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Sunday, May 16, 2010

A mother considering artificial insemination......

During a brunch in the city, I and three other women discussed life and family and somehow got to the nature of my conception. Halfway into the meal, one of the women, a friend of a friend, shared that she was undergoing IVF treatments with donor sperm. It was like someone ran up to the table and hit me in the back of the head. I was overwhelmed.

Earlier in the meal and prior to her revelation, she had been overly interested in my experience as donor-conceived. While I answered her questions honestly I could sense their was a "motivation" for her interest that made me uncomfortable.  She looked very intensely into my eyes.  When I answered a questions it was rapidly followed by another. I later realized that, in some ways, she perceived me to be her unborn child 30 years from now.  

I imagine if my mother had the chance to speak to someone like me prior to conceiving via anonymous AI, she would have been very similar. However at brunch I found it troubling to listen to this aspiring mom and I was surprised at my impression.  As she sat beside me reviewing her latest trips to the doctor, her motivations, her history, it sounded incredibly selfish. She was in her late thirties and single after divorce. She saw her time as "running out" and without a partner she turned to artificial insemination. I tried to shake my head with familiar understanding but I felt a surge of emotion just beneath my calm.

At 29, I understand the aching desire to have a family and pressure to conceive. With that said, I don't think it gives me the right to deny a child the right to know their genetic lineage through via anonymous AI. As these thoughts ran through my head I felt the grip tighten on my fork with the frustration rising inside me. I looked down at my plate as she went on speaking to all the woman at the table.

"....I wish I had started earlier...people said I had all this time...I feel lonely in this... I hope I conceive soon....I have been waiting so long....I really want this.....I......I ......."she went on.

To calm myself down I had taken to counting the number of times she said "I." 27 actually. She focused alot on the "right to know" status of her sperm bank . Like a soothing mantra, she said it over and over.

"It's a right to know sperm bank.....since it's right to know I feel better...the right to know," she said.

Suddenly I could feel that despite the fact she was talking, everyone was looking at me. My face was flushed and I stumbled for words. "I wouldn't do it" I blurted out.

It was one of those, "did-I-really-just say-that?" moments, if you know what I mean.

She looked at me with a mixture of surprise and disappointment, "What do you mean?"

"I mean I wouldn't do it," I said and paused. "I don't think you have any idea how troubling it can be later on."

We went on to discuss why I felt this way. She raised some valid points as to why my situation was different and how the "right to know" sperm bank would provide her child with important genetic information and medical history. I wanted to be considerate but I couldn't help thinking to myself "medical history?" that is all YOU want to know about the donor...but your child may want more. Your child may want to see the crook of his smile or understand the subtleties of his personality which she shares...."

While I think she took my points to heart I could feel a certain resistance to truly engaging anyone who disagreed with her. I think her desparation to have a child...that instinctual "bell" that rings in the back of a woman's mind was ringing too loud for her to truly weigh the reality of her future child's exisitence.

I believe this desperation, this almost carnal push to procreate, is the driving force of the artificial insemination business. Simultaneously, it is the most erosive force against the rights of donor offspring.

Having a child is not a basic human right; it is a privilege. Moreover, there are many ways to conceive a child that do not strip them of their genetic past such as non-anonymous sperm donation. I would argue that, in contrast to having children, we all have an inalienable "right" to know our biological parents and that right cannot and should not be signed away by another individual endeavoring to have the privilege of being a parent.

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