I link to this story with some reluctance. Still, perhaps it is worth comparing Ed Houben to Desmond Hatchett. Hatchett was the subject of a post a few days back. He has 30 children with 11 different mothers.
Houben leaves him in the dust. He has fathered 82 children in the last ten years and, if the story is correct, there are ten more women who are pregnant. It’s unclear to me how many different mothers there are but I’m quite sure it is a lot.
Now there’s a difference between these two men. The women Houben impregnates are trying to get pregnant–that’s the whole point. And Houben apparently has no interest in actually playing a role as father to any of these children. I think Hatchett’s situation is different.
Indeed, perhaps the person to compare Houben to is Trent Arsenault. Both Houben and Arsenault seem to want to characterize what they are doing as a public service. They are helping women who do not have access to sperm get pregnant. No strings are attached by either man–by which I mean, he will not be petitioning for parental rights. They both advertise on the internet.
The difference is that Arsenault just provides fresh sperm to women while Houben engages in intercourse with them. That difference is at least legally significant in many places. Certainly in every state in the US Houben is legally the father of these children, paperwork or no. He is therefore liable for child support. It’s the having sex part that puts him in Hatchett’s category. Indeed, I think legally Hatchett and Houben are indistinguishable.
By contrast in some places Arsenault might be a father (legally) but in some places he won’t be. And in some places the agreement that accompanies the delivery of the sperm might matter.
Is there a moral or an ethical difference between these three men? Are Arsenault and Houben “better” because all the adults in the picture are on the same page, part of the same plan? Or are they worse because their conduct is quite deliberate, while Hatchett is (apparently) just having a lot of unprotected sex with women? Would you distinguish between Aresnault (who delivers his sperm in a cup) and Houben, who delivers his sperm more personally?
One thing to notice–the FDA at can at least try to regulate Arsenault. (I should check on the progress of their efforts.) It’s much harder to stop Hatchett and Houben. Sex is legal. Maybe the advertising Houben does is not in some places, but you could get to the same place fairly easily.
In any event, it seems to me there’s at least as good a reason to worry about Houben as there is to worry about Hatchett. Maybe even more, since he seems to be set to continue this behavior on principle.