, but technically speaking he was not my father. Father, in the English language,
        denotes one who begets an offspring and the sperm donor was indeed my father.
        The word father is important because it is the term that focuses on the heritage
        I share with this man and his family.
        Vicki Reilly

  13. As another person adopted through artificial insemination, I believe that language is important but unresolvable either legally or socially. Therefore, I choose my own terms. What somoeone else calls “sperm donor” I call father. What others call “social father” I call dad. But that’s just me. It is ironic that you focus on legal definitons for this situation since the language was not born out of legislative or judicial actions but purely from the presumptive powers exercised by the inventors of artificial insemination, that is all the gynecologists from 1884 onwards. They created a jargon for this process that medicalized AI, gave themselves the power to control the practices by claiming self-regulation as a profession, devised extra-legal rules to enforce participants into agreements without full informed consent, and made people like me subject to rules in which we had no voice. Please tell me why legal definitions are so important in this context.

    By the way, I consider AI as another form of adoption, not so much because of the process but because the life experiences of adopted people mirror those of us who were adopted through artificial insemination. We are both treated as persons without any rights to know our genealogical heritage, raised with a mystery about our identities, and suffer from anguish of no legal recourse because of the decisions of others. These parental rights that restrict us should disappear at the age of legal autonomy but they persist with both groups for the rest of our lives.

    • I suppose legal (as opposed to social) definitions are important to me for two reasons–because I teach law and because that’s what I set out to explore on this blog. Of course, legal and social definitions aren’t entirely segregated. The law influences culture and vice versa.

      Legal definitions are important, too, because they bring with them real power. Socially it doesn’t matter what one calls the person who is a legal parent. If, however, the law recognizes a person as a legal parent they have authority to decide all sorts of things for the child, or at least be an participant in the conversation.

      I’ve tried to follow up on and develop this point a bit more in today’s post. The bottom line, though, is that if the donor is a legal parent than he stands on an equal (legal) footing with all other legal parents. It’s worth thinking about the consequences of that.

      It’s perfectly possible to recognize rights for the child without also giving rights to the donor. Would that perhaps suit?

      • Julie,
        If a biological father/mother does not consent to parent then a legal adoption/relinquishment will solve the parenting/rights issue you address. No matter how a person comes into the world, we all have a genetic/gestational mother(s) and a genetic father. Creating a new class of persons (without the right to say they have a genetic/gestional mother – father but rather only a ‘donor’) simply because of the choices of others, is discriminating. This is how many of us (no matter HOW we are concieved) find meaning/conncetions and roots. Saying one or both of our non-consenting parents is nothing more than a ‘donor’ reduces that meaning to nothing more than dna/genetics. We DO have a mother or two mothers genetic/gestational and a father. They might not be our parents but they matter to and ground many of us.

        • I’m not sure I understand all of what you have to say. Who or what, for example, is a “non-consenting parent?” What is it they are not consenting to?

          I mean no disrespect to anyone. The main thing I’d like to focus on is whether the donor (not the child) should have rights. And keep in mind I think it is perfectly possible for the child to have rights even if the donor does not have rights. Are there rights you think the donor (as opposed to the child) should have? What are they and why should he have them?

  14. I also checked out the definition of father and the dictionary supplied these definitions:

    a. A male person whose sperm unites with an egg, resulting in the conception of a child.
    b. A man who adopts a child.
    c. A man who raises a child.

    So I don’t understand why it seems offensive to you Julie to call a spade a spade and acknowledge that a sperm donor is a father? He might not be a good father and one might criticize his morality for giving up his offspring to strangers, but he is a father without a doubt!

    I also see no reason why donor offspring can’t have two fathers, one custodial (the social father) and the other only genetic.

    • Truly I think we have simply reached a point of semantic disagreement. It happens ot the best of us. I see that both the donor and the man who raises the child can both be important–very important–to the child. But I think they are important in quite different ways so I prefer to give them labels that reflect that they are quite different. There would be lots of ways to do that. But calling both of them fathers seems to me less useful.

      Having said that, my main point really isn’t about the semantics, it’s about the law. Are there legal rights the donor (or genetic father) should have? What are they and why should he have them? I strongly prefer that the donor have no rights. I’ll explore this a bit more tomorrow. This does not necessarily mean that the child has no rights.

  15. Legal issues are very important yet we have to be careful to remember that moral law will always hold us to a higher standard than laws made by man. Man-made laws reflect what is going on in society and culture…they change, some become obsolete, some must be updated as technology progresses, etc. The law of the land can only put boundaries around our behaviors – it’s against the law do hateful things (murder, rape, robbery, etc). But we can’t legislate what goes on in someone’s heart – it’s not against the law to be hateful.

    So when we come to a situation as complex as using one man’s sperm to help create a child for another man to raise as his own, we can argue all sides of it until the cows come home. But at the center of this, I don’t think this is a legal issue – it’s a moral issue. Being anonymous doesn’t protect you from what is right and what is wrong. When you help create a life, whether it is by the actual sexual act or whether there is a third party involved, you are still creating a life. The man who helps create a life is a father whether he wants to call himself a father or not. He can say that the law is on his side, but morally, he created a life and when you create a life, you are a parent. When you don’t take responsibility for your child, you are a bad parent. As Damian said, you can have more than two parents; us donor-conceived people usually have three (if not more) – it just so happens that one of our parents is completely absent from our lives.

    • I agree that there are both legal and moral issues here. Both are difficult. In both cases I think there are two sides to the argument.

      I’ve tried to keep the blog focused on the legal issues, although I do want to be clear that the law often can/does/should reflect moral choices. But sometimes people do have moral obligations that are not recognized in law, and probably vice versa as well.

      Given the centrality of law in our lives, we cannot ignore the legal question of whether the donor is (in law) the father of the child. There are many consequences of answering the legal question one way or the other.

      I think that if you take the view that a donor is always legally the father of a resulting child, two consequences will follow.

      First, donor sperm will be much less frequently used. The people who use it now do not generally want to acquire a father in this way. (I’m not saying whether this is good or bad at the moment, simply predicting that it will happen.)

      Second, to the extent it is possible, people who do use donor sperm will choose to use permanantly anonymous donors so that it is simple to terminate the rights of the unknown father.

      I recognize that this second effect is of concern to many people. That is why I asked about having the donor be specfically declared to be a non-parent.

      There is, of course, another alternative: you could say the donor is a father and also bar the use of anonymous donors. I think then you would have practically barred the use of donor sperm for many people. That may be a good thing or a bad thing. I think it is important to acknowledge that it is what will follow.

  16. I have been giving the words “donor” and “father” a lot of thought and I believe that the person who donated the sperm to my mother was actually her donor. He did not donate the sperm to me. He was not my sperm donor but hers. He became my biological father by donating that sperm. I think the only title you can give him with any degree of legal and moral certainty is “biological father” to the child created by sperm donation.

  17. I’m a “donor” conceived person, and the man whose sperm I was created from is my father, there are no two ways about it.

    This site explains the issue clearly:
    http://www.tangledwebs.org.uk/tw/WhyWrong/Problems/

    Through my father I am tied to my uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, and the whole of my lineage. He may not want contact with me, but perhaps other of my relations do.

  18. I think that Vicki’s comment is spot on.
    I have also been concerned for years that often the search for another term to use for “biological father” can sometimes be a search for a term that distances the sperm donor from his biological offspring.
    There have been a number of papers written over the years about the payment of donors and how this distanced them from the act of conception (a system set in place by the medical profession – who seem quite happy in many countries to have a system like this).
    I truly believe that we need to use terms like biological parent so that there is no doubt about physical relationships.
    My own children use terms like Bill does “biological father” for the sperm donor and “Dad” for the man who has raised them. It is their choice. My husband is fine with those terms and so am I but even if we weren’t totally happy it is still their choice.
    Instead of worrying so much about words we should be worried about the lack of rights that most donor conceived people have around the world to have access to information about their biological parents and to also know who else they are related to.

  19. Two of my children were conceived using donor sperm. We talk about it in simple terms of “genetic father” and daddy. (They are only 4, so they barely get the concept that the genetic father ‘helped’ us have them. But I want it in their lexicon early.)

    I think, just as with first mothers/fathers, donors have every right to opt out of being responsible for raising their biological offspring and once they sign away those rights, they should not ever be expected to provide support, either emotional or financial or otherwise, again.

    However, this does not excuse them from being the (for lack of a better word) parent that they are. They are responsible for bringing a child into the world, they have minimal responsibilities to that child. Minimal to me means that they are identifiable and contactable in case of a medical emergency and must provide medical records as such.

    It is too early to tell how my children will really react to being a product of donor sperm. However, that part of them, the genetic side that comes from the donor that makes my son’s hair blond and my other son have double joints and a thousand little other things both known and unknown to us, are important. It is part of them and he is part of them. I would never try to deny or hide that part. I have no desire to contact him, but it is not my place. When they reach the age of majority, I see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to seek him out (and then he can either enter into a relationship with them, or not. That would be between them to negotiate.)

  20. Julie:
    What about a grandparent?
    -Is a grandparent the genetic progenitor of 1/4 of the genes?
    -Or is it someone who buys birthday gifts and babysits?
    -Or is grandparent defined by its relationship to the parent only, and not by its relationship to the child?
    -I’ve never met my grandmother, does that make her any less my grandmother?
    -What about great grandparent?
    I’m sure you would agree that it is impossible to define grandparent without a biological understanding of kin. So why are you so quick to discount the biological aspect of being a parent?

    Perhaps this insistence on denying biology made sense a generation or two ago, when it was believed that people were born a blank slate. Now that we know how crucial genetics are to every aspect of our being, is it not time to discard this outdated assumption?

    • The grandparent question is interesting. While grandparents are important in many people’s lives and for many reasons, there isn’t much in the law that directly speaks to the status. They don’t have nearly the rights of a parent.

      One thing you could do is that a grandparent is a parent’s parent. In that case, it isn’t necesarily biology–but you’ll be back to my initial question of who is a parent.

      If I am adopted at birth I think my parents are my adopted parents. At least in my view, their parents could be my grandparents, even though there is no genetic connection.

      I think if I had never met the man who was involved in my conception it would be hard for me (speaking personally here) to consider his parents my grandparents in the same sense as the set of people discussed above. They might be very interesting to me–they are part of my lineage.

      But really, I think it does all come down to the same questions in the end.

  21. Or how about another analogy Julie?

    A guy gets drunk in a bar and ends up going home to have sex with the woman on the next stool.

    If genetic tests show that he has sired a child from that encounter, is he not the childs father?

    So what exactly is the difference between his relationship to the child and that of a sperm donor- 0ther than that one signed a contract and one didn’t?

    (or if he did- most courts would not recognize it, stating that the contract was made with the mother, not the child.
    Sure, they had a different relationship with the child’s MOTHER. but since when does a relationship with the mother define their connection to the child?

    (I would just like to add that I am a single woman in my upper thirties who wants nothing more than to be a parent. )

  22. One more question to Julie and all readers: Picture a scenarion in which you suddenly find out that you were adopted. Would it not throw you into turmoil?

    Why, if the only thing that matters is who raised you?

    • I’m going to respond to both of your last posts here.

      As to the one-night-stand guy, I would put him in the same category as the sperm donor. I know many people disagree with this–the discussion is back here. https://julieshapiro.wordpress.com/2008/02/25/gearing-up-again-the-sperm-donor-and-the-one-night-stand-guy/

      I think finding you were adopted would very likely create turmoil. One reason might be that you would feel your parents (the adoptive parents, I mean) had lied to you about something important–where you came from.

      When you raise a child, I think it is generally assumed that you gave birth to the child, etc. It would be hard to raise a child for five/six years without either having to tell the child she/he is adopted or actively lying to the child.

      I can readily see that a betrayal of trust like that could have some major consequences. I think the general thought now is that people need to be open and honest with adopted kids.

      Of course, on learning you were adopted I would imagine you would also want to know the details and perhaps track down the original parent(s). I can imagine I’d wonder about why she or they didn’t want to raise me.

      But with an adopted child I think there was an earlier parent–at least one, the woman who gave birth. Because I do not see the sperm donor as a parent, I don’t see the same set of issues. So it all loops back to that first question of who is a parent in the first place.

  23. About 2 years ago I joined “Ancestry.com” and did a family tree for myself, my kids and my grandkids. Unfortunately my family tree only has one side, my mother’s. My biological father’s side is blank. Maybe it is not a big deal for those who have knowledge of their genetic family tree but for those of us who don’t it can be a very big deal. My grandkids will never know who they are related to on that side of the tree. The world is getting smaller and our roots are intertwined. It is comforting to know where are roots start and that we are a part of something so much larger than ourselves. I know that my great, great grandfather on my mother’s side came from an island off the coast of Denmark, that he came to the US as a mariner, probably jumped ship in NY and later became a NYC ferry pilot. I know that I am related to Roger Williams of Rhode Island on my mother’s side. I have a history and it is very important to me. On my fathers side I have a bunch of empty branches. As a woman at age 66 I don’t think I will ever find out about my paternal heritage, as a man there is a chance with the Y genetic search to at least find out what your origins are and probably much more. Please don’t dismiss this need to know about biological family. It matters.

  24. julie, why is the biological act of giving birth, a more substantial act of parenthood to you, than the act of giving half one’s chromosomes?

  25. Hard to answer briefly, but there’s a ton back in the blog.

    That said, here’s a snap shot–Giving birth necessarily implies being pregnant, too, of course. So a woman who gives birth has provided everything the developing embryo needs, 24/7, for nine months or so. That’s an incredible commitment, to my mind. It counts, just as spending nine months providing sole care for a newborn would count in my mind.

    By contrast giving half the chromosomes could mean, for a man, engagement for a few minutes. (For a woman who is an egg donor it is more than that, of course.) I don’t see this as entitling one to equal parental rights as the one who gives birth.

  26. Julie, your initial question was “Annonymous Donors and what to do about them” The only people who should answer that question are the people created by these annonymous donors, the donor conceived. Your answer should come from us, not the mothers who paid the sperm banks, not the biological fathers who sold their sperm or the biological mothers who sold their eggs, and not the lawyers. We are the people who have been brought here by this commercial arrangement and we are the people who should answer the question. My answer is that all annonymous donor submissions should halt immediately. Every person born on this earth should know who their biological father and mother are and be given a history. This is different than adoption, this is a planned pregnancy with two knowledgeable human beings entering into a commercial transaction to have a child and that child should have the right to all information about his or her heritage.

  27. Vicki reilly, I agree.

    Sperm donation is made to look like a medical procedure with clinics and white coats, but it is really very simple: the father is payed for relinquishing his parental rights and the child is stripped of its right to support from half its family. The mother gains a biological connection, the child looses half its.

    Donor anonymity is soon going to be a thing of the past. In ten years time the genealogical DNA data bases can be organized into ” family tree structures”, where most people can find a second or third cousin and use conventional genealogy to establish their genetic family tree. We may as well start to be honest now, before honesty is being forced upon us.

    We should also be honest about the rights of children. President Obama is going to sign the UN charter of the “rights of the child” where it says that a child has “the right to know and be cared for by both its parents”. The Charter doesn’t mention anything about a child loosing its rights because its parents agreed about the conception taking place in a clinic.

    • I don’t want to belabor this point, but I’ve noted that you could ban anonymous donation and not have the donor be recognized as the legal father or, if you prefer to say it this way, not have the donor given all of the rights of a legal parent. I do believe this is the current law in the UK. (I assume, by the way, that you’d say the same things about egg donors as sperm donors.)

      This meets at least some of the needs of children that you are describing–they have access to the people whose genetic material was used. They can form the social relationship they can choose and they can use the labels they prefer.

      At the same time, it allows for single women, lesbian couples, and heterosexual couples where one person does not produce eggs/sperm to raise children in their own families. I think there if value to that, though you might disagree.

      I think you are actually making two separate assertions. One is that a person should have a right to know about the genetic lineage. A second, which does not necessarily follow from the first as far as I am concerned, is that the only people entitled to legal recognition as parents of the child are the two people who can be identified via the DNA.

      You might well persuade me of the first, and as you say, perhaps this is inevitable given advancing technology. But the second assertion is quite different and we just disagree about this. I think it is what you might call an irreconcilable difference.

  28. Nelly said: “We should also be honest about the rights of children. President Obama is going to sign the UN charter of the “rights of the child” where it says that a child has “the right to know and be cared for by both its parents”. The Charter doesn’t mention anything about a child loosing its rights because its parents agreed about the conception taking place in a clinic.”

    To Nelly: I am an adoptee who identifies with donor-conceived. It was either in 1990 or 1992 that I attended an adoption conference with Dr. Rene Hoksbergen of The Netherlands. I had an idea and spoke to him about it. We wrote two ammendments to the “UN Rights of the Child” in which we specified rights of adoptees and donor-conceived. Dr. Hoksbergen presented these two ammendments, but they were voted out.

    I am not a lawyer. I learned simply by using common sense. I heard a wonderful presentation by an infertiltiy family therapist in the early 1980s. I understood clearly what he said about sperm donors and husbands and the child’s rights.

    In my opinion, gamete donation, and embryo donation should be banned worldwide. Very destructive to the child created. Selfish parents think nothing of the burden placed upon a child who grows up questioning, internalizing mixed messages. Later in life, confusion and betrayal.

    Leave a Comment

  29. Julie, you’re missing the point. The only circumstances under which it is acceptable to plan to bring a human being into existence is when his or her two biological parents plan to raise the child together as the social parents.

    Single women, lesbian couples, and heterosexual infertile couples just can’t do that, and I’m sorry for them, but that’s a fact. They can’t have their own biological children (together). It is not right for them to create a human being solely to satisfy their needs. The needs of the child are paramount.

    • I don’t think I’m missing the point. Rather, I disagree with the categorical statement you make at the beginning of your comment–the one about the circumstances under which it is acceptable to bring a human being into existence.

      I think this is a philosophical question and the best we can do is recognize that we disagree about it. Once you start with that disagreement, it’s hardly surprising that we find other points on which we disagree.

    • Tom’s assertion is interesting, since there are plenty of traditional examples of people bringing children into the world who are not intended to be raised by their biological parents.

      There are Native American matrilocal societies in North America where the role we call “father” is given to the brother of the mother. He is the father and has the rights and responsibilities of fatherhood. The biological father has no such rights. Instead, he will become a father to his own sister’s children.

      So, either this society and others like it are amoral, or Tom must admit that the definition of “father” and “family” are culturally determined, not biologically determined.

      Saying that the only people who should have children are fertile heterosexuals who plan to stay together for life is fine — but that doesn’t make it realistic or true.

      In fact, while there is plenty of evidence in human history for the importance of biological ties, there is just as much evidence in human history for the importance of social ties.

      Adoption has always been with us. Marriage is a social construct — not a biological reality — in which two people who are not biologically related come together and are considered a family ONLY ON LEGAL GROUNDS . Gay and lesbian people have always borne and raised children. Infertile people have always sought to have or raise children. Always.

      It is fine to assert some kind of theoretical reality against the messy human one we all live in — but I do not think it will be very successful.

      • I suspect the messiness of human relationships is one of a small number of trans-historical/cross-cultural constants. So many cultures have myths/legends/foundational stories involving irregularly constructed families, including parents raising children who are not genetically related to them.

  30. Julie, regarding the “entitlement” that you talk about above:

    The issue is really nothing to do with whether a sperm donor is entitled to be a parent, or entitled to have the same parental rights as a woman who has carried a foetus.

    The point is that every human being is entitled to a meaningful relationship with his or her biological parents.

    • So, what you’re saying is that I can sue my mother if she doesn’t return my calls?

      Are you saying that we can never execute a convicted killer if he has children? After all, killing him would deprive his children of a meaningful relationship with their biological father.

      And do you mean to imply that I had no right to have a meaningful relationship with the man who raised me but then abandoned our family?

      The man who was married to my mother? The man who chose to conceive me using sperm donation?

      That man has no responsibilities to me and I have no claim on a meaningful relationship with him because he is not my biological parent but I DO have a claim on a meaningful relationship with a medical student from 1967?

      I’m sorry, I think that is totally backward.

      If anyone is going to get sued for failing to have a meaningful relationship with me, it should be my father, not the donor.

      Personally, I would prefer a different rule.

      Every human being is entitled to be raised with clean air and water and enough food to eat. No human being should be intentionally born into poverty.

      Wow, that sounds nice, doesn’t it? Almost as nice as the meaningful relationship statement.

      It’s great in theory. Now, let’s try to apply this idea in practice.

      As a consequence of the rule that no human being should grow up in poverty, we should immediately sterilize all poor people and give their existing children away to middle class gay and lesbian couples who can provide an appropriate economic environment.

      Huh. That doesn’t sound so nice now. That actually sounds wrong.

      I guess practice is messier than theory.

      I guess that when theories lead to negative outcomes, they should be reconsidered.

  31. As regards sperm donation only, I’m leaning towards strong sympathy with Tom’s viewpoint that the only people who should be recognized as parents at the time of a babies birth should be the genetic parents. HOWEVER, I do believe in allowing adoption, and feel that adoptive parents are real parents, so I see no reason why with the consent of the sperm donor a lesbian partner or a husband could not adopt the child as a co-parent.

    As regards egg donation I side with Julie that a woman gestating an embryo is as much the mother whether she is the genetic mother or not.

  32. I totally agree with Tom. It seems to me that the part of this argument that is not understood, is that a child is being created thru a commercial transaction. The egg or the sperm is being sold to a buyer. There is no legal agency overseeing if the buyer is a competent mother or if she has the capacity to take care of this child, think “octo-mom”. In the case of adoption, the child is here and needs a home and family to care for it. In the case of sperm and egg selling – let’s forget the word donation because it is not a donation it is a sale of goods, the child is not here and is only being brought here because someone has enough money to purchase the goods. A child should not be brought into this world through the sale of its genetic material. I don’t care if the mother has carried the child for 9 months, he or she is still half of the egg seller’s genetic makeup and has the right to know the history of that “bio – mother”.

  33. Increasingly, it is single women who buy sperm, because infertile couples can be helped with advances in fertility technology. I wonder how you would explain the legal situation to such a child, if its mother dies? (this will happen in 5% of all cases before the child is eighteen)

    When people discuss the need for a father in connection with ART, the prevailing answer is that he is irrelevant because the mother qua her economy, education etc, is perfectly capable of taking care of the child herself. It is however a bit difficult if she is dead.

    Are all human beings born free and equal in dignity and rights? Yes, unless by law you decide otherwise. Dignity? how much dignity is there in having been purchased and created in a laboratory? Rights? If your father is selling himself from a donor catalogue, bad deal- you only get 50% of your rights. If you complain, you are told that you should just be happy that you were born ( shouldn’t we all be?)

    I think that these children deserve an answer.

    • I’m sorry, how much dignity is there is being conceived in the back of a pickup truck by two drunk teenagers who never intended to have a child?

      And yet, you are not willing to take that child away from them nor are you willing to pass a law preventing them from having sexual intercourse.

      No one chooses how they are conceived. NO ONE. No one chooses their parents, no one chooses the terms of their birth.

      This is a reality of nature. This is biological reality.

      Your parents may be great or they may suck. They may raise you and love you or abandon you. They may be genetically related to you or they may not.

      You don’t get to choose and you don’t get to control. This is part of the human condition.

      You can raise a cry against it, you can wail and gnash your teeth — it doesn’t change this fact.

      You are asking to control something that is in the realm of the parents — not the child.

      There is nothing demeaning or dehumanizing about being conceived through technology.

      There is nothing immoral about being conceived through a consensual relationship.

      And I hardly see how the commercial transaction cheapens my existance.

      If my father had been fertile and he’d bought my mother a 100.00 dinner to encourage her to leave the birth control behind, would that cheapen my existance?

      If my parents had been fertile and they’d bought a nice and beautiful bed to conceive me in, would that cheapen my existance?

      How does it cheapen my existance for them to purchase sperm so that they could conceive a child?

  34. Julie, you wrote that the biological act of birthing is more significant because the mother gave more, in line with your perspective that it is choice, commitment, and giving that creates parenthood. But this defines parenthood from the PARENT’s perspective, not the offspring’s. And that is the crux of the matter.

    • I disagree, though perhaps I haven’t expressed myself clearly enough. Obviously I cannot speak for all children. But in general, it seems to me that a person who is always there for a child, who provides love, care and support, who evidences a commitment to be there indefinitely, no matter what, looks pretty much like a parent from the child’s point of view, too.

      And fwiw, it isn’t just giving birth–it’s the whole pregnancy thing/

  35. Julie, you have stated that your concern is that the donor, a person with no interest in the child’s welfare, should obtain rights to that child. You have also stated that you wish to see the best interest of the child, that their rights to identity etc be respected.

    This is not an impossibility. I see no reason that the donor should be entitled to rights over the child, any more than any other parent who relinquishes parental rights through adoption, safe haven or whatever.

    • I’m not sure I understand what you are suggesting. You might structure it so that the donor relinquishes rights at the point the donor agrees to donate. I suppose in a way this is what many states do have. It does mean that effectively the donor is not a father.

      Or you could say that some time after the child is born the donor could, if he wished, relinquish rights. That’s more analogous to a woman giving a child up for adoption. But I assume the donor would not be required to relinquish rights? In which case, using a known donor exposes whoever it is (a woman alone, two women together, a woman and a man together) to the proposect of the donor exercising his parental rights.

      I’d be much happier if it was clear to all, from the beginning, that the donor had no such rights. And then, I think, you could make a case that people ought to ensure that the identity of the donor could be known to the kids.

  36. “it seems to me that a person who is always there for a child, who provides love, care and support, who evidences a commitment to be there indefinitely, no matter what, looks pretty much like a parent from the child’s point of view, too. ”

    By this definition, y0u make the quality of parenting the issue. Many parents are uncaring and even abusive. In my opinion, that makes them bad parents- (and bad human beings for that matter). It doesn’t mean they aren’t parents.

    Furthermore, you are falling into the either/or trap, that if the biological parent is recognized as such, it means the social parent is NOT. The accounts of many offspring indicates that their search for their biological parent is not a rjection of their social parent at all.

    Ironically the fear of many parents that the child’s relationship with the donor would threaten them, actually indicates their own unarticulated belief in the importance of the biological connection.

    • I think we may agree about more than you realize. I am trying to focus on the legal recognition of parents, not the social recognition of them.

      The law tends to be pretty inflexible about the number of parents a child has. Often the answer is two. And, especially for those guided by biology, the two need to be one male and one female.

      I would prefer greater flexiblity in law–some children have one parent, some have two, some have three and some may even have four. Rarely does the law allow for recognition of three or four parents. This may pit one potential parent against another, and that’s a shame. It does lead, I think, to the “either/or” trap you refer to.

      I think I’ve said this before, but if the donor is recognized in law as a parent then it really does undermine the rights of whoever else is a parent to that child. That’s why I think one could much more easily arrive at a place where people chose identifiable donors if the law were clear that the donor is not a legal parent.

      Please note, before I spur another whole round on this, that I am concerned with legal parentage, not social parentage. It is not what people call each other that matters in this inquiry. A child may wish to refer to her/his donor as her/his father. That’s a private choice that people ought to be free to make. The question I want to center on is whether the donor has all the rights of a parent.

  37. And what would you say to a child whose father died before they were born? That he isn’t really their father? That they have no connection to him, his life, his history and his kin?

    • I think you’ll find this discussed elsewhere on the blog, though I must confess I cannot give you an easy way to find where.

      Do you mean a situation where a man and a woman were planning to have a child together and where, while the woman was pregnant, the man died? It seems clear to me that the man is an important figure there. I would imagine the child might feel connected to him and indeed, the mother might foster that connection and also a connection with the extended family he left behind.

      I also might want to assert that the child was entitled to be recognized as a dependant child to the extent that means things like getting social security or pension benefits.

      At the same time, I don’t think I would give the deceased man recogntion as a present legal parent. That would make life terribly difficult for the woman and child. I don’t think legal parental rights–to the extent these are rights to make decisions and the like–can survive the death of a parent.

      Again, this is not to say the man is not important or that the child might not think of him as her/his father. I’m only talking about law. And for what it is worth, I think the law is quite clear on this. So, for example, if the woman were to recouple and she and her new partner agreed that the new partner would adopt the child, there would be no need to terminated the deceased man’s parental rights. Production of the death certificate would suffice.

      The harder cases, and they are discussed under “frozen sperm” I think, are cases where the sperm was frozen for some period of time and used later–sometimes years later.

  38. (PS the gender neutral plural is intentional)

  39. Julie, If you define a parent as pretty much anyone who looks after a kid without getting paid for it and sets the rules, would you consider my grandmother my mother. My mom died when I was young and my grandparents looked after me in their home for a long while. Does that make my grandmother my mother and my grandfather my father? (I only saw my father very occasionally) Would then my aunt be my sister and my cousin my niece? Would my father be my brother-in-law? Gosh, assigning parenthood on the basis of roles seem so confusing!

    • I don’t think you’re fairly reading my definition. I watch my friends’ kids from time to time, I don’t get paid for it, and I do set rules. That doesn’t make me their parent. I don’t think anyone would mistake me for their parent, and I don’t think I satisfy my own test.

      I do think a grandmother can be a legal parent. Sometimes grandparents step in and take over the role of parent, perhaps most commonly when the grandparent’s child dies or is incapacitated. When they do so I think the law ought to recognize them as parents and give them the corresonding rights and obligations of parents.

      Whether the grandparent qualifies as a legal parent depends on the specific circumstances. I don’t know enough about yours to presume to offer an opinion.

      The rest of what you ask is interesting, but not really directly relevant to my interests. Aunts, uncles, cousins and the like are important social categories, but less so as legal categories. My father had a cousin who was twenty-five years his senior. He called her “aunt,” because that term better captured his relationship to her. It didn’t much matter that the legal category didn’t match the social category, because there weren’t any legal conseuquences from the mis-match. Neither an aunt or a cousin has much in the way of legal recognition.

      That’s quite different from the situation with parents. Being recognized as a legal parent has profound consequences, just as not being recognized does. This is why I am more interested in that legal category than in others.

  40. Without the donor there would be no child. Therefore the problem of parenthood would not exist. It is the donor’s participation which creates the offspring. Our family law in all countries pre-existed current medical aids to fertility and it has not kept pace with the new family situations which exist. I sympathise with those parents who would not wish the intrusion of a donor into their lives, but their family is different from the outset and it is not just the wishes of the parents and donor who must be considered but the wellbeing of the offspring who was not present and not legally represented when the original contract was drawn up.

  41. Alison, Of course without sperm donors there would be no donor offspring! Isn’t it quite incredible how the very men who purposefully intend to procreate children are considered by society to have no responsibilities towards their children whereas men who have consciensciously used contraception that failed are held fully responsible for their children. It beggars belief! We all know it takes two people to procreate a child and the method of procreation should have no impact on the man’s responsibility – the only criterion should be – is he the genetic father. A simple test that’s fair to all. If a guy doesn’t want responsibility for a kid he shouldn’t chuck his sperm around. In this world of serious over-population the last thing we should be doing is encouraging men to fecklessly and irresponsibly be procreating kids that they don’t want to look after.

    Sperm Donors = The Worst Dead Beat Dads

    • Sperm donors are only “deadbeat dads” if they have a legal obligation to support the child in question. If they are not legal parents, then they have no legal obligation of support and they are not “deadbeat dads.”

      Which brings us back to my fundamaental question (about which I know we disagree): should a sperm donor be recognized as a legal father. You say yes, I say no.

      It is hardly a surprise that in my view, sperm donors are not deadbeat dads. I know you won’t agree, but I figured I’d state the argument since I think the “deadbeat dad” reference has appeared more than once.

    • Well, if the concientious men who use birth control that failed also sign a legal contract saying that they are only acting as donors if conception occurs, and if their partner who might get pregnant agrees — then the guy has a chance of being considered sperm donor legally.

      But of course, that doesn’t happen a man having intercourse with a woman is *different from* a sperm donor.

      Even if the man and the woman have no intention of having a child, we as a society generally agree that if they end up with one by mistake — they responsible for it — unless they choose to relinquish their legal rights through adoption.

      A sperm donor has already relinquished his legal rights and — in the case of a couple — there is another parent there who has legal rights.

      I just fail to see how this equates to a deadbeat dad. It’s a ridiculous analogy.

      My father skipped out on our family and did not pay child support. He failed to meet his legal obligation to me and to our family.

      I find it offensive that you would use the same term for my father and for a sperm donor who had no intention of helping financially and NO OBLIGATION to do so.

      Why would you insult a sperm donor in this way? What is he doing wrong?

      Deadbeat dads are exactly that — Dads — who have abandoned their children and failed to provide support.

      Sperm donors — who are not Dads — never had any legal responsibility to their donor children. They don’t deserve scorn. Putting them into the same category as deadbeat dads only confuses the issue.

  42. My point really is that whilst anonymity may have seemed like a good idea in the past, the donor offspring were really left out of the equation altogether. As a society we have moved on and we now consider the views of people who hitherto have been ignored. Donor offspring need access to their parents – all of them. Since the concept of family has changed so much recently so has the concept of parent. Anonymity may have seemed fine to the medical practitioners, donors and parents in the past though the latter group were sometimes pressurised into agreeing to secrecy but it has NEVER been good for donor offspring – deliberately created without links to their genetic heritage. So this means breaking with anonymity – why is this so bad. The future donors will be more thoughtful of their role – there may be fewer of them but maybe they will be more responsible. Past donors – did they never consider even for a moment what they were doing and the responsibility of creating new life?

    • I think you are right to raise the possiblity that we (as a society) can learn over time, that what might once be acceptable may no longer be acceptable. I’m not sure I will agree with you about what follows once we start down that path, but it makes sense to me to look forward towards what we should do.

      To that end I would pose for you the same question I have posed for others who have posted here. It seems to me there is something of a middle course which is to have donors be identifiable at the request of a child (which ought to address your concerns about genetic heritage) without according them the legal status of parent. It’s obviously quite possible to do one and not the other–it is the current law in the UK as I understand it.

      I know I’ve said these frequently before, but to give donors the legal rights as a parent will, as a practical matter, essentially erase the use of donors. When a single woman or a couple (of whatever configuration) choose to use donor sperm, they do so because they wish to raise a child themselves. They are not in the market for another parent. I believe some who insist that the donor be a father are satisfied with this result. They would prefer sperm donors not be used at all. But if one sees some social utility to having sperm donors, then I think you need to consider a middle ground that can still address the needs of children.

  43. Julie, I know that you are asking this question from the legal perspective, yet this is obviously an issue that goes deeper than legalities. I’m not sure that those of us who were created using sperm or egg ‘donors’ are looking for legal parents. “Legal” parents make little difference to children, whether they are kids or adults. Whether my birth certificate or the law or even my mother recognizes it or not, I have a father out there. He did not raise me. He may not even know that I exist. But he is still my father because he helped create me. His act determined my existance. There may be legal ways around that, but there is no way around reality.

    So in my humble opinion, when you ask what do to about anonymous donors, the answer is this: they should not exist. This whole situation is one that should have never been created in the first place. But because we must deal with reality, the fact is that there are adults who enter into this situation willingly, but it is the offspring who is stuck with the repercussions. And many of us want this eliminated altogether.

    • It’s true that these questions go far deeper than law and many of them have a moral dimension. Of cousre, law and morality are not unrelated. Some things may be made illlegal because we generally believe them to be immoral. And sometimes the fact that something is legal is one thing some people might consider in forming their own moral judgments. So legality and morality are not totally indepedent variables.

      But I really do want to focus on the law and in particular, on who the law recognizes as a parent. There are very substantial legal consequences that follow from legal parenthood. A legal parent gets a host or rights as well as a host of obligtations. I’m trying to focus on who should have those rights/obligations and why.

      There are many situtations in which a person might be considered a parent in real life even if they have no legal recognition as a parent. Sometimes this works out well, and when it does, there is rarely a case for me to discuss. That probably means I disproportionately focus on instances where it does not turn out well. It’s probably worth keeping that in mind.

  44. To Stephanie, I totally agree with what you have written. As a donor conceived person I too believe that this purchase and sale of human sperm and eggs should cease and become illegal, but to make that happen we must have a voice. I believe that there are literally thousands of us out here but unfortunately because of the secrecy/annonymous issue most of us do not know that we were donor conceived. The ones of us that do must rally and become heard as a group otherwise the people who buy and sell sperm and eggs (some for very large profits) will continue to be the future for others like us. We need a very loud voice, we need legislation and we need to become one with the idea that we can indeed change things. I don’t know if you are a member of PCVAI group, (people conceived via artificial insemination) or any of the other groups that inform and keep us updated on issues of concern, if not please check it out. Please let’s band together and get rid of this outdated, immoral practice. Julie, we need someone like you on our side, with tenaciy and knowledge to find the window into stopping donor (it’s not donor it’s buy and sell) conception. By any name it’s just plain wrong.

  45. Stephanie’s comment that the adults have entered this situation willingly and the offspring are stuck with the repercussions is at the crux of this issue. Donor offspring are all in limbo. The UK law only allows donor offspring born after 1991 to have access to their records. This is an acknowledgement that these secrecy clauses and destruction of records is absolutely wrong. This law should apply to all donor offspring. I also agree with Vicki that the sale of human eggs/sperm is an outdated and immoral practice. Infertility is a tragedy but parenthood is not a right and making money out of infertility at the expense of the offspring is not tragic – it’s criminal

    • Many of the points made here I will not comment on for the moment–some are addressed elsewhere on the blog, some perhaps will be in the future. But there are a few comments I’d like to offer.

      I do not find the sale of sperm/eggs to be immoral, but that is because I don’t think the genetic link is what makes you a parent. Thus, selling sperm/eggs is not the same as selling your child. (I do think selling children is immoral.) Again, I think one’s view on this is inextricably linked to what you believe makes a person a parent. If it is genetics that makes you a parent, then selling sperm is immoral. If genetics does not make you a parent, then at least you clear the first hurdle.

      As I’ve said any number of times, you could say no anonymous donors without saying donors are parents. That addresses some (but not all) of the issues that have been raised.

      The idea that the well-being of the potential offspring is the critical factor to consider is a very intriguing one. If I accept that, then I see no reason why it would be limited to people using ART. All children, no matter how concieved, ought to have the same rights. So if you regulate assisted conception for the sake of the potential children, then it would make sense to me to regulate unassisted conception for the same reason. I grant you that this form of regulation would be very difficult, but it would be justified and we ought to consider it in principle as well as in practice.

      • A married couple, husband and wife, DO have the right to have children. Unfortunately, many of them do not have the ability. But read my first sentence again; a MARRIED COUPLE has the right to have children. Not a married wife and an anonymous man. A wife does not have the right to go outside the marriage to have a child. She might have the ability, but she does not have the right. But I’m speaking morally here, and not legally.

        Rights and abilities don’t always work together. A parapalegic may have the right to walk, but he doesn’t have the ability. A person may have the ability to get drunk and plough their car into another car, killing someone, but they do not have that right.

        Someone said it before, maybe here, but artificial insemination does not heal infertility. The husband is still infertile.

        By the way, no one has the right to tell a married couple that they cannot have children. One might advise against it for whatever reason, but regulation of procreation by married couples is a rediculous idea. A lawmaker may have the ability to make such a law, but he does not have the right.

        • Whenever I make or see statements like the ones here–about who has rights and who does not have rights–I try to think about why the lines are drawn where they are drawn. There must be some underlying reasoning or principle at work.

          It’s not as simple as ability, which is what you suggest with your analogy. Unmarried heterosexual couples may well be able to concieve a child with no assistance. Do they have right to do so or not? If not, why not? What is it about being married that confers this right to have children on people? And a single woman can get pregnant and give birth to a child without being part of a couple. She needs to get sperm somehow, of course, but that can be done one how or another. So does she have a right to have a child? Does she only have a right to a child if it is concieved via intercourse? Why would that be?

          I think it is critical to at least try to make the underlying rationale apparent so we can tell where we agree and where we disagree. Can you explain what justifies drawing the lines as you have drawn them?

          • Julie, you are right when you say that there must be underlying reasons to why people believe certain things. Most of the time its because of our experience or how we perceive the world. Not very often is it because of an absolute standard. I am a Christian, and I try to see the world and live my life according to Christ’s standard. So what you saw in my response was my Biblical worldview.

            You’re also right when you say that it isn’t as simple as mere ability. If my post suggested that, I apologize. What I meant to convey is that married couples, in order to have a child (outside of adoption, or step-children, etc.) must have both the ability and the right. The right is given them at the time of marriage. The ability isn’t always a given.

            Yes, unmarried people do have the ability to have children. Do they have the “right”? As Americans, yes. But IS it right for an unmarried couple to have children? According to a Biblical standard, the answer is no. Single women and gays/lesbians fall into the same category; they have the right as Americans, but Biblically, no.

            I know that to many, pointing to Scripture as a standard of measuring what is right and what is wrong seems hateful and close-minded. But there must be absolute truth otherwise nothing can ever be called wrong, and no one can be punished for doing wrong. However, that standard for right and wrong is also meant to protect us from harm. Often times, what we think or how we feel is what hurts us the most.

            Karen nailed it when she mentioned that moral relativism is the wind in the sails here. Many thinks that because they want a child, they get a child, no matter the circumstances. Are there single ladies and gays/lesbians and married couples who love their children? Absolutely. But this facet doesn’t make it right, either.

    • What I am really upset about is that my parents did not have inherited wealth before they chose to concieve me.

      Actually, they were in their early 20s and they both came from working class backgrounds.

      If they had made millions of dollars before having me, my life would have been a lot easier.

      Do I get to complain about this also?

      I mean, I am stuck with the repurcussions of that decision.

      As for a Biblical worldview, let’s look at the patriarchs.

      Okay, I’ve looked — and not a single one of them conceived children in the way that you described as RIGHT.

      So, either Abraham, Issac, and Jacob are all immoral adulterers or you need to re-consider your statement.

      The Bible is full, actually, of stories about women who are infertile and who try to do something about it.

      From stealing mandrakes to entice a husband to their bed, to seeking cures through prayer, to making vows, Biblical women pretty much stopped at nothing to get a child.

      They have a lot more in common with modern day infertile couples than one might think.

      Christ did not speak to infertility or any of these issues as far as I know. So, it is fine to say that you follow Him but whatever guidance you are using is not actually from Scripture but rather from your own reading and interpretation of it.

      And, of course, you have the right to read and interpret it as you wish. Others can read the same book and draw very different lessons.

      I appreciate drawing a distinction between moral rights (which you base on your reading of Scripture) and legal rights (that belong to all Americans).

      Things can be legal (such as divorce or birth control or IVF or gay marriage or war or poverty) and not moral.

      It is helpful to distinguish between what we wish to categorize as immoral and what we wish to ban as illegal.

  46. Julie said:
    “So if you regulate assisted conception for the sake of the potential children, then it would make sense to me to regulate unassisted conception for the same reason.”

    I do not agree with you Julie. But I do agree with, Margaret Somerville, who has also given much thought to this subject: (http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=81ba0584-b562-4a98-b91f-63aa77601d66):

    “It is one matter, ethically, when children are not reared by their biological parents in their biological families because of accidental circumstances or as a result of entirely private action. It is quite another when that outcome is deliberately planned and society, through its support, funding, institutions, and public and social policies, is complicit in its realization.”

    • I will check out the linked story. For the moment, the quote looks like it raises two possible justifications for differential treatment the potential children.

      One set of circumstances is identified as private (and hence beyond regulation) while the other set said to be public (and hence subject to regulation). I’m not sure what makes one necessarily public and the other necessarily private. If a male friend donates sperm for a female friend and the insemination is conducted at home, did I just make that private? And why should it matter, except that we are concerned with some rights of the adults to engage in private conduct, which introduces this whole other set of concerns (adult rights)?

      The second possible distinction looks to be that in some instances children are not raised by their biological parents because of accident, while in the others it is by design. I wonder about the ability to neatly divide things into the accident/design categories, but I also wonder about meaning we should attach to this distinction.

      But this is just off the top of my head–I’ll go and have a look when I have a moment.

  47. Great! All good food for thought.

    When I tried to link to the the story from this post it didn’t seem to work. But if you google “Margaret Somerville” +” Rights of the unconceived” + “Ottawa Citizen” you should be able to find it.

  48. More food for thought: There was an article written for Reason Magazine in their “Hit and Run” section by Cheryl Miller. I do not agree with her conclusions (at all) but I wanted to bring attention to it because there were several very noteworthy counter arguments/ comments posted to this article which I’d like you to consider.

    http://reason.com/archives/2009/01/26/whos-your-daddy#commentcontainer

    Specifically I’d like to share one that was written by Bill Cordray (‘donor’ conceived)
    Bill Cordray |1.27.09 @ 6:43PM|#

    Tonio wrote: “I do not believe that anyone has an unqualified right to know who his parents are.

    It’s not the state withholding records, it’s the doctors.”

    Good point. There is no law in any state that gives a doctor the power to prohibit access by a donor conceived people (DCP) to the records of their identity. There is also no law preventing them from exercising this presumed prohibitive power of procreative preclusion. States wash their hands of their responsibility to the public to regulate infertility medicine. When DCP protest, the doctors say they are giving infertile people choice. In reality, the whole system is set up by doctors to promote a lucrative business that is self-governing, Laissez-faire, libertarian, whatever. The point is they make all the rules that ultimately do not protect anyone more than their own selves. They institute protections to sheild themselves from accountability, not to protect children, infertile people, sperm donors but only themselves. Donors and intending parents come to doctors and have to play by their rules, without any say in contracts and without recourse to state laws or even guidelines. State legislatures, courts, and governors have had no idea what the doctors are doing and cannot act without risking a counterattack by one of the most powerful lobby groups around, the AMA. The history of DI goes back to 1884. It’s cloak of secrecy and binding “contracts” have made its practices virtually unknown to society and therefore state governments. Until DCP came forth to speak out, no one knew that there was even anything possibly wrong with such an altruistic mission as helping barren women to have children. Now that governments know something about us does not mean that the “rights” issues are resolved but only that no one has expressed these issues effectively yet and so society is still ignorant of the profound sense of injustice that we DCP feel. We see our rights as being violated by such a system but we have not found the same kind of voice as Martin Luther King to make society understand it in their heart.

    “[Tonio]: The doctors are withholding records to fulfill their contractual obligations to the donors.”

    Well, this is meaningless since it is the doctors that created these contracts and who are the source of our disenfranchisement. The contracts have cleverly pitted the “rights” of infertile people against the “rights” of the donors, with the central figures (DCP) left without a voice, since we did not yet exist until after the contracts were signed. This manipulation of a balance of rights is meant to keep the prime mover in the background, as if he played no part and was just a “provider” instead of the creator of the whole system. Why does it seem that the DCP are such threats to grown adults deliberately chose to deny the DCP access to their identity? If we are so frightening that the contractual parties need protection from us, then why were we created in the first place? Certainly we are not created for our own sake, but for the interests of future parents, the ego of donors, and the profits of the doctors.

    “[Tonio]: Absent of any legally enumerated right to know one’s parentage, the state is passively enforcing the contract by failing to overturn it.”

    That’s not really plausible since such contracts existed decades before any government was even aware they were being written. In addition, the validity of these contracts have never been seriously challenged in US courts and may be totally indefensible, much like the various yellow-dog contracts common during the era of laissez-faire Economics, prior to the Great Depression, until the Supreme Court struck down the Sanctity of Contracts tenet before the beginning of WW2. And yet these untested contracts, 70 years later, are somehow given an air of sacred script even though they expressly restrict the rights and interests of DCP, those of us who are now human beings because of the contracts but had no voice in how these writs would so deeply affect us. By the way, the concept of a donor’s right to privacy has no definition or principle that is consistent with the Rights of Privacy as first suggested by law student Louis Brandeis (not codified, by the way, until Brandeis was on the Court) and later expanded by Roe v. Wade and other decisions. As part of the contracts that infertility doctors and clinics have written, a donor’s right to anonymity is a legal invention, made up out of thin air, not by legislatures or approved by courts, but by doctors themselves who have presumed this power to define who has rights and who doesn’t in DI.

    [Tonio]: “DONORCONCEIVED: Philosophers spout off this sort of thing all the time. There is a difference between philosophy and law. I realize you want the law to say something different than what it does, and I take no joy in pointing this out to you, but we are a nation of written laws, not of philosophical opinions. Wikipedia, and donor-conceived support sites, are not legal references. Sorry.”

    I suppose you are correct in the strict sense but please remember that it was a political philosopher who pointed out that the natural rights that Jefferson proclaimed are as much a part of our heritage as those mere civil and social rights that change with every session, vary from state to state, and get clarified by court decisions, evolving over time and expanding in greater freedoms. After Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney declared in his Dred Scott Decision that Negroes were not citizens, Abraham Lincoln said that all Americans had naturally endowed rights, even black slaves, which are inherent, superior to civil and social rights, and not subject to majority rule. Out of this philosophical opinion came the Emancipation Proclamation, the Fourteenth Amendment that actually codified Jefferson’s natural rights, Johnson’s Civil Rights Acts, and the eventual election of a President who would not have been considered a citizen if Taney’s decision remained as the only legal precedent. Rights evolve and become codified when those of us who suffer injustice commit to the fight for the recognition of our natural rights. All we would need is action from President Obama to ratify the UN Charter on the Rights of Children and we would have enough precedent to push for the legal recognition of what we already know is our natural right to know our identity. We DCP see anonymity a social problem that restricts our identity interests and so we are no different as moral entrepreneurs as other rights advocates as King, Rosa Parks, Betty Freidan, Mario Salvo, Samuel Gompers, and Abraham Lincoln.

  49. Julie, your reasoning is fallacious.

    Just because something is unethical does not automatically imply we can (or should) regulate it, so your attempt at a reductio ad absurdum is ungrounded.

    I believe that a woman who had a one-night stand to deliberately conceived a child to raise as a single mother has acted unethically, and highly compromised the interests of that child. That doesn’t mean I think we should attempt to legislate against one night stands.

    Clinical donor-conception is another matter. You can try to blur the boundaries as much as you want with talk of “private donations”, but that doesn’t change the fundamental point: that it is wrong to deliberately create a child in the full knowledge it will not have a meaningful relationship with one of its biological parents.

    “Sperm donation” as a commercial arrangement can and should be banned.

    • It’s true that just because something is unethical or immoral it does not follow that we should regulate it. But some reason must govern why we regulate immoral/unethical things and not other immoral/unethical things. It’s that reasoning I’m looking for.

      In both of the cases you mention (the one night stand and the clinic) a child was deliberately created in the full knowledge it would not have a meaningful relationship with the man who provided the sperm. I think you are suggesting we should treat them differently. But why should we do that? Why not try to treat them the same?

  50. Julie,
    I really appreciate and understand why you are exploring these issues. We need you to do this…but I can’t help but think that you are talking circles around what we are trying to say. It seems to me that moral relativism, nihilism, and adult freedom of choice are really the wind that sails the direction of law these days. You may ultimately win the legal debate but from the best interest of the child perspective – which is what I think should ultimately drive all societal direction (yes, I am a dreamer!) I just don’t think you are right.

    Instead of trying to re-think/re-write it all again, this is a response I made to a comment someone made re: http://mensnewsdaily.com/glennsacks/2009/10/07/bay-state-woman-seeks-identity-of-sperm-donor/

    On this forum: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/SpermDonors/message/4752

    There is an obvious
    discrimination/hypocrisy/injustice involved with this practice from a social
    justice (best interest of the child) perspective.

    Quote: “..if a mere contractual arrangement between a father and a sperm bank is
    superior to the best interests of the child, why wouldn’t a contractual
    agreement between the father and the mother that the latter would not seek
    support in the event of divorce, or some other occurrence?”

    The hypocrisy is startling. It would make sense then that “parenting” is just a
    choice and any non-consenting (non-choice) parent (through coitus, artificial
    insemination, IVF) should not be held responsible for any children that might be
    conceived with their sperm/egg/womb. In other words, no one has any
    responsibility for ANY children they don’t want to raise or be responsible for,
    that is unless they signed a contract. Why then should children be entitled to
    child support from the non-consenting parent if it’s not about the child, it’s
    about the adult’s choice? It would seem that society believes that
    sperm/egg/wombs/children/people are really only commodities to fill the needs of
    others. No doubt that is the way many people have wanted things to be from the
    beginning but society never held that up as a defensible value until just
    recently, with the advent of the “sperm bank”, big $$$ industry supporting
    “positive eugenics”, a band aid for infertility, then in support of the
    feminist/GLB movements.

    The secularist/liberals seem to be the ones who ignore this blatant
    discrimination but the religious/conservatives will most likely be the ones to
    recognize that society owes something to these sweet innocent babies and the
    best way to do that is by supporting their mother and her children. This, of
    course, does not mean that they support the conception method and I hope they
    continue not to do so.

    This (http://www.donorsiblingregistry.com/DSRblog/?p=66) is what I believe is
    the only ethical way this practice should be handled.

  51. I just saw that you can’t access the spermdonors yahoo forum unless you are a member. Sorry. I think I should give a little back ground to help make sense of my last response. A poster from the spermdonors group wrote (in response to the article I posted: http://mensnewsdaily.com/glennsacks/2009/10/07/bay-state-woman-seeks-identity-of-sperm-donor/):
    “I think we need to keep in mind always that there are groups, religious especially, against AI OF ANY KIND. They will use any means to make it as scary and inconvenient as possible, and put the right of people to start a family behind their personal religious convictions.
    These issues can all be used as wedge issues to essentially stop the practice altogether, which in this day and age of technology is not an option in my opinion.
    Medical privacy is a guaranteed right, this woman has no right to his personal information or is money, and little right to medical records for a condition which is not life threatening in my opinion either.
    If she was unclear on the meaning of the contracts she signed, it was her responsibility to get an attorney to look over the contract.”

    You might very much agree with this poster (and honestly, I don’t fully disagree with him) BUT I don’t subscribe to law. I am a firm believer in morals and just doing the right thing. The whole situation just doesn’t sit well with me. I particularly felt that this had nothing to do with religion but I do feel that those of religious (or non-religious) persuasion have a valid concern with the practice in general.

  52. I think, correct me if I’m wrong, that you agree that ‘donor’ anonymity should be abolished. You now are trying to determine how the law will acknowledge parental rights beyond genetic relatedness if ‘donor’ anonymity was abolished. Forgive me, I have not read all of your posts/responses.

    If I assume correctly that this discussion has moved beyond the should anonymity be abolished, to yes it should be abolished but how do we move forward, then this paper (written by Tom Sylvester a Yale Law student at the time) “The Case Against Sperm Donor Anonymity” might not be helpful – but then again, maybe there is something there that you might find interesting or might inspire you:
    http://donorsiblingregistry.com/legal.pdf

  53. Julie,
    You write: “I do not find the sale of sperm/eggs to be immoral, but that is because I don’t think the genetic link is what makes you a parent. Thus, selling sperm/eggs is not the same as selling your child. (I do think selling children is immoral.) ”

    I must say that I do not have objection regarding the sale of eggs or sperm BUT solely if the sale is for research purposes. However, any sale of gametes for babymaking is in my view no different than the sale of babies.

    For someone as fixated on the issue of intent as you, how can you morally distinguish between someone selling off their child whether it be at gamete, embryo or baby stage? If the intention is that you will be deliberately alienating yourself from your child fort the sake of money!

    • I’m actually not a particular fan on intention as a test, though I have had occassion to discuss that for a while.

      And as for the moral difference I rely on–if you accept (just for a moment, to see my point) that the sperm donor is not a legal father and that being linked genetically to a child that might result would not make him a legal father, then selling the sperm is not selling his rights as a parent. He has no rights as a parent at that point.

  54. Julie, you say They are not in the market for another parent Probably your wording was unintended, but I think that the word “market” reveals a lot about DI. We are trying to turn parenthood into a market with children as its product, at a time when even our banking system has difficulties functioning that way.

    You also say: I think you need to consider a middle ground that can still address the needs of children I don’t see this middle ground. If a married couple conceive with the help of a clinic, the child has full rights. If a single women and a so called “sperm donor” do the same, the child gets half its rights. Where is the middle ground?

    • Actually the word choice was deliberate. As you know (I think) I don’t see a market for sperm as being the moral equivalent of a market for children. I chose the word to sort of drive home that point.

      I suppose I thought my suggestion was a middle ground in this regard: The child can identify the donor, trace his/her genetic lineage, forge a relationship with the donor, but the donor does not have legal control of the child, nor the legal right to insert himself in the decisions of the child’s legal parent(s).

      I think I’ve lost track of who exactly said/suggested what, but I think for some of the people who’ve been engaged here, this is a plausible middle ground. It takes care of the problem that the child can never know his/her genetic source. I realize it won’t satisfy everyone, and some (perhaps you are among them) will insist that the donor must be the legal father of the child.

      That’s fine, but what it also means is that donor sperm loses most of its practical value. It’s rare that an individual or a couple uses donor sperm and wants the donor to have legal rights. This result might be fine with some people–there are plenty of comments that suggest it is. I just want to be clear that this is the consequence of saying the donor must be the legal father so that people who are making up their minds about what they think can consider the consequences of choosing one side or another.

  55. Of course, you are right that this is where it leads and that is because most of the people who have posted here really want to end DC altogether. They find it immoral and they want it to stop.

    Trying to make the donor into a legal father is the fastest distance between those two points and the damage that would do to other DC kids, DC families and their own fathers is of no concern compared with the goal of ending DC.

    Although it is not obvious from the collection of voices here, I do not think this conclusion is shared by most DC adults.

    As more and more children who have “always known” come of age and more children with open-ID donors come of age, I think we will see that most DC adults do not oppose donor conception.

    Personally, I am glad that some people oppose DC entirely because it makes those of us who support DC but oppose anonymity look more reasonable.

    That’s not nice to say, but it is a political reality — moderates need radicals to frighten the powers that be into moving in the right direction.

    At the moment, we are still stuck with a really bad system — one in which commercial motives are paramount and DC is essentially unregulated. Nothing about the current practice of DC in the USA encourages openness, accountability, medical accuracy, or the best interests of the child.

    There is so much room for improvement that DC people often latch on to anyone who stands up for our right to know anything about our genetic families — even people who ultimately have very bad ideas (IMHO) about family, society, etc.

    What would help is for more people to be more clear about the harm of anonymity and an unregulated system and for those with more power to start pushing against it.

    Eventually, those who oppose DC and those who support it will have to part ways but there is still a lot of room for improvement in areas where we (almost) all agree.

  56. I think that it is dangerous to ignore the threat of inherited diseases which need the two natural parents to be there for check-ups/cures. Donation doesn’t cure infertility, but merely disguises it. Incest is a hazard too.

    But what I can’t understand is why people have a child by any old stranger. I am even more confused about how they can say as that the child is wanted and loved IVF is ok, when they haven’t got the respect for them but instead like to trick/brainwash them into thinking that they are the family of the child. No respect!

  57. Susan remarked: “Personally, I am glad that some people oppose DC entirely because it makes those of us who support DC but oppose anonymity look more reasonable.”

    Personally, I think that this is a generalized assumption on your part. I think there are many reasonable arguments both for and against the practice. We can justify anything by comparing it to a worse case scenario but I personally believe society and this practice needs fundamental grounding points. I like to keep things simple and I don’t think it needs to take more than just a few words to get a point across….

    -Nobody has a “right to a child”

    -Adults have a responsibility for their own sperm/egg when combined to create a new (out of the womb) life but that new life does not belong to them rather they belong to the children.

    -Open identity

    -Open hearts

    -Open doors

    -Open families

  58. This quote from (http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/babiespregnancy/pregnancy/article/729108–the-search-for-a-sperm-donor-father) summarizes my position on DC:

    “Guichon, the Calgary ethicist, says Canada must at least ban donor anonymity and create a registry so that donor-conceived children can access their genetic history. She also suggests there needs to be a social revolution when it comes to treating infertility. Put the needs of the child first, she says.

    “This is not a commercial deal. This is not a medical deal. It is the formation of a family. People who do this need to understand they are creating a child with three people, and all three should be willing, from the beginning, to be in contact with the child and with each other. And if they can’t agree to do that, then they shouldn’t do it.” “

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