The last few posts have been about DIY insemination, or insemination using sperm from a third party that is obtained from outside the traditional and institutionalized sperm bank system. (I’m sorry but because I’m travelling I do not have access to solid enough internet to post links–you can just check back the last few posts.)
Anyway, you’ll see that I have expressed some concerns about DIY insemination. On reflections, there’s something a tad surprising to me about this I am generally in favor of local growers and the like. I shop at farmer’s markets for instance, and recently made an exception to my general use of Facebook to express unhappiness with Amazon and its attempt to annihilate local business. None of that fits with a preference for the industrialized (if you will) sperm bank market over the local grower. With some idle time, here are thoughts I’ve mustered.
First of all, the law is structured so that the use of a sperm bank makes this more predictable and controllable. This isn’t coincidence, of course. The shape of the law has been influenced by the ART industry. If you use third-party sperm and a doctor, then in many places the provider of sperm is not a legal parent. If you omit the doctor, that result changes in some place. (Think California, for instance.) This is fine if you want the third party to be a legal parent, but not so good if you were leaving him out. (And if you look back you’ll find this is exactly what makes him a “third-party” provider–which is to say it is always a problem.)
Now you might notice, if you’re really paying attention, that it isn’t the use of a sperm bank that results in the provider being a “not a father” person. It’s the doctor. So you could use an individual provider and still get to the same place. But I suspect that many (most?) people who use a local individual sperm provider eschew ART generally and do their own inseminations. So unless the person happens to be a doctor, there’s no doctor.
It’s also worth noting that there are some states (WA, for instance) where any conception not via intercourse means that the provider is not a father. And then there are states (NY say) where the manner of conception doesn’t matter because no matter how you do it the provider IS a legal father.
This is a little tangential, but when you think about it, there are a number of ways you could group states. You could put all those where manner of conception matters (CA, WA and others) in one group and those where the manner doesn’t matter (NY and others) is another. Or you could put those where a doctor’s participation matters (CA and others) and those where the profession of participants is irrelevant (WA, NY and others) is irrelevant. How you group them might depend on what points you were trying to make.
Anyway, it seems to me that only the legal regime used in WA really favors the individual sperm provider. In either the CA or the NY style regime, use of the individual sperm provider might signal future legal issues. And those are issues I worry about.
They are also, it is worth saying, issues that could be dealt with. One can rework the law–as Washington has done–to facilitate use of individual donors. And that’s a change I have actually advocated.
But there’s a second whole set of concerns organized around health issues. Large sperm banks operate with practices designed to ensure health and safety in place. I don’t mean to oversell these–I’m not saying they DO ensure health and safety, but it is their design.
The primary one might be the freezing/six month quarantine/retesting regime. I don’t think any individual sperm providers do this. Indeed, one of the selling points of the individual providers is that you can have fresh rather than frozen sperm. (The conception rate is higher with fresh.)
I really do want to run the farmer’s market analogy here, though. There’s a nice argument that locally grown produce is better/safer than the industrially produced variety, though the latter is more strenuously regulated. More to come.