I have been surprised by some of the intense commentary on my blog from parents. Sometimes it is quite personal and incredibly beautiful and sometimes it is quite offensive and hurtful. I think considerate and thoughtful debate are key to a future resolution. To enhance that debate, there are a few viewpoints I would like to clarify.
Are you against artificial insemination?
No, I am absolutely not against artificial insemination and for that matter, any type of assisted reproduction. I think that technology has enabled some amazing gifts to humanity and that there are many, many wonderful people out there that deserve to be parents. However, I am adamantly against anonymous sperm and egg donation. I believe that every person has a right to know their biological parents and the truth about their conception.
Knowing the truth about your conception and genetic heritage does not mean you have to be raised by your biological parents. Knowing the truth means you have access to the individuals with which you share substantial amounts of your DNA. When parents-to-be make a choice to create a child with an individual that wishes to remain completely anonymous, they are making a decision that is not in the best interest of their child. I also think choosing to conceal your child's genetic heritage from them is an incredible injustice and betrayal.
I have close personal friends that conceived through artificial insemination by a donor. The donor visits their daughter twice a year. As a lesbian couple, they knew they had to share the truth with their child. As such, they prepared and agreed on how they would do so prior to her arrival. While I think their daughter may feel some loss, she has access to both her biological parents and does not carry the burden or shame of a "secret."
Do you want to shut sperm banks down, how will infertile couples have children?
I am a rationalist and I know we can't just shut down sperm banks and have so many potentially wonderful parents without options. We do however need to be honest about the situation to find a better solution in which all parties involved are better and more justly served.
The sperm bank and artificial insemination industry are part of a $3 billion dollar and growing infertility industry. Sperm banks make profit off the trade of human genetic material and, in many cases, the complete disregard for a child's right to their genetic heritage. I take issue with the exchange of money for the use of genetic material resulting in a human life. Just as adoption for money has been outlawed, so too do I believe that sperm for money should be outlawed. This is not to say that a non-anonymous donor shouldn't be assisted with the cost of collection, as for example, the harvesting of eggs. However paying an individual for sperm or eggs and then concealing their identity from their biological child is highly troublesome.
If we can work to remove the stigma surrounding sterility and artificial insemination we can work to encourage non-anonymous sperm and egg donation.
Ok, so there is some exploitation going on here but you haven't raised a viable alternative, what should we do instead?
Adoption in the US works despite much legislation protecting the rights of children and outlawing the exchange of money in adoption transactions. Many European nations including the UK have also outlawed anonymous donation and children continue to be born.
The promotion of non-anonymous sperm donation, in which children have the right to know the identity of their donors at a certain age offers a viable compromise. I personally know individuals that don't want to raise children but aren't averse to the idea of providing their sperm or eggs to others and allowing the child to know their identity. Not every fertile human being is fit to raise children but they do have viable gametes. If these individuals agreed to share their identity with their biological children, while this is not the ideal scenario, it does not deny the child access to their background.
Many people do not realize that the "veil" of anonymity does not just hide identity and save parents some heartache. Anonymity creates fertile ground for more negative acts of deception to flourish, such as the provision of inaccurate family histories and non-disclosure of mental health issues.
What about gay and lesbian couples? If you stop anonymous sperm donation they will be discriminated against potentially great parents.
I don't doubt there is discrimination against gay and lesbian couples and I understand why they might be against the type of changes for which I'm pushing. There is, however, something twisted and dangerous about the need for reverse anonymity in which characteristics of the parents must be concealed to enable donation. If you knew a donor would not provide sperm or eggs to your family because of your sexuality would you really want to produce a child with that person? Not only does this make your child the direct descendant of someone that inherently believes their parents are not worthy of parenthood, but it increases the odds that your child will have a negative experience if they manage to identify that individual.
Perhaps couples unable to find a non-anonymous donor in the broader population could reach out to their community for a resolution. Gay and lesbian couples include only one biological parent per child. Perhaps the other non-biological parent could donate their eggs or sperm to a couple of the opposite sex in need. Although I am heterosexual, I have friends in the community and I've always admired it's cohesive family-like nature. With the type of donation the community could come together to deal with potential discrimination as they have in the past. At the very least, parents would be assured their children have biological parents accepting of their upbringing and half-siblings who can easily relate to their family experience.
There is more to come, I just wanted to get these points out there for now.
As always, let me hear your thoughts or questions. They expand my mind and I value them deeply.