Anonymity in Australia

A major report on  law reform regarding identification of sperm donors in Australia was released this week.  You can either read the press coverage (short and way to simplistic) or the actual report.   The report (prepared for the Victoria parliament) is focused on a fairly narrow and transitional issue, but I want to use it as a jumping off point for another conversation.

Victoria law currently provides that all donor conceived people conceived after 1998 have access to identifying information about their donors.  This information is made available when the donor conceived person reaches adulthood.  That means anyone who provided sperm after 1998 did so knowing that the identifying information would be available.

The new report considers what to do about people conceived before 1998.   The men whose sperm was used before 1998 did not provide the sperm with the understanding that identifying information about them would be available.   (Depending on when they donated, they would have had different ideas about how protected their identities would be.)   That’s a factor that the committee considers in its new report, though ultimately it does not find it to be dispostive.

One point made in the commission report along the way really struck me.   In the introductory section of the report, the committee notes:

Not all donor-conceived people want to know who their donors are, or desire more information about their donors.

(That’s on page xx.)  Perhaps this is just stating the obvious, but it does seem to me sometimes that most of the attention has focused on the subjects of the sentence that immediately follows the one I just quoted:

However, donor-conceived people who want to know who their donors are can experience distress when they are unable to obtain information about them.

I take both observations to be important.

What follows from this?  It seems to me that it is problematic to force information on people just as it is problematic to withhold information.   This is why, I believe, Victoria law makes information “available.”   What that means is that it is there if the donor-conceived person wants it but isn’t given to them if they do not want it.

It’s fairly easy to see how this works out once the donor conceived child reaches adulthood–the person makes their own election.   But what about before that time?

It seems to me that during the period the donor conceived person is a child, the decision-making authority must lie first with the parents.   That’s the whole point of parental rights–that we trust parents to make important decisions for their kids more than we trust the state or strangers or even other family members.    (You might want to include an exception of some sort for unusual circumstances–something that would allow a mature sixteen-year-old, say, to make her/his own choice.)

Notably, this is pretty much exactly what the Victoria committee recommended.  If you look at recommendation 2 on page 77 you’ll see that it allows that a child (as opposed to an adult) applying for identifying information will only get the information if the parents have consented to the application or if a counsellor has confirmed in writing that the child is sufficiently mature to understand the consequences of the action she or he is taking.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I may even have discussed it once or twice.  (I fear I can no longer recall.)   If we are on a path that leads to the end on anonymity (and we may be on that path) then it’s important to think about how a system of all identifiable providers might work.

It should not be the case that all children (and I use the word “children” to mean people who have not yet reached the age of majority) who are donor-conceived will automatically be placed in contact with their donors or even given identifying information.   Rather, we need to recognize that not all donor conceived children want/need to  know who their donors are.   Even among those who do want to know and and will benefit from that knowledge the age at which they want to know and the details of what they want to know cannot be assumed to be uniform.   Determining which children need what is traditionally the prerogative of parents and it seems to me that is the way this needs to work, too.     If you don’t leave it up to the parents, who else can you let decide?   And of course once the child turns 18, the choice is theirs alone.

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51 responses to “Anonymity in Australia

  1. Unfortunately this, and many decisions are left to the parents and they have the right to make decisions that can irreversible scare people for life. In some countries parents can still decide if they want to beat their children with belts if they believe this is the best form of ‘punishment’. We must as a society look at protecting children, not giving free reign to adults to abuse children simply as they have legal guardianship. Not knowing where you come from and not being able to seek out your bio family while still forming your self-identity (ie when still a child) could very easily be considered abuse.
    What is more we KNOW that the majority of straight married couples dont choose to even disclose that they are donor conceived- even though we KNOW lying cannot be justified as being in the best interest of the child.
    So dont stand back and keep saying thats ok as we should let parents decide. Fewer and fewer parents, in my experience as a family therapist, are able to make these kinds of decisions based on what the child might need and want. This information – and really the opportunity to let them contact the bio father/ family early- is one that should be offered to the child from birth- regardless of what the parents want, or understand about donor conception. It would also force parents to more adequately address how to tell them in ways that will not damage their self-image, but will more likely enhance it. And THIS is where I feel we are really getting it wrong- dc parents get hardly any education or support and there are limited resources out there. I started writing short stories about ‘My Dondad’ just to help some get started with their young children, with discussions about their origins,, that wasnt too awkward or manufactured.
    A fully funded COMPULSORY service whereby dc families are able, with support, to discuss origins and at least offer a starting point, would help parents make those decisions you are pressuming they are capable of making for dc people. And although many would say that ‘big brother’ shouldnt get involved in parenting- as a society I think we need to look at this for everyone. Ill equipped people – emotionally, socially (and often financially) – are having babies- who are then having babies. But to allow people to keep having children and deliberately choose not to let them know of their origins is scandalous. If they choose donor conception they should also have to choose to make at least the decision regarding disclosure whether they like it or not. At least with those families we can try to support children and recognise their rights- even if those raising them dont.

    • It’s true that we give parents a lot of leeway and there is no doubt that this has costs. But it also has benefits. And any other system will also have costs. This is not in and of itself a justification for taking or not taking any particular action, but it is part of my starting point.

      I agree that the state must be concerned about children and their well-being. I agree about the importance of child protective services. But I also do not want the state to have too much control over how parents raise their children. For instance, I think that there are a lot of terribly disturbing media images that are available to children. I think parent ought to shield their children from some of that stuff and I sure wish they would. I try to shield mine. But I’m loathe to say that the state ought to monitor who is watching what when in any household where there are children. And I worry a lot that I’m in a minority and the things that got deemed unsuitable by the powers that be would not be the things I personally would deem unsuitable.

      I say all this at the outset because I think it is part of what makes drawing lines about when the state interferes with the parent/child relationship difficult and controversial.

      Let me then turn to more specific discussion and I’ll start with what it simplest for me. I think children should know if they are donor concieved. But when and how should they be told? Is there an age at which all children should be informed? What is it? How do we know? Do we just settle on some average? There’s an awful lot of variation in children and the whole idea of giving parents responsiblity is that they know their own child. And who exactly will tell them? Does a stranger just show up at their door and sit down with the child? You say a child should know from birth–what should they know? Children don’t know about eggs/sperm/genetics at birth so what is it they ought be told at six months? At a year? At two years? Who is going to be deciding this? (Actually, if this meant compulsory and accurate sex ed for all kids, maybe you could get me on board.)

      What I mean to suggest here is that I do think the devil is in the details. It is easy to say they should know, it is hard for me to imagine an acceptable system where someone other than the parents decides when and how to tell them.

      Which brings me back to the parents. I’m with you on the education piece. I know I’m a bit of a pollyanna, but I do think most parents, including most parents who use ART, want what is best for their child. If they know it is important to discuss origins with a child–early and often and in different ways at different times–then I think many, maybe most, will do it. Look at how the way adoptive parents deal with their children’s origin stories has changed over time. It used to be that adoption was quite commonly kept a secret. It is far less common now.

      But it isn’t enough to just educate parents. You do need to give them resources and support. I’m sure it is helpful to have kids books about adoption, right? And you need to sensitize teachers and other administrators who deal with kids so they don’t make donor concieved kids (or adopted kids) feel like second class citizens. That’s a part of making it safe for parents to tell their kids.

      Finally, if parents know that their kids will find out anyway, because they’ll have access to the information when they turn 18, I think you’ll find that an awful lot of parents are a lot more motivated to be honest. Again, you’d get to pick the time/place/manner and you wouldn’t have a kid on your hands who felt you’d been hiding something all those years. (This actually could be a part of that counselling.)

      I suppose what I am saying in the end is that starting from the assumption that kids should know, you’ve got at least two options. One is to have some state mechanism for informing them. The other is to set up a system where parents will have every reason to tell their kids and very few reasons not to. I pick the latter because I worry about the details of the former. I’d be interested to have someone sketch out what that state system would look like–maybe I’m being too negative?

      I’m going to stop here because it’s long enough, not because I think I’ve responded to everything you’ve raised. Maybe I’ll try to come back to it. Maybe it actually belongs in a post and not the comments.

  2. Wow when people pay good money for parental rights they expect the abandonment they arranged to stay stuck for at least 18 years. They don’t want any damn donor coming around and raising questions in the kid’s head about who is a parent and who is an outsider.

    • The reform being spoken of here is to overturn laws relating to anonimity – and information will be released, from donors who had donating in this way before anonimity was abolished. Its retrospectively changing laws that were made in 1998 to stop anonimity .

      Ill think youll find Marilyn that many parents are now wanting this bio father to be involved- and known- its why the laws were changed.Its why thousands use FSDW- that WANT this acknowledgement- they want more. They recognise the rights of the child, and WANT to involve the bio father in their lives. I am finding that it is in the USA that this happens less frequently.
      Infact anonimity is only really rife now in the USA. Sickening.

      However Julie didnt really explain in this article that these new laws are about retrospectively changing what happened previously- before 1998- for the sake of dc people.
      Her focus was on who chooses if and when children are told.

      • Right–thanks for filling in the gaps I left. This is really the tail-end of the process, in a way. Victoria already made a commitment to end anonymity prospectively. The question this report addressed was how to deal with people who had relied on anonymity in the past. That’s not an easy question either, but it is (in the grand scheme of things) a question of more limited scope.

        How does Victoria law operate with regard to parents informing their minor children? It looks to me from this report (which is admittedly not on the topic) that it is left up to the parents. But is that right?

    • I know we disagree and really, we’re never going to agree, but still, I’ll try to respond.

      Some parents will want the donor to play a role in the child’s life and more power to them if they do. But some parents won’t. And some parents don’t want their own parents (the children’s grandparents) to play a role in the kids lives. That’s their perogative. Some parents will raise their kids in some religion and some will raise them with no religion. They get to decide that. Some will begin teaching their kids about sex ed when the kids are five and some will never teach there kids. Some of them won’t let the kids get a pet even if they really really really want a dog.

      The thing about legal parentage is that it gives you the right to make decisions that effect your child without being constantly second-guessed by the state or by others around you. Can we agree that in general this is an okay idea? Then the question is on what occasions can the parent’s right to decide be overridden. If you don’t agree in general, then how do we avoid a state where the majority gets to tell everyone who they have to raise their kids? Because that, in the end, is what I think parental rights protect us from.

      • Yeah only we are not really talking about whether they get to see or meet their grandparents, we are talking about people who acted in ways that should constitute identity theft, and paternity fraud, tampering with medical records, fraud against the state, aiding and abetting a person in the commission of a crime (aiding/paying a bio parent to abandon their offspring) fraud against the federal government and that is just what the rearing parent and/or rearing social parent have done. Don’t forget about the actions of the estranged parent for abandoning their offspring. Fraud should not be on the table as a parenting option and neither should abandonment

        • I understand that you think there is all sorts of wrongdoing in using sperm from a third-party. You want to call fraud and theft and all sorts of things that conjure up crime. But let’s keep in mind that we’re talking about people who played by the rules as they were at the time. Now you think those rules were wrong. But I think there is a qualitative difference between someone who plays by the rules as they exist at the time and someone who doesn’t play by the rules. The language you are choosing here muddies that for me and so it’s problmatic.

          I don’t mean that you cannot say that the past conduct was wrong, but it cannot have been criminal (and your using the language of criminal law) if they played by the rules. I worry that when language is used like that you actually end up robbing words (like fraud) of their meaning.

          When Theresa Erickson went to the court with papers that included lies about when people became pregnant or what order things happened in, that was fraud. But that’s not (at least for the most part) what has happened in the past in Australia. Men said they’d provide sperm. People (single women, couples, whatever) used it. You don’t like it that it happened, but no one was acting in bad faith.

          I understand that you think what happened in the past was bad. I assume you think the revisions in Victoria law are good. But does it matter to you whether people abide by the law or not? It does matter to me.

          • I did not say that they did commit a crime I said

            “we are talking about people who acted in ways that should constitute identity theft,….”

            I am making it real clear that although the current law lets them get away with this, the behavior mirrors similar behaviors that do constitute those crimes I list and by rights people that do what we are talking about behave in ways that should be illegal if the law was fair.

            If these people were doing something legally wrong I’d be happy and have nothing to do with my spare time but – I don’t know what I’d do with it frankly. So I’m real aware that the acts are not considered criminal now but by rights they should be and that is the whole point of me trying to learn as much as I can because I want to change the law at some point. I’ve gotten closer to meeting people I can help in that regard thru connections made right here on your blog.
            I try to be careful about how I phrase stuff and I think I was on target there. Throughout history people have bought and sold other people and in my eyes that is always wrong, whatever the purpose whatever the law is does not make buying a person from their family a good, fair or just thing to do, it just makes it legal to get away with it.

            Fraud is lying. Claiming a child as one’s own based upon having struck a deal with that child’s estranged parent, is lying even when the child is told the truth about it so Fraud is exactly the right world

            • @ Angela- re “Fraud is lying. Claiming a child as one’s own based upon having struck a deal with that child’s estranged parent, is lying even when the child is told the truth about it so Fraud is exactly the right world”

              Actually it’s not lying unless you arent honest about it.

              Who are you trying to fight for? So what if a child is ‘claimed’ (loved, cherished, honoured) by a non bio parent. If the child is happy and welll cared for and can know of their biological origins (pref with the opportunity to meet them) then what are you so angry about? Why is there anything wrong with it? Especially if the child is far from angry- and may actually be really thankful they werent raised by their bio parents. Im not really sure who you think you are trying to help and why you would think everyone affected would benefit from it. Lets take your choice of children being only raised by bio parents- how could that be in the best interest of all children? Youre actually supporting things that would be FAR from in the best interest of many, many children. It is CRUEL to ask that all children be raised by certain people just because they share DNA.

              Let’s imagine you did get your ‘ideas’ about what children want and need actioned legally- could you really live with yourself for the hell you would put so many through, because of what YOU want- not what they need?

            • I think we should agree to disagree here, but let’s be clear about where we agree and where we disagree.

              I agree that fraud is essentially lying. So claiming I am genetically related to a child I am not genetically related to is lying and therefore fraud. And on that I assume we agree.

              However, claiming I am a parent a parent of a child I am not genetically related to may not be lying. It may be an accurate statement of law (because I am in fact the legal parent) and it may be an accurate description of the social/psychological relationship between us (because I am in fact the social/psychological parent of the child.) In either of these cases it is not lying and not fraud for me to say “I am the parent of this child.” On this I assume we disagree?

  3. IVF has taken the ideas from adoption and tried to fit them around it, but adoption was never that good in the first place. Sample verbiage from adoptionland – if adoption is that good, give yout child away.

    • There are probably some areas where IVF (but really do you mean AI?) has borrowed ideas from adoption, but there are other ways in which it is quite distinct. A lot has been written elsewhere here on some of the sameness/difference. I’m not sure what you mean to pick up on here.

      In fact, there’s been a sea change in practice around adoption over the last decades. What used to be secret is now far more open. That’s a path it will be interesting to see if ART follows.

  4. Angela- please excuse my question – but I didnt understand your response regarding this article – which centres around retospectively changing donor anonimity in Australia. Could you expand so I understand your point?

  5. adoption and IVF both hi-jack a child’s life

    • If you want to participate in the conversation here, you’re going to have to actually spell out what you mean. And if you do that, please try to be temperate in your language. For instance, I don’t think all adoption hi-jacks a child’s life.

  6. Oh I see, a blanket prejudice.

    I prefer to have kindness and openess in my heart and see that all circumstances are different, and that black and white judgements can do more harm than good to society. It can leave people with anger and bitterness in their hearts. I see it all the time with people who are racist and see a ‘group’ and not individuals. I pray for those people also.

    Perhaps ‘hi-jacking’ children from abuse, or from being raised by rapist, to be raised by loving people could be considered a good thing.

    But to stand in judgement about something as if all are affected in the same way or have the same experiences and motivations? It takes a dark and bitter heart to truly believe that.

  7. your insults do not make IVF or adoption an ideal

  8. I apologise if I spoke more strongly than necessary, my point was simple to consider all aspects- which is what Julie is doing with her blogs. There is good and bad in everything we do as a society- surely we need to look objectively and try to increase the good. Yes, there are MASSIVE ‘bad’s with adoption and IVF- but also MASSIVE ‘goods’. (excuse the poor English) Julie raised a good point; shouldnt parents decide if and when to tell their children of their origins? I do not believe ALL parents have the ability to make those decisions and as such we need to look at solutions that can help all support parents, but also all of the children. We know too much about how this information- when and how its shared- can affect people for life.

    • Thanks for moving along here–and I didn’t mean to point to anyone in particular–I was just worried about a general direction.

      I am trying to think if there are any other areas where we insist that parents must tell their children something. I cannot think of anything else that is like this. I think a child could have a serious medical condition and when and how to tell the child would be left to the parents.

      In some ways, it is easier for me to imagine the state interfering to regulate what the parents do than interfering to regulate what the parents tell the child. SO I can see saying various modes of displine are unacceptable and things like that. But saying that you must teach/not teach your child something or you must tell them something? That’s a hard sell for me.

      I do think in adoption we now typically expect parents to talk to their kids about being adopted and as part of the process they must have a plan for how they’ll do that. But somehow I doubt anyone goes and checks up that they are follwoing the plan. And my own experiences with parenthood suggest to me that you have to be willing to vary your plans as you see who exactly your child is.

      Anyone know about how much is mandated in adoption? Or how common it is for adopted parents to talk to their kids these days? Studies anyone?

  9. Julie,

    1. I think all parents who have children via ART or Adoption should be required to tell the child. The hows and when and if an outside source would tell at a specfic age is to complicated to get into now but will leave it that I think the UK? or NZ? or ? is considering or has put some type of indicator on the BC.

    2. Retroactive disclosure isn’t going to cause the sky to come down. It hasn’t happened in the states and provinces that have changed the laws. All mothers who surrendered know they surrendered. All parents who donated know they donated. What the real question should be is whether the LAW actually provided them with confidentiality – without that why shouldn’t the donor conceived have a right to know where they come from. To me that is the sticking point – I can promise someone as a business anything I want to – the law does not have to back me up and ensure it happens.

    • If you say the parents have to tell the child, what do you do though? Set an age where the child would be notified by some outside person if not told before then? Because even those parents who are certain they went to tell their kids might not set an exact age where they will tell them, but rather make a decision based on the specific child’s development as to when they are ready/able to understand.

      • Way up above here I’ve tried to examine some of the points you raise. It is very hard to mandate an age at which a child must be told or to specify exactly what a child will be told, for the reasons you note here.

        • Exactly. If I ever have a child with a sperm donor (which would probably be the only way I could have a child), I would want my child to know, and I would also want to pick a donor that was willing to have the child meet them when/if the child wanted to. But I want to be the one to make the decision about the best time to tell the child, and the best way in which to share the information, based on the needs of the specific child I end up having. I have a vague idea of how I’d word it, but nothing more than that. I also think it should be entirely the child’s decision whether to meet the donor, based on whether it’s important to him/her to know the biological father. I don’t think I’d have a preference either way, but this may be because I would be single in this theoretical situation and there’d be no social father figure the donor woudl be “competing” with. And yet even then, there are some who would say I’m still being unfair to the child and depriving them of something by leaving everything up to them rather then making certain they know exactly who the donor is from an early age.

    • You can put an indicator on the birth certificate but still, most kids don’t see their birth certificates unless or until the parents decide to show it to them. I just did a ridiculously long comment on the details that would need to be addressed if you insist that children must be told. I won’t repeat all that here.

      I need to give some thought to the retroactivity problem. I really went off on this other tangent.

  10. to never tell them the truth but use them becasuse they’re cute…
    that’s someone living a lie for the benefi of others

    • Again I dont understand your point. Who is using who ‘because they’re cute’? Im interested in engaging in a discussion about the points in this blog and am open to hearing other’s view points. There is no black and white here, and discussions with a solutions based approach are what keeps us moving forward as a society. I didnt choose to be a parent because I wanted ‘something cute’. And would have felt no different if he was adopted, donor conceived etc. Wanting to be a parent, love others and build a family is a human emotion- but some dont get to do it in the same way as others.

      With parenting (whether you are the social and/ or bio parent) I believe the parents should have the right to make parenting decisions (despite this being horrific in many cases) but when it comes things relating to human rights I think we have to set standards and protect children. This is why we remove children when abused- to protect them.
      So I guess it boils down to whether or not the right to information about self is a basic human right- and not being told is considered emotional abuse.
      I would hope most would agree that it is.
      We must therefore look at how and when- and to do that we need to look at child psychology- and offer far better tools for parents in order to choose when and how- based not on their own gut instinct but on what we know from dc people, and from psychology. As has been said, the practicalities of that are far from easy. But we must start looking at what we can do to help more dc families, learning from the mistakes of the part regarding when and how children were told.

  11. @ Julie
    IVF and adoption both have a default position of untruthful birth certificates

    • @ Angela – re @ Julie
      IVF and adoption both have a default position of untruthful birth certificates

      And does this matter? If so to whom? (ie not all feel the same)

      Some countries are looking into this- ie having birth certs to show bio and social parents. We are moving forwards. The law tends to be the last to follow though, doesnt it.

      A ‘birth certificate’ should really be a record of your origins. But since the beginning of time people have been lying about that- well before we even created ‘IVF’ or donor conception!

      I guess it really depends on what is important to you- the person on the birth certificate- as to what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ about your record, and the importance it has to you- or how it can impact on your life .

      It could show the biological ‘parents’ but the child/ adult might not believe they have the right to be called that as they didnt do any ‘parenting’. However if it doesnt show the bio parents- or is inaccurate- they may feel robbed of this information.
      We could certainly do with looking at what birth certificates are for- and if they need changing as our society changes.

      I know many children who want their birth certificate to honour those loving and raising them, rather than a birth certificate showing those who actually parented them (rather than were able to make a baby as fertile)

      But they understand its just a piece of paper. They know who their ‘real’ parents are. And they may be bio or social parents- or a combination.

      Yes, many birth certificate are inaccurate if they dont give the info they are supposed to give. Thankfully many of us are working to give children what they do want and need though, while we wait for laws / policies to catch up.

    • There is a lot of discussion on the blog about birth certificates. At least in the states, what a birth certificate tells you on those lines that say “parent” are who the LEGAL (not GENETIC) parents are. So when a birth certificate for an adopted child has the names of the adoptive parents, it is accurate–they are indeed the child’s legal parents.

      I think you (and many others) would prefer a system where birth certificates contained different information–perhaps the names of the genetic parents. You could advocate for such a system. It would require genetic testing of all children at birth in order to establish paternity, I think.

      For more discussion, go read around on the blog under the tag for “birth certificates.” But the key thing to understand (and I don’t think this is a matter of opinion, but rather of legal practice) is that at least in the US, birth certificates are supposed to reflect legal parentage–that is what is troubling you.

      Finally, I don’t know that you really mean IVF. IVF can be done by a man and a woman with their own genetic material. In that case the birth certificate would list them as parents. Would that be untruthful in your view? I think you might mean to refer to instances where people use third-party gametes. That might be IVF but it might not be.

    • How does IVF “have a default position of untruthful birth certificates”? Plenty of couples produce their biological offspring via IVF. I suspect your comments are really directed at certain groups of individuals who utilize IVF and adoption, suggesting that you’re simply promoting an agenda rather than trying to participate in a dialogue.

  12. @ Emma, if you asked a grown-up to not mind living a lie, you’d likely get a flat refusal, which is why ‘cuteness’ blatantly seals the deal, along with being too inarticulate to object

    • Sorry- still not really with you.

      Are you trying to speak for all donor conceived children, about what they would or would not object to? Or passing judgement on anyone who becomes a parent and is not biologically related to that child?
      (you really dont need to answer that)

      I work with thousands of families raising donor conceived children. There are no lies with these families. Most spend a great deal of time talking with counsellors, reading, going to support groups in order to try to ‘get it right’ for the child they love so much. More so than many parents I work with who have their own bio children without a great deal of thought.
      Children are told early and honestly, and most meet the bio father on a regular basis regardless of whether being raised by a bio parent and social parent, or just a bio parent. Im seeing this ‘second generation’ of dc children having a very different experience to many in the past, and have really seen massive changes over the last decade. Infact many are not only being raised by AMAZING people, but they also know where they come from, know the man who shares their genes, and feels loved and accepted by all. They get tot decide how their relationship with the bio father evolves over time- from birth. The group who struggles with this most are the straight couples – but they too are gradually ‘evoling’ as we continue to educate and support them. The main reason to support sperm donation was to open minds and facilitate relationships with bio parents – even if the ‘parenting’ is being predominantly undertaken by others. The MAIN thing children want is love, acceptance and honesty – with the ability to know who they are. The same as all of us!

      As someone who works with families for a living I can find myself comparing the lives of children. Many to the children dealing with abuse are being raised by married, biological, parents. But its not the fact that they are biologically related that affects the child. Its how they are being parented. They may not be ‘living a lie’ but they are experiencing awful lives.

      Biology, alone, does not a good parent make!

      But back to the subject in question, I see how it can be done. My concern is for the children raised by those who dont embrace that- and are threatened by it. By mandating something early however we can guide them and support them, and I think I did read some research about what happens in the majority of cases where people have the choice. Most ‘intend to’ but then later said there never seemed to be the right time of place. Unfortunately this ‘right time’ might need to be a decision made for them, if we are to put children’s rights before theirs..

      A tricky one- but definitely worth discussing. Thank you Julie

  13. ok, Emma, but please tell me how IVF is in the best interests of the child

    • How could you possible say what is in the best interest of the child without knowing the child- and asking the child. IVF is just about conception- its what happens AFTER that affects the child.

      By making these broad, judgemental (angry) comments you are making huge assumptions about people who dont even know. And huge assumptions about what children will want or need.

      Your question is bizarre- it would be like saying how can giving birth to a child created through brutal rape be in the best interest of the child. There could be no answer – and who are we to ask that question or sit in judgement?

      Start with love, compassion and kindness about your fellow man, or you will end up bitter and angry. For what? If you want to help people then find solutions, based on the knowledge that it is the people doing the parenting that most children I work with speak of, as being the most instrumental in how they feel about themselves.

      I think of IVF as similar to a gun. IVF is not evil – its just a tool. Its what people do with it that affects lives.

    • How is any form of conception in the best interest of the child? Nobody considers the best interest of the child when conceiving a baby.

      • Its what the couple that reproduced does after the child is born that’s critical. Do they take responsibility for the person they’re responsible for having created like everyone else has to, or do they abandon their child to the care of strangers? Maybe one of the strangers is the person they reproduced with maybe not. Maybe they’re great people, maybe they really stink. Maybe everything. We do need to stop referring to “the circumstances of conception” and start focusing on what the biological parents did when their child was born and how it placed their offspring into a second class of people who have fewer rights than everyone else with regard to what they deserve to receive in terms of physical and financial support from their genetic parents and the government and private organizations.

        • Marilyn- you said “Its what the couple that reproduced does after the child is born that’s critical.”

          Critical to you maybe.

          However your view of their actions is based on your own judgements – despite the fact that you cant know of their motivations or their soul.

          You seem to believe that only a very few completely psycho people can be ‘let off the hook’ – the majority should be raising the child simply because they are biologically connected.
          That doesnt sit well with me at all as a family therapist, as my priority is the child. Many children have far better lives and are happier when not raised by the bio parent.
          And of course dc children tend to view things differently than adopted children. Im pressuming here we are still talking about donor conception? Although its sad that we have moved on – as usual- from the actual blog regarding retrospectively changing laws in Australia.

          But Ill give my comment on your theme.
          How about we think of it from the child’s perspective. Of course we cant know that if we dont know the child- and even then we cant really know what is happening within another person’s head and heart. Suppose however that what is whats critical to the child is NOT what the couple who created did after they were born. Perhaps for many its what happens with those who are parenting them. Could you consider that many might not feel, repsect, or appreciate the anger YOU feel about their bio parent. Some may feel very angry that you dare to sit in judgement about tTHEIR bio parent, or their social parents – or decide how they should interpret their choices?

          Could you consider that some children may completely disagree with you- because for them, to have been able to experience a wonderful life with their social parents (or combination of bio and social) was the best decision. They might believe that giving them this opportunity was very much in their best interest- and a GOOD thing for the bio parents to have chosen. This doesnt mean they might not also want to know of the bio parent or even have a relationship- but my experience is that it is the quality of parenting that matters most. Not whether they are genetically related.

          So perhaps we need to start listening to these vicitms you talk of- and dont pressume that when they say they have amazing parents, and dont mean those who are biologically related, that they are somehow brain washed or dont know any better. Perhaps you didnt know any better?

          Just asking you to consider it…for dc children – past, present and future.

          • Um Emma your setting me up. If people do not want to raise their offspring and they feel their offspring would be better off raised by someone else they can give that child up for adoption. Is there any reason why we should have a separate class of individuals called donors? Why can’t they follow the same rules as everyone else so that their offspring have the same rights as everyone else? I’m getting real bummed out seeing all the thumbs down on my comments because I’m not saying anything that is not entirely fair.
            Nothing I’m saying undermines non-biological parenthood, they just need to come by it in a more above the board way. You yourself believe that which is why you have a business doing just that only you don’t take it quite far enough to where the men have to take responsibility be named as father and then relinquish in court if they are not going to raise their offspring. The men who want to do help other people have children will go that extra step and it will protect the offspring from all sorts of nefarious behavior.
            Everything you said about me making donor conceived people angry because they think I’m disrespecting their social parents may well be true. I know lots and lots of adopted people and donor offspring and other people who have estranged parents and I know lots and lots of parents who gave their offspring up through adoption and gamete donation and other forms of abandonment. I help them look for one another for free. I get emails from ones I don’t know all the time based on stuff I write here or on Family Scholars and at some point your right I just might hear from one that disagrees with me. All and I mean All the social parents who have ever encountered on line hate me. In real life we get along just fine. I’m actually pretty nice in person. – I just think what they are doing should be considered a crime because its unfair. I think its a forgivable crime it would be nice if they appologized to thier kids sincerely. But that is asking too much.

        • I can certainly agree that it is critical that people who cause a child to be created need to take responsiblity for that child. But (and we’ve discussed this recently) I think this probably means different things to different people. SO to me this means if you obtain gametes from a third party and use them to create a child, you have a responsibility for that child. You cannot walk away from it. I don’t think this is so for the people who provided the gametes, but I believe that you do, right?

          As I say, I think we did recently talk about this–here, I think: https://julieshapiro.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/causation-responsibility-child-support-and-parental-rights/

          This discussion is a good one to have, I think, and it seems to me quite different from trying to think about the best interests of an as yet unconceived child. I see that it is about the well-being of children and that’s important, obviously. But it isn’t about the best interest. (I will do a post about this very shortly so will stop here for now.)

          • Your talking about the people who control the child’s existence, I’m talking about the people who cause it.

  14. no, I am not angry, it’s just a question, and the fact is that you can’t give me a straight answer

    • ?? Of course not. How could there be a ‘straight’ answer to a question that deals with individual lives? Its a ridiculous question in the first place.
      lAgain, like saying ‘how can giving birth to a child created through brutal rape be in the best interest of the child.’
      Its dangerous to make blanket assumptions or even elevate yourself to the position where you feel worthy of making those statements about other peoples lives.

  15. I have no problem understanding Angela Horne you guys. The problem with her question is not her logic its the words she’s been left with to express herself. What she is saying is how on earth is it ever in a child’s best interests to be abandoned at birth by the parents who created him or her? It does not matter whether they signed the agreement to abandon their offspring before birth, before conception even. The point is what those adults do once their offspring are born matters. It matters to their child if they don’t show up to take care of them because then that child is not on equal footing with all the rest of the children out there who have the legal right to expect to be taken care of by their biological parent and not just whoever shows up to claim they are a parent when the child is born. Its clear that anyone can show up and call themselves a child’s parent as long as they got rid of the person the child decended from before hand so there is nobody to challenge the truthfulness of their statement. How is it better for a child to wind up raised by a person they did not descend from? Do we want people to just walk away from their kids without a court approved adoption? Do we want people raising other people’s offspring without any court approved record that they even have someone’s consent? Or that the someone who gave consent is really the bio parent of the child they are raising?? Nothing about any of it is good for people unless farming people sounds good to you.

    • For me this line of discussion raises this rather metaphysical question. I think I’ll probaly write a post on it tomorrow AM. But let me outline what I’m thinking.

      When we talk about the best interests of a child we think about a specific child and we think about what is best for that child. The classic setting is where you are thinking about how the child’s time should be divided between parents who no longer live together and how decisions should be made for that child by those parents. I think for this to make any sense at all there has to actually be a child. Then you think–is A or B better for this child?

      If you are thinking about this before a child is conceived then there isn’t an actual child yet. The best I can do to translate the best interests inquiry in this setting would be something like this: Is it better for the child (but there isn’t a child—uh oh) to be conceived and live in setting X or is it better for the child (but there isn’t a child) not to be conceived. Now I may not be thrilled about setting X–as some of you all are not thrilled about children who will live with parents who are not genetically related to them. But the alternative is that the child won’t exist at all, right? Because the conception won’t occur.

      So I’m supposed to ask whether it is better for the (not-yet-existent) child not to be conceived. I have no idea what to do with that question. I don’t know what it would mean to say it is better for the childthat the child not be conceived. If the child isn’t conceived then there isn’t a child and then the whole question collapses–because I started with a focus on the child.

      I do see that you could say the world would be better if children were not conceived in this setting. But that’s not a best interests of the child test. That’s a best interests of the world test–which is what we’re all doing here all the time–what’s better social policy.

  16. Lots of contracts involve terms were a person receives payment today in return for services performed later, if and when some other thing occurs. Many of the tasks to be performed under a construction contract are performed after the work is complete and the contractor is paid in full; fixing something that breaks due to faulty workmanship or attending meetings a year after the project is complete. Nobody denies that those people were paid for those services. A person signs a contract promising never to contact or seek custody of their offspring if and when their offspring are born in exchange for valuable consideration or in exchange for nothing but a hug – they are still agreeing to abandon their young outside a court approved adoption.

    What is in the best interests of a child is a trick question because you cannot know what is going to happen in the future. You can guess what will happen based on past behavior, but that should not necessarily be the thing upon which all decisions are made because you can’t just not hold people accountable for the results of their actions because you think they probably won’t do a good job. They need to be legally on the hook unless it really appears that their offspring would be in physical danger due to a criminal history of abusing children for instance, but not say a history of petty theft and pot use. You should not be exempt from having to raise your own offspring because your a generally lazy person or because you don’t make so much money. People owe it to the children they create to care for them and its not like someone else can step in and erase a debt that someone owes their own offspring. Someone else can raise another person’s offspring from birth to adulthood and it won’t change the fact that the couple who created them is the couple that owed it to them to raise them, the stranger did not have to do it but they wanted to. While it counts for something, it does not count for giving the child what they have the right to receive. Whatever the stranger gives is in addition to what the person is owed by their own genetic parents. Justice is in the best interests of the child.

    • “change the fact that the couple who created them is the couple that owed it to them to raise them”

      Why? Why do they ‘owe it’ to the child to raise them?

      I agree that men should not be donating sperm as if its nothing – men should choose who will be raising their bio child- remain in contact- even if not parenting. Thats what I speak out for and set about to offer people almost a decade ago.
      However for me anyone who ‘creates’ a child should be doing whats likely in the best interest of the child. And that does not always mean parenting them.

  17. yes, fine, plan a legal fiction

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