I’m feeling just a tad overwhelmed and way behind. I’ve got two good threads going–one on the Pratten case, being tried in Vancouver, the other on the equation of donor-conceived and adopted children. While these are related, I’m wanting to keep them distinct as the former is narrow and specific to that case while the latter is more general. There are a bunch of comments on those threads, some of which I haven’t had a chance to consider yet. On top of that, I’ve a backlog of interesting news tidbits to comment on/throw into the mix. And it’s the busiest point in our semester.
I think there’s nothing for me to do right now but try to move a bit forward on one front–so here I return to the consideration of adopted children and donor conceived children and the points of similarity and difference. You might want to go back and read what preceded this, but my essential point is that there are both similarities and differences between the situation of donor conceived children and that of adopted children. This observation becomes important because it would seem both logical and just to treat people who are in similar situations similarly, while neither justice nor logic require treating people who are differently situated differently.
That last post examined one area of sameness–or at least, partial sameness–which is lack of access to genetic forebears. Here I want to observe one area of difference. Donor-conceived children are generally raised by the woman who was pregnant/gave birth to them. Adopted children are not.
In some ways this seems to me to be a massively important difference. As I observed in response to an earlier comment, I’ve often witnessed the child/parent conversation around “when I was in mommy’s tummy.” It frequently strikes me that this could be an awkward line of conversation for adoptive parents and/or their children. I would expect that it makes at least some adoptive parents/children aware of being “other.” That experience of feeling different certainly could lead to other consequences. (Rightly or wrongly, I’m convinced that people’s experiences must vary, and so I’m being vague/general in order to somehow encompass that variation.)
By contrast, donor-convceived children and their parents can have the “when I was in mommy’s tummy” conversation. The conversation that would expose the difference is one about “how was I conceived” and that’s not one I’ve overheard. Thus, donor-conceived children are not particularly like adopted children and don’t experience this particular sense of otherness.
I don’t have any specific conclusion to offer here. But it seems to me one must take account of both difference and sameness before one says that adopted children and donor-conceived children ought to have the same rights or ought to be treated the same. Similarly, I would be very reluctant to assume that the differences between the two groups are unimportant. Surely each group is entitled to careful consideration of the specifics of its particular situation. (If I go further and say that each individual is entitled to this consideration then I fear that it becomes nearly impossible to propose systemic solutions.)
Before I close this particular post, I wanted to make one other observation. It seems to me that the difference I’ve talked about here–that donor-conceived are raised by the woman who was pregnant/gave birth to them–might actually make it easier/more common/more tempting for heterosexual couples who are parents of donor-conceived children to conceal their use of third-party sperm. One could think that in this situation, if you do not tell a donor-conceived child that she/he is donor conceived, then he/she will be just like all the other children.
It is clear to me that this concealment may come at great cost to the child and to the parent/child relationship. There are many ways that the concealment can come to light and if/when it does, it’s all too likely that the child will perceive that her/his parents essentially lied to her/him about something important.
That’s true with adoption, too, of course. But I can see that it might be more tempting to conceal the use of third-party sperm than it is to conceal adoption. It might seem (at the time) like just a little thing. Thus, there’s a risk here that may be greater than that with adoption.
Of course, lesbian couples and single mothers aren’t really subject to this last set of comments. For them the use of third-party sperm or adoption is fairly obvious and the possibility of concealment slim to none.