Happy seed provider's day
Happy are those for whom Father's Day means a barbecue and a card poking fun at Dad's foibles. Not so much for children whose "father" was anonymous sperm sold to create a child he would never know or likely care to know. For them "Seed Provider's Day" would be more accurate.
Adult children conceived during the wave of sperm donorship in the early 1980s and early 1990s are now telling their stories. They were wanted and loved children, but because of the way they were conceived, there is a world of hurt and anger out there.
Alana Sveta is a New York based, 20-something college dropout working with an independent film team on a screenplay based on her life as a "donor kid." In an email interview she wrote that she is obsessed with her genetic heritage, to which she attributes her substance abuse and intimacy issues.
Before researching her own genetic history, Alana struggled for years to understand her deep misandry. Men, she discovered, were not her problem; rather it was being raised as if the missing half of her genetic identity were superfluous to her sense of self-worth. "It never occurred to me how truly robbed I was until I started spending time in other people's homes watching how their fathers interacted with them." Discussing her feelings of loss with her mother was difficult; she didn't want to appear ungrateful or critical of her mother's decision.
Many donor kids do find their genetic fathers through such sites as donorsiblingregistry.com.Alana knows a few facts, but they haven't panned out. She holds the "childish fantasy" that her blond, blue-eyed father of Polish provenance will see her finished film and reach out to her. Alana is in many ways a poster child for the negative fallout from the commodification of human genetic materials. On May 31 The Commission on Parenthood's Future released a report: My Daddy's Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived through Sperm Donation. Lead researcher Elizabeth Marquardt is a familiar name on this topic. Her 2006 study, The Revolution in Parenthood: the Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children's Needs, made a persuasive case that the issue is not about "love." Like many bio-ethicists, including McGill's Margaret Somerville, who frequently writes on this subject, Marquardt focuses on children's rights, in this case the right to know their full biological inheritance.
This new, first-ever comparative study of sperm-donor adults against control groups of adoptive and normative young adults raised with two biological parents presents interesting findings. Two-thirds of sperm donor kids agree that "My sperm donor is half of who I am"; half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception; nearly half fear having sexual relations with a possible unknown sibling (some sperm donors have a hundred offspring ; unwitting half siblings in England married); about half have ethical reservations about the propriety of the system.
(On the other hand, many sperm donor children -- about 20% of the study subjects -- have themselves become donors sperm or egg donors, as against figures of 0% and 1% in the control groups.)
Many people assume donor-conceived children are much like adopted children, but the two situations are radically different. Adoption is a well-regulated non-profit institution, its raison d'etre to find a home and family for an existing child, whose rights are well protected by social service people trained to pair a child with optimal parents.
Sperm and egg donation is an unregulated marketplace. Its focus is the desire and, some would say, the "right" of parents to have a child, whatever it takes. The conceived child's interest is forgotten.
There is no evidence to suggest that "intentional parenthood" -- but intentional fatherlessness/motherlessness -- of this kind is good for children. There is plenty to suggest that a commercial free-for-all in sperm and eggs creates existential torment, an "invisible loss" in these children (there are about 16,000 in Canada) that cannot be smoothed away by the "good narrative" of how wanted the child was.
Like the U.K., Canada nominally bans the sale of sperm and eggs. But unlike the U. K, which regulates effectively, Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction Act, passed six years ago, is extremely porous. Its oversight agency, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada is, according to one involved MP, "an agency set up to do nothing" (though it costs $10-million annually). It is merrily bypassed by fertility industry entrepreneurs.
Eyes, kidneys, blood -- human parts with no mind or soul are not bought and sold. Why life itself? As one donor child put it: "If my life is for other people's purposes, and not my own, then what is the purpose of my life?"