The New York Times published an article on Friday entitled “Does Sperm Donor Mean Dad?” In an interesting turn, they use the sordid story of actor Jason Patric’s fight to be involved in his son’s life as a warning to those who are involved with various assisted reproductive techniques. Noting that use of these techniques is on the rise and that they are used more and more frequently in situations distinctly different than infertile married couples, the article sends a message that those involved in these arrangements could be making life extremely complicated for themselves. A quote: “The resonance here is enormous because of the increasing number of families being formed today outside of traditional marriage,” said Naomi R. Cahn, a family law professor at George Washington University and the author of “Test Tube Families.” “Single heterosexual women, lesbian couples, men who donate sperm expecting to be part of a child’s life — they had better be paying attention.”
I find this article interesting for two reasons. The first is that Jason Patric was romantically involved with the mother of his child for several years, so the parallels to other non-anonymous sperm donation (friend of a lesbian couple, for example) are not really a propos–but they are made. The second is that an article in the New York Times would try to give a moral lesson regarding something in reproductive health. The author of this article went to Marquette for undergrad, so he may be slipping his Catholic values into what on the surface looks like tabloid reporting. This story “serves as cautionary tale for any man considering donating sperm to a friend and any woman considering accepting it from one, experts say.” In the public square I suppose arguments that rely on appeals to sanctity or dignity, or other religious notions would be aggressively ridiculed. So we are left with appeals to our own self-interest. Fascinating that our unbridled self-interest, what Augustine would say is the root of the problem, is what might prevent us from expanding the commodification of children.