Who's Your Daddy?

Children of sperm donors are seeking more information about their once-anonymous fathers, sometimes at the risk of the fertility industry itself.

Eight years ago, a woman we’ll call Sarah discovered that she was not biologically related to the father she had known all her life. Sarah, her mother revealed, was “donor-conceived.” Her parents, after trying without success for a pregnancy of their own in the late 1970s, turned to a fertility center, where Sarah’s mother was artificially inseminated with sperm from an anonymous donor. At the time sperm banks did not offer detailed donor profiles. Upon discovering the truth, Sarah was told what her parents had been told about her biological father: He was a medical student, possibly of Scandinavian ancestry.

Sarah, who describes her family as “loving and stable,” was shocked. Today she is also sick. A year before finding out about her conception, she began to experience severe, unexplained bladder problems. She has been seeing doctors at Johns Hopkins; so far they haven’t figured out the cause. Recently married, Sarah worries that she may pass the illness on to future children. The medical history of her biological father could provide a crucial piece of the diagnostic puzzle.

But in the early days of artificial insemination, clinics often shredded or burned files to ensure donor anonymity and client privacy. Sarah’s father’s identity may be locked away in storage somewhere, or it may have been destroyed. Although aware of the likely futility of her search, Sarah still continues—writing the clinic, nurses, her doctor—in the hope that someone can help.

Faced with stories like this, the fertility industry and a few state governments are trying to come up with a way to ensure that future donor-conceived children will have access to their fathers’ medical files. A national registry, for example, could allow banks to monitor how many times a man donates semen and how many children are born from his seed, to share updates about medical issues and to facilitate long-term research on health outcomes.

But any such registry poses a threat to the privacy of sperm and egg donors, and to an industry whose very existence depends on some measure of discretion. In Europe and Australia, national governments created mandatory, centralized registries that activists succeeded in opening to the public, eliminating the possibility of anonymous donation. The result: Donors ceased to come forward in adequate numbers, and the waiting lists for sperm and ova have grown very long. For women nearing the end of their fertility, such regulation may mean they never achieve pregnancy.

In the long run, some kind of registry probably is coming to the United States. But what should it look like? Who should control it? And who will have access to it?

The End of Anonymity

While few American clinics still actively destroy files, sperm banks and egg donor agencies that go out of business do not always preserve records of donor identities. The sperm bank industry is fairly consolidated, with only a few major players, but there are hundreds of egg donor agencies, many of which are side practices of local physicians. Andrea Braverman, a psychologist who has worked in the field for over a decade, was employed by one such agency in Philadelphia for 15 years. “That place folded last fall,” she tells me. “I think of all those people I saw and all those records. I still wonder, where are they?”

Access to medical information has become a major issue as scientists learn more about the hereditary aspects of disease. Most clinics now offer detailed medical histories along with sperm and ova, but donors may not know at the time of donation whether they are at heightened risk for breast cancer or heart disease—information that could possibly save a life.

In Europe many mandatory government-run registries initially respected donor anonymity. But faced with political pressure from donor-conceived activists and others, they eventually opened their registries to offspring. In societies where children have the legal right to know the identities of their biological parents, anonymous donation is effectively banned, and the supply of sperm and egg donors immediately plummets.

Consider the United Kingdom. Since 1991 the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has overseen all infertility treatments and research in the U.K., including a central registry of gamete donors. Its registry is one of the largest in the world, with information on every treatment cycle involving donor eggs, sperm, and embryos. Since 1995 offspring have been able to find siblings through the U.K. DonorLink, a voluntary registry funded by the Department of Health.

As of April 2005, after two years of intense debate, the children of donors won legal access to the registry, destroying the possibility of anonymous donation in Great Britain. Any donor today must be registered and must agree to the release of his or her identity to the offspring when they come of age. Offspring born prior to the new law can receive nonidentifying information about their donors, including occupation, interests, and religion.

As a result, the donor pool in Britain has shrunk drastically, driving patients to travel abroad or purchase gametes through the Internet. A recent U.K. government report found that the number of insemination treatments fell by about 30 percent in 2006, despite a small increase in sperm donors. Most of those new donors, the report found, were “directed donors,” friends or relatives donating exclusively for one couple’s use. Patients without such help may wait up to two years.

The shortage has left many would-be parents in an impossible situation. Writing in The Guardian this past July, a woman named Naomi Anderson described her “tussle” with British bureaucracy. In 2006 Anderson’s husband was diagnosed as azoospermic (with no sperm). Faced with a two-year wait for a donor, Anderson—who was then in her mid-30s, her “fertility in freefall”—went into a panic. She appealed to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority to allow her to use an American donor and was denied. In her second appeal, she stressed her husband’s “North American background” and was approved. What, she wondered, of those “who have no connection with any other country”?

Their prospects appear dim. There are now barely 300 men in Britain willing to be sperm donors. The number of donors in the Netherlands has likewise dropped, with women traveling to neighboring Belgium for fertilization. (See “Shopping for Fertility Markets,” page 44.) Couples in Australia face up to a two-year wait for sperm.

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  • Elemenope||

    Great picture; really captures the heart of it.

  • New World Dan||

    While I'm rather sympathetic to the children of sperm donors, I expect this issue to be moot in 30 years. DNA registries are growing rapidly. Before long these children will be able to go in for a cheek swab and get a report back in a couple of days identifiying their genetic line.

  • Darth Vader||

    I wasn't a sperm donor.

  • ||

    My question is this:

    When does the father's right to privacy trump a child's right to know his parentage?

  • Naga Sadow||

    You don't know th power of the fertile side!

    Cut, print, gay.

  • ||

    Industry self regulation is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN with a lazi-fare/free-market/libertarian mindset. A US Central Registry doesn't even BEGIN to the address the human rights of people conceived from these methods. Government regulation WITH education is the only way to set things in balance. Please read more on the bigger issue:

    http://citizensbriefingbook.change.gov/ideas/viewIdea.apexp?id=0878000000055cQ&srPos=5&srKp=087

    See comments (specifically):

    donor conceived
    1/16/2009 9:39 AM
    "This proposal doesn't even begin to address the human rights of children conceived through these methods. Nothing less than full disclosure and identifying information of genetic parents and (half) siblings is acceptable. Thanks for the bone but more non-identifying facts are not enough. This is not acceptable."

    LynneWSpencer
    1/17/2009 6:09 PM
    "All individuals conceived by the intentional use of donated gametes should have the right to know their genetic heritage, including who their genetic parents and siblings are, and information about medical history, ethnic background, and interests of the donor.
    Lynne W Spencer
    51 year old sperm donor offspring and author of "Sperm Donor Offspring: Identity and Other Experiences.""

    ALSO PLEASE REFERENCE:
    http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/a_creation_myth_for_the_21st_century/

    http://www.americanadoptioncongress.org/assisted_reproduction.php

    http://donorconceived.blogspot.com/

    http://handsoffourovaries.com/

    http://www.idoalliance.org/

    http://www.tangledwebs.org.au/

    http://www.tangledwebs.org.uk/tw/

    http://inodco.com/

    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/DonorSiblingRegistry/

    http://www.amfor.net/DonorOffspring/

    http://www.ukdonorlink.org.uk/

    http://www.spenderkinder.de/

    http://childofastranger.blogspot.com/

    http://cryokidconfessions.blogspot.com/

    http://www.experienceproject.com/stories/Am-Donor-Conceived/105886

    http://donatedgeneration.blogspot.com/

    http://t5sdaughter.blogspot.com/

    http://umbliclychallenged.blogspot.com/

    http://sonofasurrogate.tripod.com/blog/

  • ||

    donor:

    Yes, I can see where the father has a legal right to privacy, but the inherent human right of the child to know his parentage supercedes that.

  • ||

    Not sure what the correct regulatory solution is, but I'm just surprised that the demand for anonymous sperm is so high. A donor who is willingly tracked down (as compared to hunted down because his anonymity got shot down by a law) is such an asset to a child that I don't understand how any parent would want anything else.

  • ||

    Cheryl Miller: It had never occurred to me that any sperm bank would refuse gay donors, or even care. Do you know if these banks disclose the donors' orientations, or allow prospective mothers to opt out of gay sperm?

  • ||

    Yes, Legate, it does seem to go against our own nature to see ourselves perpetuated in future generations.

  • ||

    I'm honestly not sure about the "right" of donor-conceived children to know the actual identity of their genetic fathers, particularly when those donations were made with the contractual expectation of privacy.

    I'm also sympathetic to the needs of the donor-conceived for access to the medical records of their fathers. It seems that medical records, scrubbed of personally identifying information, could be provided to donor conceived individuals.

    This raises another question -- are donors required to constantly report their medical records to the banks? Ie, what if a donor develops a condition later in life

    Also, this would seem to establish a right for those naturally conceived but fathered by someone other than their mother's husband through plain old adultery to learn about their mother's (possible) indiscretions. Ie, mom banged her brother in law.

  • ||

    Miller claims that we "need a way to balance, not eliminate, the conflicting interests involved."

    What we actually need is to see the multitudinous harms that have been done to millions of donor conceived people the world over since donor conception was first used. The practice began secretly and gained acceptance by stealth, ensuring that the public had no real knowledge of the broken, dysfunctional families, divorce and the mental instability caused to all parties involved in "creating families" by circumventing male infertility.

    Now a new generation of donor offspring, without any visible fathers at all, is springing up to suit the lifestyle choices of women who are unable or unwilling to develop and maintain a normal adult relationship with a man.

    What we really need is to recognise that donor conception is inherently flawed. There can be no "balance" when parents get what they want at the cost of their donor cocneived child's need and right to know and be cared for by their biological fathers.

    Ban donor conception and make the world a better, fairer place.

  • ||

    But Tonio:

    I don't see how a contract can supercede a natural human right. If it does, then that is nothing more than an infringement and it puts the law before the freedom of man. Man is thus bound by the law.

  • ||

    I believe people have a right to know who their parents are, and I don't think one parent should have the right to deny that knowledge once their children reach adulthood. The question is, does someone have right to a child even if they can't biologically have one? If you want a child so badly, adopt one. Or at least don't use anonymous donors, if you plan to use a donor.

  • ||

    Now a new generation of donor offspring, without any visible fathers at all, is springing up to suit the lifestyle choices of women who are unable or unwilling to develop and maintain a normal adult relationship with a man.

    Translation: Heather wants to prohibit all donations because she doesn't want lesbians to have kids.

    Heather, lesbians can always do this the old-fashioned way: wait till she's ovulating, tart up a bit, and hit the bars. Alternately, they can find a willing gay male and buy a turkey baster. And there's not a bloody thing you can do to stop this.

    See you next Tuesday!

  • ||

    Rob:

    My take is that no one has the right to have a child. BUT that being said, the state does not have the right to prohibit someone from having one, either.

  • ||

  • ||

    Alternately, they can find a willing gay male and buy a turkey baster. And there's not a bloody thing you can do to stop this.

    I don't object to that. A friend of mine did that, and is still in the baby's life. He has no financial liabilities and no control as to how the baby grows up. But at least the kid will now who his father is, albeit more like the role of an uncle in it's life.

  • ||

    Heather, did you bother to read the article? If you did, you would have seen that most women who get fertilized with donor sperm do so while they are currently in a relationship with a man. These are not single women raising a child by themselves. These are people in a stable relationship who are unable to concieve because of male infertility, not because the women is "unable" to maintain a relationship with a man. Perhaps you should abide by the #1 rule of internet commenting:
    Actually read the goddamn post before you comment on it.
    Now that I've got that out of my system, I pose a question; What if a mother who falls on hard times with a baby fertlized with donor sperm tries to force the donor to pay child support? Could it happen?

  • ||

    Kim: I do agree. The biological parent has no special right to privacy when procreating, and the mother has no right to sign a contract to change that. And what I meant before is that can't claim a right to have a kid with an anonymous donor shall trump any rights the child would normally have.

  • ||

    Um, that last comment was from me, not Kim.

  • ||

    OK, it's easy to say that the right to know the identity of one's parents is a "human right," but libertarians are big into rule of law. The law as written by legislators and interpreted by the courts. Not nebulous "natural" rights which are not codified.

    Can anyone show an actual law or court opinion that establishes this?

  • 9th Amendment||

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

  • ||

    Tonio:

    I agree that we can only go by what law is on the books now, but we must also take into account the natural human right, and codify that, if necessary. I see it as becoming increasingly necessary.

  • ||

    And let's not forget this one thing: if the law falls on the side of the anonymous donor, what we are saying to the child is this:

    "You are not allowed to know this piece of information about yourself."

    That's not libertarian.

  • zoltan||

    Does the donor-conceived have the right to know the identity of the donor? Why?

  • ||

    He has no financial liabilities and no control as to how the baby grows up.

    IANAL, but AFAIK the mother, or the state could still come after the guy for child support. Unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

  • ||

    Zoltan:

    Does the state have the right to tell you you don't have the right to know who your father is? And if the state DOES have the right, the question then is: SHOULD they?

    My answer is a resounding NO!

  • ||

    9th Amendment: Irrelevant here. Fail.

    Kim: What is this natural law? What exactly does it say about the rights of the donor-conceived? What else does it say? Can the rest of us see it?

  • kim.luisi||

    Tonio:

    Can you take a stab at answering the questions in my last post?

  • ||

    Zoltan et all - PLEASE, if you REALLY are interested in EDUCATING your selves on the bigger picture READ THIS ARTICLE:
    http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/a_creation_myth_for_the_21st_century/P15/

    I do not think industry self regulation/lazi- fare marketplace/ Libertain philosophy is EVER going to work in our favor. Nothing less than full disclosure and identifying information is acceptable IMHO. You all should be aware that in MANY other countries, anonymity (for 'donors/vendors' and adoptee birth parents) is illegal. Why? Certainly, not to squash the baby/family dreams of the infertile/ socially infertile but for the BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD. (and I would add, for the best interests of society/culture as well...)

    I was impressed by Cheryl Miller's relatively neutral stance on her Donated Generation article,(http://www.thenewatlantis.com/blog/conceptions/donated-generation) but she does not seem to be neutral in this article by any means. In fact, she seems to have talked over our (the 'donor/vendor' conceived's) issues - other than a fleeting/gratuitous mention on our medical/genetic concerns.

    Also, in regards to obligations of our sperm/eggs, read this blog post titled "Anonymous Sperm Donation" (http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2008/06/anonymous-sperm-donation.html) It is from a blog titled "Alexander Pruss's Blog". His profile states that he is a philosopher at Baylor University. I think he raises some very good points:

    "Here is a valid argument:
    1. At least barring commensurate reasons, it is wrong to act in such a way that one will acquire a basic and serious human responsibility that one does not plan on fulfilling. (Premise)
    2. If one consensually reproduces, then one acquires a basic and serious human responsibility of parenthood for the offspring. (Premise)
    3. Anonymous sperm donors consensually reproduce the offspring that comes from their donated sperm. (Premise)
    4. Therefore, anonymous sperm donors acquire the basic and serious human responsibility of parenthood for the offspring. (By (2) and (3))
    5. Anonymous sperm donors typically do not plan to fulfill their parental responsibilities towards the offspring coming from their donated sperm. (Premise)
    6. Anonymous sperm donors typically lack reasons for the donation commensurate with the acquiring of unfulfilled parental responsibilities. (Premise)
    7. Therefore, typically, sperm donors act wrongly. (By (1), (4), (5) and (6))

    I suspect it's sound, too."

  • ||

    Tonio,
    More about the law issue and discrimination against the the 'donor/vendor' conceived.

    Taken from the IDOA Yearly Report: United States
    Source: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/idoa-discuss/message/309

    "Legal Discrimination Concerns:
    With Olivia Pratten's case in British Columbia looming, the legal perspective of the unconstitutionality of current donor conception practice is knocking on America's door. In order to establish that anonymous donations are unconstitutional, we must first defend that the so-called confidentiality agreements are of questionable constitutionality, because they are directly discriminating against individuals created by such contracts, and then we must convey that persons created by gamete donations are discriminated against by the United States under the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

    Persons created from gamete donations are considered an exception to standard law of parental obligations, where children born via donor sperm are generally not considered legally entitled to a father unless their mother is married to a man who consents to their conception. Children born from donor sperm are considered to be not related at all to their genetic father, and courts generally regard donor-conceived children to have no legal rights of support from parents except for the support that parents agree to supply (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/illegitimacy).

    In the 1970's, a series of Supreme Court decisions abolished common law disabilities of illegitimacy, as being in violation of the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, those of us conceived from a 'sperm vendor' are considered an exception to this law and are still legally discriminated against.

    If we consider our situations to be of similar circumstances to those born out of wedlock (we are not from our biological/genetic parents marriage, therefore not welcome, and not a part of that family), then based on the definition of discrimination ("involves treating someone less favorably because of their possession of an attribute - e.g. sex, age, race, religion, family status, national origins, military status, sexual orientation, disability, body size/shape - compared with someone without that attribute in the same circumstances" - See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/discrimination), this is surely grounds for a lawsuit.

    According to Bill Cordray, in his article "Is Anonymity Constitutional" (See: http://www.donorsiblingregistry.com/DSRblog/?p=44):
    "We are often told we should accept the fact that clinics are not obligated to release identifying information to us. The presumption is that the contracts drawn up by clinics or doctors are legally binding and guarantee a donor's right to anonymity. In fact, some courts have held such contracts as invalid, as cited by Tom [Sylvester] in the Johnson v. Superior Court case (See: "A Case Against Sperm Donor Anonymity" http://donorsiblingregistry.com/legal.pdf). The donor's right to anonymity is not codified anywhere and is simply an untested privilege invented by the infertility industry.

    Although there is an assumption of a right to the use of donor insemination, this does not mean that this right has priority over children's rights. These contracts are not seen by individual state laws as a means to deny our access to information. At best they ensure that there will be no interference from the donor into the parental autonomy and familial privacy interests while children are under the authority of their family's protection as minors. However, such interests disappear when a child reaches adulthood and attains individual autonomy. There is nothing in these contracts that would hold DI adults to the terms of anonymity, particularly since they were not a party to the agreement.

    The constitutionality of DI contracts is definitely questionable. This is the core of my belief in the case for abolition of anonymity. If the contracts cannot meet the substantive due process clause of the 14th amendment, then the terms are designed to protect the identity of the man who fathers a DI child are not defensible and are therefore could be ruled "unconstitutional."

    Section 1 of the 14th Amendment:
    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/discrimination), this is surely grounds for a lawsuit.

  • ||

    donorconceived:

    Would you prefer to have not been born, if you couldn't know your "true" father?

    If we consider our situations to be of similar circumstances to those born out of wedlock (we are not from our biological/genetic parents marriage, therefore not welcome, and not a part of that family), then based on the definition of discrimination ("involves treating someone less favorably because of their possession of an attribute - e.g. sex, age, race, religion, family status, national origins, military status, sexual orientation, disability, body size/shape - compared with someone without that attribute in the same circumstances"

    But donorconceived, if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, you're absolutely claiming that not only do sperm donors not have a right to anonymity, but that child support and other payments would be required from sperm donors. The arguments about illegitimacy being abolished and the right to a father and everything else points to that same line of reasoning.

    There is absolutely no way, donorconceived, to accept your arguments without accepting that sperm donors are also required to pay the same sort of child support as fathers of illegitimate children. And you think anonymity being abolished has decreased willing donors...

  • ||

    Can you take a stab at answering the questions in my last post?

    No, because they're really bad questions. Congratulate you on your attempt to construct narrowly-worded questions using words which are generally red flags to libertarians, but they're still not the right questions.

    I do not believe that anyone has an unqualified right to know who his parents are.

    It's not the state witholding records, it's the doctors.

    The doctors are witholding records to fulfill their contractual obligations to the donors.

    Absent of an legally enumerated right to know one's parentage, the state is passively enforcing the contract by failing to overturn it.

    DONORCONCEIVED: Philosophers spout off this sort of thing all the time. There is a difference between philosophy and law. I realize you want the law to say something different than what it does, and I take no joy in pointing this out to you, but we are a nation of written laws, not of philosophical opinions. Wikipedia, and donor-conceived support sites, are not legal references. Sorry.

  • ||

    John Thacker asked:

    "Would you prefer to have not been born, if you couldn't know your "true" father?"

    This question is demeaningly asked of us ALL THE TIME. Please refer to Margaret Somerville's comment on http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/a_creation_myth_for_the_21st_century/P15/

    "When someone said to one of these donor conceived young women, "You wouldn't be here complaining about not knowing who your father is except for donor insemination", she replied, "But if I were the result of rape, I wouldn't exist without the rape, but that doesn't mean I approve of rape." "

    John Thacker said "And you think anonymity being abolished has decreased willing donors..."

    If you take this to its LOGICAL conclusion 'sperm/egg' donation/selling/vending/womb selling/renting doesn't at all make much sense does it? Not so much a question as it is a statement. That is the point.

  • ||

    But if the state is protecting the father's anonymity, they are, in a sense, telling the child they do not have the right to know this information about themselves.

    I understand that the state cannot force a donor to reveal his identity. But the idea that a legal right trumps a human right is wrong.

  • ||

    Would you prefer to have not been born, if you couldn't know your "true" father?

    In the spirit of fairness, that's a really bad question, too.

  • ||

    I understand that the state cannot force a donor to reveal his identity. But the idea that a legal right trumps a human right is wrong.

    OK, Kim, turnabout is fair play. Show me these human rights, as requested in my previous post. You're engaging in both circular logic, and appeal to (non-existent) authority.

  • ||

    Free speech is a human right; it also happens to be codified in our law.

    Freedom of religion is a human right, which also happens to be codified in our law.

    These are just two examples.

  • ||

    Why would I care about a decrease in anonymous donors? Nobody has a right to someone else's sperm anyway. And I don't need to have something codified in law to recognize it as a right. Even without the first amendment, free speech is still a right. It just would mean, the country does not recognize your rights.

  • ||

    And I was the one who posted as the 9th amendment, in an attempt to show that even in our laws, it is not necessary for a right to be codified to establish that it exists. Your response was quite juvenile.

  • ||

    Tonio-
    I realize the difference between philosophy and "law". "Law" is generally about "rights". My previous post addresses "rights" pertaining to people conceived via AI (as discrimination). I am not just shouting my discontent blindly into cyberspace.
    I agree, "Wkipedia" is not a credible source, but this IS a serious legal issue that will have to be addressed by this (US) government in the near future. I am not a rogue advocate. Well, maybe in some regards I am since I'm even bothering to post this but -- well, let's just say -- all will make itself clear within time --

  • zoltan||

    Zoltan:

    Does the state have the right to tell you you don't have the right to know who your father is? And if the state DOES have the right, the question then is: SHOULD they?

    My answer is a resounding NO!


    Does the state have the right to intervene between a private contract between a donor and donee?

  • ||

    The idea that the "right to know who your biological parents are" is a natural right is absurd. In any sort of natural state, it is impossible for anyone other than your mother to know with any degree of certainty who your father is, and if she wasn't monagamous, then even she won't know. You can't expect there to be a right to know information that might not even exist. The fact that technology makes it possible to know a donor conceived person's parentage doesn't conjure up a new natural/human right that applies only to such people.

    This is one more example of why positive rights just don't work.

  • ||

    As a product of this technology I at one time used to worry about what the lack of donors and the removal of anonymity would have on the fertility industry. This was when I had repressed the pain and damage that being conceived in this manner had done to myself. It was only when I had children myself that I could truly see the full extent of this damage. Now as a parent I feel that this whole issue should be first and foremost about the children created this way and that under no circumstances should the severance of kinship and the removal of heritage, identity and family health history be forcefully imposed on any person just to cater for the desires of an adult. Children are not objects for our possession. The numbers of donors/vendors in many countries were dropping well before any mention of ceasing anonymity. To conclude that donors/vendors will cease to sell their children to other couples due to the removal of anonymity is erroneous and scaremongering on the part of the clinics.

  • ||

    This article perpetuates the myth of a relationship between anonymity and the number of available donors. With reference to the United Kingdom:
    Figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for the year following the change in anonymity rules in April 2005 showed a 6 per cent rise in the number of men registering as sperm 'donors'.

    The number of sperm donors registered has been falling at least since 1991, long before the anonymity change in 2005.

    The number of IVF patients has stayed roughly the same since the mid 90s.
    The number of donor inseminations has fallen steadily each year from then to about one third of that level.
    But the number of patients treated by ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) has risen steadily
    and this rise mirrors the fall in donor inseminations.
    The dropping numbers of donor inseminations are therefore not due to the removal of anonymity.

    Over the same period there are now more sperm donors per patient.
    In 1992 there were around 25 patients to one donor.
    This ratio has fallen steadily to around only 10 patients for each donor.

  • ||

    I waiting for the day when 'DNA healthy' men are forced to line up and get 'milked' for their good sperm and then forced to pay for the child. Oh wait, that already happens in the US and Britain.

  • AG||

    I don't view this issue as being about "natural rights" or any sort of rights. Donors don't have a right to privacy, nor do children of IVF have a right to know their donor father. It's a question of contracts. A man donates his sperm under the notion that there is indeed a contract stating anonymity, while the sperm bank, backed up by the government, upholds this contract.

  • Bill Cordray ||

    Tonio wrote: "I do not believe that anyone has an unqualified right to know who his parents are.

    It's not the state withholding records, it's the doctors."

    Good point. There is no law in any state that gives a doctor the power to prohibit access by a donor conceived people (DCP) to the records of their identity. There is also no law preventing them from exercising this presumed prohibitive power of procreative preclusion. States wash their hands of their responsibility to the public to regulate infertility medicine. When DCP protest, the doctors say they are giving infertile people choice. In reality, the whole system is set up by doctors to promote a lucrative business that is self-governing, Laissez-faire, libertarian, whatever. The point is they make all the rules that ultimately do not protect anyone more than their own selves. They institute protections to sheild themselves from accountability, not to protect children, infertile people, sperm donors but only themselves. Donors and intending parents come to doctors and have to play by their rules, without any say in contracts and without recourse to state laws or even guidelines. State legislatures, courts, and governors have had no idea what the doctors are doing and cannot act without risking a counterattack by one of the most powerful lobby groups around, the AMA. The history of DI goes back to 1884. It's cloak of secrecy and binding "contracts" have made its practices virtually unknown to society and therefore state governments. Until DCP came forth to speak out, no one knew that there was even anything possibly wrong with such an altruistic mission as helping barren women to have children. Now that governments know something about us does not mean that the "rights" issues are resolved but only that no one has expressed these issues effectively yet and so society is still ignorant of the profound sense of injustice that we DCP feel. We see our rights as being violated by such a system but we have not found the same kind of voice as Martin Luther King to make society understand it in their heart.

    "[Tonio]: The doctors are withholding records to fulfill their contractual obligations to the donors."

    Well, this is meaningless since it is the doctors that created these contracts and who are the source of our disenfranchisement. The contracts have cleverly pitted the "rights" of infertile people against the "rights" of the donors, with the central figures (DCP) left without a voice, since we did not yet exist until after the contracts were signed. This manipulation of a balance of rights is meant to keep the prime mover in the background, as if he played no part and was just a "provider" instead of the creator of the whole system. Why does it seem that the DCP are such threats to grown adults deliberately chose to deny the DCP access to their identity? If we are so frightening that the contractual parties need protection from us, then why were we created in the first place? Certainly we are not created for our own sake, but for the interests of future parents, the ego of donors, and the profits of the doctors.

    "[Tonio]: Absent of any legally enumerated right to know one's parentage, the state is passively enforcing the contract by failing to overturn it."

    That's not really plausible since such contracts existed decades before any government was even aware they were being written. In addition, the validity of these contracts have never been seriously challenged in US courts and may be totally indefensible, much like the various yellow-dog contracts common during the era of laissez-faire Economics, prior to the Great Depression, until the Supreme Court struck down the Sanctity of Contracts tenet before the beginning of WW2. And yet these untested contracts, 70 years later, are somehow given an air of sacred script even though they expressly restrict the rights and interests of DCP, those of us who are now human beings because of the contracts but had no voice in how these writs would so deeply affect us. By the way, the concept of a donor's right to privacy has no definition or principle that is consistent with the Rights of Privacy as first suggested by law student Louis Brandeis (not codified, by the way, until Brandeis was on the Court) and later expanded by Roe v. Wade and other decisions. As part of the contracts that infertility doctors and clinics have written, a donor's right to anonymity is a legal invention, made up out of thin air, not by legislatures or approved by courts, but by doctors themselves who have presumed this power to define who has rights and who doesn't in DI.

    [Tonio]: "DONORCONCEIVED: Philosophers spout off this sort of thing all the time. There is a difference between philosophy and law. I realize you want the law to say something different than what it does, and I take no joy in pointing this out to you, but we are a nation of written laws, not of philosophical opinions. Wikipedia, and donor-conceived support sites, are not legal references. Sorry."

    I suppose you are correct in the strict sense but please remember that it was a political philosopher who pointed out that the natural rights that Jefferson proclaimed are as much a part of our heritage as those mere civil and social rights that change with every session, vary from state to state, and get clarified by court decisions, evolving over time and expanding in greater freedoms. After Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney declared in his Dred Scott Decision that Negroes were not citizens, Abraham Lincoln said that all Americans had naturally endowed rights, even black slaves, which are inherent, superior to civil and social rights, and not subject to majority rule. Out of this philosophical opinion came the Emancipation Proclamation, the Fourteenth Amendment that actually codified Jefferson's natural rights, Johnson's Civil Rights Acts, and the eventual election of a President who would not have been considered a citizen if Taney's decision remained as the only legal precedent. Rights evolve and become codified when those of us who suffer injustice commit to the fight for the recognition of our natural rights. All we would need is action from President Obama to ratify the UN Charter on the Rights of Children and we would have enough precedent to push for the legal recognition of what we already know is our natural right to know our identity. We DCP see anonymity a social problem that restricts our identity interests and so we are no different as moral entrepreneurs as other rights advocates as King, Rosa Parks, Betty Freidan, Mario Salvo, Samuel Gompers, and Abraham Lincoln.

  • ||

    I was adopted, not sperm donor conceived. They have similar problems with legally learning your genetic heritage. In my case, legally, it ended up a good thing I was adopted not donor, and I support 200% the rights of both groups to learn the identities of their biological parents for medical and identity reasons.

    In the case of the young woman in the story, the medical problem was hers. In my case, it was my son. But in both after many fruitless and puzzling trips to specialists you hear over and over ... we need to know if any of these things are in your family. In the meantime, my son's quality of life is declining dramatically, and we can't do anything without knowing why. Test after test comes back negative.

    The state I was adopted in allowed me to break the legal seal. Within 6 months I had contact. Within days I had the information confirming a very rare hereditary degenerative disease. But, that isn't even the end. It seems it is only half the cause, and it is when this rare gene combines with another, and that has happened twice in my biological family's extended history, that symptoms like my son's appear. It took extensive family research with the help of the biological side that has the disorder and work with specialists to tell us what to look for to figure that out.

    Since it is degenerative, a person at childbearing years may not know they carry it yet. Without exhaustive research, the gene combo might not have been found. A sperm donor could have a degenerative condition, or be a carrier and not know it themselves at the time of donation.

    I have worked in medical research. A cheek swab test won't tell us what we need to know medically for at least a generation or two, if ever. Gene interactions can be quite complex. There is no substitute for genetic forensics when it comes to rare disorders.

    And, when the geneticist is looking at a blank slate, their job is very hard. I go back to a specialist tomorrow, finally, with all the pieces of the puzzle in my hands. For the first time a predicted supplement actually did what was predicted. Now, we know, we can start figuring out how to treat him.

    So, what is the human right here? Life. Is my son's life worth someone's privacy?

    The law said no, and all my biological relatives, when told of the situation agreed as well.

  • ||

    This whole kerfuffle is silly. If the problem is medical records, anonymous medical records can easily be kept and delivered after fertilization. JoHn Doe, donor, with DNA profile xyz, and history as follows-.

    What possible 'human right' is there for information? that is simply ludicrous. You can say of course that you think its a good idea...that X should be a law, but please dont shroud it in the language of 'human' rights.

    If you think the whole thing is suspect, then argue for banning the practice if you find it harmful to the offspring. But do not posit some sort of 'human right' to INFORMATION>

  • Caroline Lorbach||

    Sometimes I want to scream! The line that there will be no sperm donors if we end anonymity & give rights to donor conceived people is so often trotted out with no backing in reality except for maybe a few badly researched newspaper articles. Yes, many clinics in the UK did have a drop in donor numbers around the time of their legislation starting. But, can we directly attribute that to the legislation? I have had direct experience of these "shortages' having helped a clinic here in Australia in the 1990's with an advertising campaign which took their waiting list from 2 years down to "zero" (they still kept a compulsory 6 month wait to allow people to further think through their decision to use donor conception. There have always been times of "drought" in sperm donor numbers. Back to the UK while most clinics in the UK had very few donors or none at all - guess what? Very few clinics in the UK do their own recruitment of sperm donors; they get sperm from other clinics or wait for men to "come in off the street." There were 2 clinics in the UK who after a while wrote papers about the fact that they had plenty of donors because they had active recruitment programs plus they provided their donors with plenty of information services. One was the London Women's Clinic and the other, I think, was in Manchester (don't have the info right at hand).
    Here in Australia the year after the Victorian legislation banning anonymous donors they had more donors than the year before. In New Zealand where all clinics voluntarily stopped using anonymous donors well over a decade ago some clinics also found that they had more donors when they allowed the donors to be identifiable. And I purposely use the word "allow" because it was the clinics who themselves decided on the anonymous system, they did not give donors a choice.
    Donor conceived people should have the same rights as adoptees have in most countries. Here in Australia adoptees were given the right to know who their biological parents were in the 1980's (dependant on state) even though in many states those parents were guaranteed that they would remain anonymous (in some states this was guaranteed by law). Luckily governments here decided to overturn that system as not being in the best interests of adoptees. I believe that just about everybody believes that this is definitely the way that things should be in adoption. Why should donor conception be any other way?
    The Donor Conception Support Group of Australia Inc. is currently running a petition to present to our Federal Government to give rights of access to information for all donor conceived people in Australia. Please sign it at www.dcsg.org.au (follow the link on the homepage).

  • ||

    Why can't the donor (man with sperm) give a sample of his DNA (anonymous) to said sperm bank, then the recipient can always access the anonymous DNA sample if there are valid health reasons.

  • ||

    We may be writing to teh converted here, but anyway, please see the link >

    http://needing-fathers.blogspot.com

  • ||

    I was told at 16 my father was actually another man, who I met once when I was thirty, so this has some resonance for me.
    1. We are libertarians, so donors have a legal right to anonymity. However, we need to change public attitudes, because these children have a moral right to know their parents.
    2. If we mandated disclosure, then donors would decrease. However, in a free-market system this will make potential donors who don't care who knows they are their father more valuable, and increase the market rate. This will allow some folk to make a living as donors. I'm thinking of all the money that has slipped through my fingers over the years.

    Miss Luisi,
    The right to be left alone is a human right, but the mere existence of law violates that right.

  • ||

    Mr. Rational,

    I think I follow you but don't understand how, as a libertarian, you say that "donors have a LEGAL right to anonymity" when libertarian's don't believe in law? If "all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her own values for the benefit of others." (http://www.lp.org/platform) wouldn't that mean that LEGAL recognition of anonymity and privacy should not exist at all? Wouldn't that support full transparency for the infertility industry?

  • ||

    Libertarians come in all persuasions. Most believe in a limited form of government, whose paramount goal is to be minimally invasive. If you don't believe in law, you are a anarchist. One of my points was that an individual donor should not be compelled legally to disclose their identity just because the offspring wants it. I do feel that society needs to adopt the voluntary moral standard that if you donate you should allow your offspring to know who you are.

  • ||

    Mr. Rational,
    This doesn't really make sense. Continuing with this mindset, that there should be no law in regards to disclosure of identity, is a form of anarchy. I love the idea that "moral/ethical" education would/could turn things around. It's a wonderfully, warm and fuzzy feel good goal but it is absolutely unrealistic when applied to the real world. People are selfish by nature, hence, the law of "rights".

    'We', as donor/vendor conceived, are sovereign over our own lives and should not be forced to sacrifice our own values (identity, choice etc.) for the benefit of our parents or others. I think, from a libertarian POV, this IS reason to support full transparency from the infertility industry WITH the education/enlightenment that society needs to adopt supporting the voluntary moral stand that if you donate you should allow your offspring to know who you are.

  • Mr. Rational||

    It makes perfect sense. Libertarians believe that donating to or using reproductive medicine is completely voluntary. If you choose to donate without making your identity known, or use an anonymous donor, that is your choice. It is not the place of the government to mandate registering the identities of those donating to or using those services. As I mentioned, I've met my father once. If I had felt my desire to have had him as my father, it would have slammed right up against his desire not to be my father. I'm not trying to be dismissive of your feelings, as I don't know my father in any signifigant way other than his name, but your desire to know your parent(s) is not more important or moral/ethical than their desire to be unknown, and it is not the place of government to be involved in it. The one exception that might pass in a libertarian sense is medical history, and an intermediary having the ability to contact that person letting them know their offspring desires contact.

  • Bill Cordray ||

    Tushar wrote: "This whole kerfuffle is silly. If the problem is medical records, anonymous medical records can easily be kept and delivered after fertilization. John Doe, donor, with DNA profile xyz, and history as follows-. What possible 'human right' is there for information? That is simply ludicrous. You can say of course that you think it's a good idea...that X should be a law, but please don't shroud it in the language of 'human' rights. If you think the whole thing is suspect, then argue for banning the practice if you find it harmful to the offspring. But do not posit some sort of 'human right' to INFORMATION."

    Tushar:

    It is not silly or ludicrous to those who have been denied access to their identity by the arbitrary whims of the infertility industry that justifies the denial by positing another more silly claim that people do not have any responsibility to the children they create. It takes only a small percentage of affected people to make a claim that a specific policy is a violation of rights to make that right a legitimate social problem. A majority of unaffected people cannot simply dismiss such a claim on the basis of silliness if those affected can make a moral stance beyond mere access to medical records.

    The main problem is not medical records but personal identity, a need that is widely recognized by psychologists such as Erik Erikson, sociologists like Ken Daniels, law professors like Naomi Cahn and much of society. It is not silly if others, especially a large number of parents of DCP like Caroline Lorbach and many gamete donors like those on various web sites also take our claims to this right seriously. Our push for rights is also widely supported by the adoption reform community, which includes adopted people, original parents, adoptive parents, adoption counselors, adoption law specialists, and many social scientists.

    It is all too common that human rights claims get dismissed as silly. I could go through every such claim in our history and find similar comments to yours that have resisted social change that we now take as fundamental to our concept of equal rights. If I were to take your last suggestion and argue for the banning of the practice, I would still have to resort to the claim that harm to DCP is a violation of our rights. It is ironic that this business that denies us our rights to identity is predicated on an alleged right for donor anonymity. But, as I said before, this is a manipulated issue to deflect our complaints onto donors and infertility patients instead of on the medical specialty of infertility. The practice could exist with anonymity abolished and I would no longer complain since I respect the liberty of women to pursue pregnancy via men who are willing to provide sperm as long as the identity of such men is not hidden. I don't want to ban DI. Some DCP do but I feel that I must recognize that even a practice that is inherently bizarre to me might not seem so to others. That's a different argument I am not willing to pursue since I am much more concerned that the emphasis on anonymity in DI contradicts our basic psychological need for full identity and eliminates personal moral responsibility of parents for their children.

  • Mr. Rational||

    One more thing. Believing there are areas of human interactions that should not have laws doesn't mean anarchy. Anarchy means having no laws.

  • ||

    Mr. Rational wrote:
    "If you choose to donate without making your identity known, or use an anonymous donor, that is your choice. It is not the place of the government to mandate registering the identities of those donating to or using those services"

    I absolutely disagree. Why are the choices of the parents/donors/vendors/surrogates to remain anonymous upheld (legally) as more important than the choices of the very people they collaborate to produce?

    It is not the place of government or institutions to deliberately (legally) withhold information that an individual holds as personal and significant, not only to themselves but to their own child etc through out time and history. It is equally OUR CHOICE to know and have full identity disclosure.

    See Bill Cordray's posts for the tie-in.

  • ||

    Its funny that we live in a world where women can commit paternity fraud and get the courts to impose child support on the wrong man. And now we have children that are seeking sperm donors. Compulsory DNA testing is the only way to go.

  • Mr. Rational||

    Donor conceived,
    You have hit the crux of the matter. You want something that direcly conflicts with the desire of another. You are on the wrong website. Libertarians believe the government should stay out of the personal lives on individuals, and this is a personal matter. The government wouldn't punish your mother for sleeping with a stranger and depriving you of your father's identity, and this situation is the same. Your mother chose to use anonymous sperm, take up the situation with her. I have sympathy for your situation, but mandating registering donor identity won't fix the problem. Many fewer people will donate, people will donate with fake IDs, and because of the shortage sperm banks won't verify that ID. Basically it will decrease the quantity and quality of the supply and drive up the price.

  • Grrrr||

    Just be thankful you're alive, test tube babies!

  • ||

    "The government wouldn't punish your mother for sleeping with a stranger and depriving you of your father's identity"

    No, of course not. That's not the point - let's stay on topic. The government doesn't punish mothers, it supports the rights of children (i.e. child support). But as Margaret Somerville states "But we are not talking about "the bedrooms of the nation" here - we speaking about "the laboratories, hospitals and clinics of the nation", and in those the government (society, its values, law and ethics) has an important and legitimate role in determining what is and is not acceptable conduct within them. "

    In the laboratories, hospitals and clinics of the nation, children's rights need and should (BY LAW!) to come first. This is certainly not an issue that will end with this discussion.

    RE: "you are on the wrong website" Actually, I think I am on the right website. We obviously are not going to convert each other but I do like the education this has provided for me. It seems as if this philosophy of yours and your group, in regards to this issue, is ultimately about supply and demand - I just see this as a seriously flawed and weak argument.

  • Mr. Rational||

    Your comments basically come down to "We want to know who our fathers are, and we're going force donors to register." even though donors have an EQUALLY VALID desire to remain anonymous. "Think of the children" is the last refuge of someone who wishes to legislate behavior that is not the business of the government. My, and most libertarians, argument has nothing to do with supply and demand, but keeping the government out our business. When a mother uses an anonymous donor, it is a private matter between parent and child. It should not involve the donor. I understand your (and others like you) desire, but you seem unable to understand that donors who wish to remain anonymous have an EQUAL right to their desire. When these two wishes collide, government should not create a new power for itself.

  • ||

    You're right, I do not see these interests as EQUAL at all especially when this is being done in clinics, hospitals etc. where the children's interests (the very people they are creating) should ALWAYS COME FIRST. And the law needs to change to reflect that.

    I think men who gave their sperm to create children as a "donor" or "sperm vendor", who hide from the children they intentionally helped to make, are scaping the bottom of the ethical barrel.

  • Mia S.||

    When does the father's right to privacy trump a child's right to know his parentage? The answer is never.

    The fact that fertility has become an INDUSTRY should be enough to set off major alarms. If you donate sperm you might just end up a father. Hiding parentage from children? Are you KIDDING ME? You can't get any more self absorbed than that.

  • Think of the children||

    You can get more self absorbed that sperm donors who wish to be anonymous. Mothers that produce children without a father. Even if the donor identity is known, it's just a name. The same "crisis of identity" that the children have won't be any less knowing who their father is. Wanting to know your father's influence on who you are takes long term interaction, and most donors don't want that. Many will be fine with an initial meeting and limited contact, but the fact that most donors are anonymous shows they don't want the father role. As was posted earlier, this comes from the mothers desire to have a child, so posters send a little of your anger towards the mothers who are the biggest factor in this situation.

  • Bill Cordray ||

    Dear "Think of the children"
    "You can get more self absorbed than sperm donors who wish to be anonymous. Mothers that produce children without a father. Even if the donor identity is known, it's just a name. The same "crisis of identity" that the children have won't be any less knowing who their father is. Wanting to know your father's influence on who you are takes long term interaction, and most donors don't want that. Many will be fine with an initial meeting and limited contact, but the fact that most donors are anonymous shows they don't want the father role. As was posted earlier, this comes from the mothers desire to have a child, so posters send a little of your anger towards the mothers who are the biggest factor in this situation."

    An interesting aspect of this point is that during the history of DI from 1884 to 1983 or so, the mothers and donors took part in this had no other option but anonymity. It can even be argued that donors were under social pressure and had little choice not to become donors. At the time of my conception in 1944, virtually all donors were medical school students who were expected to donate as first or second year medical students as part of their training in Obstetrics and Gynecology. The primary experts in infertility were medical school professors, not your typical general practitioner of those days. If you were in medical school in the mid-twentieth century, would you be willing to say no when your professors asked you to become a sperm donor? You might have felt that a refusal would affect your chances of graduation.

    Infertile couples who went to gynecologists to investigate their infertility first heard of donor insemination from these same professors, not in Time magazine or Oprah. Couples (no lesbians or single women for the first 100 years) came to these highly idolized men with no knowledge of the full meaning of this action. They were breathtakingly ignorant and probably first heard about DI as an option from the doctor himself.

    For much of the history of DI, donors had no choice but to be anonymous. When I looked at my local clinic's brochure from 1987, I found that donor applicants who had any interest in their children were routinely rejected as inappropriate.

    Donors who have sought contact later on are just as quickly denied any information as were DI parents and DI conceived adults. So, any frustrations we have are best directed at the clinic policies, not the donors or mothers.

    By the way, "GRRR," children of sperm donors who are protesting are mostly adults, some older than I am at age 63. We are not "test-tube babies." That dismissive term describes IVF children.

    The thrust of Charles Sims voluntary registry is not, as Cheryl Miller describes, to pre-empt federal regulation but is a reactionary response to the highly successful Donor Sibling Registry web site where DI parents, donors, and DCP have done an end run around the walls of secrecy built by the ASRM. The clinics are dismayed that these people have managed to make connections by using the donor numbering system of clinics and allowing all parties to compare donor numbers and pursue direct contact. Thousands of siblings have made connections this way and many donors have willingly made connections with their children as well. If this is truly illegal then why are there no suits by clinics against the web site? I suggest that the clinics know that their contracts will not withstand court scrutiny, especially since the DCP are the focus of the contracts and were stripped of their rights prior to their existence.

    The real issue is not federal control but the ASRM desire to maintain tight control. We would still be subject to clinics approval of any contact through the ASRM registry and they have proven to be uncooperative even when all parties express a desire to connect. In adoption, similar state run voluntary adoption registries have proven to be a means to continue adoption agency control over who gets information.

    I admit I don't completely understand libertarian principles but doesn't the absolute control that clinics maintain go against the liberties of donors, donor parents and donor conceived people?"

  • ||

    From all the kerfuffle getting spouted here about "a RIGHT to know your parents!" I imagine their next stance is going to be mandatory DNA tests to determine paternity/maternity. After all, it's your RIGHT!

    Right. Beautiful bunch of libertarians you are.....a lot of kids don't know their parents--through war, sickness, getting adopted, etc. They survived. Get used to reality, people.

  • Mr. Rational||

    Mr. Cordray,
    I don't know the history of DI, so I can't comment on the past, and my sympathy goes to those affected by past misdeeds. I can comment on today from a libertarian standpoint. There are clinics with open records today. Women can choose to use them, and not use anonymous ones. There are mothers and donors who want anonymity. Women can choose those anonymouse clinics as well. There is no need to involve the GOVERNMENT in a PRIVATE matter. There is no need to even use a clinic, just a willing donor and a syringe. You speak about the absolute control clinics have as against libertarian principles. They do not have absolute control, because people are free to use open clinics, they are free to open their own clinics, they are free to donate and inseminate at home, etc. They are also free to use and donate anonymously as well. If the government mandates registration of donors that is a reduction of liberty because THAT is total control.

  • A rebuttal ||

    A rebuttal to Cheryl Miller's article "Whose Your Daddy" http://donatedgeneration.blogspot.com/2009/02/whose-your-daddy-rebuttal.html written by Damien Adams (previously interviewed by Cheryl Miller - see below)

    Part One:
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/blog/conceptions/questions-for-damian-adams-donor-conceived-adult

    Part Two:
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/blog/conceptions/questions-for-damian-adams-donor-conceived-adult-2

  • donorconceived||

    Whose Your Daddy? - a rebuttal.
    http://donatedgeneration.blogspot.com/2009/02/whose-your-daddy-rebuttal.html

    The following post is a rebuttal and letter to the author Cheryl Miller in regard to her article:
    Whose Your Daddy?

    I am certainly not against anyone having differing views to myself. After all that is what society is all about. However, when the whole premise of the arguement is based on error riddled information the value of such a perspective is lost. And unfortunately for those who do not know any better they would believe that the premise is based on fact, which it is not, and is a shame.

    Dear Cheryl

    The following letter contains factual information that is contrary to the erroneous claims made by yourself in your article "Whose Your Daddy?"

    While many adult donor-conceived people are upset at the lack of forethought given to their emotions and thoughts on the issue in regard to the subject matter, the purpose of this letter is not to delve into these issues which some people may classify as debatable, but to correct the erroneous claims in a scholarly manner.

    "In Europe and Australia, national governments created mandatory, centralized registries that activists succeeded in opening to the public, eliminating the possibility of anonymous donation. The result: Donors ceased to come forward in adequate numbers, and the waiting lists for sperm and ova have grown very long."

    Clinics will often parade these lines out in a scaremongering propaganda campaign to garner sympathy and to attract more donors but it is rarely based on fact. Numbers of donors for the vast majority of places around the world had been dropping for many years prior to any suggestion of the removal of anonymity and the creation of any registry. This is not a new phenomenon, however, the clinics would like us to believe that this is the case. A prime example is South Australia which is one of the only places in the world to actually have legislation that guarantees anonymity. This legislation was initially enacted in 1988, yet the numbers of donors have steadily decreased. This is the exact antithesis of your claim. If your claim as the removal of anonymity as being the major source of donor shortage then surely South Australia would have more than enough donors. Victoria, another state in Australia which has the most progressive legislation in the world on donor conception had an increase in donors the year after they banned anonymous donations and set-up a centralized register. Two clinics in the UK since starting an active recruitment campaign shortened their waiting period effectively to zero (an increase in donor numbers). The others that complained of shortages never took part in active recruitment. In New Zealand, their donor numbers also increased after anonymous donations were voluntarily withdrawn by the NZ clinics.
    As you can see there are numerous examples that show that removal of anonymity and the establishment of registers does not necessarily equate to a reduction in donor numbers.
    The reduction of donor numbers can equally be explained by the attitudes of men in that time as opposed to any restrictions placed on them.

    "Since 1995 offspring have been able to find siblings through the U.K. DonorLink, a voluntary registry funded by the Department of Health."

    UK DonorLink was not in operation in 1995, it only came online in 2004.

    "A recent U.K. government report found that the number of insemination treatments fell by about 30 percent in 2006, despite a small increase in sperm donors."

    The number of donor insemination treatments fell so drastically for couples due to the prominence of ICSI treatment. The lack of available donor samples is currently due to the newer trend of single-mothers-by-choice and lesbian groups.

    "Many Europeans thought that by mandating a registry and banning donor anonymity they had solved the problem of offspring not having information about their biological parents. They soon found, though, that parents were getting around the ban by simply not telling their children about the circumstances of their conception."

    This is not new. This was THE practice for the majority of donor conception practices around the world until only recently. It has always been a practice that has been shrouded in secrecy and deception, patients were actively counselled not to tell the children.

    "The program, started in 1983 by The Sperm Bank of California (TSBC), releases a donor's identity to his offspring when the child turns 18. Scheib, along with the sperm bank staff, expected that most offspring would want to meet their donors, but few of the eligible offspring have chosen to."

    That would be obvious as the vast majority do not even know that they are even donor conceived. Your own article even states that in Sweden only 10% of offspring were told. Here in Australia a recent study by Monash IVF showed that only 30% intended to tell - fewer ever do. It is difficult to knock on a door that you do not even know exists. This paragraph of your article is misleading as it makes the assumption that the majority of offspring do not want identifying information. It is completely false as the research conducted by Mahlstedt et al to be published in Sterility and Fertility (accepted) shows that 87% of adult donor offspring wish to know the identity of their father, while 62% wanted to at least meet him once and 26% wanted to establish a relationship with him. So for the vast majority, paternal kinship is a very vital and important component of their lives that cannot be ameliorated by a simple medical file.
    Your article leads the reader on a journey whereby the conclusion that infertile couples are being denied the chance to procure a child through a financial transaction is being hampered by the rights and desires of the offspring already created in this manner. Yet the data that you have used to support this claim, that of donor numbers dropping due to the removal of anonymity and the creation of registers (which for the vast majority there are no centralized registers accessible to offspring as yet, unless you are a Great Britain or Victorian and then only if you are born after a certain date) is not supported in fact. This claim is misleading and erroneous at best.

  • ||

    One way to get a handle and proper perspective on this debate is to understand that donor conceived children are subject to a violation of U.N. human rights laws.

    That is: by the U.N.'s own understanding


    U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    Article 16 declares the right to marry based on the traditional definition of marriage, and states that such a family is "the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State."

    Article 16
    1.Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
    2.Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
    3.The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

    Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
    The Convention states in Article 7 that the child has "as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents". Article 3 states that "In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration."

    Article 7
    1. The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents

  • ||

    I have always thought that one core tenets of libertarianism was "do not harm others." I thought that was one of the reasons that many libertarians support ideas like the legalization of drugs, and that it was also why many libertarians are viewed as somewhat isolationist in foreign relations.

    How then do you reconcile this tenet against the fact that many DI people have been or are harmed by the practice?

    I recognize the desire to keep government out of this, but if people are being harmed by the practices of other people, isn't that what some form of regulation is for? Isn't that why we have laws in the first place?

    Full disclosure - I am a DI person, who also has very strong libertarian leanings. I'm just curious how I can reconcile what I'm reading here with my own thoughts and feelings.

  • Mark Lyndon||

    "In societies where children have the legal right to know the identities of their biological parents, anonymous donation is effectively banned, and the supply of sperm and egg donors immediately plummets."

    "As a result [of the ending of donor anonymity], the donor pool in Britain has shrunk drastically"

    ** THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE. **

    The numbers of UK sperm donors have gone *UP* four years in a row since the ending of donor anonymity, thus reversing a three year decline. The most recent figures are from 2008, when there were more sperm donors than in any year since 1996 (see link).

    So why does almost every article that talks about the ending of donor anonymity in the UK say the exact opposite? Are the journalists too lazy to check and just copying from the last article, or do they not want to let the facts get in the way of a good story?

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