Sorry for the long break. I really had no idea how exhausting a college tour could be–granted that it included wonderful time with many friends. But here I am again. I have not read all the comments people have posted and will get to that. For the moment I need to get myself started up again here. And I’ve got this unfinished thread, too.
Remember this all started with a very interesting study on adoption and the historical transition from secrecy to openness. (I write this as much to remind myself as to remind you.) I wanted to think about what the study might tell us about the current trend away from anonymity as to gamete providers for ART. To do that, I started to think about the ways in which adoption and use of third-party gametes are the same and the ways in which they are different.
The first post was about sameness. When I turned to differences I tried to look at it from particular points of view–that of the child conceived with third-party gametes, that of the provider of third-party gametes, and that of the adults using third-party gametes. What those links should demonstrate is that I did the first two. Here I want to do the third.
So here I want to consider the differences between adoption and using third-party gametes from the point of view of the person who is planning to be the parent. In some ways I feel like this ground has been pretty well covered in the preceding part, but I wanted to round at the view.
One starting observation is that many people who do become parents either via ART or adoption consider both. This seems like it might be worth noting because the same isn’t true for the other players I’ve considered. Children have no choice in the manner of their conception and I really don’t think many people decide between giving a child up for adoption or providing gametes for ART.
Of course, this isn’t a difference between adoption and ART, but it does have some bearing on the question. Of all the players, the prospective parents alone actually do their own analysis of the differences between adoption and ART and choose between the two.
That said, can we agree that it is an important and sometimes difficult choice? I think that to the extent that it is an important and sometimes difficult choice it’s pretty obvious that the two things are meaningfully different from the perspective of the prospective parents. But that still doesn’t tell us what the differences are.
In looking at what the differences are I think I end up rehashing the differences in the earlier parts, though they look a bit different from this angle. So for instance, a woman who chooses to use third-party sperm has the experience of being pregnant. A woman who chooses to adopt does not. I think it fairly safe to assume that for most people, the experience of being pregnant with a child you plan to raise is a meaningful one without regard to genetic connection.
Perhaps the most relevant difference is that the ART parent will typically have some genetic connection to the child–1/2 of the genes provided come from that person-while the adoptive parent will have none. There’s something (at least to me) deeply ironic about this difference. The use of third-party gametes is most objectionable to those who care deeply about the genetic connection but the people who choose this route may well choose it because they share that feeling about the importance of genetic connections.
I think there is actually a good deal more to be said about these points and doubtless others, but I will keep it superficial for the moment–in the interests of time and space. Probably the next thing to do is to go back to the original question–given the samenesses and the differences between ART and adoption, to what degree should we have similar policies?