There’s been much discussion here about an array of topics related to use of third-party sperm and whether children conceived with third-party sperm ought to have access to identifying information about the donor. This sprang from a couple of comments on the case brought by Olivia Pratten in British Columbia. (The judge took the case under advisement today. I’ll try to keep watch for the decision, but there’s no definite date for that.) In all the conversation here, I feel like a distinction that is important to me may have gotten lost, so at the risk of boring people, I’m going to repeat myself and expand a little.
In the last post about the case, I observed that Olivia Pratten was raising a narrow claim. (This is a point which I think Bill Cordray also made in his comments.) The right she claims is that of the donor conceived to know the identity of the man who provided the sperm used to conceive them and perhaps the right to contact him. As I understand it, she does not object to the use of donor sperm generally. If all donors were open identity donors, if all records were retained, she would be satisfied.
The thing is, some people who support Pratten’s position actually take a more extreme position. They assert that the donor is “really” (I use the word with some trepidation) the father of any resulting child and that necessarily, the man who was married to her mother and who raised her is not really her father. Put slightly differently, some people argue that genetics is the sole criteria for determination of parentage. (As I already said, I do not understand this to be Pratten’s position.)
I think there is an critical difference between saying that the sperm provider is a important/interesting person who the child should know about and have a chance to meet and saying that the sperm provider is necessarily the father of the child. Many who take the latter position consider all use of third-party sperm problematic–because the whole point in using sperm that way is to have someone other than the man who provides the sperm raise the child. Thus, they consider all single-mother families and lesbian families unhealthy, even if these families use donors who are or will be known to the children involved.
I do not raise this distinction to debate the merits of each position just now. (I think you can find places back in the blog where some of this discussion has occurred.) I just want to stress that I think the distinction between the two views matters. Adherents to both views may support Pratten’s claims, but they do so for different reasons. Their vision of the solution to the problem Pratten articulates also varies.
In general, I think it is most helpful if people are clear about what their underlying position is. It’s much easier to have productive discussion if there’s clarity about what people’s underlying assumptions are. I try to be clear about what mine are. This is a place where it might be useful for others to do the same.