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02/12/2007

“My Father Was an Anonymous Sperm Donor”

I had completely forgotten that Jon Merz shared this all-too-predictable but very poignant story with me in December. It is the story of the future of sperm donation: lots and lots and lots of kids out looking for the guys who were told “here’s some cash for your sperm and don’t worry, the kids will never know who you are.” The guys, in other words, who are their biological parents. It is a story in the Washington Post that contains quite a rant, amounting to this:

When she was 32, my mother — single, and worried that she might never marry and have a family — allowed a doctor wearing rubber gloves to inject a syringe of sperm from an unknown man into her uterus so that she could have a baby. I am the result: a donor-conceived child.

And for a while, I was pretty angry about it.

I was angry at the idea that where donor conception is concerned, everyone focuses on the “parents” — the adults who can make choices about their own lives. The recipient gets sympathy for wanting to have a child. The donor gets a guarantee of anonymity and absolution from any responsibility for the offspring of his “donation.” As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?

Not so. The children born of these transactions are people, too. Those of us in the first documented generation of donor babies — conceived in the late 1980s and early ’90s, when sperm banks became more common and donor insemination began to flourish — are coming of age, and we have something to say.

I’m here to tell you that emotionally, many of us are not keeping up. We didn’t ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion. It’s hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won’t matter to the “products” of the cryobanks’ service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place.

We offspring are recognizing the right that was stripped from us at birth — the right to know who both our parents are.

And we’re ready to reclaim it.

I grow tired of saying that we told you so, but we did. Now let’s get this straight: any clinic that provides donor insemination without insisting that in order to be candidates for the procedure, prospective parents promise to tell their offspring about the donation, is engaging in malpractice. Period. Wake up, ASRM. These kids are not kidding.

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