Thoughts of A Sperm Donor’s Wife

This essay will, I think, be in print in tomorrow’s NYT but it’s been on the web for a bit.   It’s from Modern Love–a Sunday column that often deals with complexities of modern family life.   In the essay Lisa Schlesinger writes about her experience as the wife of a man who provided sperm to a lesbian couple who were friends of theirs.    The husband, Ben, was to be a known sperm donor, of course.   The essay shows us some of the complexity of that role and the web of relationships that are affected.

There are three different aspects of the story that I find striking.  First is the chain of consultation.   When Maggie (one of the lesbians) asked Ben (the husband) his response was to ask Lisa, his wife.    Lisa and Ben have three children–a daughter genetically related to both of them and two sons who are from a relationship Lisa had before Ben and thus are genetically unrelated to them.   The sons are in the 20s, the daughter 14.   Lisa suggested that the children, too, should be consulted and so they were.

I think it’s a good thing to have all these people offer their input.  The decision Ben makes might matter to them in a variety of distinct and different ways.   I’m not sure you’d see this when a man decides to be a sperm provider for a clinic–the kind where he gets paid–but that may just be because a lot of those men don’t have wives/husbands and kids.  Who, after all, would a single man feel he needed to consult?   (I imagine some of you are thinking “his parents” but for reasons that might be interesting to discuss, I don’t have the same feeling about them as I to about the spouse/children.)

I’ve read that the demographic of sperm providers generally–not just the ones who do this for friends–has been shifting to older men who are more likely to have children of their own.   (I’m afraid that link isn’t to the perfect post, but it’s hard to find what I’m looking for.  Sorry.)   That would suggest to me that this sort of consultation is increasing–or at least  more men have to think about whether to consult like this.   And it seems to me that consultation is probably the prudent course.

Clearly the different people consulted have different interests.    What is the wife’s interest in her husband’s decision to serve as sperm donor?   Clearly something other than the daughter’s–for the child conceived here will be a genetic half-sibling.  And also different from the sons–who will be genetically unrelated but perhaps siblings?   Much to think about, though not because there are particularly clear answers.

The second interesting aspect of the story is the wife’s reaction, which is largely the focus of the essay.   (That’s unsurprising as she is the author).     Actually, I should probably say the wife’s reactions, as she has several.   Once you embark on that process of consultation, I imagine this is what you will find–that each of the people involved has a complicated set of reactions that have to be taken into account.   Trying to gauge those complicated reactions in advance–in order to decide whether to go forward or not–isn’t easy.  And it brings me to the third interesting feature.

The issues that Lisa is reacting to keep changing.   Perhaps it is impossible to think of everything at the outset.      Consider the issue of secrecy.   The lesbian couple doesn’t want it to be widely known that Ben is the donor–at least not at the beginning.   Ben and Lisa agreed to this.   But of course, the fact of the pregnancy isn’t a secret–and as it becomes more widely known (via Facebook, etc.) new issues are raised for Lisa.

I can readily imagine that some time in the future the lesbian couple might decide they’d like their child to know that Ben is the sperm provider.  I can guess that this will raise a whole new set of issues, for Ben, for Lisa and for the other kids.    It seems to me that all you can be confident of is that there will be new things to think about, over and over again.   And so perhaps as much as anything, what you need to do at the outset is to confront these issues as they arise and to keep lines of communication open.

Because this was purely a private arrangement between friends, there weren’t any trained counselors involved.   I’m inclined to think that’s risky, though it seems to have worked out just fine here.  Given the myriad of issues you can see, thoughtful counsel from someone distance, training and experience can be critical.   Surely it is advisable.   I don’t think everyone can do what Ben and Lisa are doing (and this blog is littered with instances that show that, too.)

I wish them all the luck in the world.  I’d love to know how it goes.



55 responses to “Thoughts of A Sperm Donor’s Wife

  1. You are touching on a subject that is of great interest to me here. If everyone acted responsibly and was accountable to and for their own offspring there would be no instances of a person having surprise unknown siblings. The only reasons why someone would not know of their grandchildren or nieces and nephews would be adult riffs and then you might assume the existence of some children if a long time had past without speaking or seeing one another. It’s interesting to step away from the parent child relationship that can be viewed through the lens of ownership, custody possession. Donor offspring and adopted people speak often of their right to know their parents and siblings but do not often raise the issue of those relatives right to know them too. Why would any relative have more of a right to information than the others when the reason for needing that information applies equaly to every member of the entire family? Surely everyone in the family needs to know who their relatives are and are not in order to make informed decisions about who to date. When someone does not take responsibility for their own offspring they render their entire family helpless to prevent themselves from entering into incestuous relationships for generations. They make it impossible for their family members to seek out and legally obtain each others birth marriage and death certificates so they cannot legally obtain information that is rightfully theirs all because their relative acted irresponsibly toward his or her children.

    I think it was wise for them to consult his child and it was wise for him to consult his wife. His child should have asked what makes her different from the child he’s giving away? Why was she valuable enough to keep and raise while and the other child so inconsequential to him that he’d simply give her away and not feel obligated to take care of her to the same extent? Is a person’s child only valuable to them if they happen to be in love with the person that is the other parent? We reduce the parent child relationship so much to the point where the child won’t be kept or loved unless the parents want to keep having sex together.

    • I’m not prepared to say what the 14 year old daughter should or should not have asked, but I don’t think it would be hard to explain. I assume, for example, that he was confident the women he was helping would make good and loving parents, so it’s hardly like he was leaving a child on a street corner. He might say that the reason he and his wife love their 14 year old goes far beyond the fact that they are genetically connected–and after all, he’s go the other two kids who he isn’t genetically connected to but who he apparently loves and cares for. They might point to adoptive families where parents love their children even though there is no genetic connection at all.

      It really does depend on the starting point. If the 14 year old starts from the point of view that genetics is crucial, then she’s more likely to raise this question. If she doesn’t, then she isn’t. And this will take us back to the question of what makes a person (or what inclines a person) to believe in the importance of genetics? Partly it’s probably the dominant culture. But it is also the individual experience and particularly in this family (given it’s composition) it might well be that the 14-year-old might not put as much stock in genetic connection as you do.

      But none of this is to deny that it is a good conversation to have and that you have to take kids where you find them and work with that.

      • this is a terrible arramgement. people should not intentionally have kids with the intent of placing them into adoption which is what this is. it makes no dfference if your goal is to “help” some wonderful couple. a,child is a human being not a thing you make to help someone else.

        • I think your first statement is a bit harsh. You think arrangements like this are a bad idea, right? This particularly one may be terrific for all involved–these seem to be thoughtful and reflective folks, so I’d say odds are good. But it could perfectly well be that while this one is okay the general idea is a bad one–and I take that to be the real point of your comment. It’s not about these people–it’s about the idea, isn’t it?

          Anyway, I’ll proceed on the theory that we are going to talk about the idea rather than this one family. And on that point, I don’t agree that this is bad. First off, I don’t think that donating sperm is analogous to adoption, because sperm is not a child. But perhaps that’s not really your concern. Maybe you’re worried that the lesbian couple was properly vetted by a social worker? This leads to lots of interesting places–when do we vet families? We do it when the state affirmatively places a child with the family, I think. We don’t do it when people have kids via sex. Should we do it more or less? Maybe. But I’m not sure I see why here.

          Ultimately I don’t think the husband in a case like this makes a child to help other people because I don’t think he makes a child at all. (I know, back to language.) He provides genetic material that he knows will be used by other people to create a child. He will have a connection to that child, though the exact dimensions of the connection will probably evolve. He and his family (genetic and otherwise) can be known to the child if/when it seems like a good idea. I think it might be challenging (as the essay suggests) but it doesn’t seem to me to be necessarily a bad idea.

          • Julie

            First off, I don’t think that donating sperm is analogous to adoption, because sperm is not a child.

            You are correct that donating sperm is nothing like giving up a child for adoption. It all gets so tricky because a sperm donor who donates for reproductive purposes. He is provides sperm with the intent of fertilizing an egg to cause a pregnancy that if developed to term will result in the birth of his offspring. The act of providing the sperm for reproductive purposes tells us only that he wants to have offspring – it says nothing of how he intends to behave after the offspring are born. He actively wants to cause a pregnancy that will result in the birth of his offspring or he would not be providing his sperm for reproductive purposes either through coitus into a woman’s vagina or into a cup for mechanical insemination.

            Where it gets similar to adoption is that he is electing to not take care of his offspring and not be accountable for them. He chooses to be absent from the lives of his offspring and not identify himself as their father nor them as his children. He does give up his offspring just like any parents whose children wind up adopted and raised by others. He does it in a chicken sht way without ever being named on their birth records and essentially

            his sperm does not help two lesbians have a baby, his sperm helps one lesbian have a baby. It’s his abandonment of his child and parental responsibilities that leave a void that can be filled by the mother’s partner or by nobody at all. It’s not providing sperm that allows the lesbian partner to be named as parent of her partner’s child, its the permission of the mother and the father who agreed to be estranged that makes it possible for her to experience what it would be like to be a parent. If the father had not agreed to be absent from his child’s life there would be no space on the child’s birth record for the name of the partner. If the mother had not agreed to allow her spouse or partner to help raise her child as an equal, her name would not appear as a parent on the birth record. She has parenthood by permission of the parents without their consent she would have no claim to title over the child as her connection to the child is only through her romantic involvement with the mother and is not independent of the mother as the fathers is.

            When a man gives his sperm up it never starts operating to support the reproductive functions of the purchaser – it does not become the lesbain partner’s sperm. Its does not become the sperm of a sterile male partner either. It never treats sterility or infertility in the body of anyone else. The only person whose reproductive function is assisted with sperm donation is the sperm donor. His body will reproduce. I know you’ve said recently that people don’t reproduce but truly when another person’s cells can be traced back to your body then your cells have reproduced in order to form a new individual. They are not a clone but they are a partial reproduction of the bodies they originated from.

            So lets be clear that the act of sperm donation is no more like giving a child up for adoption than the act of sex. The act of donation comes with a written promise to abandon their offspring at birth and that is the part that comes close to adoption only without all the legal protections and safety guards for the minor being adopted. It is worse for the person given up because the estranged parent never was accountable and there never was an original record naming him as father so there is no proof of the relationship to be concealed to fight for. It is much easier for people to pretend that the person has no relationship to the estranged parent if his name is never recorded as father. This is such a tragedy for the entire family of the man donating.

            I know I’ve brought this up many times before and you have ignored it many times before but I’m willing to try again – people don’t donate their gametes for reproductive purposes unless they want offspring running around in the world. If they do not want children, don’t want offspring, if they don’t want any descendants, don’t want to reproduce, don’t want to mate or procreate they would not donate their genetic material for reproductive purposes.

            • To the extent we agree that offspring means genetic offspring (and I think we do) I actually agree with a lot of the early part of what you say here. The man who provides sperm in instances like this does indeed mean for it to be used to create a child that will be genetically related to him. He also agrees that he will have no (or perhaps defined and limited?) obligations and rights with regard to that child. I think that is a fair description.

              This can lead one to think about the difference between this and adoption. I’d say that adoption is a process by which a person gives up the legal rights and obligations to an existing child. And before one can give a child up for adoption one must have the legal rights and obligations. The thing about the sperm donor is that he never does have the legal rights and obligations. The way the law operates (and since we are talking about legal rights, law is what defines them) a sperm donor never has any parental rights. That’s one way of framing the difference between being a sperm donor vs. giving a child up for adoption, I think.

              This distinction–between having rights and losing them or giving them up on the one hand and never having right on the other–is the point of a post a couple back:

              I don’t know whether you accept/agree that this is a way of describing the legal difference. Where we clearly to disagree is in terms of the moral side of things. You see the sperm donor as having moral obligations to raise the child (I don’t know what to call them other than “moral” but I’m willing to consider another term if there’s one you would prefer–so long as it is clear that the obligations aren’t legal ones.) I don’t. Not assuming the (morally imposed) obligations amounts to abandonment. And then I think the rest of what you say follows.

              • My parent's donor is my father

                “You see the sperm donor as having moral obligations to raise the child (I don’t know what to call them other than “moral” but I’m willing to consider another term if there’s one you would prefer–so long as it is clear that the obligations aren’t legal ones.) ”

                It’s a very different matter, preconception intention vs. post conception best interest. I’d take it a step further, I believe (I know) it is morally wrong to intentionally participate in the intentional preconception creation of a child, especially one’s own genetic/biological child, without taking responsibility for loving and raising that child, to give away to fill other adult desires… The law be damned. Do the right thing (by intention – pre-conception).

                Moral law and legal law are two VERY different breeds.

                • I think we can now agree and where we disagree. (Does that count as progress.) I agree that morality and legality are different. (Sometimes they reach the same conclusions, sometimes not.)

                  What is at the heart of our disagreement isn’t really the law. It’s morality. I don’t think it is morally wrong to be a sperm donor as was the case here and you do. Is that a fair summary? (I’m not sure what it means to “intentionally participate in the intentional preconception creation of a child” and if I have misunderstood, I apologize.)

                  • My parent's donor is my father

                    Julie, my parents is my father. He preconception abandoned me. I mis-wrote what I meant…I meant to write “intentionally participate in the intention preconception abandoment/relinquishment…”

                    There is now possible way on this earthly plain that you can even begin to convince me that there was nothing wrong with that. Beyond my own emotional reasons, there are so many rational/logical/social/cultural/human reasons why this practice is wrong.’

                    I can easily be dismissed, but there is a building army of ppl like me who have been trying desperately to be heard….as our numbers grow it will be harder and harder to ignore us:

                    Dr. Joanna Rose, a ‘donor’ conceived adult who helped to change the law in the UK to end anonymity in relation to ‘donor’ conception, wrote a few timeless papers worth reading and sharing – learn – never forget:
                    Here is one:
                    A critical analysis of sperm donation practices : the personal and social effects of disrupting the unity of biological and social relatedness for the offspring

                  • My parent's donor is my father

                    Type o – “Julie, my parent’s donor IS my father….”

                    continue below…

                  • CIVIL CODE
                    SECTION 43-53

                    43. Besides the personal rights mentioned or recognized in the
                    Government Code, every person has, subject to the qualifications and
                    restrictions provided by law, the right of protection from bodily
                    restraint or harm, from personal insult, from defamation, AND FROM HARM TO HIS PERSONAL RELATIONS.

              • Oh I am so happy you really responded to what I was saying and that we do see eye to eye. Fully and completely. I do get the crux of what you say about never having had the legal rights….

                I’m going to draw a comparison now to a woman that might do the same thing prior to conceiving prior to giving birth, make an agreement to reproduce with a person and then secondarily agree not to take care of the resulting child. She would be signing prior to the existence of a person that needs or has a mother. Before she gives birth for instance. Now I understand chief for you is that she will eventually get rights if she delivers a child, but then again so would whoever she might name as parent with her (hopefully the father but its a crapshoot)

                Those kinds of pre-birth agreements to put a child up for formal adoption hold true for fathers who do not give birth just as it were for mothers who do. There is very loose enforcement of those laws as surrogacy proves but the laws are there anyway. The reality is that he’s choosing to make kids and agreeing not to take care of them and he’s doing it off the record outside of court which is not exactly very responsible of him and its pretty spineless and cowardly really if he goes the “hide me” route

              • My opinion differs a bit in that I think the sperm donor HAD parental rights, but that he waived those rights when he signed the paperwork, while you think he never had them at all. If a man’s sperm was stolen without consent, I would feel he should still have rights as he never signed them away, even if the procedure was similar to that used with donor sperm.

                • You are being logical. The law does recognize men as fathers of their own offspring. That is evidenced by the fact that court approved adoptions require that some attempt be made to locate the father and obtain his consent to the adoption before allowing it to proceed and that is before anyone knows who he is or what his name is before his name is entered on a birth record as the father. If they cannot locate him there is a formal procedure whereby they actually terminate the parental obligations of the unknown father – his existence and obligation as father is recognized based solely upon the fact that if a child exists that child originated from a man and woman who are in fact their mother and father and their relationships have to be severed with the child before anyone else can assume their responsibilities by acting as adoptive parents. I think a lot about the way adoption works sucks especially terminating the parent child relationship, it is unnecessary and flys in the face of fact: the law cannot erase what the law did not create – you can be a person’s ex wife but not their ex child; the law created the marital relationship so law can end it but the law did not create the parent child relationship and so all the law can do is tell everyone to walk around acting as if it does not exist.

                  My whole point here with Julie is that the law does recognize men as the fathers of their own offspring regardless of their intentions to become fathers and regardless of their feelings on the matter the rest of the time and does not allow them to opt out of parental obligations the rest of the time in private agreements so why does it allow them to do it in some instances? How is that fair to their offspring? It is not equitable treatment. Forget moral, I know that is a fast way to loose an argument, I’ve paid attention. Let’s talk about minor offspring not receiving equitable treatment under the law depending upon what kind of contract their parents may have signed depending upon who did or did not want them and was willing to pay for them. In no ther area but the buying and selling of human beings and their body parts does there exist this level of entitlement to lie flat out on governement forms, lie flat out about who we are in relation to others, to falsify other people’s medical records and withhold information that is absolutely critical for them and their relatives to make important decisions about their own health care and their own reproductive choices. No normal parent has the right to hide their identity from their offspring. No other parent has a right to falsify the medical records of the child they are raising or sequester the child from the other parent withhout a restraining order. No other parents have the right to opt out of their obligations in private contracts withhout going to court

                  • Actually, to be correct, that actually is possible in other situations than assisted reproduction, due to the marital presumption of paternity. If the state does not allow the presumption to be challenged (most do allow a challenge at this point in time, but someone has to initiate it), or if none of the three parties (husband, wife, bio father) wish to challenge it, they can live the rest of their lives with the husband as the legally recognized father.

                    Actually, one way I see it could be this – the state would prefer not to financially support kids if they can find someone else to do it. Therefore, they try to make there be two legal parents whenever possible. The one outlier situation is when a single person adopts or users a donor – perhaps it is assumed those who have the financial resources to do so on their own are very unlikely to need financial assistance from the government.

                  • You do find differing legal treatment sometimes where 1) there are too many men claiming fatherhood and so the state needs to eliminate some as opposed to 2) there are two few men claiming fatherhood and so the state needs to find someone. Particularly in 2 genetics is handy because there is always someone. And in 1) there’s a tendency to favor a husband where the woman is married. It is, I think, in large part about wanting to make sure someone is on the hook for financially supporting the child and perhaps for being a male parent in a social sense.

                  • I should clarify that my post was talking about extramarital affairs, not ART.

                • Rebecca on your most recent post of course you are right and it is the one main reason I visited this blog several years ago to learn how to change that stupid marital presumption law that was ruining all my friends lives so that they wound up with their step fathers named as fathers on their birth certificates while their own fathers were off getting shot at in vietnam. So irritatingly inconsistent with the law at other times which obligates a man to the offspring he creates and won’t let him off the hook for anything especially not lack of intention.

                  • Ah, and therein lies the question – is it that the state cares which people support the child? Do they go after the bio father when no one else has filled the role to force a moral obligation or do they do it to avoid providing welfare to the mother and child?

                  • Indeed, I’m inclined to think so.

                  • Rebecca on your most double recent post -Bingo! I was so confused at the seeming total lack of logic about how two men could both have offspring and in one instance the State will actually pay to hunt him down test him and get him named on the birth record whether he likes it or not whether the mother wants them to or not all for the child’s benefit – and then there can be another guy same exact level of related to his kid doing everything he can to try and fullfill his obligation to his kid having his efforts thwarted and blocked at every turn or a guy who does not feel like taking care of his kid and does not have to. Clearly the kid that gets the States full assistance in hunting down their father is getting something more than the kid whose father is just let off the hook because he signed some private agreement before his kids were even born. I think it very much is all financially motivated on the part of the state and what they mean by best interests of the child is best financial intrest of the state – how can they secure two permanent sources of financial support for a dependent minor. Only it kind of backfires with single people and gamete donation because its super obvious that the minor comes up short when you let a parent off the hook like that. Really the parent should not be let off the hook whether there is a stand in partner or not because look at people that get to live with absolute truth in recordkeeping without falsified medical records with their bio parents named on their birth record and held accountable for their support who then also get the benefit of legal step parents when their parents get married. Clearly the law operates best in those instances to protect minors all the way around – protecting their relationships and their medical records and their financial interests

                  • Generally speaking the effect of the marital presumption these days (as opposed to several centuries ago) is to privilege married couples. If the married couple is united in wanting to claim the child it can repel all outsiders. The presumption is also sometimes justified on the assumption that it is best for the child to be raised by the married couple where the couple is willing to do so.

                    This does mean that generally where the wife wants to raise the child with the husband rather than the man who is genetically related to the child and where the husband agrees to do this, too, the man who is genetically related to the child won’t be recognized as a legal parent. Obviously opinions differ about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. If you think about the options for that child (being raised in intact marital household where father isn’t genetically related vs. being raised in two households where parents are not getting along) you can perhaps see why legislatures often go with the married couple.

                • If he had parental rights then I don’t think the procedures were adequate. Generally you cannot just sign something as a part of a private agreement to give up parental rights–it’s a more complicated process than that.

          • Your son drives your car and kills someone while texting and the cops say to you did you let your son who only has a lerners permit drive your car?

            You say no I did not let him drive my car.

            But he said you gave him the keys and told him to go to the store to get milk.

            I gave him the keys and I told him to go to the store to get milk but I never said he could drive the car. I gave him the keys not the car what he did with those keys he did entirely on his own and I had nothing to do with it.

            • That senario actually happened when my husband was hit by a car driven by a lawyers son. The lawyer said his son stole the car and therefore the lawyer could not be held accountable for the actions of his son who yes, had been given the keys but had not been given the car to drive and so the driving part had nothing to do with the lawyer or the insurance. Here – take my sperm and I know your going to make a baby with it and I will agree to not be part of my offsprings life but then you get to say that the guy who gave up the sperm did not give up the resulting child its just absurd. If he was not willing to give up the child they never would have taken his damn sperm in the first place.

              Sperm donors do two seperate things one is donate sperm and two is abandon their kids.

              • Okay–now I see what the car analogy was about but I think I’ve responded to this in another comment I just posted. Mostly I’ll stick with that. Can we agree that there is no legal abandonment of any children here, though? The whole way the law is set up the sperm donor never has any legal rights vis-à-vis the child and hence, cannot abandon the child. I know you do not like the law, but perhaps we could at least agree that in many states this is the way the law is structured. You’re talking about non-legal (moral?) principles when you invoke abandonment. And that’s one of the things we just don’t agree on.

                • My parent's donor is my father

                  Julie the moral issue is all about intentional abandonment.

                  • Right–you’re saying that morally this amounts to abandonment. And that is because (in your view) the person is skipping out on a moral obligation.

                    If one doesn’t start with the moral obligation (and I don’t) then I don’t get to abandonment.

                • yes of course we can agree. That inconsistency is frustrating to me though. Not talking about morals I’m talking about inconsistent rules for bio parents to follow.

                  No you can’t pin me on morals or natural law….I play fair.

            • i like the key and car analogy.

              • yes it’s word play a loophole.. Makes no difference that it was the parent that lent the car to the kid – could have been a friend or a boss. Point is the vehicle owner knew the kid had no license, handed them the keys and sent them on an errand. For a person confined to a hospital bed who now has no foot it was Quite insulting for the owner to slip through that loophole. Equally insulting to be the offspring of a parent who slips through the donor loophole

            • I am afraid I am missing your point here. I think if I give my son the car keys and tell him to get milk I am at least implicitly giving him permission to drive the car if not actually instructing him to do so. I get this, but I don’t see what it connects to in the discussion of the sperm donor’s wife. (This may be because the structure of the comments doesn’t make it easy to see where exactly in the conversation this fits.) Sorry.

              Is the idea that the man who provides the sperm knows what it is going to be used for a agrees (tacitly or explicitly) to that? Certainly that’s true.

              • My parent's donor is my father

                Marilynn, your point is very clear. But I’m not looking at this through the lens of a lawyer who clearly wants to defend this practice.

                • You mean me? The lawyer who wants to defend the practice? (Sigh) I do try to understand, you know.

                  Is the point here that I am morally responsible for my son’s actions and in the same way the sperm donor is? Perhaps you are right to fling the lawyer term at me, as the problem may have been that I thought you were talking about legal responsibility. In terms of legal responsibility I think the situations are different because I do have a legal responsibility for my son.

                  And in terms of moral responsibility I think this loops back to what I’ve just written in a couple of other places. If you assume that the sperm donor has a moral obligation for the child created, then I now see the analogy. But if you don’t assume that moral obligation, then the analogy doesn’t work. (I do, by the way, accept that I have a moral responsibility for my son’s actions in this hypothetical.)

                  • My parent's donor is my father

                    Yes, I meant you. What does your responsibility for your son have to do with a father’s responsibility for their child? There is no such thing as a donor. Period. Everyone comes from one man and woman (a father and mother) Both have a moral responsibility to be present and known. Care for that child. If they can’t do that then the best interests of the child is to be adopted by people who can. So called “donor” conception is a moral nightmare.

        • succinct Ima save that paragraph as a book mark

      • “I’m not prepared to say what the 14 year old daughter should or should not have asked, but I don’t think it would be hard to explain. I assume, for example, that he was confident the women he was helping would make good and loving parents, so it’s hardly like he was leaving a child on a street corner.” Ah this is good. You’re saying he can point to the fact that while yes he chose to create offspring that he had no intention of raising, he knew the women who would be raising his offspring and because they had been very good friends implicitly trusts them to take good care of his offspring. So it’s not like he just left his offspring on a street corner. While I still think its irresponsible, let’s pretend for a moment that being friends with these women does it. He personally checked out the circumstances his offspring would be raised under and they are his good friends and he’s not just blindly reproducing without care or concern for where his resulting offspring will wind up.

        So Julie what about all the people who don’t investigate the individuals who will be raising their offspring? They have some responsibility for the welfare of the people they put on this earth through their reproductive actions – you just copped to that. Are they being irresponsible by not personally investigating the circumstances their offspring will be raised under? Forget genetics – the cards are in their hands they don;t have to reproduce themselves they don’t have to make offspring but if they do then a dependent minor will exist because of them and if they don’t take care of that dependent minor themselves someone else will have to and do they have some responsibility for checking out someone whose going to raise that dependent person? If they were handed someone else’s baby a foundling and told to find someone to raise that baby would they just hand the baby to whoever could pay the fee? Would they do a little background check first? Follow up visit?

  2. Thankfully, for the time being, we still have the right to procreate in whatever fashion we so desire in this country. So, if this arrangement works for the adults in this situation and the resulting child is being loved and cared for then it’s not society’s place to judge or limit this practice.

    This arrangement isn’t for me, but, then again, many reproductive arrangements aren’t for me. I am glad the folks shared their story as it was interesting to read and I’m always fascinated by the different experiences that people have in their procreation practices. I wish these folks the best and support their right to procreate in a manner that works for them and results in a child that is loved and cared for.

    As for the other children in the family, their opinion on the matter is really irrelevant. Children do not and should not determine the reproductive practices of their parents.

    • No one is denying any ones right to procreate; as marilyn says, its what happens afterward that is problematic. there’s also the nonlegal moral level. we as a society tend to dissaprove of conceiving children outside of our maariages. we call it adultery. all of a sudden when art and/or same sex couples are involved where supposed to look at it as something noble. makws no sense to me.

      • Since you’re not trying to deny them the right to procreate then what happens afterwards is none of your business. How they procreate is their choice and as along as their parenting style doesn’t break any laws it’s none of our business.

        • Tyson society has an interest in ensuring that people do not neglect the offspring they put on this earth and there are plenty of laws that require people with offspring to do just that. My concern is consistent application of that logic as it is currently interrupted for trade and commerce purposes.

          • M – How they procreate has nothing to do with neglect.

            • tyson i don’t agree with the way you are using the word procreation. the word means the actual physical act of reproduction. You are using it to include custody, legal status, child care and everything else that happens after the kid is already born. that is not the same thing.

        • your concern about their privacy is misplaced, no oneforced them to go runnong to the new york times. or are you saying in general that society is not entitled to an opinion as to what isetical.and moral and what is not? or that its none of the laws business who is responsible for chold after its born?

          • Society is entitled to an opinion but that opinion carries no legal or significant weight.

            • it carries weight when individuals are being discriminated against or worse sold into servitude – born to live out their lives with fewer rights than other people, with falsified records, sequestered from half or all their genetic relatives, their existence a dirty secret in their own family and their lack of relatedness a dirty secret in the family of the people who purchased possession of them and title over them. Purchased the right to name them and impersonate their parent or parents.

  3. My parent's donor is my father

    ki sarita and Marilynn, thank you so so so much for your continued rationally and logically based arguments to these Brave New World issues. It is very appreciated!

  4. I would never say that this is an issue of morality its an issue of legal equity.

    • I don’t know what you mean by “legal equity” here. I mean to distinguish between two different sorts of questions. On the one hand there are questions about what law provides. (So in many states the law doesn’t recognize the sperm donor as having any parental rights so, as a matter of law, there’s nothing wrong with donating sperm–there’s no abandonment (in a legal sense.) And there is kind of a right answer–you can read the law and see what it says.

      On the other hand there is what is right/wrong or what you think the law ought to be or what you think some general notions of fairness require. I guess I’ve lumped all of these under morality–which is why I was a little bit hesitant about using the term. Here we can (and do) differ. You say there is something wrong with being a sperm donor–that it amounts to the man abandoning his child, because he has (or should have?) an obligation (not imposed by law but imposed by ??) to be a parent to that child or to support that child and he is skipping out on the obligation.

      I’m not wedded to calling the second thing “morality” but I’m hesitant to use “legal equity” because it seems to suggest that there it has something to do with law–which I don’t think it does, really. How about “equity?”

      • Yeah don’t call it morality or natural law when you are going back and forth with me. I actually learned something here in this lab and I would like you to take note of that. I will not support my opinions with vague, nebulous, mystical or spiritual statements that can be easily discredited even if sometimes I might believe them because I know now there are other universally excepted facts to support my point if I try hard enough and use my head. It’s an effective tactic to lead someone into making that statement on their own, getting them to start talking about morals and natural law and universal truths and core beliefs and all that. It’s clever because people will take the rope your handing them I’m totally paying attention to strategies employed around here. All you have to do to win an academic debate is lead opponents headlong into a debate about morals and social norms and you win.

        I’m concerned with equalizing the legal requirements for people with offspring so that all minor offspring have equal rights and expectations at birth. Fairness equity consistency with regard to the law not morals

        • I am not sure it is possible to really avoid reliance on the sort of beliefs/assertions you are steering away from–though I do understand why you want to. I think we’re all really premising thing on assumptions and maybe we need to just say that.

          I think I understand what you mean by equal treatment/same legal rights at birth. This underlies the determination to improve the treatment of non-marital children, who used to be formally labeled “bastards.”

          Is it fair to say that you have in mind “equal rights to have genetic parents recognized as a legal parent?” I think that assumes that having genetic parents recognized as legal parents is something important that all children should have a right to. If I say no one should have that right–that the genetics is unimportant–and instead what all kids should have is the right to have the people who have intended to create and raise them be recognized as legal parents, then I can use the same equality principle to go in a different direction. I think it still is grounded in some notion of equality. (I’m not, by the way, personally proposing this at the moment. Just using it as an illustration.)

          At some point we all just have to say what we think is most important–that legal parentage and genetic parentage be aligned, say, or that the lived realities of kids experiences be ratified by law. Once we articulate that then we can examine why this might (or might not) be a good idea. So we might look at studies on the well-being of children and things like that, to try to persuade people that our choice of what is important is a sound one.

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