Tag Archives: DNA

(Mythical?) UK Sperm Shortage Easing?

Long-time readers may recall that I have written a number of times about reports of a sperm shortage in the UK.   (This is the most recent post–from 2012–and it links to many older ones.)   I’ve always been skeptical about the existence of this sperm shortage since the actual number of donors (as they are called) was increasing.   It is, of course, possible to have more donors and still have a shortage–if demand increases at an even more rapid rate, say.   But the reporting on all this was so inept that it was actually very hard to tell what lead to the reports of shortage.

In any event, it’s time to revisit this story in light of this report.   Far from a shortage, now there is apparently a “boom” in sperm donations.   (It’s important to note, though, that this story is sourced to a single sperm bank–the London Sperm Bank.  But the idea of an increase in donors does seem to be born out in the official statistics, which are apparently only available through 2010.)

The thing that interests me most here isn’t just the question of whether there is a decreasing or increasing supply of sperm (or number of donors).   Continue reading

Back for a New Year: The Common Plot of Uncertain Parentage

Welcome, everyone, to 2014.  I’ve been on vacation, doing a bit of travelling and afflicted by some sort of nagging virus that seems to wax and wane inexplicably.  But now I am back and lo, it is a new year.   I hope the season has treated everyone well.

Mostly what I’ve been doing is reading and, for once, reading fiction.   I tend to read mysteries (ones that are not too tense) and also current literature (think The Goldfinch, which I highly recommend.)   And I’ve had a lot of time to do that recently.

What struck me–more forcefully than it has before–is how common it is for plots to turn around the paternity or parentage of a character.   This seems to be particularly true in mysteries.  How many times have I read a story where the key lies long in the past, where a child is born and the parents aren’t quite who they should be or are believed to be or whatever.  (I just finished one of these last night.)  There are infinite variations:  the child is born to the wife but is not the husband’s and the husband doesn’t know; the child is born to the wife and is not the child of the husband and the husband does know; the child is actually adopted but no one has told the child and so on.   Continue reading

Stories We Tell–The Movie and More

Some time back I wrote about a documentary I wanted to see called “Stories We Tell.”  It was made by a young woman named Sarah Polley and it is autobiographical.   I’ve now had a chance to see it and it made me think.

Polly is the youngest of five siblings.   (I use this term loosely as you will see.).  Her mother, apparently a quite dynamic figure, died some years ago,   For many years there was a family joke that her mother’s husband–the man who Sarah Polley referred to as her father–was not in fact genetically related to her.   For whatever reasons, Polly decided to investigate.   The film is not so much the story of her investigation as it is the story of what all the players involved make of it all.

Actually, it isn’t really what all the players make of it.  Continue reading

When Do Father’s Rights Mean Controlling the Mother?

There’s a lively conversation in the comments of the most recent posts here–one I mean to pick up and move along shortly.  But I feel that I need to take time out to blog about this story, which I must confess is one that I’m really bothered by.    It’s from the NYT, which means that for some of you it may be on the wrong side of a pay wall.  I’m sorry about that, but it does seem to be their story.

I’ll start with a summary.  It’s obvious that there are facts in dispute and I’ll try to note specifically where that is the case.   Most of what seems to me to be important is actually not in dispute.

Bode Miller and Sara McKenna met via a high-end dating service.   They both lived in California.   Miller is an Olympic skier.   McKenna is a former Marine and firefighter.  He’s now 36 and she’s 27, but I think they were dating in April/May, 2012.

They dated for about a month-and-a-half.   When they split up, McKenna was pregnant, although obviously she wasn’t very far along.  Continue reading

When Parents Talk To Their Children

I’m at the midyear conference of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys/American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys just now.   It’s a program devoted to the world of ART and there are lawyers from around the country and the world–a really terrific and interesting group.  It’s very busy but I wanted to take a minute out to post this.

This morning there was a great speaker who focused on psychological issues around egg donation.   Her name is  Dr. Andrea Braverman and she teaches at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.  One particular point she made was both simple and provocative:  The way parents talk to donor-conceived children can profoundly shape how the children react.

Perhaps this was and is obvious.  After all, think about what you call the man who provides sperm?  Donor?  Father?   Daddy-donor?  [Your choice here?] Continue reading

News From Florida–Lesbian Mother/Egg Donor Must Have Rights

I’m interrupting myself (though I really want to get back to “social infertility” and what to think about it) because there is an interesting and important new case out of Florida.  You can read the opinion (though it is long) and I’m sure in time there will be press, too.   (I wrote about this case when it was decided by the lower court and you might want to read that, too. )

I want to offer some initial thoughts here, though think it quite possible I will find that I need to revise them as I think further.  The case covers a lot of ground and might have some broad implications–or at least suggest some broader arguments.

The facts are pretty simple.   DMT and TMH were lesbians in a long-term committed relationship.  They wanted to raise a child together.   TMH provided an egg.   It was fertilized in vitro and the resulting pre-embryo was transferred to DMT’s uterus, which means DMT was pregnant with/gave birth to the child.   Continue reading

A Little More on What Families Look Like

I’m still thinking about yesterday’s post–the whole story of the blond Roma children.   I’m inclined to agree with Kisrita when she says “the fact that a kid looks different should never be a cause for authorities to get involved unless you have clear evidence of wrongdoing” (that’s in the comments from yesterday)  but I’m afraid there’s some distance between should and is.   What I mean is that it does happen, even though I think it shouldn’t.

There are at least two different things I think about here–or maybe two different levels on which I think about the same thing.   First, there’s the  mere fact that different looking adult/child dyad can raise eyebrows or attract attention.   Second, there are the specific ways in which this plays out depending on the specific differences we observe.    I’m going to consider these in reverse order–second one first.

The second thing is very much about race.   Continue reading

Still Here, Still Thinking, But Life…..

I feel badly that I have been so absent here.  (And so many of you have carried on so nicely without me.)   There–better to just start with that.   But why haven’t I been here?   Life intervenes?   Not in any dramatic way, and not in a bad way (thanks for those concerns) but just in the mass of little things that pile up.

I’m tired, too, of dashing over to this, apologizing, putting up one meager post, and then failing to find the time to build momentum.   But you know, being tired of it doesn’t mean I don’t stop trying.  It just makes it harder to try.   So here I am–I will try again to get myself on more regular footing.

I must have 17 tabs open with things to comment on , none of which seem totally pressing.  I think what I will try to do is put together a few things that in some (as yet not totally clear way) seem related to me.  The uniting theme–if there is one–is about DNA and inherited characteristics and the cultural stuff around that, I think.

So I’m pretty sure most of you saw the stories about the blond children turning up in Roma families.   Continue reading

Sorting Pregnant Women: Four Types, Which Get Grouped Together?

Someone (ki sarita, in fact) raised an excellent question in an early comment on the last post:   Why would you call Monica Schissel a surrogate when she is a pregnant woman and she is genetically related to the fetus she carries?  There is some discussion of this in the last post, but I’ve been thinking about it more generally.   This leads me to some observations that might be useful or, failing that, at least interesting.

It seems to me you can think about pregnant women as falling into one of four categories.  Here they are:

A:   Intending to be parent and genetically related to embryo

B   Intending to be parent and NOT genetically related to embryo

C   NOT intending to parent and genetically related to embryo

D.  NOT intending to parent and NOT genetically related to embryo. Continue reading

Baby Veronica Returned to Adoptive Parents

Have we reached the end of the Baby Veronica story?   Last night Dunsten Brown gave up physical custody of Veronica (no longer a baby), allowing the Capobiancos to assume that role.   There’s no way of knowing if this is actually the end of the story.   Litigation could be continuing, as the article suggests.   But surely this is a significant moment.   Actual physical custody of the-now-four-year-old child at the center of a very long legal struggle has shifted to her adoptive parents, who presumably have taken (or will take her) back to South Carolina.

I’ve written about this many times before, though most recently not so much about the actual merits as about the nature of the on-going struggle.   It is this aspect of the case that continues to trouble me most.

Veronica (and at least all parties seem to agree on her name, unlike some cases where the child is given different names by the competing parties) is four year old.   Continue reading