Child of Anonymous Sperm Donor Wants Right to Know Biological Parents

Bioethics   Rebecca Taylor   Jun 10, 2013   |   5:00PM    Washington, DC
It is undeniable that we humans have an innate desire to know from whom we came. Many people who are adopted or have only one parent will tell you that they feel they are missing a piece of a puzzle.
Genealogy websites like Ancestry.com exist because of our fascination with our genetic ancestors.  Every time I see an ad for Ancestry.com, a place where you “Find your ancestors’ stories” and “Discover yours,” I feel that tug to find out more about my grandparents and great-grandparents. My daughter’s junior year project for high school was a presentation and paper on the immigration of both sides of her family to America.

Now imagine if you were purposely denied one half of your story by a powerful industry that runs on anonymity. And what if when you pointed out the intentional injustice, you were told that you should shut-up and simply be grateful for your life.

This is the experience for many a child conceived from anonymous donor gametes. The following is a excerpt from testimony that Alana S. Newman, founder of AnonymousUs.org, gave to the California Assembly Committee on Health regarding AB460, a bill in the California legislature that would require insurers to offer coverage for infertility treatments even to same-sex couples where the relationships are, by nature, not fertile. Such treatments often require donor gametes.

Alana is bravely standing up for the rights of those intentionally denied what she believes is a fundamental right: the right to a relationship with one’s biological parents. She writes:

The facts of my conception are that my father was paid to abandon me. There is no dignity in that. I suffered from debilitating identity issues, mistrust of the opposite sex, hatred and condemnation of the opposite sex, feelings of objectification – like I only exist as a play – toy for others, and feeling like a science experiment.

If people can take away something so precious as a mother or father and make us feel like we should be grateful for the loss, what else can people take away from us? How do you expect the next generation to fight for things like freedom, democracy, clean air, clean water, when something as precious and basic as your mother or father is stolen from you? Removed by the state… Removed by a fertility industry that forces you into existence and then doesn’t return your calls when you grow up and start banging on their doors asking for records… Removed by a commissioning parent, often your other biological parent who vowed to protect and provide for you, but only on the contingency that you show gratitude for your life and don’t ask questions about the other missing parent….

One of the United State’s most famous civil rights leaders was Malcolm X. The “X” he used to replace his last name was a direct criticism of slave – owners removing slaves from their spouses, parents and children, and being disconnected from their ancestry and heritage. “Who do you think you are” is a popular TV show where celebrities have their genealogy investigated. Rosie O’Donnell herself expressed a craving to “discover her family as fully fleshed out people and learn about their journeys”. The sheer existence of a term and concept like genealogy demonstrates that it is unfair to minimize and marginalize donor – conceived people’s curiosities about our genetic kin, and dismiss our desire for connection…..

Having a bloated industry where medical and legal professionals profit from separating children from their biological parents is problematic.

Very few people like to hear that their choices have devastating consequences for others. If there is a place where voices like Alana’s need to be heard, it is the fertility machine. Both infertile couples and the fertility industry must hear what she is saying. The desire for a child does not trump the right of a child to know his or her biological parents.

Wait a minute. I have heard that before. Oh yes, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage.