I’ve been discussing Trent Arsenault and the question of private not-for-money sperm donation. (I think he really is a donor, by the way. No money is involved in these transactions.) One question that came up was Arsenault’s specific motivation for his conduct and I commented–perhaps unfairly–that it seemed egotistical. Now I cannot resist commenting on this story involving another altruistic (?) sperm donor.
Bill Johnson is a conservative Christian from Alabama (in the US.) He ran for governor in 2009, but didn’t get very far. After that he went to New Zealand to do earthquake relief work. And while he was there he offered himself up as a sperm donor.
Now New Zealand pretty closely regulates provision of sperm. Among other things, they have a limit of no more than four families per provider. (This might make special sense in NZ which is a relatively small and relatively isolated community.) Johnson was apparently unconcerned with this limit and, like Trent Arsenault, was working outside the regulatory system. (He was also acting without the knowledge of his wife, who remained here in the US.)
There’s a certain irony in the fact that certainly some of the nine women he provided sperm to were lesbians seeking to start families–families he apparently believes to be immoral and illegitimate. But from my point of view far worse is the fact that he apparently didn’t plan to tell the women he was giving sperm to about the extent of his activities until after they became pregnant. (In this he is to be distinguished, I think, from Arsenault who has been quite transparent on this point.)
Now what’s the motivation for this conduct which seems rather at odds with Johnson’s articulated belief system? It’s not money. But it’s also doesn’t have much to do with being helpful (which is what altruism is about.) The story in the paper says:
‘He said the urge to become a biological father was “a need that I have”.’
I’d read that as saying this is all about him (which is entirely consistent with his failure to fully disclose his activities to the women he gave sperm to.) Perhaps it also explains the apparent hypocrisy–principles are for other people, but his needs take priority. Hence, whatever altruistic purpose he might have served, this is really all about egotism.
It seems fairly clear to me that Johnson thinks of himself as a parent to the children that may be created and I don’t know enough about NZ law to know what legal status he may have. But this whole story seems to me a pretty good argument in favor of regulation. Unlike Aresnault, this guy seems to me to something of a menace.