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PART THREE (Continued)
MATERIALS ON LEGISLATIVE FACTS
33 INSTITUTE FOR AMERICAN VALUES (ELIZABETH MARQUARDT, NOVAL D.
GLENN, & KAREN CLARK, CO-INVESTIGATORS), MY DADDY’S NAME IS
DONOR: A NEW STUDY OF YOUNG ADULTS CONCEIVED THROUGH SPERM
DONATION (2010).
2
34 Margaret Somerville, What About the Children, in DIVORCING MARRIAGE:
UNVEILING THE DANGERS OF CANADA’S NEW SOCIAL EXPERIMENT 63-78
(Daniel Cere & Douglas Farrows eds., 2004).
143
35 Margaret Somerville, Children’s human rights and unlinking child-parent biological
bonds with adoption, same-sex marriage and new reproductive technologies, 13 J.
FAM. STUD. 179-201 (2007).
162
36 Margaret Somerville, Children’s Human Rights to Natural Biological Origins and
Family Structure, 1 INT’L J. JURISPRUDENCE FAM. 35 (2010).
186





TAB 33



000530
000534
6
Nearly half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception.
More than half say that when they see someone who resembles them they
wonder if they are related. Almost as many say they have feared being
atracted to or having sexual relations with someone to whom they are
unknowingly related. Approximately two-thirds afrm the right of donor
ofspring to know the truth about their origins. And about half of donor
ofspring have concerns about or serious objections to donor conception
itself, even when parents tell their children the truth.
Te title of this report, My Daddy’s Name is Donor, comes from a
t-shirt marketed to parents of babies who were donor conceived. Te
designers of the shirt say it’s just meant to be funny. But we wondered
how the children feel when they grow up.
Tis unprecedented, large, comparative, and very nearly representa-
tive study of young adults conceived through sperm donation responds
to that question. Te extraordinary fndings reported in the stories, tables
and fgures that follow will be of concern to any policy maker, health
professional, civic leader, parent, would-be parent, and young or grown
donor conceived person, anywhere in the world. An extensive list of
recommendations is found at the conclusion.
We aim for nothing less than to launch a national and international
debate on the ethics, meaning, and practice of donor conception, starting now.
000536
8
parents, agree, “I feel confused about who is a member of my family and
who is not.”
Almost half of donor ofspring (47 percent) agree, “I worry that
my mother might have lied to me about important maters when I was
growing up,” compared with 27 percent of the adopted and 18 percent
raised by their biological parents. Similarly, 43 percent of donor ofspring,
compared to 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively, of those raised by
adoptive or biological parents, agree, “I worry that my father might have
lied to me about important maters when I was growing up.”
When they grow up, well over half (57 percent) of donor ofspring
agree, “I feel that I can depend on my friends more than my family” – about
twice as many as those who grew up with their biological parents.
Donor ofspring ofen worry about the implications of inter- 3.
acting with – and possibly forming intimate relationships with
– unknown, blood-related family members.
Well over half of donor ofspring—58 percent—agree, “When I see
someone who resembles me I ofen wonder if we are related,” compared
to 45 percent of adopted adults and 14 percent raised by their biological
parents.
Nearly half—46 percent—of donor ofspring, but just 17 percent of
adopted adults and 6 percent of those raised by their biological parents,
agree, “When I’m romantically atracted to someone I have worried that
we could be unknowingly related.” Similarly, 43 percent of adult donor
ofspring, and just 16 percent of adopted adults and 9 percent of those
raised by their biological parents, agree, “I have feared having sexual rela-
tions unknowingly with someone I am related to.”
Donor ofspring are more likely to have experienced divorce or 4.
multiple family transitions in their families of origin.
Te married heterosexual parents of the donor ofspring are unusu-
ally likely to have divorced, with 27 percent of donor ofspring reporting
that their parents divorced before the respondent was age 16, compared
to 14 percent of those who were adopted and 25 percent of those raised by
their biological parents. (Te comparison between the parents of donor
000538
9
ofspring and those of the adopted is apt, because in both cases the parents
would likely have turned to donor conception or adoption later in their
marriages, when marriages on average are more stable.) See Figure 4. (p. 117)
Overall, 44 percent of donor ofspring experienced one or more
“family transitions” between their birth and age 16, compared to 22 percent
of the adopted, and 35 percent of those raised by their biological parents.
See Figure 3a. (p. 116)
Donor ofspring are signifcantly more likely than those raised 5.
by their biological parents to struggle with serious, negative
outcomes such as delinquency, substance abuse, and depression,
even when controlling for socio-economic and other factors.
Donor ofspring and those who were adopted are twice as likely as
those raised by biological parents to report problems with the law before
age 25.
Donor ofspring are about 1.5 times more likely than those raised
by their biological parents to report mental health problems, with the
adopted being closer to twice as likely as those raised by biological parents
to report the same thing.
Donor ofspring are more than twice as likely as those raised by
biological parents to report substance abuse problems (with the adopted
falling between the two groups). See Figure 1. (p. 115)
Donor ofspring born to heterosexual married couples, single 6.
mothers, or lesbian couples share many similarities.
In our survey, 262 of the donor ofspring report they were born
to heterosexual married couples, 113 to single mothers, and 39 to lesbian
couples.
While at frst glance the number of those born to lesbian couples
might seem rather small, this study is notable for having even 39 respondents
who grew up with this experience. Most studies of the ofspring of lesbian
or gay parents are based on a smaller or similar number of respondents, and
they typically lack the comparison groups that our survey ofers. However,
we must caution that due to the size of the sample of ofspring of lesbian
000539
10
couples, most reported fndings related to that particular group can only
suggest diferences or similarities, although where signifcant diferences
emerge they are noted.
All three groups of donor ofspring appear fairly similar in a number
of their atitudes and experiences. For example, they are all about equally
likely to agree that they feel confused about who is a member of their family
and who is not, that they fear being atracted to or having sexual relations
with someone they are unknowingly related to, that they worry their
mother might have lied to them about important maters, and that they
have worried about hurting their mother’s or others’ feelings if they tried
to seek out their sperm donor biological father. See Table 2. (p. 109)
At the same time, there appear to be notable diferences between 7.
donor ofspring born to heterosexual married couples, single
mothers, and lesbian couples.
Overall, donor conceived persons born to single mothers seem to
be somewhat more curious about their absent biological father, and seem
to be hurting somewhat more, than those born to couples, whether those
couples were heterosexual or lesbian.
Donor ofspring born to single mothers are more likely than the
other two groups to agree, “I fnd myself wondering what my sperm donor’s
family is like.” Most (78 percent) born to single mothers agree, compared
to two-thirds of those born to lesbian couples or married heterosexual
parents. With regard to “My sperm donor is half of who I am,” 71 percent
of those born to single mothers agree, compared to 46 percent born to
lesbian couples and 65 percent born to married heterosexual parents.
Regarding family transitions, the single mothers by choice appear to
have a higher number of transitions, although if the single mother married
or moved in with someone, that would count as at least one transition.
Still, with about half (49 percent) of the ofspring of single mothers by
choice in our sample reporting one or more family transitions between
their birth and age 16, it’s clear that family change was not uncommon for
them. See Figure 3b. (p. 116)
Donor of fspri ng
born to si ngle mothers:
000540
11
Regarding troubling outcomes, even with controls, the ofspring
of single mothers who used a sperm donor to conceive are almost 2.5
times as likely as those raised by biological parents to report problems
with the law before age 25. Similarly, even with controls, the ofspring of
single mothers who used a sperm donor to conceive are more than 2.5
times as likely as those raise by biological parents to report struggling
with substance abuse. See Figure 2. (p. 115)
Meanwhile, compared to those born to single mothers or heterosexual
couples, those born to lesbian couples seem overall to be somewhat less
curious about their absent biological father, and somewhat less likely to
report that they are hurting. However, substantial minorities of those born
to lesbian couples still do report distressing experiences and outcomes, for
example agreeing that the circumstances of their conception bother them,
that it makes them sad to see friends with biological fathers and mothers,
and that it bothers them that money was exchanged in their conception.
Nearly half (46 percent) of the donor ofspring born to lesbian couples
in our study agree their sperm donor is half of who they are, and more
than half (59 percent) say they sometimes wonder if their sperm donor’s
family would want to know them. Finally, more than one-third of donor
ofspring born to lesbian couples in our study agree it is wrong deliberately
to conceive a fatherless child. See Table 2. (p. 109)
Regarding family transitions, the donor conceived born to lesbian
mothers appear only slightly less likely to have had one or more family
transitions before age 16, compared to the donor conceived born to het-
erosexual married parents. See Figure 3b. (p. 116)
Regarding troubling outcomes, even with controls, the ofspring of
lesbian couples who used a sperm donor to conceive appear more than
twice as likely as those raised by their biological parents to report strug-
gling with substance abuse. See Figure 2. (p. 115)
Donor ofspring broadly afrm a right to know the truth about 8.
their origins.
Depending on which question is asked, approximately two-thirds of
grown donor ofspring support the right of ofspring to have non-identifying
information about the sperm donor biological father, to know his identity,
Donor of fspri ng
born to lesbi an couples:
000541
12
to have the opportunity to form some kind of relationship with him, to
know about the existence and number of half-siblings conceived with
the same donor, to know the identity of half-siblings conceived with the
same donor, and to have the opportunity as children to form some kind
of relationship with half-siblings conceived with the same donor.
In recent years Britain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzer-
land, and some parts of Australia
,
and New Zealand have banned anony-
mous donation of sperm and eggs. Croatia has recently considered such
a law. In Canada, a class-action suit has been launched seeking a similar
outcome. Tis study afrms that a majority of donor ofspring support
such legal reforms.
About half of donor ofspring have concerns about or serious 9.
objections to donor conception itself, even when parents tell
the children the truth about their origins.
Of the donor conceived adults we studied, a sizeable portion – 44
percent – are fairly sanguine about donor conception itself, so long as
parents tell their children the truth. But another sizeable portion – 36
percent – still have concerns about donor conception even if parents
tell the truth. And a noticeable minority – 11 percent – say that donor
conception is hard for the kids even if the parents handle it well. Tus
about half of donor ofspring – about 47 percent – have concerns about
or serious objections to donor conception itself, even when parents tell
their children the truth.
Openness alone does not appear to resolve the complex risks that 10.
are associated with being conceived through sperm donation.
In our study, those donor ofspring whose parents kept their origins
a secret (leaving the donor ofspring to fnd out the truth in an accidental
or unplanned way) were substantially more likely to report depression or
other mental health issues (51 percent), having struggled with substance
abuse (36 percent) or having had problems with the law (29 percent).
Tese diferences are very large and striking. See Table 4 (p. 112)
Still, while they fared beter than those whose parents tried to keep
it a secret, those donor ofspring who say their parents were always open
000542
13
with them about their origins (which are 304 of the donor ofspring in our
study) still exhibit an elevated risk of negative outcomes. Compared to
those raised by their biological parents, the donor ofspring whose parents
were always open with them are signifcantly more likely to have struggled
with substance abuse issues (18 percent, compared to 11 percent raised by
their biological parents) and to report problems with the law (20 percent,
compared to 11 percent raised by their biological parents).
While a majority of donor ofspring support a right to know 11.
the truth about their origins, signifcant majorities also sup-
port, at least in the abstract, a strikingly libertarian approach
to reproductive technologies in general.
Well over half (61 percent) of donor ofspring say they favor the
practice of donor conception (compared to 39 percent of adopted adults
and 38 percent raised by their biological parents).
Te majority of donor ofspring – about three-quarters – agree, “I
think every person has a right to a child;” “Artifcial reproductive technolo-
gies are good for children because the children are wanted;” “Our society
should encourage people to donate their sperm or eggs to other people
who want them;” and “Health insurance plans and government policies
should make it easier for people to have babies with donated sperm or
eggs.” Tese numbers are substantially higher than those from adoptive
or biological parent families who agree with the same statements. More-
over, in a particularly startling fnding, a majority of donor ofspring (64
percent) agree, “Reproductive cloning should be ofered to people who
don’t have any other way to have a baby,” compared to 24 percent who are
adopted and 24 percent raised by their biological parents.
Adults conceived through sperm donation are far more likely 12.
than others to become sperm or egg donors or surrogates
themselves.
In another startling fnding, a full 20 percent of donor ofspring in
our study said that, as adults, they themselves had already donated their own
sperm or eggs or been a surrogate mother. Tat’s compared to 0 percent
000543
14
of the adopted adults and just 1 percent of those raised by their biological
parents – an extraordinary diference.
Tose donor ofspring who do not support the practice of donor 13.
conception are more than three times as likely to say they do
not feel they can express their views in public.
We asked donor ofspring whether they favor, oppose, or neither
favor nor oppose the practice of donor conception. Of those who favor
donor conception, just 14 percent say they do not feel they can express their
positive views about donor conception in “society at large.” By contrast,
of those who oppose it, 46 percent said they do not feel they can express
these negative views about donor conception in “society at large.”
More than one-third of donor ofspring in the study (37 percent),
compared to 19 percent of adopted adults and 25 percent raised by their
biological parents, agree, “If I had a friend who wanted to use a sperm
donor to have a baby, I would encourage her not to do it.”
Donor conception is not “just like” adoption. 14.
Adoption is a good, vital, and positive institution that fnds parents
for children who need families. Tere are some similarities between donor
conception and adoption, but our study reveals there are also many difer-
ences. And, if anything, the similarities between the struggles that adopted
people and donor conceived people might share should prompt caution
about intentionally denying children the possibility of growing up with
their biological father or mother, as happens in donor conception.
Today’s grown donor ofspring present a striking portrait of 15.
racial, ethnic, and religious diversity.
A full one-ffh – 20 percent – of the donor ofspring in our sample
said they are Hispanic, compared to just six percent of those from adop-
tive families and seven percent of those raised by biological parents. Te
donor ofspring are also well represented among races in general. Many
of them grew up with Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish religious identities
and/or identify with those traditions today. Tis striking diversity helps
to illustrate the complexity of their experience and the reality of their
presence in every facet of American life today.
000544
16
and elsewhere can combine eggs and sperm (their own or someone else’s)
and have the resulting embryo carried by a village woman in India for a
fraction of the cost of, say, an American surrogate, and with no risks of
emotional entanglements as a huge added bonus.
Today, women in the U.S. shop for sperm donors in online catalogs
in much the same way they might shop for a date through a matchmaking
service – or in much the same way they might buy a piece of furniture or
a car. Potential mothers can compare donors’ heights and weights, ethnic
background and physical traits, educational and professional accomplish-
ments, and even view his baby pictures and listen to an audio tape of him
expounding on the meaning of life and why sperm donation appealed to
him. If it’s an egg they need, the same women can show their sometimes
reluctant husbands reams of glamour shots of gorgeous young women with
improbably impressive educational scores and athletic accomplishments,
even assuring their husband, if necessary, that the mystery woman’s DNA
is preferable to his wife’s.
Beneath all this pulsing commerce, with dollars and Euros fying
around the world, bringing forth babies deposited on doorsteps like the
stork of old, for some a major sore point is this: most of it is done in secret.
While newly adoptive parents of children from abroad are now strongly
counseled to incorporate aspects of their child’s home culture into their
family life, parents who get their sperm or eggs elsewhere – whether from
a stranger in the same city or someone halfway around the world – quite
ofen do not tell the children that their biological mother or father is any-
one other than the parent raising them. A growing proportion of today’s
babies are global citizens in ways previous generations never dreamed,
yet they won’t even know the truth unless someone spills the beans.
Even the child’s pediatrician may not be told the truth as the parents
simply, and grossly inaccurately, report their own family medical histories
as the child’s.
Gay and lesbian couples and single persons who use such technolo-
gies do tend to be more open with their children and with other important
players, including the children’s doctors. (For one thing, the obvious
absence of either a father or a mother raises the question of where the
child came from.) Tey might also be more likely to acknowledge and
000546
17
even celebrate what they know of the child’s varied ancestry. But in these
families, too, the children are almost never encouraged to acknowledge that
the biological father or mother far afeld actually is their father or mother.
For most gays, lesbians, and singles, and for the relatively small propor-
tion of heterosexual couples who are open with their donor-conceived
children, these far away donors are instead the “seed providers,” or the
“nice woman who gave me what I needed to have you,” or the “Y Guy,”
or any number of other cutesy phrases intended mainly to communicate
that despite the fact that one-half of the child’s physical being came from
this source, this person should nevertheless be of very litle importance,
if any, to the child.
In the U.S. today we have some idea how many children are con-
ceived through egg donation (about 6,000 babies in 2005
2
), but while
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires clinics to
report pregnancies achieved through egg and embryo transfers, it does
not require them to report those resulting from sperm donation. Experts
estimate that perhaps 30,000 to 60,000 children are conceived in the United
States annually through sperm donation, and that currently about one
million Americans were conceived this way, but these are litle more than
educated guesses. Te global picture is even more uncertain. Te fertility
industry is increasingly a cross-border phenomenon. No one knows how
many children are being conceived in one country and born in another.
In the United States, the frst documented case of donor insemina-
tion occurred in Philadelphia in the 1880s, when a physician artifcially
inseminated an unconscious female patient, leaving her to think that her
pregnancy was the result of intercourse with her husband.
3
It seems all too
appropriate that the frst case was veiled in such steep secrecy – the truth
hidden even from the mother – because that is how the practice has been
treated for most of its history since. Donor conceived persons typically
have not known their status. Teir parents were encouraged to keep it a
secret from the child, so they only knew the truth when someone – their
mother or the man they thought was their father, or their grandmother
or a family friend – spilled the beans, ofen in the midst of family confict,
or divorce, or afer their social father’s death. (“Social father” is a way of
referring to a man who functions as a child’s father but is not the biologi-
000547
18
cal father.) Te small minority who did learn that they had a sperm donor
biological father had litle if any hope of fnding him, since records, if they
were kept, were ofen eventually lost or destroyed. Generations of donor
conceived persons have searched, usually in vain, through photographs
in the year books of medical schools near the doctor’s ofce where their
mother was inseminated, looking for a man who shares their nose or eyes
or hair, a man who might be their father.
Today, with increasing openness about alternative families and with
the power of the internet to bring people together, that secrecy is beginning
to lif somewhat. On the one hand, many parents still keep the fact their
child is donor conceived a secret from the child. For example, in surveys
most women who use donor eggs do not plan to tell their child the truth.
(Egg donation itself has only been possible since about 1985.) On the other
hand, the types of families now increasingly likely to use donor sperm
tend to be at least somewhat more open about it. As treatments for male
infertility have improved to the extent that few heterosexual couples will
need to use donor sperm, the bulk of the sperm bank business in the U.S.
and abroad is increasingly being taken up by single women and lesbian
couples, women who generally are not medically infertile but who either
do not currently have a suitable partner or do not wish to have sexual
relations with a man in order to have a child.
Yet there are new tensions today. While single and lesbian women
tend to be more open with their children about having used a sperm
donor (whether or not they acknowledge him to be the child’s biological
father), they are also more likely to get the sperm from increasingly far
fung locales, from across the country and even around the world.
4
For
today’s donor conceived children, born in an era of big business sperm
banking, fipping forlornly through yearbooks at the medical school next
to the hospital where they were born is unlikely to yield much information
about who their father is.
Many do not realize that, at this point, conceiving a baby with do-
nor sperm is an old-fashioned technology. Donor conception frst hit the
headlines in the middle of the last century. Producer Barry Stevens, in his
flms Ofspring and Bio-Dad, documents the explosion of popular interest
in England in the mid-1950s, when it came to light that certain doctors
000548
19
were acquiring sperm, inseminating women, and producing unknown
numbers of babies. A furry of medical journal articles, both pro and con,
appeared. Te church denounced it. Eerie flm footage was produced,
showing a few nurses grappling with scores of wriggling infants who looked
like they had just come of an assembly line. A popular movie released
in 1959, starring American singer Julie London, was titled A Question of
Adultery. Two years later, Simon and Schuster published a novel, called
Seed of Doubt, which touted itself as “the explosive, shocking novel about
artifcial insemination.”
5
Today, artifcial insemination has gone mainstream, and yet most
people are still as ignorant of its efects and implications as were people
ffy years ago. As a society, we barely studied the children and never asked
how they fared when they grew up. We never asked what would happen to
broader social atitudes about fatherhood and motherhood if donor con-
ception became just another way of making a baby. Today, we’re grappling
with a decades-old technology that we’re only beginning to understand,
a technology coming of age in the context of world-sweeping changes
in law, medicine, and culture.
6
Tese changes are increasingly defning
parenthood, frst and foremost, around adult rights to children.
7
We designed this survey instrument to learn more about the identity,
kinship, well-being, and social justice experiences of donor conceived
adults. Te survey research frm Abt SRBI of New York City felded our
survey through Survey Sampling International (SSI). SSI used a web-based
panel that includes more than a million households across the United
States.
8
Trough this method we were able to assemble a representative
sample of 485 adults between the ages of 18 and 45 years old who said
they were donor conceived.
9
Trough the same method we assembled
and surveyed a comparison group of 562 similar-aged persons who were
adopted as infants, and a group of 563 people of the same age who were
raised by their biological parents.
10

Te study is notable for several reasons. Te frst is the unpre-
cedented, large sample. Te second is our ability to compare the experi-
ence of donor conceived persons with that of people who were not donor
conceived – both those who were adopted and those who were raised
by their biological parents. What is especially notable, however, is that
000549
20
the study employs a representative sample drawn from over one million
households. Tese donor conceived adults were simply among a million-
plus American households that had signed up to receive web surveys on,
well, anything, and who are mostly targeted by marketers. Tey were not
people who responded to an advertisement about a study or who were
found through an activist online message board – people who, critics could
argue, might have an axe to grind on this topic. Nor were they the young
children of parents who agreed to talk about their children, a methodol-
ogy that has merit but does not really allow donor ofspring to speak for
themselves. While like all studies our survey method has its limitations
11
,
and like any single study it is not defnitive, it does present for the frst
time, for the world to see, profound insights into the lives and feelings of
donor conceived adults.
Te title of this report is drawn from a t-shirt and bib marketed for
parents to purchase for their sperm donor-conceived children. Around
the web, one can fnd pictures of young children wearing items that read,
“My Daddy’s Name is Donor.” Te designer has said that “99 percent of
adults think it’s a riot.”
12
We wonder what the children wearing the t-shirt
might feel as they grow up. What do today’s young people conceived with
donor sperm think about their experiences? Tis report is our atempt to
respond, as best as we can, to that question.
000550
22
“I have worried that if I try to get more information about or have
a relationship with my sperm donor, my mother and/or the father
who raised me would feel angry or hurt.”
Others express discomfort with their origins. Forty-fve percent
agree that “Te circumstances of my conception bother me.” When
we asked how ofen they think about donor conception, more than one-
quarter of those in our survey say they do so at least once or more a day,
and almost half say they think about donor conception at least a few times
a week or more ofen.
Some donor ofspring feel isolated and disturbingly unusual,
conceived in a way that is just, well, not normal, and not understood by
anyone around them. British donor ofspring Christine Whipp tells of
fnding out, at age 41, afer a lifetime of painful emotional tumult and
powerful feelings of being rejected by her mother, that her mother had
used a sperm donor to get pregnant with her:
My ancestral home was a glass sample jar, and my [biological]
parents never knew one another in either the personal or the bibli-
cal sense. I couldn’t name a single person who shared this strange,
science-fction style background, and found myself feeling more
alone and completely separate from the rest of the human race than
I had ever felt before.
23

When Adam Rose found out the truth about his origins, he says, “I
felt like a freak, because no one else in my perception had been conceived
in that way and it was something that nobody had heard of. It was very
shocking.”
24
Another donor ofspring reports she has long struggled with
feelings of shame “for being conceived in such an unusual way.”
Katrina Clark, then barely twenty years old, told her own story in
a Washington Post essay. She was born to a single mother who was always
open with Katrina about the facts of her conception. She had a close,
loving relationship with her mother. Still, as she got older and began to
wrestle with identity issues, she looked around at friends who had both
their parents. “Tat was when the emptiness came over me. I realized that
I am, in a sense, a freak. I really, truly would never have a dad. I fnally
understood what it meant to be donor-conceived, and I hated it.”
25

Lindsay Greenawalt’s mother, who had her as a single mom, also
informed her about the truth of her origins. At the same time, Lindsay
000552
23
recalls, her mother never really raised the subject again or encouraged
discussion about it. As a teenager, Lindsay writes, she came to feel that:
Te worst part of this was that I became very shameful of how I
was conceived and wished that I was normal in the sense that I
came to be from sex rather than a procedure in a doctor’s ofce.
Te thought of being conceived from a one night stand was more
appealing than being conceived by DI [donor insemination]. My
mother never met my father, never talked to him, let alone shared
an intimate relationship of any kind with him! Tis lack of contact is
simply unnatural. Even though I had never been really told anything
about DI or that there are many other children born of this each
year, I acquired these beliefs early on. I also unfortunately thought
of myself as a ‘freak of nature’ until I was 18 years old.
26

Twenty-three-year old Alana
27
reports what happened the frst time
she tried to confde in a friend: “In junior high I told my best friend about
my conception,” she said. “Ten we had a fght. She told the entire school
that I was a ‘test tube baby,’ essentially a freak of science.” She adds, “I
would like more Donor Kid stories to be publicized and shared without
the ‘freak’ connotation.”
We asked donor conceived persons the questions “At age 15, what
feelings best describe how you felt about being donor conceived?” and
“At the age you are now, how do you feel about being a donor conceived
person?” (Te frst question was asked only of those who knew at age 15
that they were donor conceived.) Each question ofered a list of positive,
negative, and neutral terms; respondents could select as many as they
wished. At age 15, ten percent chose the powerfully negative term “freak of
nature” and 13 percent chose the equally disturbing phrase “lab experiment.”
Te fact that money was involved in their conception seems espe-
cially to disturb some donor ofspring. In our survey, 45 percent agree
that “It bothers me that money was exchanged in order to conceive
me.” Christine Whipp writes: “My existence owed almost nothing to
the serendipitous nature of normal human reproduction, where babies
are the natural progression of mutually fulflling adult relationships, but
rather represented a verbal contract, a fnancial transaction and a cold,
clinical harnessing of medical technology.”
28
She continues, “Te routine
manipulation of human gametes has allowed the very essence of life to
000553
24
be exploited, commercialized, demeaned and debased. Te previously
unseen human embryo is now a collectable, valuable resource.”
29

Lindsay Greenawalt concurs: “Children are being created without
any thought that a human being is involved in this. It is simply a business
transaction between our parents, the doctor, and the anonymous donor,
with no regard to the child.” She goes on:
It is not simply a donation that these “generous” men have taken the
time to give. Not only are they being paid for this so-called “donation,”
which seems to me to be an oxymoron in the frst place. … [T]his is
not just any blood donation or organ donation; these men who donate
sperm (and women who donate ova) are producing children which will,
before they’re even conceived, be denied the right to know who they are.
“Stina,” a 29 year old law student in Cologne, Germany, says that
she’s sometimes reluctant to share the truth about her origins with new
acquaintances. She is “always a bit afraid that my person will be regarded
as stained because of my conception, as my parents had to pay my genetic
father, an alien person to them, for creating me.”
For some donor ofspring, their deep discomfort about their
origins appears to lie, at least in part, in their feeling of being a product
made to suit their parents’ wishes – of being made, not born.
Lynne Spencer is a nurse and donor conceived adult who interviewed
eight other adult donor ofspring for a master’s thesis.
30
She writes of
fnding out, as an adult, that her married parents had conceived her with
donor sperm. Te profound question with which she struggled was this:
“If my life is for other people’s purposes, and not my own, then what is the
purpose of my life?”
31
In a later exchange she expanded on this thought:
…I think one of the most unusual aspects of being a donor ofspring
is the feeling of being inanimate, or that I didn’t exist in part. Te
whole sense that I don’t mater, who I am doesn’t mater and needs
to be repressed. It’s only what I represent that maters…that I am
someone’s child, but I’m not a person in my own right.
Another participant in Lynne Spencer’s study said this:
I had always been very scared of dying, because I couldn’t really
come to terms with my nonexistence in the world. I think part of that
was to do with the fact that in some sense I didn’t feel like I existed
in the world, because I didn’t know where half of me originated
from. It was almost like that part of me had been seriously denied
000554
25
because of the secrecy. Nobody had spoken about it for me. … [I]
t’s almost like I had come into the world by magic.
32

Several years ago, a then-39 year old Japanese woman whose mother
used donor insemination to conceive her told a reporter that she struggles
with this overwhelming feeling: “I feel that I came into this world for the
sake of my mother. Afer she died, I started wondering if I had a reason
to exist anymore.”
33
Christine Whipp reports that she has long felt that “having
bought and paid for me…my mother view[ed] me more as her personal
property [rather] than seeing my existence as a serendipitous piece of
good fortune.”
Some donor ofspring, even those who have been told the truth
about their origins, nevertheless struggle with wild uncertainties about
where they came from. One teenage girl, a 17-year-old daughter of a lesbian
couple, wrote to an advice columnist
34
:
I am a 17-year-old daughter of a lesbian couple. …I don’t know
my father, his name, heritage, or anything. I can only remember one
time the topic of my father really came up in conversation. I was
eight years old and I denied any interest in knowing about him. I
was worried that my parents would think that I am ungrateful for all
that they have done for me or that they would get the misconcep-
tion that I thought they screwed me up.
So my father has never been discussed. As a kid, I fgured I was
a “test tube baby” (as if I understood what it meant), but now I have
no clue. Tis induces a swell of paranoia about why is this such a
big secret. For a while I was even considering the possibility that
my Mom may have been raped.
I thought about asking my older siblings who were teenagers
when I was born, or asking one of my aunts, but I don’t want to
drag them into this. Besides, I am not sure if they could or would
give me the information I seek. Maybe my family thinks — as I
do — that the silence has been around so long that it is just easier
to avoid talking about it.
000555
000556
28
tive voice to ARTs through greater recognition of the complex, lifelong
issues that afect the person created through Donor Conception.” “Tangled
Webs” is their term for the “intergenerational consequences” – moral,
social, and legal – to which donor conception gives rise. When it comes
to those intergenerational consequences, our study is revealing.
In our study, the majority of donor conceived adults express longings
to know more about their sperm donor biological father and his family.
Well over two-thirds of adult donor ofspring – a full 70 percent – agree
that “I fnd myself wondering what my sperm donor’s family is like.”
Similarly, 69 percent agree that “I sometimes wonder if my sperm do-
nor’s parents would want to know me.”
Donor ofspring express signifcant pain over the loss of their bio-
logical father, signifcantly more even when compared to those who are
adopted. In a striking diference, nearly half of the donor ofspring (48
percent) compared to about a ffh of adopted adults (19 percent), agree
that “When I see friends with their biological fathers and mothers,
it makes me feel sad.”
35
Similarly, more than half of the donor ofspring
(53 percent, compared to 29 percent of the adopted adults), agree that “It
hurts when I hear other people talk about their genealogical back-
ground.”
36
Both groups – the donor conceived and the adopted – may
not know about and did not grow up with one or both biological parents
and those parents’ families, but the donor ofspring overall express a great
deal more pain, sadness, and confusion about this loss.
Te theme of “looking for my father everywhere” is a recurring one
among donor ofspring. Some have been told a few details about their
biological father – maybe his height and the color of his hair and eyes.
Tey say these few, shadowy details are ofen on their minds when they’re
out in public, walking down the street, riding a bus, scanning a crowd.
“Could that be him?” they ask themselves. In our survey, 58 percent agree
that “When I see someone who resembles me I ofen wonder if we are
related.” (45 percent of adopted adults and 14 percent of those raised by
their biological parents agree as well.)
37
Te New York Times interviewed two teenage donor ofspring
who had just discovered that they are half-siblings. One thing the two
loss of biological
Father and hi s Fami ly
000558
29
girls quickly realized was that they had both, all their lives, been
looking for the same man in a crowd:
Danielle and JoEllen realized that they both run through
the brief criteria they know about their sperm donor –he
is 6 feet tall, 163 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes –
when they see male strangers. ‘It’ll always run through my
mind whether he meets the criteria to be my dad or not,’
said JoEllen, of Russel, Pa. ‘She said the same thing hap-
pens to her.’
38

Donor ofspring speak of the anxiety they feel as they scan
all those anonymous faces. Narelle Grech of Australia wrote,
“How would you feel knowing that you could be walking past
your own father or any seven of your own [half ] brothers or
sisters, and not know it?”
39
Olivia Praten of Canada says: “I can’t
help it. It’s always on my mind. … Do I see him on the bus? Is he
my professor?”
40
In our survey, one donor conceived adult wrote
simply this: “Sometimes I wonder if my father is standing right in
font of me.”
For some observers, an answer to the concerns of donor
ofspring is found in online registries. Te same internet tech-
nology that fuels a global trade in sperm and eggs is also being
employed to try and knit together at least some of the fragments
of biological families that are now scatered around the U.S. and
the globe. A growing number of web-based registries in the U.S.
and other nations can be used by donor conceived ofspring, or
their parents, to try to locate other half-siblings conceived with
the same donor and even, sometimes, to fnd their sperm donor
biological father or egg donor biological mother. But they are
voluntary. An ofspring is only going to fnd someone on them if
he or she has heard about the same registry and signed up, wishing
to be found. It does happen, and half-siblings are found a litle
more ofen, but for most donor conceived persons, fnding their
sperm donor dad is still a very long shot.
Te most well-known registry in the U.S. is the Donor
Sibling Registry, founded by a dynamic leader named Wendy
regi stries
000559
30
Kramer. Kramer used donor insemination to conceive her now-grown
son, Ryan, and was frst motivated to turn to the internet to try and fnd
his sperm donor father and half-siblings when he expressed a strong desire
to know more about where he came from. Before long she had launched
a service that has made more than 6,000 “matches” between half-siblings,
or between children and their biological parents. (Te number is always
rising and will likely be still higher by the time this report appears.)
41

Wendy and Ryan Kramer and the Donor Sibling Registry are rou-
tinely featured in the major media and have drawn a lot of sorely-needed
atention to the needs of donor conceived children and adults to know
where they come from. Kramer is now an active leader in eforts to urge
the U.S. sperm and egg bank industry to begin ofering an industry-backed
registry service. (She wants the registry to be mandatory; the industry
wants it to be voluntary.)
Tere are other registries too. A sampling includes the sibling registry
service of California, Cryobank, “a voluntary program where clients can
‘register’ the birth of their children and then contact potential siblings.”
42

Te group Single Mothers By Choice founded a sibling registry “afer
several mothers in our organization coincidentally learned that they had
used the same [sperm] donor and that their children were half-siblings.”
43

In Britain, UK Donor Link is a pilot program funded by the Department of
Health with a mandate to “encourage more donors, donor conceived adults
and their genetically related half-siblings to register with them and have
the chance to make contact with each other.”
44
A similar government-run
service was started in New Zealand in 2005. A donor conceived woman in
Germany is seeking to establish a registry there. As demand grows, more
registries are likely to appear.
But if you are a typical donor conceived person in the U.S.— mean-
ing your parents used an anonymous donor — it is quite unlikely you will
fnd your biological father through a registry. First, the man chose to be
an anonymous donor, not a known donor, which means that at the time
he donated he probably did not want to be found. (Although it’s true that
many sperm donors might not have known about the possibility of being,
or would not have had the option to be, a known donor.) Tere is a chance
that the donor’s views have evolved since that time and that he’s now curi-
ous to know about the children that he might have fathered. If so, he has
000560
31
to know that registries exist. Ten he has to sign up on one. It’s helpful if
he enters the correct donor number he was given by the clinic when he
donated. At the same time, you, the donor ofspring, or your mother, have
to sign up on the same registry. It’s helpful if you or your mother can also
enter the correct donor number. It’s also helpful if the clinic kept decent
records and managed to give the same donor number information both
to your mother and the donor. Finally, if a “match” is made, you have to
hope your sperm donor father hasn’t already been connected with, say,
a dozen or more other ofspring and has started to feel overwhelmed by
all these DNA tests and emotional emails and meetings. Going back to
square one, what’s far more likely than this scenario is that, instead, the
young man who donated sperm when he was in college or medical school,
the cash from which he used to pay for groceries that month or buy books
for next term, hasn’t given much thought to whether children resulted. He
fnished school, got a job, met someone, married, and had (more) kids.
Even if he does speculate with curiosity about those donations from long
ago he probably doesn’t want to sign up on the internet and risk some
kid asking him for money (which is not what donor ofspring do, but
men fear it anyway), or geting his wife upset, or geting tangled up in
the family business of people he doesn’t even know. Most likely, if you’re
a donor ofspring hoping to fnd your biological father on a registry, that
distant realm of “kinda-curious-but-not-gonna-do-anything-about-it” is
the land that he inhabits.
For most donor conceived children today, and for the vast majority
now grown, the “Daddy Box” they keep under their bed will continue to
be flled with mementos and memories they sometimes desperately want
to share with a father they will never – ever – know.
Some families have a lot of kids, and some men father children
with several diferent women. For these reasons, people who have been
adopted or whose fathers have abandoned their families might well have
legitimate concerns that they have full or half siblings, somewhere out
there, whom they do not know. But they could still be almost certain that
they might have, at the most, perhaps a dozen unknown siblings, but most
likely far fewer than that.
“Extreme Fami l ies”
000561
32
Today, with the advent of big business sperm banking, one man can
“donate” his sperm many times – and potentially conceive many, many
children. Since a lot of women seem to have a certain type of donor father
in mind (tall, blue-eyed, blonde; smart, sensitive, athletic), sperm banks
typically have some high demand donors that women choose over and
over, eager to make him the biological father of their child. His samples are
divided into vials and sold to women all over the country. When would-
be mothers fnd to their dismay that his sperm is gone, they sometimes
post queries on message boards read by other donor insemination moms,
seeking any unused vials that can be bought on the open market. Wendy
Kramer reports that on the Donor Sibling Registry at least one sperm
donor is confrmed to have more than 100 children, and reports of one
donor fathering dozens or even over a hundred ofspring are widespread
in the U.S. and abroad.
All of which means that, today, donor ofspring not only grapple
with the loss of their biological father and his whole family; that is, with
the loss of an entire half of their heritage. Tey also struggle with the
astounding implications of what happens when reproduction is fully
disconnected from sex, when social mores that seek, as much as possible,
to restrict men to reproducing with one, or at least not more than a few,
women are thrown out and anything goes. When young people today
discover that they are conceived with a sperm donor, sooner or later they
begin to struggle with the dawning awareness that they might well have
a half-dozen, or a dozen, or scores, or hundreds, of half-siblings – all over
the place. Teir brothers and sisters might live on the other side of the
country or the other side of the world. Tey might live in the same town.
Tey might live next door. Tey have no idea.
Joanna Rose learned that the British sperm bank from which she
was likely conceived had a small number of donors who gave their samples
untold numbers of times. Te doctor who ran the small clinic later estimated
that each man could have between 100 and 300 ofspring.
45
Asked how
she felt when she found that out, Joanna replied: “Dizzy. Just dizzy with
… just dizzy in so many ways, like [how] could they do that to me, that
there could be that lack of thought, that they could be so reckless.”
46
Nearly all donor ofspring are lef with guesswork and back-of-the-
000562
33
envelope calculations as they try to fgure out how many brothers or sisters
they have. At a Canadian conference in 2005, two donor ofspring shared
their thinking. Shelley Kreutz told the group: “We did the math: if half
the time a pregnancy results, donating once a week for 5 years, that’s the
possibility of 235 births, assuming half the time it worked.” Olivia Praten
added: “It could be less and it could be more, but that’s an example. Right
now, the system can operate without being accountable to anyone.”
47

Te result is that donor ofspring are lef to grieve losses they
cannot even fully grasp or imagine. As Narelle Grech put it: “I always
wanted a brother, and last year I found out I have three! I cried the day I
found out, because I was so happy and I also cried because the reality is I
may never get to meet or know any of them. It’s like they were born and
died in my mind all at once.”
48

She later learned that she has seven half-siblings. She writes: “Te
clinics and the professor who helped in my creation and mum’s ‘treatment’
… deliberately legislated so that I could never know any of them. How
is this fair? … None of us kids agreed to this anonymity business and if I
could meet all seven of them I would. It would mean the world to me.”
49
Tese stories of grief and anger stand in marked contrast to the domi-
nant media presentation of what one mom who used donor insemination
calls “extreme families.” If you’ve read anything at all in the newspaper
about donor ofspring, most likely it was one of a spate of news stories
about moms who used the same sperm donor geting their babies, tod-
dlers, and tweens together for picnics at which the kids play, the moms
snap lots of pictures, and reporters descend for fascinating human inter-
est stories about today’s diverse families. Lots of tumbling toddlers who
vaguely resemble one another, smiling broadly for the camera, makes a
great story for the newspaper, but it doesn’t begin to describe the realities
these children face as they grow up.
In fact, a not insignifcant number of donor ofspring are profoundly
confused about something the rest of us think is prety simple: who their
families are. In our survey, 43 percent of donor ofspring, compared to
only 15 percent of adopted persons and just six percent of those raised
by their biological parents, agree that “I feel confused about who is a
member of my family and who is not” – a nearly three-fold diference
000563
34
between the donor conceived and the adopted.
50
At the end of our survey,
one respondent commented, “I am still having problems puting my real
family together.”
Te concerns of donor ofspring do not just lie with purely emotional
maters about identity and kinship, as profoundly important as those
concerns are. Tey also have urgent, genuine medical concerns. Tey fear
unknowingly dating one of their half-siblings – or they fear their future
children unknowingly dating the children of one of their half-siblings.
Tis concern is not at all unreasonable. Some donors have very
large numbers of ofspring. And would-be mothers from particular sub-
groups tend to favor certain kinds of donors. For example, if an atractive,
well-educated sperm donor also happens to mention in his application
that he has a lesbian sister and wants to help lesbian moms, it’s likely that
lesbian moms will fnd his profle of interest and consider buying a vial
of his sperm. Add that together with the fact that lesbian and gay parents
tend to concentrate in lesbian and gay- friendly cities and neighborhoods
and, bingo, your lesbian friend at work might well be the mom of your
daughter’s half-brother. Te same social network argument can be made
about the independent, alternative-life style embracing women who might
opt for being a single mom by choice and who move in circles with other
like-minded mothers. Meanwhile, although many sperm banks now serve
a national and even global clientele, some can still have strong relationships
with surrounding medical centers and the community, and thus signifcant
numbers of children who are similar in age and conceived with the same
sperm donor might live in proximity to one another. Message boards are
full of these kinds of stories. Recently one single mother by choice dis-
covered that her neighbor, with similar aged children, had used the same
sperm donor – in other words, that her children’s half-siblings literally
lived down the block. Teir children were toddlers but soon they will be
teens who might well fnd the girl or boy down the street atractive.
Donor ofspring activist Narelle Grech asks, “In the future, will
we all have to have a DNA test when we start dating someone, ‘just in
case’?” As if to echo her question, on the Donor Sibling Registry a mom
who used a sperm donor and is unable to locate her child’s half-siblings
i ncest Fears and lack
of Medical hi story
000564
35
optimistically concluded that in the future her son, who is currently still
a baby, will simply have to have genetic testing with any girl he seriously
considers having sex with.
In our survey, in the questions that asked about the feelings of
donor ofspring at age 15 and about currently being a donor ofspring, 18
percent of them said that at age 15 they were “afraid about not knowing
my medical history” and 15 percent said that even at that age they were
“worried about my future children’s health or feelings.” (At the age they
are now, 16 and 15 percent agreed with each of these sentiments.) Also,
46 percent of donor ofspring, but only 17 percent of adopted adults and
just 6 percent of those raised by their biological parents, agree, “When
I’m romantically atracted to someone I have worried that we could
be unknowingly related.”
51
Similarly, 43 percent of adult donor ofspring,
and just 16 percent of adopted adults and 9 percent of those raised by
their biological parents, agree, “I have feared having sexual relations
unknowingly with someone I am related to.”
52
A fear that most people
raised by their biological parents have never even considered and basically
cannot fathom is much on the minds of many donor ofspring, far more
so even compared to the adopted.
Okay, fne, a reader might respond, but has it ever happened – that
is, has anyone ever accidentally had sex with their brother or sister? Well,
yes. Last year in Britain a story came to light of twins, male and female,
separated at birth and adopted by diferent families. Tey met, fell in love,
and married – and only then learned they were brother and sister.
53
Having the state say that you have no right to your medical history.
Feeling atracted to people you are unknowingly related to.
54
Realizing that
you have accidentally commited incest with your half-brother or sister.
Watching your own children entering the dating market and, with even
more trepidation than the average parent feels, worrying that they might
unknowingly date a cousin. Tese are the worries and fears of adult donor
ofspring today. And yes, all of it can happen.
And, it’s only going to get more confusing. One of the most startling
fndings of our study is this: Among our respondents, a full 20 percent
of donor ofspring said that, as adults, they themselves had already donated
their own sperm or eggs or been a surrogate mother. Tat’s compared to less
000565
36
than 0ne percent of the adopted adults in our survey and one percent of
those raised by their biological parents – an extraordinary diference.
55
Te
donor ofspring are also much more likely than those raised by adopted
or biological parents to consider becoming donors. More than half –
52 percent – of donor ofspring, compared to 36 percent of adopted
adults and 34 percent raised by their biological parents, said they would
consider doing it.
56

What does all this mean? Say you are a donor ofspring in 2025,
searching for your biological father or mother. If you even fnd him or
her, there’s a surprisingly good chance that he or she, too, was a donor
ofspring. You might have found your biological father or mother, but
that parent in turn has no idea where he or she came fom. Tat parent too is
missing a biological father or mother – and lacking a relationship with or
information about that whole side of their family. Te fragmented families
we see today are geting broken into smaller and smaller pieces. By 2025,
the child looking for shards of family history could fnd only splinters.
000566
38
health problems (with the adopted being closer to twice as likely as those
raised by biological parents to report the same thing).
In the open-ended responses to our survey, some donor ofspring
ofered comments that illustrated some of these fndings:
I’ve never even thought about this before I took this survey, but yes I
stay depressed a lot, and would like to know more about my donor’s family
health.
I still have issues with this problem and am seeking professional help. It
has helped me to become a stronger person but has scared me emotionally.
And:
I CUT MY SELF
Others shared comments that refected the sensitivity of this subject
for them and their sometimes difcult journeys as they have sought to
make sense of it and try to come to a beter place:
I was uncomfortable with the fact that I was conceived this way at
frst. But through the support of my family and the positive environment they
provided, I turned out fne.
Tis is a very sensitive subject for me, doing this survey felt like
therapy!
I think everything was covered. I don’t feel like it is a big issue for me
anymore because I’m an adult with a family of my own.
It’s what you choose to make of it.
And one spoke of her recent revelation:
I did not know until 3 weeks ago that any of this had happened. I lost a
baby in my 6
th
month and my mother inadvertently told me of their conception
problems. Tis survey was actually a litle spooky.
Our study also reveals signifcant experiences of social isolation
among donor ofspring. When asked “Do you know other people who
were conceived with use of a sperm donor?” many – 54 percent – say no.
When asked “How do you feel talking to non-family members about
the fact that you were conceived with a sperm donor?” about one-third
(34 percent) do say they are “very comfortable,” but nearly another third
(31 percent) say they are only “somewhat comfortable.” Te rest say they
are uncomfortable talking to non-family members about their origins or
Soci al isol ation
000568
39
don’t do it at all. Along with those who are adopted, the donor ofspring
are more likely to agree, “I have experienced many losses in my life” –
with about one-third of donor ofspring and the adopted strongly agreeing
with this statement, compared to one-ffh of those raised by their bio-
logical parents.
59
Overall, it is probably not surprising that so many donor
ofspring agree that “I don’t feel that anyone really understands me.”
Twenty-fve percent agree strongly, compared to 13 percent of adopted
and nine percent of those raised by biological parents.
60

Some of the responses make it clear that this survey was one of the
few if not the only time these young people had been asked questions
about their experience. Some donor ofspring seemed to fnd the survey
topic painful, and some seemed angry:
Tis survey made me feel sad and I am crying as I am typing this comment.
I would like to know other people that have been conceived by a sperm
donation and let them know that they’re not alone.
Tis is the frst time I have had anyone ask me questions of such personal
mater, but I am O.K. with it.
Yes, I thought this was very personal and it hurt a lot to give the information out.
Tis was a very personal and emotional survey. What could you possibly
get fom this type [of survey]?
Others seemed relieved that someone had shown an interest, and
they were eager to learn the results.
Wow, I am just blown away with this experience. I am pleased to have
been a part of this study. Tis is a subject that I really do not discuss openly
with anyone except very close family or fiends. I am thankful for my life and
opportunities I have. I do feel that my parents’ divorce was perhaps my fault.
But I had a very strong and supportive mother and grandparents. Tank you
for this opportunity.
I hope the information gathered in this survey is published in a
book or magazine so we can all see what other people like myself have had to
go through.
Many other donor ofspring had brief, positive comments to make
about the survey itself, with comments such as “very interesting survey,
never seen anything else like it,” and “interested in seeing the results of
other people,” and “I think this was a good topic,” and much more.
000569
40
Until now we have dwelled mainly on the feelings donor ofspring
have for the family members who are missing from their life – their biologi-
cal father, his family, and their half-siblings. But there is also the mater
of the family who are in their life. It appears that using a sperm donor to
build a family can markedly increase tensions within that family as well.
Lynne Spencer was born in Michigan in 1957. She didn’t fnd out
the truth about her conception until she was 35 years old, afer the man
she had always thought was her biological father died. Lynne’s parents
had a “confictual” relationship. “When I was in junior high school,” she
said, “my father … asked me if I thought that he should divorce my mom.
I told him ‘yes.’ Tey stayed married, but they were always bickering with
each other.” Looking back, she thinks the way she was conceived did af-
fect her family.
Te environment in our house was very emotionally repressive.
Some areas were taboo to talk about. My parents would tell sexual
jokes with my aunts and uncles, but they did not talk to me about
sexuality. … Te taboo of talking openly about sexuality I know was
partly due to the times, when a lot of things weren’t talked about
openly, but I also believe that it was even more of an uncomfort-
able topic because of the donor conception and needing to keep
that secret.
Lynne has spent a lot of time thinking about secrets and how they
afect families. Secrets, she says, “always afect the interactions and relation-
ships in families, including when donor conception is kept secret. People
have to be on guard to make sure they don’t accidentally give clues to the
secret.” Over time, “this need to hold back limits the level of emotional
intimacy, openness, and honesty between people.”
Trust was a big issue too. Like many people who fnd out later in life
that they were donor conceived, Lynne feels she always knew something
was wrong. She told us:
When you grow up and your instincts are telling you one thing and
your parents – the people you are supposed to be able to trust the
most in your life – are telling you something else, your whole sense
of what is true and not true is all confused. You question your own
instincts. You don’t know when to believe your own thoughts and
feelings, or not.
Fami ly i nstabi l ity
000570
41
Like Lynne, Victoria Reilly, now in her sixties, feels that the deci-
sion to use a sperm donor to conceive a child, and the secret her parents
kept, caused a great deal of stress in her family. “I think that it put a terrible
strain on my mother who always tried to be the mediator,” she says. “I
believe that her carrying a child conceived by another man’s sperm and
raising that child caused [my father] a deep hurt.” She doesn’t think her
father is the only man who might feel this way about donor conception.
“I think other men whose wives use the DI [donor insemination] method
to conceive” might also have a hard time dealing with the fact their wives
are pregnant by another man, she says. “I think it is not good for family
dynamics.”
A history of infertility. Geting pregnant from another man. Keeping
an enormous secret from your child and everyone else. Raising a child in
which one parent is biologically related to the child and another is not.
Tese experiences and more might account for the strains one hears
about when donor conceived adults talk about the families they grew up
in. Perhaps not surprisingly, the result can be divorce.
Many observers have noted how ofen donor conceived people who
speak out about their stories also tell stories of their parents’ divorce. In
our study the divorce rate for married couples who use donor concep-
tion is indeed higher than one would expect. As Figure 4 (p. 117) shows,
the married heterosexual parents of the donor conceived persons were
unusually likely to have divorced, with 27 percent of them reporting that
their parents divorced before the respondent was age 16, compared to
14 percent of those who were adopted and 25 percent of those raised by
their biological parents.
While the percentage of donor ofspring whose parents divorced is
not a great deal higher than for those raised, for example, by their biological
parents, it is signifcant for several reasons. Many children raised by their
biological parents are conceived before or shortly afer their parents marry,
while heterosexual married couples do not typically consider other means
of having a child – whether using reproductive technology or adopting –
without frst trying for some years to conceive a child the “old fashioned”
way. Most divorces occur very early in marriages, so everything else being
equal, those raised by their biological parents should be much more likely
000571
42
to have experienced parental divorce than those who were conceived with
donor sperm, or those who were adopted. Yet the percentage of donor
conceived people who experienced their parents’ divorce appears to be
slightly more than that of those raised by their biological parents. And,
notably, the percentage of donor ofspring whose parents divorced is two
times that of those who were adopted. Both groups of parents would likely
have turned to donor conception or adoption later in their marriages when
marriages, on the whole, are more stable. Tis patern – that the donor
conceived are twice as likely as those who were adopted, and as likely as those
raised by their biological parents, to have seen their parents divorce – strongly
suggests unusual, negative infuences on the marriages of those who used
a sperm donor to conceive their child.
61
Many donor ofspring tell stories of their parents’ divorce. Some of
their stories are quite complex.
“Andrew” is a high school math teacher in Pennsylvania, born in 1959.
His mother told him when he was about 11 or 12 that his biological father
was in fact a sperm donor. Tat summer he was visiting two cousins and
decided to “share with them this whopper of a story.” He reports, “I had
only recently learned of my donor-conceived background, and I thought
I’d impress them with this bombshell.” To his horror, though, his cousin
merely replied, “Oh, I already knew that. Our parents told us about it.”
Andrew’s aunt, uncle, and cousins knew the truth about his origins even
when he himself did not. Andrew was shocked and livid.
Te fact of his donor conception was not the only unsetling factor
in Andrew’s life. “My mother was married at the time of my conception,
but he ran of with someone else. My mom divorced him when I was
around age one.” Ten, “she remarried when I was six, and her second
husband adopted me. He and I never managed to establish any kind of
bond, though. He wound up dying very young – at age 42 – when I was
13. Mom didn’t remarry afer that.” Looking back, he refected, “I’d say I
never really had a father my whole life – even when Dad (“husband #2”)
was alive.”
Vince lives in Melbourne, Australia. Born in 1980, he found out
when he was 21 years old that he was donor conceived. Trying to describe
his family, he said, “Well my story is a litle more complex than most.
000572
43
Mum was married in the late 70’s to the man who appears on my birth
certifcate. Upon trying to start a family they discovered he was infertile,
so they saw doctors, specialists, etc., who suggested they try some new
revolutionary treatment (IVF), and mum subsequently fell pregnant
for the frst time.” Tey divorced when he was one or two years old and
his mother remarried when he was about three. “I grew up believing that
her second husband was my father. She changed my surname to his.” He
refects, with some astonishment, “I had no idea of her frst husband until
I found out everything at 21 years old. I thought it was just a classic case
of being married, divorcing and marrying someone new. But then there
was the IVF procedure thrown in the mix.”
“So in reality,” Vince says, “I have three fathers: 1) Te donor who
remains a mystery, 2) Mum’s frst husband who was there when I was
born and remains on my birth certifcate, and 3) the father who raised
me from around three years old, who I know as my dad.” “Now how,” he
asks, “does all this shape me as a person?” At age 29, Vince is trying to
fgure that out.
Our data refect that the donor conceived experience a particularly
high degree of transitions in their family lives as they are growing up. Te
transitions we asked about included not only divorce but also parental
remarriage or formation of a new live-in relationship, a parental remarriage
or new live-in relationship ending in divorce or break up, losing touch with
a parent, and a parent dying. Again, it’s telling to compare the donor con-
ceived born to heterosexual, married parents with those who were adopted
by heterosexual, married parents. As Figure 3a (p. 116) reveals, 44 percent
of the donor conceived experienced one or more “family transitions”
between their birth and age 16, compared to 22 percent of the adopted.
62

Remarriages have a higher divorce rate than frst marriages, and live-in
relationships are even more unstable. For the donor conceived, not only
are their sperm donor biological fathers generally absent and unknown to
them, but a lot more people are likely to be coming into – and too ofen
going out of –their lives.
When they grow up, a high number – well over half (57 percent)
– of donor ofspring agree that “I feel that I can depend on my friends
more than my family” – which is about twice as many as those who
000573
44
grew up with their biological parents (29 percent).
63
Amid a maelstrom of
people moving in and out of their lives, the donor ofspring too ofen can
feel lost and alone.
For decades, virtually anyone conceived in a clinic with use of donor
sperm was born to a woman married to a man at the time of conception.
Doctors simply would not have provided the service if she had been un-
married. During the 1970s and 1980s, that picture began to change. Among
today’s adults who are sperm donor ofspring, one can fnd persons who
were born to single mothers and lesbian couples, as well as to heterosexual
married couples.
In our survey, 262 of the donor conceived report that they were born
to heterosexual married couples, 113 to single mothers, and 39 to lesbian
couples. While at frst glance the number of those born to lesbian couples
might seem rather small, our survey is notable for having even 39 respondents
who grew up with this experience. Most studies of the ofspring of lesbian
or gay parents are based on a smaller or similar number of respondents, and
they typically lack the comparison groups that our survey ofers.
64
Perhaps most striking is how similar all three groups of donor ofspring
(those conceived to lesbian couples, single mothers, or heterosexual couples)
appear to be in their atitudes and experiences. Te fgures referred to below
are found in Table 2. (p. 109)
In all three groups, between 40 and 45 percent say, “I feel confused
about who is a member of my family and who is not.”
65

Between 40 and 45 percent say “I have feared having sexual relations
unknowingly with someone I am related to.”
Between 40 and 45 percent say “When I’m romantically atracted to
someone I have worried that we could be unknowingly related.”
Between 40 and 50 say “I worry that my mother might have lied to
me about important maters when I was growing up.”
Roughly similar proportions appear to agree “I have worried that if I try
to get more information about or have a relationship with my sperm donor,
my mother and/or the father who raised me would feel angry or hurt.”
More than half say “When I see someone who resembles me I ofen
wonder if we are related.”
Withi n the Sperm Donor
Conceived: of fspri ng of
heterosexual Married
Couples, Si ngle Mothers
by Choice, and lesbi an
Couples
000574
45
More than half say “I feel that I can depend on my friends more
than my family.”
More than half say “I don’t feel that anyone really understands me.”
But there also appear to be diferences. In general, the donor con-
ceived persons born to single mothers seem to be more curious about their
absent biological father, and seem to be hurting more, than those born to
couples, whether those couples were heterosexual or lesbian.
Meanwhile, compared to those born to single mothers or hetero-
sexual couples, those born to lesbian couples seem overall to be somewhat
less curious about their absent biological father, and somewhat less likely
to report that they are hurting – but, at the same time, a substantial mi-
nority of those born to lesbian couples do report distressing experiences
and outcomes. One caution is that because there are 39 ofspring of lesbian
couples in our study, for the most part our fndings related to that group can
only suggest how well or how poorly they are faring. (Other ofen-cited studies
of ofspring of lesbian couples are also challenged by similarly small, or even
smaller, numbers.) However, in some cases where noted signifcance tests do
reveal signifcant diferences for the ofspring of lesbian couples in our study.
First, let’s look at those born to single mothers by choice. Te donor
ofspring born to single mothers appear more likely than the other two
groups to agree that: “I fnd myself wondering what my sperm donor’s
family is like.” Most (78 percent) of those born to single moms said this,
compared to two-thirds of those born to lesbian couples or married het-
erosexual parents.
66
Regarding the statement “My sperm donor is half of who I am,” a
full 71 percent of those born to single moms agree, compared to just under
half (46 percent) of those born to lesbian moms and almost two-thirds
(65 percent) of those with married heterosexual parents.
67
Next, let’s look at those born to lesbian parents. Tose who had
lesbian moms at birth appear less likely than those who had married
heterosexual parents or a single mom at birth to agree with some state-
ments, such as those listed below. Still, it’s worth noting that substantial
minorities – and in one case a majority – of those with lesbian moms do
appear to agree with the following statements:
68

000575
46
One-third (33 percent) of those born to lesbian moms say “Te
circumstances of my conception bother me.”
One-third (33 percent) say “When I see friends with their biological
fathers and mothers, it makes me feel sad.”
More than a third (36 percent) agree “It bothers me that money
was exchanged in order to conceive me.”
Well over a third (38 percent) say “It hurts when I hear other people
talk about their genealogical background.”
Nearly half (46 percent) say “My sperm donor is half of who I am.”
More than half (59 percent) say “I sometimes wonder if my sperm
donor’s family would want to know me.”
With regard to family transitions (see Figure 3b, p.116), the donor
conceived born to lesbian mothers appear only slightly less likely to have
had one or more family transitions before age 16, compared to the donor
conceived born to heterosexual married parents.
69
From the same fgures,
the single mothers by choice appear to have a higher number of transitions,
but we have to keep in mind that if the single mother married or moved
in with someone, that would count as at least one transition. Still, with
about half (49 percent) of the ofspring of single mothers by choice in our
sample reporting one or more family transitions between their birth and
age 16, it’s clear that family change was not uncommon for them.
How might these feelings and experiences, taken together, afect
young people born via donor insemination to lesbian couples or single
mothers? As mentioned earlier, we asked three questions about outcomes
related to problems with the law, mental health, and substance abuse.
Table 3 (p. 111) reports the percentage of respondents who reported each
of three conditions, by origin. Te table further reports the breakdowns
within the donor conceived for those born to married heterosexual par-
ents, lesbian couples, and single mothers. Details on signifcance tests
are available in the table. Also, Figure 2 (p. 115) provides odds ratios with
controls for socio-economic status and other factors.
Te frst question was, “At any time before age 25, were you ever in
trouble with the law?” Of those raised by their biological parents, only
11 percent said yes. By contrast, more than twice as many of those who
were born to a single mother who used a sperm donor – 26 percent – said
000576
47
yes, and 20 percent of the donor conceived born to married heterosexual
parents said the same thing. On this outcome, the donor conceived born
to lesbian mothers appear perhaps not that diferent than those raised by
their biological parents. In our sample, 13 percent of those born to lesbian
mothers said they had problems with the law growing up.
70
Te second question was, “Have you ever been prescribed medica-
tion for depression or other mental health problems?” Tis time it is the
young adults who were adopted who stand out – 43 percent of the adopted
adults say that they have been prescribed medication for depression or
other mental health problems. Te donor conceived young people appear
only slightly more likely than those raised by their biological parents to say
they’ve been prescribed medication for these reasons, and the responses
for most groups of the donor conceived are statistically, signifcantly lower
than the responses for the adopted.
71
Te fnal question was, “Have you ever felt unable to control your
use of alcohol or other substances? Just 11 percent of those raised by their
biological parents said yes to this question. By contrast, well over twice
as many – 26 percent – of the donor conceived born to a single mother
said yes to this question. Tis time, though, those born to lesbian couples
also appear much more likely than those raised by their biological parents
to report problems with substance abuse – more than one-ffh, or 21
percent. (Meanwhile, the donor conceived born to married heterosexual
parents are again more likely than those raised by their biological parents
to report this kind of problem, but among the donor conceived they were
faring the best on this measure, at 17 percent.) Overall, all three groups of
the donor conceived in our study report more substance abuse problems
compared to those raised by their biological parents.
72
To summarize this section:
Sperm donor conceived persons fom all three family structures at birth –
heterosexual married parents, lesbian couples, or single mothers – share many
atitudes and experiences in common.
But there are diferences. For example, compared to others who are
donor conceived, the donor conceived born to single mothers seem to be more
curious and more distressed about their origins. Tey are more than twice as
likely as those raised by their biological parents to have had problems with the
000577
48
law, and more than twice as likely as those raised by their biological parents
to have struggled with substance abuse.
Meanwhile, those born to lesbian mothers seem to express somewhat
less curiosity and less distress about their origins. Still, substantial minorities,
and sometimes majorities, of the donor conceived born to lesbian couples in
our study do express these troubled feelings, and more than half of them report
curiosity about their biological father and his family. Tose born to lesbian
couples also appear nearly twice as likely as those raised by their biological
parents to say they have struggled with substance abuse.
Overall, although there are varieties of experiences within the donor
conceived, as a group the donor conceived are hurting more, are more confused,
feel more isolated fom their families, and on some important measures have
worse outcomes, than those raised by their biological parents, and no groups
of donor ofspring appear to be exempted fom these possible risks.
One thing our study makes clear, if it was not clear already, is that
donor conceived adults do not speak with one voice. Tere is diversity of
experience and opinion among them, as with any group. Some sufer quite
a bit and feel very lost and alone. Some are angry. Many are confused about
who is and is not a part of their family. As a group they are signifcantly
more likely than other groups to experience negative outcomes. Most,
as we will see, believe strongly in the child’s right to know who his or her
father is. But there are also donor ofspring who say they are not greatly
impacted by the whole thing. Tey’re fne.
In our survey questions asking how respondents felt at age 15 and
currently about being donor conceived, some donor conceived persons
said they felt “special” (28 percent at age 15, 26 percent now); “cool” (19
percent earlier, 20 percent now); “proud” (12 percent earlier, 16 percent
now); “wanted” (16 percent earlier, 15 percent now), and a signifcant
minority embrace the more neutral but still basically positive phrasing
of “not a big deal” (37 percent earlier, 43 percent now).
From the open-ended question at the end of our survey, here are
the unambiguously positive statements that donor ofspring wrote:
I am proud of being who I am, and grateful for having such a
magnifcent family.
And some are…f i ne
000578
49
Being that I am a donor child I believe that my mom and my dad are
my real family. Tey raised me and cared for me my whole life and I love them
more than anything.
COMFORTABLE
I had a very happy childhood with my two mothers, we continue to have
a great relationship.
I have no problem being a donor child.
I think that even though you were not conceived in a traditional way the
love that you receive when you get into the world can make all of the diference
in the way you feel about yourself.
I think those parents are more imp[ortant] who gave birth to the baby
and take care of her rather than donor.
I was very comfortable and cool.
My moms are both awesome and have done a great job raising us.
I’m lucky!
My life has been good so far!
Sperm donating is a great thing. It helps out families.
I think having the donor option is great, there are a lot of good people
out there who really want kids.
We should be cheered when we hear these stories. Whenever any-
one – from any kind of background – says they are doing well, that’s good
news. But it is also true that their voices do not discount the other voices.
Rather than pit those who are “fne” and those who are sufering against
each other, we should ask, rather, are any being harmed at all. Our study
strongly suggests there are serious possible harms and risks associated with
being conceived with donor sperm. Tese fndings should be of concern
to any policy maker, health professional, parent or would-be parent, and
social leader in the nations that allow this practice.

000579
000580
52
biological parents to agree with this statement, they are about four times
as likely to agree strongly.
Similarly, 43 percent of donor ofspring, compared to 22 percent and
15 percent, respectively, of those raised by adoptive or biological parents,
agree that “I worry that my father might have lied to me about impor-
tant maters when I was growing up.”
80
Compared to those raised by
biological parents, the donor ofspring are more than four times as likely
to agree strongly. In the open ended responses to our study, one donor
ofspring said, “[I am] currently not on seeing or speaking terms with family
because of this.”
Afer fnding out she was donor conceived, Stina recalls, it felt like:
…somebody very close to me had died. Every time I remembered
the news about my conception, I felt an utermost pain. I was very
disappointed in my parents – that they had kept this secret for so
long, and that they had actually agreed to an anonymous donation
so that I could never fnd out who the donor is.
Donor conception has always been shrouded in secrecy. Anonymity
is the thick cloth that permits no one to look inside. For years, the medical
profession has touted anonymity as the answer to the quandaries created
by sperm and egg donation. Anonymity protects the donor from having
to confront the inconvenient truth that a child might be born from his or
her own body. It protects parents who do not wish for an “outside” party
to intrude on their family, and who quite ofen choose not to tell their
children. And it certainly facilitates the buying and selling of sperm and
eggs as products, no longer identifed with one wholly unique human
being whose life continues to evolve long afer the “donation” is made.
As a director of one of the oldest sperm banks in the U.S. said, “[Without
anonymity], you’re going to lose the really smart, the really wonderful
people who I think are going to question, … ‘Do I really want to be in a
situation where, down the road, someone may contact me?’”
81
Anonymous donation remains standard practice in the U.S. fertility
industry, but changes are percolating, slowly. For some time, at least some
professionals involved with donor insemination families have advocated
greater openness with the children. Te Sperm Bank of California was a
pioneer in its early eforts to establish an “ID release” program, beginning
Endi ng Anonymous
Donation?
000582
53
in 1983, whereby donor ofspring could be given the name of their sperm
donor once the ofspring turned 18 years old.
82
Other sperm banks are
experimenting with ofering at least some ID release for known donors,
or, at the least, providing a great deal more non-identifying information
about the donor than they have provided in the past.
Tere are also growing pressures on the U.S. sperm bank industry
to establish a voluntary or mandatory registry service. Yet even though
the leading professional organization in the U.S., the American Society for
Reproductive Medicine, now recommends that parents who use sperm or
egg donors disclose this fact to their children, using an anonymous donor
remains the choice of many would-be parents who want to have control
over what their child knows, when their child knows it, and who might
be involved in their child’s life. In the U.S., the balance is greatly tilted
toward the rights of donors, parents, and would-be parents.
In at least some other nations, the balance is shifing to give more
atention to the rights of the ofspring. In recent years Britain, Sweden,
Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and some parts of Australia and New
Zealand have banned anonymous gamete donation. Croatia has become
the most recent nation to consider such a law.
83
In Canada, a class-action
suit has been launched seeking the same outcome.
84
Advocates make the
case in part based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, rati-
fed in 1989 and signed by all member organizations except the U.S. and
Somalia, which states that “the child 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.”
85
Transcripts of debates at
the time make it clear that UN leaders were referring to a child’s mother
and father. Te “right to know” your parents makes no sense unless these
people are understood to be biological parents.
86
In nations that have banned anonymity the regulations vary, but
generally the child has the right to request from a sperm or egg bank
contact information about his or her biological parent when the child
reaches around 15 to 18 years old. In some cases these nations have also
established registries to help donor ofspring born before the new law was
in place to try to fnd their biological fathers and mothers.
In Britain, around the time that anonymity was banned, those
000583
54
opposing the ban warned ofen that ending anonymity would dry up all
the sperm in the U.K. Several news articles claimed there was only one
sperm donor lef in Scotland.
87
Experts raised worries of women turning
to the “open market” for fresh sperm – and, briefy, a website did exist
that allowed women to obtain fresh, anonymous sperm from men who
were willing to circumvent the new law in exchange for cold cash. Even
the National Health Service joined in, actively seeking to recruit sperm
and egg donors, and trying to entice young men with an inexplicably crass
campaign centered around the slogan “Give a toss” (“toss” being a British
slang term associated with masturbation).
But what really happened? It turns out those worries were for naught.
In fact, even with the prospect of their over-18 progeny someday seeking
them out, men in Britain are still signing up to be sperm donors, and a
few more women are even signing up to be egg donors. (Eggs have long
been scarce in Britain, both before and afer the ban, which is why British
women typically go to Spain, eastern Europe, or Russia for eggs.) Laura
Witjens, chair of the National Gamete Donor Trust in the UK, reported
in summer 2009 that donor numbers for both sperm and eggs “have gone
UP since the removal of anonymity,” based on the government’s own
fgures (capital leters hers).
88

In the end, though, the question of whether banning anonymity will
lead to an increase or a decrease in sperm and egg donations is a second-
ary one. Te primary question is whether it is morally right for the state
actively to deny some citizens the knowledge of who their parents are.
Several nations have decided the answer is no.
No mater where you live, or what the law says you have to do,
studies and anecdotal evidence are building a powerful case that if one
does use a sperm or egg donor to have a child, telling that child the truth
about his or her origins is the right way to go.
Parents might resist telling their children the truth for any number
of reasons. Perhaps because they want to maintain the public illusion of
fertility, or they are afraid the truth will make their child love them less,
or they are ashamed and embarrassed and don’t know how to bring the
topic up. Or perhaps they think their child is too young to understand, or
Truth Tel l i ng
000584
55
they are afraid the “donor” will wreak havoc on their family’s lives – or all
of these reasons and more. But decades of reports from donor conceived
people who learned the truth, somehow, and the stories they tell of how
their families were warped and damaged by the secret their parents tried
to keep – and their massive loss of trust in their parents once they learned
the truth – all point to the same underlying and timeless principle: Hon-
esty really is the best policy.
Even if one could assume that children are beter of not knowing,
parents cannot guarantee their child will never fnd out. Someone else
in the child’s life – an aunt, grandparent, or family friend – might tell the
child. Or the truth will come out in the midst of family confict or divorce,
or afer the death of the man the child thought was his or her father. If
the social father (that is, the person the ofspring understands to be his
or her father) develops a serious illness, the parents might feel it is kinder
to tell the child that, in fact, the child is probably not at genetic risk for
that illness. And it’s astonishing how many stories one hears about do-
nor ofspring who stumbled upon the truth in a science class or medical
school program when, through simple genetic study or testing for a class
project, it became clear that at least one of their parents was not, in fact,
their biological parent.
Studies are now showing that telling a child “early and ofen” about
his or her donor origins generally appears to produce less negative response
in the child.
89
A number of organizations have responded with resources
to help in telling.
90
In our study, the donor ofspring as a group report a fairly early and
high degree of openness among their parents. But our sample of 485 donor
ofspring only includes people who know their status. If it were somehow pos-
sible to sample all adult donor ofspring, including the many who do not
know or suspect they are donor conceived, by defnition we would fnd
many more donor ofspring whose parents were not open with them.
We put this question to the donor ofspring: “Parents vary widely
in whether and how they tell their children that they were conceived
with donor sperm. Tinking carefully, which of the following catego-
ries best describes you?” Tese were the responses:
My parent(s) were always open with me about how I was conceived: 59 percent
My parent(s) kept the fact of my donor conception a secret – I only
000585
56
learned in an accidental or unplanned way: 20 percent
My parent(s) intentionally revealed the facts of my donor conception to
me sometime before I was 12 years old: 7 percent
My parent(s) intentionally revealed the facts of my donor conception to
me sometime afer I was 12 years old: 9 percent
As we see, well over half (59 percent) of the donor ofspring had
parents who were always open with them. Another 16 percent had par-
ents who were not open from the child’s earliest memories, but who did
intentionally tell the child the truth either before (7 percent) or afer
(9 percent) the child was 12 years old. At the same time, one in fve (20
percent) say their parents tried to keep it a secret, leaving their child to
fnd out in an accidental or unplanned way. Because donor ofspring ofen
say that fnding out when you are a teenager that your father is not your
father is exceptionally devastating, we might say that the 9 percent who
found out as teenagers, added with the 20 percent whose parents tried
unsuccessfully to keep it a secret, form well over a quarter of our sample
who discovered the truth in a far less than ideal way.
Anonymity, secrecy, disclosure, telling, ID release, known donors,
registries – these are the terms one hears, over and over, in debates about
donor conception. In these debates, there is one potential question you’re
supposed to ignore entirely. Tat question is this: Is secrecy the main
problem with donor conception, or is donor conception itself the main
problem?
Among experts today, there is considerable and growing support
for what we might call the “good donor conception” narrative. Accord-
ing to this narrative, it’s not donor conception that harms children but
rather the way that parents handle it. If parents tell their child the truth
early and ofen, they say, the grown children will be fne. Until now, this
assumption has not been tested.
Let’s look again at our data. Although just over a quarter of our
group found out about their origins in what we might consider a less
than ideal or damaging way, nearly half of the donor ofspring in our
study (47 percent) agree, “I worry that my mother might have lied to
me about important maters when I was growing up,” and 43 percent say
the same thing about their fathers. At least some of the donor ofspring
is Secrecy
the Mai n Problem?
000586
57
whose parents were open with them appear nevertheless to have serious
trust issues with their mothers and fathers.
91

We asked the donor ofspring their opinion on whether secrecy or
donor conception itself is the main problem. In the survey, our question
was this:
Some experts say that donor conception is fne for children so
long as parents tell children the truth about their conception from
an early age. Other experts say that donor conception can be hard
for children, but telling children the truth early on makes it easier for
the children. Still other experts say that donor conception is hard for
children even if their parents tell them the truth. Do you think…
Tese were the responses of the donor ofspring:
Donor conception is fne for children so long as parents tell children the
truth about their conception fom an early age: 44 percent
Donor conception can be hard for children, but telling children the truth
early on makes it easier for the children: 36 percent
Donor conception is hard for children even if their parents tell them the
truth: 11 percent
Of the donor conceived adults we studied, a sizeable portion – 44
percent – are fairly sanguine about donor conception itself, so long as
parents tell their children the truth. But another sizeable portion – 36
percent – still have concerns about donor conception even if parents
tell the truth. And a noticeable minority – 11 percent – say that donor
conception is hard for the kids even if the parents handle it well. Tus
almost half of donor ofspring – about 47 percent – have concerns about
or serious objections to donor conception itself, even when parents tell
their children the truth about their origins.
Damian Adams of Australia reports: “Even if anonymity was ended
it doesn’t solve the problems of identity formation, heritage loss and
loss of kinship…Tese problems are inherent with the concept of donor
conception.” Tom Ellis of Britain concurs: “Te fact that it happens at all
[is the problem].”
British donor ofspring Christine Whipp elaborated:
Children should not be treated as commodities for the beneft of the
adults who commission them, and they should not be deprived of
access to and contact with their biological parents and wider families
000587
58
during their formative years. Donor conception cannot be practiced
‘nicely’ or ‘humanely’ in a way that does not have any negative impact
on the people it creates. It must be the only medical treatment for
which somebody other than the patient has to sufer.
We looked at our data to learn more. Looking at Table 4 (p. 112), we
see that of those donor ofspring whose parents kept their origins a secret
(leaving the donor ofspring fnding out in an accidental or unplanned
way), a large proportion – 51 percent – report mental health issues, more
than a third – 36 percent – report having struggled with substance abuse,
and 29 percent report having had problems with the law. Tese diferences
are signifcant and striking.
Still, while they fared beter than those whose parents tried to keep
it a secret, those donor ofspring who say their parents were always open
with them about their origins (which were 304 of the donor ofspring in our
study) were not spared a higher likelihood of these outcomes. Compared
to those raised by their biological parents, the donor conceived whose
parents were always open with them are still signifcantly more likely to
have struggled with substance abuse issues (18 percent, compared to 11
percent raised by their biological parents) and to report problems with the
law (20 percent, compared to 11 percent raised by their biological parents).
Tese details and more are available in Table 4. (p. 112)
Some also suggest that social stigma about donor conception con-
tributes to the sufering of donor ofspring. While this might well be true,
it is instructive to look at Table 5 (p. 113), which breaks down the donor
ofspring in our study by age at the time of the survey. If social stigma was
a primary source of afiction for donor ofspring we might expect that
those who were older at the time of the survey would be hurting more.
But, on the contrary, the 18-25 year olds who responded to our survey
were more likely to agree with a number of selected statements express-
ing concern about their experience, while those who were 36-45 years of
age were generally less likely to agree with these statements of concern.
Tis analysis could suggest that the concerns of donor ofspring peak in
the young adult years, or that for some reason more recent generations
of donor ofspring are more troubled than earlier ones. Since our study
ofers a snapshot in time we really have no way of knowing. But, at a
minimum, the analysis of the responses of donor ofspring by age does
000588
59
not support the idea that younger donor ofspring, born and raised in an
era of increasing openness about donor conception and family diversity
in general, are less impacted by donor conception.
Overall, our study does not ofer much support for the “good donor
conception” narrative. Rather, the fndings suggest that if parents have
already used, or are intent on using, a sperm donor, then telling their child
the truth is defnitely the way to go. But openness alone does not appear
to resolve the potential losses, confusion, and risks that can come with
deliberately conceiving children so that they will be raised lacking at least
one of their biological parents.
000589
000590
62
again, when it comes to the right to know the identity of their half-siblings
and to have the possibility as children of having a relationship with them,
the support of the adopted and those raised by biological parents weak-
ens, while nearly two-thirds of the donor conceived continue to support
these rights as well.
It is perhaps surprising that approximately two-thirds of this repre-
sentative group of donor ofspring appear to have no problem supporting
the broadest possible assertion of the child’s right to know everything.
In U.S. law, and in the law of many other nations, donor ofspring have
absolutely none of these rights. Right now, U.S. federal and state law
couldn’t care less whether donor ofspring know the identity of their
biological fathers. In fact, to be more specifc, the U.S. federal and state
law that does exist is designed explicitly to protect the would-be parents,
donors, and fertility clinic doctors who wish to deny the child, at any age,
the right to know who his or her father is. If these rights embraced by the
majority of donor ofspring became law tomorrow, the $3.3 billion U.S.
fertility industry would be upended and, at least temporarily, come to a
grinding halt.
In the open-ended question on our survey, some donor ofspring
used the space to assert their frm belief in the child’s right to know:
I defnitely think that all sperm and egg donors should be easily acces-
sible and the children should defnitely have the choice to fnd out who they
are and be able to contact them.
I think it is someone’s right to know where and who they come fom, to
know their identity.
I think that children have a right to know ANYTHING in this situa-
tion. Also, the sperm donor should be told when they have conceived a child,
and asked if they would like a relationship.
It is important to know your identity.
But the picture does get more complicated. While the majority of
donor ofspring frmly support the child’s right to know, signifcant majori-
ties of them also support, at least in the abstract, a strikingly libertarian
approach to the practice of donor conception and other reproductive
technologies.
The ri ghts of
Would-be Parents
000592
63
For starters, well over half of the donor ofspring say they favor the
practice of donor conception. When asked, “What is your opinion of the
practice of donor conception?” 61 percent say they favor it, compared
to 39 percent of adopted adults and 38 percent raised by their biologi-
cal parents.
92
For their thinking on donor conception and reproductive
technologies in general, take a look at their responses to the following
four statements:
93
I think every person has a right to a child: 76 percent of donor
conceived, 52 percent of adopted, and 54 percent of those raised by bio-
logical parents agree.
94

Artifcial reproductive technologies are good for children because
the children are wanted: 76 percent of donor conceived, 65 percent of
adopted, and 61 percent of those raised by biological parents agree.
95

Our society should encourage people to donate their sperm or
eggs to other people who want them: 73 percent of donor conceived, 50
percent of adopted, and 42 percent of those raised by biological parents
agree.
96
Health insurance plans and government policies should make
it easier for people to have babies with donated sperm or eggs: 76
percent of donor conceived, 60 percent of adopted, and 54 percent of
those raised by biological parents agree.
97
In response to each of these statements, a large majority of the donor
conceived adults –around three-quarters – support strong assertions of
the rights of adults to access reproductive technologies, including donor
conception, and they support the strengthening of laws and policies to help
them do so. If every one of these claims became U.S. law tomorrow, fertility
clinic directors around the country would have reason to celebrate.
Some donor ofspring used the open-ended question at the end of
our survey to assert their belief in the rights of adults to access a range of
reproductive technologies, including donor conception:
Everyone has the right to follow their own paths in life without judg-
ments fom others.
Everyone out there deserves to have the opportunity to be a parent, even
if they have to do it by sperm donation, as long as they don’t have a criminal
history of crimes against children.
000593
64
Everyone should have the right to donors.
I think every person has the right to conceive a child and if the person
cannot do this naturally they should use all the ways.
I think people should be fee to do whatever they want to do. I don’t
condone cloning of human beings. But however a person decides to have a
child, it should be a blessing.
Very important for Gay and Lesbian families to have equal rights as
others. Please be fair to them.
I think that donor conception is a wonderful thing and I think every
person that really wants to have a baby and believes that she or he wants to
be a parent and would be a good parent should have the right to have a baby
and sperm donors should be widely accepted in this day and age.
As if to underline these atitudes, recall that the donor ofspring
themselves are far more likely to consider donating their own sperm or
eggs or being a surrogate mother, and a great many of them have actually
done it. One in fve report they have already donated their own sperm or
eggs or been a surrogate mother, while almost no one among the adopted
or those raised by their biological parents had done so.
But before trying to make sense of all this, how about one more
surprise? In response to the statement, “Reproductive cloning should
be ofered to people who don’t have any other way to have a baby,”
a majority – 64 percent – of donor ofspring agree, compared to just 24
percent of those who are adopted and 24 percent of those raised by their
biological parents.
98
Every nation in the world at least pays lip service to
the idea that reproductive cloning is wrong. But a majority of the donor
ofspring say it’s just fne.
How can the donor ofspring, as a group, embrace both the child’s
right to know (which happens to be in direct contradiction to current U.S.
law) and the would-be parent’s right to access a variety of reproductive
technologies, anytime, anywhere (which goes well beyond even current
U.S. law)? Do the donor ofspring want some kind of weirdly-regulated
Wild West, in which adults can cook up babies any way they wish so long
as the babies get a thick fle of information and a chance someday to meet
everyone involved? Maybe.
But it’s also possible that the picture is more complex than it frst
So What’s up?
000594
65
appears. While the donor ofspring are quite supportive of donor con-
ception in the abstract — and more supportive than their peers who
were adopted or raised by their biological parents — it appears that the
closer the questions get to their own experience, the less they like it. For
example, they are more likely to feel repelled by the thought of money
being involved in these “donated” transactions – and money is almost
always involved. Forty-two percent of donor ofspring, compared to 24
percent from adoptive families and 21 percent raised by biological parents,
agree that “It is wrong for people to provide their sperm or eggs for
a fee to others who wish to have children.”
99

Te deliberate infiction of loss upon the child also concerns the
donor ofspring. Forty-four percent, compared to 30 percent of adopted
adults and 38 percent raised by their biological parents, agree that “It
is wrong to deliberately conceive a fatherless child.”
100
Similarly, 42
percent, compared to 35 and 41 percent, respectively, of those raised by
adoptive or biological parents, agree that “It is wrong to deliberately
conceive a motherless child.”
101
,
102
Finally, more than one-third of donor
ofspring (37 percent), compared to 19 percent of adopted adults and 25
percent raised by their biological parents, agree that “If I had a friend
who wanted to use a sperm donor to have a baby, I would encourage
her not to do it.”
103
Again, it’s only a sizeable minority who would discour-
age their friend from having a baby the way their mom had them, but it’s
signifcantly more than their peers who are not donor conceived.
One explanation for this diference is that perhaps we are looking
at groups of donor ofspring who cluster around two poles. About 60
percent or so of them favor the practice of donor conception and embrace
the rights of would-be parents to access it. A good many in this group
are likely also among the majority who think, at the same time, that the
ofspring have a right to know where they come from. At the other pole
are about 40 percent of the donor ofspring who object to payment for
sperm or eggs and who feel it’s wrong to create babies who will, before
they’re even conceived, be denied their father or their mother. A portion
of this group are probably among those who oppose the practice of donor
conception. If a friend asked their opinion, a good many of them would
likely encourage their friend not to have a baby this way.
000595
66
Yet, at its root, it might not be as simple as 60 percent of donor
ofspring are basically okay with the whole thing – with the important
qualifcation that the child’s right to know be resolved the way they feel
it should be -- while 40 percent are troubled by much if not all of it. It
is possible that some of the conficts we see in the donor ofspring as a
group are also found within at least some donor conceived persons. In
other words, some who are sufering – those we saw earlier who feel more
confusion, more loss, more pain, more isolation, and are more likely to
struggle with addiction, delinquency, and depression – might also, at the
same time, embrace positive atitudes about donor conception.
104

How could this be true? Tere are several possible explanations.
For a donor conceived person, to question donor conception can be to
wrestle uncomfortably with the fact of your own existence. “Donor con-
ception is why I am here,” a donor conceived person might say to him or
herself. Some have no trouble reconciling that fact. When an Australian
television interviewer tried to challenge activist Myfanwy Walker with
the observation that without donor conception she wouldn’t be alive
—implying that her criticisms are therefore meaningless — she boldly
retorted, “Doesn’t mater. I am here.”
105
But others with misgivings might
not have the same clarity. It’s also possible that donor conceived people
can think of themselves as a small, misunderstood minority. To question
or restrict donor conception, some might fear, could lead to discrimina-
tion against people like them. And, for those donor ofspring who feel
isolated and alone, some might think, if there were more like me, hey,
maybe I wouldn’t feel so lonely.
It is also possible that donor ofspring who know that they are
donor conceived (which is, afer all, the only kind of donor ofspring we
could sample) have been raised with a script that afrms donor concep-
tion. What is meant by a “script”? Recall the resources mentioned in the
previous section, which ofer tips and talking points for telling your child
that he or she is donor-conceived. While it is only relatively recently that
a broader consensus has been reached among professionals that parents
should voluntarily tell their children the truth about their origins, and many
in this 18 to 45 year old age group were growing up when such openness
was far from de rigueur, some of the younger adults in our study might
000596
67
have had parents who chose to be open and positive in this way.
106
When
you have grown up with your mother warmly and frequently telling you
that sperm donation is wonderful because it’s what allowed her to have
you… well, such enthusiasm might powerfully shape your own atitude
about the practice, despite whatever losses you might have felt.
It’s also the case that the culture is largely positive about donor
conception. Everyone wants to be sensitive to infertile people. Many are
sympathetic to single women with ticking biological clocks. A good many
also want to embrace and afrm lesbian and gay parents and the choices
they make in forming their families. Given the cultural climate, perhaps
it’s not surprising that one fnding of our study is that donor ofspring
who have reservations about donor conception are far less likely than
those who don’t have reservations to feel they can express these opinions
in public.
In our survey, we asked donor ofspring whether they favor, oppose,
or neither favor nor oppose the practice of donor conception. While 61
percent say they favor it, another 26 percent say they neither favor nor
oppose, seven percent say they oppose it, and four percent say “don’t
know.” We then asked those who favor and those who oppose whether
they feel they can express their views in public. Of those who favor donor
conception, just 14 percent say they do not feel they can express their
positive views about donor conception in “society at large.” By contrast,
of those who oppose it, 46 percent said they do not feel they can express
these negative views about donor conception in “society at large.” In other
words, the donor ofspring who oppose donor conception are more than three
times as likely to report that they do not feel they can express their views in
society at large, compared to those who say they favor it.
Finally, while our survey turned up a majority of donor ofspring
who embrace the concept of an adult right to a child, in debates on this
topic there are dissenters. Stina says, “A child is not a right, but its own
person. You do not have a right to a husband or lover either...” Damian
Adams agrees, “Tere is no right to a child. It is a privilege, and it is un-
fortunately a privilege not everyone can enjoy.” “Adam” observes, “Most
women are able to have children. Some aren’t. It isn’t a right.... it just ‘is.’
is There a
ri ght to a Chi ld?
000597
68
It is no more of a right than the right to be born with good vision or good
health or good looks. We all may want these things, but we don’t always
get them.”
Christine Whipp shared this formulation:
Tere is a legal and moral right not to be prevented from indulging
in natural procreation, which is framed in various Human Rights
conventions. Tere is no societal right to purloin a child belong-
ing to somebody else, or to expect society to provide a child for
somebody who wishes to be a parent.
Similarly, Joanna Rose argues that “Tere is the right to try to have
a child naturally within your own sexual relationships…but not a right to
have the genetic child of another [person] outside your sexual relation-
ships, facilitated by artifcial means.”
000598
70
Part of the donor ofspring’s over-representation in the Catholic
church might be due to their ethnicity. Among a series of standard ques-
tions inquiring about race and ethnicity, one question was this: “Are you,
yourself, of Hispanic origin, such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or
some other Spanish background?” A full one-ffh – 20 percent – of the
donor ofspring said they are Hispanic,
110
compared to just six percent
of those from adoptive families and seven percent of those raised by
biological parents.
111

Te donor ofspring are also surprisingly well represented
among races in general. While 69 percent of them said they are white,
another 14 percent said they are black, 13 percent said they are Asian,
and three percent said they are “other or mixed race.” In our study
the donor ofspring as a group are far more racially diverse than the
persons who were adopted or raised by their biological parents.
112
Today’s grown donor ofspring present a striking portrait of racial,
ethnic, and religious diversity – one that helps to illustrate the complexity
of their experience and the reality of their presence in every facet of
American life today.

000600
72
this awareness does litle to heal the pain of knowing that the parents who
made you apparently did not want you. In the case of adoption, at least
children can still dream that the birth mother might have struggled with
the decision to give up her child. Perhaps the birth mother very much
wanted her baby, but because of social or economic circumstances she
simply could not raise it, or she was pressured to relinquish it. Or perhaps
the birth father would have wanted the child if only he had been informed
about the pregnancy. With donor conception, by contrast, the growing
child struggles with the dawning realization that his or her biological
father or mother sold the goods to make the child without even a look
back to say goodbye.
Advocates who claim donor conception is no big deal, “just like”
adoption, also reveal their ignorance about ferce controversies in the feld
of adoption, historically and today. In the recent past, children were too
readily separated from birth parents because the state decided that other,
richer or more powerful, couples were more suitable to be their parents.
Today, there remain serious controversies over open adoption, the rights
of adoptees to access their birth records, international and cross-racial
adoption, pressures on birth mothers to relinquish children, adoption
by gays, lesbians, and singles, and more.
Perhaps the most important distinction between donor concep-
tion and adoption is this: Adoption is a vital, pro-child institution, a
means by which the state rigorously screens and assigns legal parents
to already-born (or at least, already conceived) children who urgently
need loving, stable homes. In adoption, prospective parents go through
a painstaking, systematic review. Some feel the process is so intrusive that
it is humiliating. Tere are home studies. Questions about your fnances.
Your sex life. Your contacts are interviewed. With every question the pos-
sibility hangs in the balance that you might very well not get a child. It
is a tough process with one straightforward goal in mind: Protecting the
best interests of the child.
With donor conception, the state requires absolutely none of that.
Individual clinics and doctors can decide what kinds of questions they
want to ask clients who show up at their door. Tey don’t conduct home
studies. No contacts are interviewed. If you can pay your medical bills,
000602
73
In our study, donor ofspring are very clear about the diference
between adoption and donor conception. In response to the statement,
“It is beter to adopt than to use donated sperm or eggs to have a
child,” nearly half of donor ofspring – 48 percent – agree.
117
Adoptees are
even more likely to agree – 56 percent of them. And half of those raised
by their biological parents also agree – 49 percent.
118
In other words, in
all three groups, overall about half or more agree that there is a clear dif-
ference between adoption and donor conception and that, if would-be
parents want a child, they should seek to adopt rather than conceive using
donated sperm or eggs.
Tere are other diferences too:
• Adoption functions as an institution, the purpose of which is to fnd
parents for children who need them. Donor conception functions
as a market, the purpose of which is to create children for adults who
want them.
116
• Adopted children are generally conceived unintentionally. Donor con-
ceived children are conceived very intentionally.
• Few adoptive parents in the current era would dream of keeping their
child’s adoption a secret from the child. But parents who use donor con-
ception – and especially women who use donor eggs – routinely do.
• Adopted children might wrestle with the sometimes painful knowledge
that their biological parents, for whatever reason, could not or would not
raise them. At the same time, they know that the parents who adopted them
gave them a family and a home. By contrast, donor conceived children
know that the parents raising them are also the ones who intentionally
denied them a relationship with at least one of their biological parents.
Te pain they might feel was caused not by some distant birth parent who
gave them up, but by the parent who cares for them every day.
they couldn’t care less about your fnances. Is the relationship in which
you plan to raise the child stable? Just say it is, and they believe you. Or
do you plan to raise the child alone? Most clinics now say that’s fne, too.
Te end result is the same: A child who is being relinquished by at least
one biological parent. But compared to adoption, the process could not
be more lax.
000603
74
In our survey, a number of the donor ofspring expanded on this point:
I do wish more people would adopt, because there are so many children
conceived naturally that need good homes.
Tere are enough people in the world, the world cannot handle any more
of humanity’s destruction of the world. Tink adoption frst.
Parents who would like to have kids but cannot conceive should adopt
because the world is already over populated and there should be equal op-
portunity to all heterosexual and homosexual parents. Tere’s nothing wrong
having two mothers or fathers.
DON’T DO IT. ADOPT!!!
I feel that more … should consider the option of adopting, as there are
many unwanted children in the world, and seeing one’s own genes in a child is
not as important as saving a life.
Our study also revealed a great many diferences between donor
conception and adoption. As a group, the donor ofspring are sufering
more than those who were adopted: hurting more, feeling more con-
fused, and feeling more isolated from their families. (And as a group, the
adoptees are sufering more than those raised by their biological parents
–underscoring the point that we should not separate children from bio-
logical parents lightly, but only when necessary for the child’s sake.) Te
donor ofspring are more likely than the adopted to have struggled with
addiction and delinquency and, like the adopted, a signifcant number
have struggled with depression or other mental illness.
Several factors might explain why our study found that adoptees as
a whole do beter than the donor conceived. While the donor conceived
in our study had mothers with the highest level of education in all three
groups, the adoptees reported the highest level of family afuence at age
16. Te adoptees’ parents had the lowest rates of divorce of all the groups,
while the heterosexual married parents of the donor conceived had the
highest rate of divorce. And, while about one-ffh of adults adopted as
infants by heterosexual, married parents experienced one or more fam-
ily transitions before age 16, nearly 40 percent of donor ofspring born
to heterosexual, married parents experienced this many transitions. (See
Figure 3c, p. 117) Te greater afuence and family stability of the adoptees
000604
75
might explain some of the diferences (and the presence of both factors
are probably due in part to careful screening by the state, which explicitly
sought out the most stable couples to adopt children).

But beter outcomes for the adopted are likely not just the result of
having more money, or even more stable families, even though the later,
especially, is very important for child well-being. It is likely that adoptees
also beneft from being raised in this more clear and stable institution
known as adoption. An array of laws and social norms surround adoption.
People know what it is. Adopted children have a name for it. Tey have
some sense of a structure, and this structure helps them make sense of
their experience. In our study, adoptees are far less likely than the donor
conceived to say they are confused about who is a member of their family
and who is not. Tey are far less likely to say it is painful to see friends with
their biological fathers and mothers.
119
Some adoptees say that adoption
itself does not heal the wounds that arise from losing your birth mother
and father. But it seems that the care and intent that goes into adoption
can at least help.
Adoption is a good, positive, and vital institution. But the some-
times painful legacy of adoption, and the extreme seriousness with which
the state treats adoption, if anything, underscore that adoption’s legality
should not justify other practices that intentionally separate children from
their biological parents.
So, to answer the question so ofen posed by well-meaning strang-
ers, no, donor conception is not “just like” adoption.
000605
000606
78
Adoption is a child-centered institution that seeks to fnd parents
for children who need them. Te state and adoption professionals operate
amid a rigorous array of laws and practices, honed over many generations
of adoption practice, still admitedly imperfect but designed explicitly to
protect the best interest of the child, to keep children with biological kin
when possible, and to prevent any practice that suggests a baby market.
Donor conception, by contrast, currently operates as a market designed to
procure children for adults who want them. Tere is no state screening of
prospective parents. Tere is no requirement to enact policies that ensure
the best interest of the child. Te idea that children might need to know
and be in contact with their biological kin is treated as a non-issue. Tose
who support the practice of donor conception ofen claim it is no big deal
because it is “just like” adoption. If so, then treat it like adoption.
to leaders in health policy and practice:
Mandatory counseling of donors and parents, and would-be donors
and parents, should be in place, and should include a full exploration of
what is known about the life course experience of donor ofspring.

Some nations set this limit at around ten or twelve ofspring per
donor, which seems far more humane, from the donor ofspring’s point of
view, than the current American Society of Reproductive Medicine recom-
mendation for seting the limit at twenty-fve ofspring per donor.
In the United States it is legal to conceive children using anonymous
donor sperm or eggs. At the same time, the genetic, heritable basis of
disease is increasingly important in the practice of medicine. What is the
position of pediatricians and other health professionals on the practice
of anonymous donation, conceiving children who will have dozens or
hundreds of unknown half-siblings, parents not telling their children or
their children’s doctors the truth about the child’s biological origins, and
sperm and egg banks not being required to track the health of donors and
keep parents informed about genetic diseases that donors might develop
in the future? Tese questions can no longer be in the domain solely of
fertility doctors. It is time for our nation’s pediatricians and other health
professionals to confront, wrestle with, and take a frm stand on these
issues of urgent importance to a generation of young people.
requi re counsel i ng.
Set l i mits on the
number of of fspri ng
born to any one donor.
Pedi atrici ans
and other health
professional s
must conf ront the
i mpl ications of
treati ng chi ldren
conceived through
anonymous donations.
To the extent that donor
conception occurs, the
state should treat donor
conception l i ke adoption.
000608
79
to parents and would-be parents:
Parents who use donor sperm or eggs to conceive absolutely should
tell their children the truth about their origins.
We fully sympathize with the pain of infertility and the desire to
have a child. We also ask that if you are considering having a child with
donated sperm or eggs, you avail yourself of all the available information
about the impact on children, young people, and their families of being
conceived this way. Please consider adoption, or acceptance, or being a
loving stepparent, foster parent, aunt or uncle, or community leader who
works with children. Tere are many ways to be actively involved with
raising the next generation without resorting to conceiving a child who
is purposefully destined never to share a life with at least one of his or
her biological parents.
to leaders in the media and popular culture:
In the next year there are at least three Hollywood movies slated for
release that star major actresses (Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, and
Julianne Moore) in the role of women who have conceived using donor
sperm. Writers, directors, and producers should also consider producing
flms and other narratives that feature the profoundly moving stories of
young or grown donor ofspring.
Te U.S. media in particular needs to do a beter job of including
the voices of donor conceived adults in stories about donor conception.
Tey should no longer simply print heartwarming stories featuring the
voices of parents or would-be parents, with some cute donor conceived
babies in the background. Tose babies become teens and adults who
have their own point of view. Seek them out. Tell their stories.
to researchers and funders:
In the U.S. there is an immediate need for major, large-scale, lon-
gitudinal research on the topic of the well-being of donor ofspring to be
designed, funded, and launched.
For parents:
Tel l the truth.
For would-be parents:
Educate yoursel f
f ul ly and consider not
conceivi ng a chi ld with
donated sperm or eggs.
Make art f rom
the poi nt of view
of donor of fspri ng.
launch the
gold standard
research projects.
Pri nt and broadcast
medi a must do better
stories that i nclude
the voices of donor of f-
spri ng themselves.
000609
80
to religious leaders:
Some faith traditions have addressed the complexities of artifcial
reproductive technologies in the modern world. Most have not. Tose
religious traditions that reject, ignore, accept, or welcome these practices
must grapple with emerging evidence about their impact on children
and the broader culture. One intriguing fnding from our study is that
signifcant numbers of donor ofspring were raised in faith traditions and
identify with faith traditions today. Tey are in the churches and some of
them are hurting. What do the churches have to say?
to all of us:
Te ofspring created by reproductive technologies grow up to be
mature adults and full citizens just like every other person. Teir per-
spective on these technologies is just as important as, and perhaps more
important than, the views of doctors, parents, and would-be parents who
use these technologies.
Some donor conceived people make crass jokes or use black humor
as a coping mechanism. Tat is their right. But just as it is not appropriate
for people who are not part of a particular ethnic minority to make jokes
about that minority, it is not appropriate for those who are not donor
conceived to laugh about donor conception. Jokes about turkey basters,
masturbation, and incest are of limits. If in doubt, don’t say it.
Even if all the above recommendations became realities tomor-
row, we would still, as a society, be supporting the practice of conceiving
children some number of whom will struggle with signifcant losses. In
no other area of medicine does the “treatment” have such enormous
potential implications for persons who themselves never sought out that
treatment (that is, the donor ofspring). In ethics, one possible guideline
is to ask not “Are more harmed than not?” but rather “Is anyone harmed at
all?” A signifcant minority, at least, of donor ofspring seriously struggle
with losses related to the circumstances of their conception and birth.
We must confront the question: Does a good society intentionally create
children in this way?
Donor of fspri ng are i n
the pews. What do you
have to say to them?
recogni ze
that reproductive
technologies create
people, not j ust babies.
it’s not f unny.
We must have an
active publ ic debate
over whether it i s
ethical for the state to
support the del i berate
conception of chi ldren
who wi l l never have the
chance to be rai sed by
thei r biological parents.
000610
81
Artifcial insemination is now an old-fashioned way to make a baby.
Egg donation, gestational surrogacy, embryo transfer, and creating babies
with the DNA of three parents are already in practice. Babies are now
being conceived using the sperm of dead men. A scientist has sought to
retrieve eggs from aborted female fetuses for use in research. Reproduc-
tive cloning is supported by ten percent of U.S. fertility clinic directors
as well as notable, international bioethicists (and by a majority of donor
ofspring in our study). Scientists in Japan and Australia are working to
create ofspring with two mothers or two fathers, while scientists in Brit-
ain have been granted permission for research purposes to create hybrid
embryos which contain both animal and human cells.
Our study reveals that, as a group, donor ofspring are fairly liber-
tarian in their approach to artifcial reproductive technologies in the ab-
stract. But when they tell their own stories, we learn that now-widespread
technologies are far more complicated – and rife with potentially grave
losses for the child – than proponents originally thought. No one can
predict how the thinking of varied donor ofspring will evolve over the
decades to come, or what positions the leaders among them will take.
At the same time, we cannot deny that those leaders have a rightful and
urgently needed role to play as our societies debate how to conceive the
next generation of children.
Elevate donor
conceived adults as
leaders i n national
and i nternational
debates about the wide
array of technologies
i n use, now and i n the
f uture.
000611
83
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
40 22 18
Somewhat
agree
36 43 43
Somewhat
disagree
14 15 17
Strongly
disagree
6 7 9
Don’t know
3 12 14
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
40 16 12
Somewhat
agree
33 34 30
Somewhat
disagree
14 24 27
Strongly
disagree
7 15 17
Don’t know
6 12 14
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
24 27 21
Somewhat
agree
24 29 28
Somewhat
disagree
29 20 25
Strongly
disagree
17 9 12
Don’t know
6 16 13
Arti f ici al reproductive
technologies are good
for chi ldren because the
chi ldren are wanted.
our society should
encourage people to
donate thei r sperm or
eggs to other people
who want them.
it i s better to adopt
than to use donated
sperm or eggs to have
a chi ld.
000613
84
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
19 7 7
Somewhat
agree
23 17 14
Somewhat
disagree
20 32 36
Strongly
disagree
33 36 33
Don’t know
6 8 10
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
31 7 9
Somewhat
agree
33 17 15
Somewhat
disagree
14 19 20
Strongly
disagree
16 43 41
Don’t know
6 14 14
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
41 23 20
Somewhat
agree
35 37 34
Somewhat
disagree
13 17 19
Strongly
disagree
6 11 13
Don’t know
5 12 14
it i s wrong for
people to provide thei r
sperm or eggs for a
fee to others who wi sh
to have chi ldren.
reproductive cloni ng
should be of fered
to people who don’ t
have any other way
to have a baby.
health i nsurance
pl ans and government
pol icies should make
it easier for people to
have babies with donat-
ed sperm or eggs.
000614
85
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
21 12 18
Somewhat
agree
23 18 20
Somewhat
disagree
21 31 27
Strongly
disagree
28 29 27
Don’t know
7 11 8
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
21 14 20
Somewhat
agree
21 21 21
Somewhat
disagree
22 27 23
Strongly
disagree
27 24 26
Don’t know
8 14 10
it i s wrong to
del i berately conceive
a fatherless chi ld.
it i s wrong to
del i berately conceive
a motherless chi ld.
000615
86
Donor
conceived
My parent(s) were always open with me about
how i was conceived
59
My parent(s) kept the fact of my donor concep-
tion a secret – i only learned in an accidental or
unplanned way
20
My parent(s) intentionally revealed the facts
of my donor conception to me sometime before
i was 12 years old
7
My parent(s) intentionally revealed the facts of my
donor conception to me after i was 12 years old
9
None of the above
4
Prefer not to answer
1
Donor
conceived
10 or younger
28
11-15
31
16-20
28
over 20
12
Prefer not to answer
1
Parents vary widely i n
whether and how they
tel l thei r chi ldren that
they were conceived
with donor sperm.
Thi nki ng caref ul ly,
which of the fol lowi ng
categories best de-
scri bes you?
of those who learned i n
accidental / unpl anned
way: At what age did
you learn?
000616
87
Donor
conceived
2
9
6
15
7
12
8
12
9
15
10
15
11
18
12
6
13
25
14
23
15
14
16
7
17
9
18
7
20
2
older than 20
9
of those whose parents
i ntentional ly revealed:
What age were you
when your parent(s)
told you that you were
conceived with the use
of a sperm donor? Your
best esti mate i s f i ne.
000617
88
Donor
conceived
Strongly agree
19
Somewhat agree
26
Somewhat disagree
20
Strongly disagree
30
Don’t know
5
Donor
conceived
Strongly agree
32
Somewhat agree
33
Somewhat disagree
16
Strongly disagree
12
Don’t know
6
Donor
conceived
Strongly agree
33
Somewhat agree
37
Somewhat disagree
13
Strongly disagree
11
Don’t know
6
The ci rcumstances
of my conception
bother me.
My sperm donor
i s hal f of who i am.
i f i nd mysel f
wonderi ng what
my sperm donor’s
fami ly i s l i ke.
000618
89
Donor
conceived
Strongly agree
35
Somewhat agree
34
Somewhat disagree
13
Strongly disagree
11
Don’t know
7
Donor
conceived
Strongly agree
24
Somewhat agree
29
Somewhat disagree
21
Strongly disagree
20
Don’t know
7
Donor
conceived
Strongly agree
21
Somewhat agree
24
Somewhat disagree
20
Strongly disagree
28
Don’t know
7
i someti mes wonder
i f my sperm donor’s
parents would want to
know me.
i have worried that i f
i try to get more i nfor-
mation about or have
a rel ationship with my
sperm donor, my mother
and /or the father who
rai sed me would feel an-
gry or hurt.
it bothers me that
money was exchanged
i n order to conceive me.
000619
90
Donor
conceived Adopted
Strongly agree
25 7
Somewhat agree
28 22
Somewhat disagree
18 21
Strongly disagree
25 47
Don’t know
4 3
Donor
conceived Adopted
Strongly agree
33 31
Somewhat agree
38 35
Somewhat disagree
12 12
Strongly disagree
13 17
Don’t know
5 5
Donor
conceived Adopted
Strongly agree
22 4
Somewhat agree
26 15
Somewhat disagree
20 18
Strongly disagree
28 59
Don’t know
4 2
it hurts when i
hear other people tal k
about thei r genealogical
background.
i long to know more
about my ethnic or
national background.
When i see f riends with
thei r biological fathers
and mothers, it makes
me feel sad.
000620
91
Donor
conceived
Donor
55
Seed Giver
32
Contributor of genetic material
32
Friend
14
uncle/Special uncle
6
Father
14
First Father
8
Second Father
9
other Father
8
Dad/Daddy
7
biological Father
26
Genetic Father
26
Natural Father
11
birth Father
10
has a negative association/connotation
<1
other
1
Prefer not to answer
2
Which word(s) or
term(s) best descri be
what the phrase “sperm
donor” means to you?
(check al l that apply)
000621
92
Donor
conceived
Special
28
Cool
19
Embarrassed
19
Not a big deal
37
Freak of nature
10
Afraid about not knowing my medical history
18
Curious
34
Angry
15
Proud
12
Worried about my future children’s health or feelings
15
lab experiment
13
Abandoned
8
Wanted
16
lonely
12
Confused
19
Depressed
<1
other
2
Prefer not to answer
2
At age 15 what feel i ngs
best descri be how you
felt about bei ng a donor
conceived person?
000622
93
Donor
conceived
Special
26
Cool
20
Embarrassed
10
Not a big deal
43
Freak of nature
8
Afraid about not knowing my medical history
16
Curious
25
Angry
7
Proud
16
Worried about my current or
future children’s health or feelings
15
lab experiment
8
Abandoned
6
Wanted
15
lonely
6
Confused
9
Depressed
<1
other
2
Prefer not to answer
4
At the age you are now,
how do you feel about
bei ng a donor conceived
person?
000623
94
Donor
conceived
Several times a day
14
Maybe once each day
13
A few times a week
20
Maybe once a month
13
Maybe every few months
13
Almost never
17
None at all
8
Prefer not to answer
2
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
22 20 12
Somewhat
agree
24 25 20
Somewhat
disagree
19 12 12
Strongly
disagree
29 42 53
Don’t know
6 1 2
how of ten do you f i nd
yoursel f thi nki ng about
donor conception?
Growi ng up, i some-
ti mes felt l i ke an out-
sider i n my own home.
000624
95
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
21 4 2
Somewhat
agree
22 11 4
Somewhat
disagree
20 17 10
Strongly
disagree
31 67 81
Don’t know
6 2 3
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
23 13 6
Somewhat
agree
24 14 12
Somewhat
disagree
20 14 13
Strongly
disagree
28 57 66
Don’t know
5 2 4
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
21 10 5
Somewhat
agree
22 12 10
Somewhat
disagree
21 13 13
Strongly
disagree
27 61 64
Don’t know
9 4 7

i feel conf used about
who i s a member of my
fami ly and who i s not.
i worry that my
mother mi ght have l ied
to me about i mportant
matters when i was
growi ng up.
i worry that my
father mi ght have l ied
to me about i mportant
matters when i was
growi ng up.
000625
96
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
25 15 2
Somewhat
agree
33 30 12
Somewhat
disagree
19 15 14
Strongly
disagree
18 36 67
Don’t know
6 4 5
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
19 5 2
Somewhat
agree
27 12 4
Somewhat
disagree
20 16 10
Strongly
disagree
28 65 80
Don’t know
7 3 5
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
21 5 3
Somewhat
agree
22 11 6
Somewhat
disagree
20 14 8
Strongly
disagree
29 66 76
Don’t know
7 4 7
When i see someone
who resembles me i
of ten wonder i f we
are rel ated.
When i’ m romantical ly
attracted to someone i
have worried that we
could be unknowi ngly
rel ated.
i have feared havi ng
sexual rel ations
unknowi ngly with
someone i am
rel ated to.
000626
97
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes
20 <1 1
No
77 99 99
Don’t Know
2 0 <1
Prefer not
to answer
1 <1 <1
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes
52 36 34
No
35 45 47
Don’t Know
11 18 19
Prefer not
to answer
2 1 <1
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes
68 78 73
No
25 13 15
Don’t Know
7 8 12
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes
67 52 52
No
24 29 27
Don’t Know
9 19 21
have you ever donated
sperm, eggs, or been a
surrogate mother?
Would you consider
donati ng sperm, eggs,
or bei ng a surrogate
mother?
Do you feel donor
conceived persons
have the ri ght:
To have non-identi f yi ng
i nformation about thei r
sperm donor?
Do you feel donor
conceived persons have
the ri ght: To know the
identity of the donor?
000627
98
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes
63 48 47
No
27 29 28
Don’t Know
10 23 24
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes
64 62 62
No
26 21 21
Don’t Know
10 17 16
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes
62 54 55
No
27 25 25
Don’t Know
11 20 21
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes
62 49 52
No
27 28 25
Don’t Know
10 22 23
Do you feel donor
conceived persons have
the ri ght: To have the
opportunity to form
some ki nd of rel ation-
ship with the donor?
Do you feel donor
conceived persons have
the ri ght: To know
about the exi stence and
number of hal f- si bl i ngs
conceived with the
same donor?
Do you feel donor
conceived persons have
the ri ght: To know the
identity of hal f- si bl i ngs
conceived with the
same donor?
Do you feel donor
conceived persons have
the ri ght: To have the
opportunity as chi ldren
to form some ki nd of
rel ationship with hal f-
si bl i ngs conceived with
the same donor?
000628
99
Donor
conceived
Yes
34
No
42
i already have a relationship with my donor
8
Don’t Know
12
Prefer not to answer
3
Donor
conceived
Yes
81
No
13
Don’t Know
7
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly favor
33 17 16
Somewhat favor
28 22 22
Neither favor
or oppose
26 43 40
Somewhat oppose
4 10 11
Strongly oppose
3 5 7
Don’t Know
4 3 4
Prefer not
to answer
2 1 <1
Do you want a
rel ationship with
your sperm donor?
of those who said yes:
Do you feel it’s okay i n
society at l arge for you
to say that you want a
rel ationship with your
sperm donor?
What i s your opi nion
of the practice of donor
conception?
000629
100
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes
81 86 88
No
14 6 5
Don’t Know
4 7 7
Prefer not
to answer
1 0 0
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes
49 75 74
No
46 15 11
Don’t Know
3 9 14
Prefer not
to answer
3 1 1
Donor
conceived Adopted
raised
by bio
Donor conception is fne for children
so long as parents tell children the
truth about their conception from an
early age
44 35 26
Donor conception can be hard for
children, but telling children the
truth early on makes it easier for
the children
36 34 33
Donor conception is hard for children
even if their parents tell them the
truth
11 17 26
Something else/none of the above
5 11 12
Prefer not to answer
3 3 3
of those who favor:
Do you feel it’s okay
for you to say i n society
at l arge that you favor
the practice of donor
conception?
of those who oppose:
Do you feel it’s okay for
you to say i n society at
l arge that you oppose
the practice of donor
conception?
Some experts say that
donor conception i s f i ne
for chi ldren so long as
parents tel l chi ldren
the truth about thei r
conception f rom an
early age. other experts
say that donor concep-
tion can be hard for
chi ldren, but tel l i ng
chi ldren the truth early
on makes it easier for
the chi ldren. Sti l l other
experts say that donor
conception i s hard for
chi ldren even i f thei r
parents tel l them the
truth. Do you thi nk…
000630
101
Donor
conceived
Yes
44
No
54
Prefer not to answer
2
Donor
conceived
very Comfortable
34
Somewhat comfortable
31
Somewhat uncomfortable
18
very uncomfortable
6
i don’t talk to anyone else about it
7
Prefer not to answer
3
Donor
conceived
Yes
35
No
54
Don’t Know
9
Prefer not to answer
2
Do you know other
people who were
conceived with use
of a sperm donor?
how do you feel tal ki ng
to non-fami ly members
about the fact that you
were conceived with a
sperm donor? Do you
feel …
have your feel i ngs
about the practice
of donor conception
changed over ti me?
000631
102
Donor
conceived
More positive about
the practice of donor conception
77
More negative about
the practice of donor conception
18
None of the above
4
Prefer not to answer
1

Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes 31 42 28
No 66 56 71
Don’t Know 1 <1 0
Prefer not
to answer
2 1 1
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes 21 17 11
No 77 82 89
Don’t Know 1 1 0
Prefer not
to answer
1 <1 1
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes 21 18 11
No 78 81 88
Don’t Know <1 1 <1
Prefer not
to answer
1 1 1

have you become:
have you ever
been prescri bed
medication for
depression or
other mental
health problems?
have you ever felt
unable to control your
use of alcohol or other
substances?
At any ti me before
age 25, were you ever
i n trouble with the l aw?
000632
103
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Protestant 34 63 53
Catholic 36 22 28
Jewish 6 4 3
other 3 1 2
None 18 9 13
Prefer not
to answer
4 1 2
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Protestant 32 54 48
Catholic 32 15 19
Jewish 6 3 2
other 3 4 5
None 24 22 23
Prefer not
to answer
3 2 3
Donor
conceived Adopted
raised
by bio
very religious
21 12 15
Somewhat religious
39 46 43
Not very religious
22 27 21
Not religious at all
16 15 20
Prefer not to answer
2 1 1
What rel i gion i f any
were you rai sed i n?
What i s your rel i gious
preference today?
how rel i gious do you
currently consider
yoursel f to be?
000633
104
Donor
conceived Adopted
raised
by bio
Most people can be trusted
36 27 26
You can’t be too careful in life
56 64 66
None of the above
7 9 7
Prefer not to answer
2 1 1
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
29 16 10
Somewhat
agree
28 23 19
Somewhat
disagree
24 30 36
Strongly
disagree
18 27 33
Don’t Know
2 5 3
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
33 32 20
Somewhat
agree
31 36 39
Somewhat
disagree
22 21 26
Strongly
disagree
12 10 13
Don’t Know
2 2 2
i n general , would you
say most people can be
trusted or you can’ t be
too caref ul i n l i fe?
i feel that i can
depend on my f riends
more than my fami ly.
i have experienced
many losses i n my l i fe.
000634
105
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
25 13 9
Somewhat
agree
28 26 25
Somewhat
disagree
21 29 34
Strongly
disagree
25 30 28
Don’t Know
2 2 3
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Strongly
agree
34 26 23
Somewhat
agree
31 34 36
Somewhat
disagree
17 18 17
Strongly
disagree
13 12 15
Don’t Know
5 10 10
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Yes 20 6 7
No 78 92 92
Don’t Know/ refused 2 2 1
i don’ t feel that anyone
real ly understands me.
My spi ritual ity has
been strengthened by
adversity i n my l i fe.
Are you, yoursel f,
of hi spanic ori gi n
or descent, such as
Mexican, Puerto rican,
or some other Spani sh
background?
000635
106
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
White hispanic 66 85 68
black hispanic 21 0 15
Something else 12 15 18
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
White 69 83 87
black 14 4 9
Asian 13 5 2
other or mixed race 3 7 2
Don’t know 1 1 0
Prefer not to answer 1 1 <1
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Non hispanic white 56 78 81
Non hispanic black 11 4 8
Non hispanic other 13 12 4
White hispanic 14 5 5
black hispanic 4 0 1
other hispanic 3 1 1
Are you white hi spanic,
bl ack hi spanic, or some
other race?
What i s your race?
Are you…
What i s your race?
000636
107
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
Far below average 8 4 8
below average 17 14 20
Average 43 43 50
Above average 21 33 18
Far above average 9 6 3
Prefer not to answer 2 1 1
Donor
conceived Adopted raised by bio
None, or Grade 1-8
1 2 3
high School incomplete
(Grades 9-11)
6 5 7
high School Graduate
(Grade 12 or GED certifcate)
19 27 30
business, technical, or voca-
tional school after high school
7 12 11
Some College, no 4 year
degree
24 24 26
College Graduate (b.S., b.A. ,
or other 4-Year degree)
27 15 15
Post-Graduate training or
professional schooling after
college
16 11 8
Don’t Know
<1 3 1
Thi nki ng about the
ti me when you were 16
years old, compared
with American fami l ies
i n general then, would
you say your fami ly
i ncome was
What i s the hi ghest
level of education your
mother completed?
000637
000638
110
lesbian
couples
(N=39)
Married
heterosexual
parents
(N=262)
Single
mother
(N=113)
i feel that i can depend on my
friends more than my family.
54 58 56
i have experienced many losses in
my life.
62 63 65
i don’t feel that anyone really
understands me.
56 51 52
it is wrong for people to provide
their sperm or eggs for a fee to
others who wish to have children.
41 40 38
it is better to adopt than to use
donated sperm or eggs to have a
child.
38 49 40
our society should encourage
people to donate their sperm or
eggs to other people who want
them.
74 74 73
Artifcial reproductive technolo-
gies are good for children because
the children are wanted.
85 76 81
if i had a friend who wanted to
use a sperm donor to have a baby,
i would encourage her not to do it.
34 39
b
28
i think every person has a right to
a child.
72 77 76
it is wrong to deliberately con-
ceive a fatherless child.
38 45
b
32
it is wrong to deliberately con-
ceive a motherless child.
26 44 33
reproductive cloning should be
offered to people who don’t have
any other way to have a baby.
54 64 65
health insurance plans and gov-
ernment policies should make it
easier for people to have babies
with donated sperm or eggs.
74 76 80
a
Signifcantly diferent from married heterosexual parents at p < .05
(two-tailed tests)
b
Signifcantly diferent from single mother at p < .05 (two-tailed tests)
000640
114
18-25
(N=154)
26-35
(N=228)
36-45
(N=103)
i feel that i can depend on my
friends more than my family.
56 58 56
i have experienced many losses in
my life.
64 63 66
i don’t feel that anyone really un-
derstands me.
55 50 54
it is wrong for people to provide
their sperm or eggs for a fee to oth-
ers who wish to have children.
46
b
43 32
it is better to adopt than to use do-
nated sperm or eggs to have a child.
51 48 40
our society should encourage people
to donate their sperm or eggs to
other people who want them.
67
a
77 74
Artifcial reproductive technologies
are good for children because the
children are wanted.
73 78 81
if i had a friend who wanted to use a
sperm donor to have a baby, i would
encourage her not to do it.
39 37 34
i think every person has a right to
a child.
73 79 76
it is wrong to deliberately conceive
a fatherless child.
46 44 42
it is wrong to deliberately conceive
a motherless child.
42 43 40
reproductive cloning should be of-
fered to people who don’t have any
other way to have a baby.
62 66 60
health insurance plans and gov-
ernment policies should make it
easier for people to have babies with
donated sperm or eggs.
75 80
b
70
a
Signifcantly diferent from 26-35 at p < .05 (two-tailed tests)
b
Signifcantly diferent from 36-45 at p < .05 (two-tailed tests)
000644
000648
120
main study design
Te main study was designed to obtain a total of 1,680 completed
surveys among respondents age 18-45. Te respondents would be dis-
tributed in three groups:
Sperm Donor Conceived Ofspring: n=560
Adopted Ofspring: n=560
Raised by Biological Parents Ofspring: n=560
Abt SRBI assumed the study qualifcation rate for Sperm Donor
ofspring at 1.3% and expected to collect surveys from the other two groups
in the process of screening for Sperm Donor ofspring.
contact procedures and screening
Respondents from SSI’s SurveySpot Web Panel were sent invitations
to participate in the survey. Afer two weeks, non-responders were sent a
reminder email. A total of 670,524 panel members were sent invitations for
this study. Te invitations did not say what the survey would be about.
A total of 48,637 individuals logged into the survey. Of these,
45,765 were classifed as Sperm Donor Ofspring, Adopted, or Raised by
Biological Parents Ofspring. Te table below shows the distribution of
these groups.
Frequency Percent
Sperm Donor Offspring 726 1.49%
Adopted Offspring 1235 2.54%
Bio Parents Offspring 43804 90.06%
Total 45765 94.10%
System Missing 2872 5.90%
48637 100.00%
Not all respondents who logged into the website completed surveys.
Nearly 6 percent dropped out before being classifed as one of the target
groups. Other mid-survey terminations occurred afer the respondent
000650
121
classifcation. Of the 726 respondents who were classifed as Sperm Do-
nor ofspring, 574 (79%) completed the entire survey and 562 (77%) were
considered “valid” afer analyzing para-data: deleted cases included cases
with very short survey lengths or evidence of straight-lining (respondents
entering the same answer for all questions). Most of the mid-survey ter-
minations were the result of being over quota, as the targets for Adopted
and Raised by Biological Parents Ofspring had been met.
ssi survey spot web panel
Te web panel utilized for this study was Survey Sampling Interna-
tional’s SurveySpot. Tis panel is built by using 3,400 diferent sources
which employ varied recruitment methods including pop-ups, banners,
and text links. Potential respondents are asked to join the panel based
upon intrinsic interest in survey participation and sharing of opinions.
Panelists are considered active and remain on the panel as long as they
remain active (i.e., complete at least one survey every 6 months). Survey
Sampling utilizes its 30-plus years of sampling expertise when determining
who receives invitations to complete a survey. When selecting the sample
for these surveys, a random methodology was employed.
limitations
In order to recruit a large number of sperm donor ofspring for this
study, we employed a methodology that is very nearly representative,
but not perfectly representative, of 18-45-year-olds living in the United
States in July 2008. Te survey is representative of Americans who signed
up for web-based survey panels, who may difer in unknown ways from
Americans as a whole. We believe this bias is unlikely to be substantial.
Furthermore, many of our analyses are comparative across types of con-
ception, and it is unlikely that selection into the sample would bias these
comparative analyses in any meaningful way. Such a bias would result
only if respondents with diferent origins were systematically more or less
likely to select into the sample for diferent reasons, and we can think of
no reason why that would be the case.
A second limitation of our sampling strategy is that we were forced
to rely on the responses of people who know that they are sperm donor
000651
122
ofspring. It is unclear whether sperm donor ofspring who are ignorant
of their origins difer from those who know their origins or from those
raised by their biological or adoptive parent(s). Future studies may wish
to seek to identify adult ofspring of sperm donors through a method
that is not contingent on the respondent’s knowledge of their origin.
However, there are ethical issues with researchers obtaining access to
this information about adult study participants and not sharing it with
the participants themselves.
Lastly, our data are cross-sectional and respondents are ofen asked
to report retrospectively on their experiences, which could be subject to
some recall bias. Future studies should atempt to follow donor ofspring
prospectively through the life course. Nevertheless, the current study is
a major contribution to our knowledge of sperm donor ofspring. It is
the only data of which we are aware that includes large samples of sperm
donor conceived, adopted, and biological ofspring and focuses on the
experiences of the sperm donor conceived.
000652
124
know their status and are speaking for themselves. Golombok is recently
partnering with Wendy Kramer of the Donor Sibling Registry to conduct
studies of those who congregate at that message board. Another well-
known scholar is Joanna Scheib of the University of California at Davis
and the Sperm Bank of California (publications here: http: / / www.
thespermbankofca. org/ pages/ page. php? pagei d=9).
Most of her work focuses specifcally on the fairly small and unusual
number of donor conceived ofspring who have open-identity donors (a
method the Sperm Bank of California pioneered in the 1980s). Among
scholars, work by A.J. Turner is also ofen cited. Alexandra McWhinnie,
Patricia Mahlstedt, Lynne Spencer, and Mikki Morrrisete are among
others who have not led large studies, but who have framed questions
and published writings with the donor ofspring’s point of view in mind.
Donor ofspring Bill Cordray has maintained an informal database of
survey responses from donor ofspring that now number over 100. Work
by Charlote Paterson at the University of Virginia and Judith Stacey of
New York University, each of whom study the children of gay and lesbian
parents, at times focus on small samples of those conceived through sperm
or egg donation or surrogacy.
Tis argument is developed in Elizabeth Marquardt, 7. Te Revolution in
Parenthood: Te Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children’s
Needs (New York: Institute for American Values, 2006).
Te online survey was conducted by Abt SRBI using a sample of 18-45 year 8.
olds provided by Survey Sampling International from an online survey
panel. See the methodological section for details.
An additional 77 persons answered “don’t know” to the question “Was 9.
a sperm donor involved in your conception? Tat is, was your mother
artifcially inseminated with donor sperm from a man who was not her
husband?” and then responded “yes” to a follow up question “Do you
have any reason to believe a sperm donor was involved in your concep-
tion?” Te responses of those 77 persons are not included in the analysis
for this report. (Tere are, however, plans to analyze the responses from
those persons in a next stage of the project.)
All three of these groups can include persons whose parents were mar- 10.
ried, divorced, or never-married. Te adopted persons were adopted
000654
125
before they were two years old. Te reason that the sample sizes for the
three groups are somewhat diferent is that the donor conceived group
includes 485 persons who said they knew they were donor conceived and
an additional 77 persons who suspected that they were donor conceived,
totaling 562 persons. Afer consideration we decided to analyze for this
report the responses of the 485 persons who said they knew, and not
merely suspected, that they were donor conceived.
See discussion of the methodology and limitations. 11.
Elizabeth Marquardt interviewed a co-owner of the company Family 12.
Evolutions for an op-ed published in the Chicago Tribune on May 15, 2005.
Tis quotation is drawn from unpublished material from that interview.
Claudia Kalb, “A Sperm Biz Overhall,” 13. Newsweek, June 2, 2008.
Tese numbers can be found in Table 1 14. (p. 82), which is a summary of the
data (what researchers call the “marginal frequencies”).
Quoted in Tom Sylvester, “’Sperm Bank Baby’ to Meet Test Tube Dad”, 15.
National Fatherhood Initiative, Fatherhood Today, page 4, volume 7, issue
2, spring 2003. Sources for the article included Brian Bergstein, “Woman
to meet her father – a sperm donor,” Associated Press, Jan 30 2002; Yomi S.
Wronge, “P.A. teen to contact dad who was sperm donor,” Mercury News,
Jan 20, 2002; Trisha Carlson, “Sperm bank baby to learn donor’s name,”
KPIX Channel 5, Feb 1 2002; and Tamar Abrams, “Test Tube Dad,” viewed
on www. parents pl ace. com April 1 2002.
“I want to know where I come from,” BBC News, April 26, 2005, 16.
online edition.
Judith Graham, “Sperm donors’ ofspring reach out into past,” 17. Chicago
Tribune, June 19, 2005, online edition
Sherry (Franz) Dale and Diane Allen, 18. Te Ofspring Speak: Report on
the 2000 International Conference of Donor Ofspring (Report to Health
Canada), 13.
Chad Skelton, “Searching for their genes,” 19. Vancouver Sun (Canada), April
22, 2006.
“Knowing true identity completes puzzle,” 20. Te Sun-Herald (Australia),
November 3, 2007.
Natasha Pearlman, “I feel so betrayed because I don’t know who my father 21.
is,” Daily Mail (UK), February 8, 2007.
000655
126
Atributed to [Mia] Lentz, 46, an advertising and marketing executive 22.
in Boca Raton, Fla., quoted in Betsy Streisand, “Who’s Your Daddy?” US
News and World Report, February 13, 2006.
Christine Whipp, “Worrying the wound: the hidden scars of donor con- 23.
ception,” in Alexina McWhinnie, ed., Who Am I? Experiences of Donor
Conception (Warwickshire, UK: Idreos Education Trust, 2006), 18-19.
“’Faceless fathers’ may be identifed,” 24. Te Independent, April 24, 2000.
Katrina Clark, “My father was an anonymous sperm donor,” 25. Washington
Post, December 17, 2006.
See htp://cryokidconfessions.blogspot.com/ 26.
Quotations from donor ofspring not otherwise cited come from interviews 27.
conducted by Elizabeth Marquardt with these persons. For some it was
very important to use their real frst and last name. Others preferred to use
their frst name only. Still others asked for a pseudonymous frst name. If
the frst name is pseudonymous, there are quotations marks around the
name the frst time it is used.
Whipp, 19. 28.
Whipp, 29. 29.
Lynne W. Spencer, 30. Sperm Donor Ofspring: Identity and Other Experiences
(BookSurge Publishing, 2007).
Spencer, 2. 31.
Adult ofspring quoted in Spencer, 47. 32.
Tomoko Otake, 33. Te Japan Times Online, “Lives in Limbo,” August 28, 2005.
htp://www.familieslikemine.com/advice/0401.php accessed June 21, 34.
2005. Te advice columnist, Abigail Garner, who is supportive of same-
sex parenting, edited the leter from three separate email correspondences
with the same young woman.
Signifcant, p < .001 35.
Signifcant, p < .001 36.
All groups signifcantly diferent from one another, p < .001 37.
Amy Harmon, “Hello, I’m Your Sister. Our Father is Donor 150,” 38. New York
Times, November 20, 2005.
Family Scholars Blog, www.familyscholars.org. 39.
Chad Skelton, “Searching for their genes,” 40. Vancouver Sun (Canada),
April 22, 2006.
000656
127
Since most sperm used in Canada comes from the U.S., Canadians can 41.
also take advantage of American registries like Kramer’s.
http: / / www. cryobank. com/ si bli ng_regi stry2/ faqs1 . 42.
cfm, viewed August 8, 2005.
htp://mates.home.pipeline.com/sibling.html, viewed August 8, 2005. 43.
htp://www.ukdonorlink.org.uk/, viewed August 8, 2005. 44.
“I could have more than 300 half siblings,” 45. Te Guardian (UK), November
14, 2008.
See transcript of the program titled “Misconception,” by reporter Tara 46.
Brown, February 22, 2004, Sixty Minutes (Australia).
47. Te Ofspring Speak, 47.
Posted on Family Scholars Blog, April 28, 2005. 48.
Ibid. 49.
All groups signifcantly diferent from one another, p < .001 50.
All groups signifcantly diferent from one another, p < .001 51.
All groups signifcantly diferent from one another, p < .001 52.
“Parted at birth twins married,” BBC News, January 11, 2008; “Unknowing 53.
twins married, lawmaker says,” CNN.com/Europe, January 11, 2008; “Twins
separated at birth marry without knowing,” Te Sun, January 12, 2008.
Indeed, sharing half your genetic make-up with someone could make that 54.
person seem especially “familiar” and sexually atractive if you did not know
you were related to them. Tis phenomenon, known as “genetic sexual
atraction,” is discussed in adoption literature and by donor conceived
adults on their message boards.
Donor ofspring diferent from both raised by biological and adopted, 55.
p < .001; adopted and raised by biological not signifcantly diferent,
p = .608
Donor ofspring diferent from both raised by biological and adopted, 56.
p < .001; adopted and raised by biological not signifcantly diferent,
p = .539
Note that adding a family transition variable as a control to the analyses 57.
makes litle diference. For instance, the greater problems experienced by
the sperm donor conceived respondents is not explained by their expe-
riencing more transitions.
In the survey, those from adopted families reported the greatest level of 58.
000657
128
family of origin afuence. With greater afuence it’s possible that their
symptoms were more likely to get diagnosed and treated. Recent reports
underscore that the parents of adopted children are particularly likely to
seek out health care for their children. See for example Adoption USA:
A Chartbook Based on the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents, a col-
laborative efort of several agencies within the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Service. But there could be myriad other explanations behind
this fnding as well.
Donor ofspring and adopted signifcantly diferent from raised by bio- 59.
logical, p < .001; adopted and donor ofspring not signifcantly diferent,
p = .617
Donor ofspring signifcantly diferent from adopted and raised by 60.
biological, p <.001; adopted and raised by biological not signifcantly
diferent, p=.094
Figure 3c 61. (p. 117) illustrates the number of family transitions among the
ofspring of heterosexual married parents in all three groups (the donor
conceived, the adopted, and those raised by biological parents). Figure
3c includes divorce (like Figure 4) but includes other family transitions
as well.
Te number of family transitions were determined by the question “Did 62.
your family situation change between your birth/adoption and age 16?” If
they responded yes, we then inquired about the number of changes (such
as divorce, break up of a cohabiting relationship, remarriage, formation
of a new cohabiting relationship, remarriage spliting up, death, or other)
in the relationship status of each of the one or two parents (i.e., single
mother, heterosexual married couple, lesbian couple, or other) which
earlier in the survey they had stated made up their family structure at
birth/adoption.
Signifcantly diferent, p < .001 63.
See for example a review by Charlote Paterson, “Children of Lesbian 64.
and Gay Parents,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 15. no. 5.,
241-4. In Paterson’s most recent study, drawn from Add Health data, there
were only forty-four such teens whose parents were in such a relationship
and who revealed it to the investigators. Based on that sample, Paterson
and her colleagues concluded that “the qualities of family relationships
000658
129
rather than the gender of parents’ partners were consistently related to
adolescent outcomes.” (p. 242)
Te numbers in the list are ranges based on Table 2 65. (p. 109). Tey do not
match precisely the numbers reported in Table 1 (p. 82) because this list
is based on 414 ofspring who reported the structure of their family of ori-
gin, not the full 485 donor ofspring who knew they were donor ofspring
whose responses are found in Table 1.
Te diference between the donor ofspring of single mothers and the 66.
donor ofspring of heterosexual couples is statistically signifcant.
Te lower number for the ofspring of lesbian mothers is statistically signifcant. 67.
Te numbers for the section below can all be found in Table 2 68. (p. 109).
Given the cell size of the ofspring born to lesbian couples, we cannot say 69.
whether this diference is statistically signifcant.
As Table 3 70. (p. 111) shows, all but the ofspring of lesbian couples can be
said to be statistically signifcant from those raised by biological parents.
Te cell size of those raised by lesbian couples is too small to know whether
the diferences are signifcant.
Both the donor ofspring born to heterosexual parents and those born to 71.
single mothers are signifcantly diferent from the adopted. Te lesbian
mother sample is too small to know.
As Table 3 72. (p. 111) shows, all of the diferences reported in this paragraph
are signifcant, except for those related to the ofspring of lesbian moth-
ers. Due to their cell size we can only speculate about their apparent
diferences.
Lauren Taylor, from “Te following DI Ofspring’s quotes were distributed 73.
to the delegates at the conference, “What About Me?”, held at the Royal
Society, London, on March 28, 2000, and organized by Comment on
Reproductive Ethics (CORE), included in Te Ofspring Speak, 91.
Lynne Spencer, from “Te following DI Ofspring’s quotes were distrib- 74.
uted to the delegates at the conference, “What About Me?”, held at the
Royal Society, London, on March 28, 2000, and organized by Comment
on Reproductive Ethics, included in Te Ofspring Speak, 91.
David Gollancz, 75. Te Ofspring Speak, 12.
Janice Stevens Botsford, 76. Te Ofspring Speak, 12.
000659
130
Barry Stevens on not knowing until afer his father’s death that he had 77.
been conceived by donor insemination, Te Ofspring Speak, 11-12.
Suzanne Ariel, 78. Te Ofspring Speak, 12.
All groups signifcantly diferent from one another, p < .001 79.
Donor ofspring signifcantly diferent from raised by biological and 80.
adopted, p < .001; adopted signifcantly diferent from raised by biologi-
cal, p < .05. Within the donor conceived, 10 percent (4 out of 39) of the
ofspring of lesbian couples said “don’t know/not available” to this item,
compared to 12 percent of those conceived to single mothers and 5 percent
of those conceived to heterosexual married couples.
Stephen Feldschuh, interviewed on episode “Moral Issues of Sperm Dona- 81.
tion” for PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, WNET-TV, 8/25/06, cited
in Naomi R. Cahn, Test Tube Families: Why the Fertility Market Needs Legal
Regulation (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 120.
Joanna Scheib, “Adolescents with open-identity sperm donors: reports 82.
from 12-17 year olds,” Human Reproduction 20 (2004). 239-252; Joanna
E. Scheib, Maura Riordan, and Phillip R. Shaver, “Choosing between
Anonymous and Identity-Release Sperm Donors: Recipient and Donor
Characteristics,” Reproductive Technologies 10 (2000): 50; cited in Cahn,
120; Te Sperm Bank of California, “Identity-Release Program,” www.
thespermbankofca. org/ i drelease. html, cited in Cahn, 118.
“Ova and Sperm Donation to be Legalised – Croatia. A child conceived 83.
in vitro will have the right to know who their biological parents are at 18,”
(http: / / www. j avno. com/ en- croati a/ ova-and- sperm-
donati on- to- be- legali s ed --- croatia_261279)
htp://www.canadiandonorofspring.ca/cdo_DCA_olivia.html 84.
htp://www.unicef.org/crc/crc.htm 85.
David Velleman, professor of philosophy at New York University, writes 86.
that “Te Implementation Handbook for the Convention makes clear that
the word ‘parents’ in this statement refers in the frst instance to biological
parents.” See his “Persons in Prospect,” Philosophy and Public Afairs, vol
36, issue 3, 221-322, summer 2008.
For example, “In 2006 it was reported that just one active sperm donor 87.
remained north of the Border, forcing patients to go elsewhere for treat-
ment or join long queues. Te situation has since improved, but both
000660
131
NHS and private clinics are still reporting shortages,” from Lyndsay Moss,
“Warning over critical lack of sperm donors,” Te Scotsman, November
12, 2008.
See “Laura Witjens, Chair of the National Gamete Donor Trust, com- 88.
ments on egg/sperm ‘donor’ payment,” www. ngdt. co. uk; and see
the HFEA’s data at www. hfea. gov. uk/ 3 41 1 . html and www.
hfea. gov. uk/ 3 41 2. html .
See for example Y. Wang and A. Leader, “Non-Anonymous (ID-Release) 89.
Donor Sperm is Not the Preferred Choice of Women Who Are Undergoing
Assisted Reproduction,” Fertility & Sterility 84, supp. 1 (2005): S204, S205,
cited in Cahn, 122. Others studies and papers include Kristen MacDougall,
Gay Becker, Joanna E. Scheib, and Robert D. Nachtigall, “Strategies for
Disclosure: How Parents Approach Telling Teir Children Tat Tey
Were Conceived With Donor Gametes,” Fertility & Sterility 87 (2007): 524;
Patricia Hershberger, Susan C. Klock, and Randall B. Barnes, “Disclosure
Decisions Among Pregnant Women Who Received Donor Oocytes: A
Phenomenological Study,” Fertility & Sterility 87 (2007): 288, 289; and E.
Lycet, K. Daniels, R. Curson, S. Golombok, “School-Aged Children of
Donor Insemination: A Study of Parents’ Disclosure Paterns,” Human
Reproduction 20 (2005): 810; ASRM Ethics Commitee, “Informing Donor
Ofspring of Teir Conception by Gamete Donation,” Fertility & Sterility
81 (2004): 527, cited in Cahn 122-3. More recently, see “Early Disclosure
of donor paternity may evince lesser negative responses in ofspring,”
http: / / www. i vfnews di rect. com/ ? p=464.
At the Donor Conception Network in the UK one can fnd booklets and a 90.
flm produced by the “How to Tell” Project. Te booklets are available for
parents of children at four diferent age levels. Tey cover issues including
“anxieties about ‘telling;’ the best age to start ‘telling;’ language to use for
babies, litle kids, bigger kids, teenagers, and adults; telling if a known
donor has been used,” and “telling following the ending of anonymity
for donors.” In Canada, the Infertility Network has a resource page of
storybooks for children about donor conception. Titles include Just the
Baby for Me, for single mothers by choice to use in telling their children;
How I Began: Te Story of Donor Insemination, a book for 5-8 year olds
produced by an Australian social workers organization; and Sometimes It
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132
Takes 3 To Make a Baby: Explaining Egg Donation to Young Children. In the
U.S., the Donor Sibling Registry has a FAQ’s page which includes answers
to questions such as, “When is the Best Time to Tell My Child that She
is Donor-Conceived?” (Te short answer: “It’s never too early.”)
We are continuing to analyze this data and will report additional fndings 91.
in the future.
Donor ofspring diferent from biological and adopted, p < .001; adopted 92.
not diferent from biological, p = .981
On these four statements, the three groups of donor conceived – ofspring 93.
of lesbian couples, single mothers, and heterosexual married couples –
had similar responses, as seen in Table 2 (p. 109).
Donor ofspring diferent from biological and adopted, p < .001; adopted 94.
not diferent from biological, p = .367
Donor ofspring diferent from biological and adopted, p < .001; adopted 95.
not diferent from biological, p = .131
Donor ofspring diferent from biological and adopted, p < .001; adopted 96.
diferent from biological, p < .01
Donor ofspring diferent from biological and adopted, p < .001; adopted 97.
diferent from biological, p < .05
Donor ofspring diferent from biological and adopted, p < .001; adopted 98.
not diferent from biological, p = .699
As Table 2 99. (p. 109) shows, all three groups of donor conceived felt similar
in this regard; Donor ofspring diferent from biological and adopted, p
< .001; adopted not diferent from biological, p = .374
Donor ofspring diferent from biological, p < .05; donor ofspring difer- 100.
ent from adopted, p < .001; adopted diferent from biological, p < .01
As seen in Table 2 101. (p. 109), ofspring of lesbian couples appear the least
likely to agree, “It is wrong to deliberately conceive a motherless child,”
while ofspring of heterosexual married couples are the most likely to
agree. Interestingly, ofspring of lesbian couples appear more likely to
agree, “It is wrong to deliberately conceive a fatherless child” than they
are to agree with the statement about deliberately conceiving a motherless
child. A litle more than one-third agree of the ofspring of lesbian couples
it is wrong deliberately to conceive a fatherless child, while one-quarter
agree it is wrong deliberately to conceive a motherless child. Te former,
of course, is their own experience.
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133
Donor ofspring not diferent than biological, p = .869; donor diferent 102.
from adopted, p < .05; adopted diferent from biological, p < .05
Donor ofspring diferent from biological and adopted, p < .001; adopted 103.
diferent from biological, p < .05
Ancillary analyses suggest that those donor ofspring who have experi- 104.
enced negative outcomes or report experiences of hurting, confusion,
etc, are about as likely as those who do not report distressing experiences
or outcomes to say they favor the practice of donor conception. Analyses
and reporting of this data will continue.
More of her story can be found here htp://www.rationalist.com.au/ 105.
archive/7576/p23-27_walker.pdf
We are continuing to analyze the data and will publish fndings in the 106.
future.
Donor ofspring diferent from biological, p < .01; donor diferent from 107.
adopted, p < .001; adopted diferent from biological, p < .05
Tere were 156 persons raised by biological parents who were raised 108.
Catholic, 33 percent of them no longer identify as Catholic. Tere were 122
adopted persons who were raised Catholic, 46 percent of them no longer
identify as Catholic. Tere were 174 sperm donor conceived persons who
were raised Catholic, 22 percent of them no longer identify as Catholic.
Te percentages for the adopted and for sperm donor conceived are
both signifcantly diferent from those raised by their biological parents
at p < .05 (two-tailed tests). Te percentage of sperm donor conceived is
signifcantly diferent from adopted at p < .001 (two-tailed tests).
Donor ofspring diferent from biological and adopted, p < .001; adopted 109.
not diferent from biological, p = .068
66 percent of the donor ofspring said they were white Hispanic, while 110.
20 percent said they were black Hispanic.
Donor ofspring diferent from biological and adopted, p < .001; adopted 111.
not diferent from biological, p = .559. In probing this fnding, we con-
frmed that our survey research frm sampled nationally and not, say,
with overrepresentation in the Southwest. Also note that the Hispanic
respondents among those raised by adoptive and biological parents
were quite low, which helps to confrm this fnding is likely not due to
a sampling problem.
000663
134
We don’t know how the donor ofspring and adopted groups answer 112.
questions like these in regard to the one or two biological parents they
might not know. Some might have at least basic information on their
absent biological parent’s race and ethnicity, while some of the donor
ofspring might be reporting only their heritage through their mother’s
side. Still others might know something about the identities of their
absent biological parents or they might have a relationship with them.
See, for example, AlternativeFamilies.org, which has “information on 113.
helping lesbians and gay men have children through adoption, foster
care, insemination, and surrogacy;” an article by Michele St. Martin who
argues in “Donor Decisions: Considering Donor Egg & Sperm” that “for
infertile couples and single or lesbian women who want to have a child,
donor egg and donor sperm programs ofer an alternative to options
such as surrogacy and adoption” (http: / / www. preconcep-
ti on. com/ arti cles/ alternati ve- fami ly- bui ldi ng/
donor- deci si ons - 1 31 2/ ); and Philadelphia Family Pride’s website,
which says their “diverse membership includes families created through
adoption, surrogacy, donor insemination, fostering and heterosexual
relationships,” (htp://www.phillyfamilypride.org/).
See for example David M. Brodzinsky, Marshall D. Schechter, and Robin 114.
Marantz Henig, Being Adopted: Te Lifelong Search for Self (New York:
Anchor Books/Doubleday, 1992). Histories and analyses of adoption in
the U.S. and elsewhere include E. Wayne Carp, Family Maters: Secrecy
and Disclosure in the History of Adoption (Cambridge: Harvard Univer-
sity Press, 1998); Katarina Wegar, Adoption, Identity and Kinship: Te
Debate Over Sealed Birth Records (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1997); Adam Pertman, Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution
is Transforming America (New York: Basic Books, 2000); Rita J. Simon
and Howard Altstein, Adoption Across Borders: Serving the Children in
Transracial and Intercountry Adoptions (New York: Roman and Litlefeld
Publishers, 2000); and Barbara Melosh, Strangers and Kin: Te American
Way of Adoption (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002).
To learn more about the varied contemporary experiences of adoptees, 115.
the website of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is a good place
to start. See www.adoptioninstitute.org.
000664
135
Marquardt would like to thank her colleague Barbara Dafoe Whitehead 116.
for this valuable observation.
Among the donor conceived, ofspring of married heterosexual parents 117.
are the most likely to agree with this statement. See Table 2 (p. 109).
Donor ofspring not diferent from biological, p = .485; donor ofspring 118.
diferent from adopted, p < .01; adopted diferent from biological,
p < .05
It is also possible that parents raising adopted children beneft from having 119.
an equal relationship to the child – neither parent is biologically related
to the child – while in families that have used donor insemination there
is biological asymmetry; that is, the mother is biologically related to the
child while the second parent is not.
See her many writings including a compilation of her lectures delivered 120.
in 2006 under the auspices of Canada’s prestigious Massey Lectures,
found in Margaret Somerville, Te Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the
Human Spirit (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2006).
Advocates ofen confate the idea of “intentional” parenthood with the 121.
presumed good of having “wanted” children or avoiding “unplanned”
pregnancy. But the existing data on outcomes for children of unwanted
or unplanned pregnancies is unclear. Te National Campaign to Prevent
Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy cites studies that fnd poorer outcomes
related to cognition and emotional development in young children,
among other factors. Tey also correlate unplanned pregnancy with
future relationship instability of the mother, and they note that, as one
might strongly suspect, most abortions are the result of unplanned
pregnancy. At the same time, the majority of unplanned pregnancies are
found among unmarried women, so outcomes for children of unplanned
pregnancies could be confounded by well-documented outcomes for
children born outside of marriage. See htp://www.thenationalcampaign.
org/resources/pdf/fast-facts-unplanned-key-data.pdf and htp://www.
thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/briefy-unplanned-pregnancy-
among-20somethings-the-full-story.pdf In the legal realm, if advocates
of intentional parenthood want to make their case based on empirical
data, they have a lot more work to do.
000665
000666
000667
000668





TAB 34




MARGARET SOMERVILLE
tion of the different kind of parenting given by a mother and a father.
As an aside, that rejection contrasts with the feminist critique of the
law, which is based on the profound difference between a male and
female approach to law. It would seem that the law needs complemen-
tarity, but children do not.
In short, accepting same-sex marriage necessarily means accepting
that the societal institution of marriage is intended primarily for the
benefit of the partners to the marriage, and only secondarily for the
children born into it. And it means abolishing the norm that children-
whatever their sexual orientation later proves to be- have a prima facie
right to know and be reared within their own biological family by their
mother and father. Carefully restricted, governed, and justified excep-
tions to this norm, such as adoption, are essential. But abolishing the
norm would have a far-reaching impact.
What is the connection between some-sex marriage
and reproductive technologies?
The new reprogenetic (reproductive and genetic) technologies also raise
questions relating to same-sex marriage. One response that many have
given, including the Canadian courts in their rejection of arguments that
marriage should be restricted to opposite-sex couples because only they
can procreate, is that same-sex couples can now use reproductive tech-
nologies to bring children into their marriages. Future possibilities could
include making an embryo from two sperm so that two men could have
a baby, or from two ova so that, likewise, two women could have their
"own" child. If it is discrimination to exclude same-sex couples from
marriage, then surely it would be an even more serious instance of dis-
crimination to prohibit them from reproducing in the only way possible
for them as couples. If so, could some of the prohibitions in the new
Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which recently received royal
assent, be challenged constitutionally on discrimination grounds?
Notably, the act does prohibit discrimination in access to reproductive
technologies on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation. Is the
act's prohibition on paying surrogate mothers or gamete donors,
thereby establishing the value that human reproduction is "not for
sale," inconsistent with this anti-discrimination clause? Some feminists
argue that restrictions on surrogate motherhood are justified because
67
000675
WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?
marriage and civil unions, they encompass different realities and carry
different symbolism. lndeed, it is not even true of all separate educa-
tional institutions. Separate schools for girls and boys- separate, that
is, on the basis of sex and not race, as in the Brown case- can be equal
and are not seen as discriminatory by most people, even though sex,
like race, is normally a prohibited ground of discrimination. That is
because reasons can determine whether a given act is discrimination.
Take rhe example of allocating shared hospital rooms. Allocating
shared rooms on the hasis of race would be discrimination, but doing
so on the basis of sex is not. Indeed, failure to do the latter can be a
breach of a person's human rights and dignity. The family of a very old
woman who died in a room shared with a young man is still trauma-
tized by their mother's deep distress at finding herself in this situation-
she had never been in bed in a room with a man present other than her
husband or a physician. In short, the same act can be discrimination or
not, depending on the reasons for it. Although normally
we regard separating men and women as discrimination, in this poor
woman's case, failure to do so was a failure of respect.
Should we equate homosexuality to race or ro sex in the above exam-
ples when deciding on a one- or two-institutions approach to same-sex
unions? The central issue in that decision, as those examples show, is:
What is required in terms of respect? Some reasons for undertaking an
acr mean that it manifests respect, other reasons for the same act mean
that it shows disrespect.
I have argued that to reject same-sex marriage in the public square
in order to affirm moral or other objections to homosexuals is a failure
of respect and would be discrimination. To reject it because marriage
could no longer embody the inherently procreative relationship
between a man and a woman and, thereby, institutionalize and sym-
boUze the functions of marriage related to procreation and children
would not be discrimination. Many- one hopes the vast majority- of
opponents of same-sex marriage do not disrespect homosexua Is or
their relationships. Yet the same-sex marriage case is based almost
entirely on equating being against it with being against homosexuals,
disrespecting them, and thereby breaching rheir human rights. That
connection needs to be challenged.
And respect is not a one-sided issue. Same-sex marriage raises fun-
76
000684





TAB 35




c
Children's human rights and unlinking child-parent biological bonds
marriage automatically does, unlinks parenthood
from In doing so, it unavoidably takes
away children's right to both a mother and a
father and their right {unless an exception is justi-
fied as being in the best interests of that particu-
lar child, as in adoption), to know and be reared
within his own biological family. (As an aside, in
contrast, because civil unions do not carry the
right to found a family, they avoid this problem.)
The primary rule becomes that a child's parents
are who the law says they are, who may or may
not be the child's biological parents. The excep-
tion to biological parenthood, which used to be
allowed for through adoption law, .becomes the
norm.
Same-sex marriage advocates argue that chil-
dren do not need both a· mother and a father, and
'genderless parenting' is just as good or even better
than opposite-sex parenting, including because all
children are wanted children and don't come into
existence by 'accident'. Research is increasingly
indicating, however, that men and women parent
differently {Lamb, 2004; Grossmann, Grossmann,
Fremmer-Bombik, Kindler, Scheuerer-Englisch &
Zimmermann 2002; Rohner & Veneziano 2001;
Swain, Lorberbaum, Kose, & Lane 2007; Wtlcox,
2005, 2007). In addition, epigenetic. studies that
focus on the interaction of genes and the environ-
ment, (e.g. Weaver et al. 2004) show that certain
genes in young mammals are imprinted (activat-
ed) by parental behaviour, but shut down for life
if not imprinted within a very" limited critical win-
dow period. At the least, then, an ethical precau-
tionary principle means those arguing same-sex
families are just as good for children should have
the burden of proo£
In other words, the Civil Marriage !let radical-
ly changes the primary basis of parenthood from
natural or biological pa;enthood to" legal (and
social) parenthood. That change breaks the auto-
matic link between biological and legal parent-
hood at the institutional level and, consequently,
has major impact on the societal norms, symbols
and values associated with parenthood. The
nature and extent of the resulting change might
not be readily apparent at first glance, because
some impacts will be more distant, less direct
and outside the immediate context of same-sex
marriage.
For instance, the change from natural to legal
parenthood is relevant to the use of new repro-
ductive technologies (NRTs). Frequently the use
of those technologies involves donated gametes
(sperm and ova) which mean children are discon-
nected from their biological parents. Recognizing
·same-sex marriage could increase the use of these
technologies, because same-sex couples are never
naturally fertile as a couple and often resort to
them. to bring children into their relationships.
Might they also be more likely to want children if
they are married? Recent newspaper reports doc-
ument the increased use ofNRTs and surrogate
motherhood by gay couples (Bellafante 2005). A
large 'fertility industry', including brokerages and
agen<;:ies with a focus on gay parenting, has
sprung up around these technologies. A domi-
nant feature of that industry is that it is commer-
cially based. That means that the transmission of
human life can be as or becomes just one
more commercial opportunity. In the United
States alone, it is reported to be a $3 billion(US)
per year industry (Spar 2007). For
reasons, the industry is also a very strong advo-
cate. of payment of gamete donors and of 'genetic
anonymity', that is, the non-identification of
gamete donors. That raises the issue of children's
rights to know the identity of their biological
parents, which is relevant not only to children
conceived through NRTs, but also to adopted
children.
An even less tangible, more general and wider
impact of NRTs is that children are produced
(through reproduction), not created (through
procreation). That means children, in general,
move towards being desirable objects or products
- not unique subjects - the ultimate trophies,
rather than simply being t,he unconditionally
loved miracles of life going forward. Future possi-
bilities in the same vein are 'designer children'
whose genetic characteristics are chosen by their
Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES 181
000689
(
. Children's human rights and unlinking child-parent biological bonds
eggs has increased over the following years, due
largely to the increasing acceptability .of egg-
sharing. a · ·
Notice anything about this statement? There is
not a single mention of the primary person
affected by such ;Lrrangements and the technolo-
gies they employ - namely, the resulting child.
That is not unusual - indeed, it been the
norm since i978 when NRTs burst onto the
scene in the blaze of media attention that sur-
rounded the birth of Louise Brown, the original
'test tube' baby, the first child born from ail
embryo conceived oul:side a woman's body
through in vitto fertilization (IVF).
Yet, the first question raised by NRTs should
be whether it is ethical to use any particular one
of them to .bring children into the world, in par-
ticular, ethical vis-a-vis the resulting child - a
question that is rarely addressed with respect to
the use of NRTs in general. Rather, it is simply
assumed that their use is justified, although there
are some exceptions, such as reproductive clon-
ing, where it is clear that such justification would
be at least yery difficult or, many people believe,
impossible to establish. Then, if the use ofNRTs
is justified, one must ask under what conditions
and subject to which legal safeguards and restric-
tions is that so? To respond ethically to.that ques-
tion we must explore the impact of NRTs on
children born through their use. Yet,. except for
the possible impacts of.NRTs on children's physi-
cal health, there has been an almost total failure
to take into account other impacts of them on
children.
But that is changing and that is largely
being precipitated by 'donor conceived adults'
who only very recently, as the first NRTs
reach adulthood, have spoken out and initiated
an on-going public debate. Narelle Grech, an
Australian, is one such adult. She replied co
Simons and Ahuja (2005a) as follows:
I am a 22 year old- donor-conceived adult. I
am completely appalled and upset about this
supposed solution to shortages in donor eggs.
To think that, in the 21st century, humans are
trading eggs and sperm for money and chil-
dren really saddens me.
In the article, there is NO of the
affects such programs will have on the person
born as a result of such deals. That is what
they are - deals; we are bargaining and trading
human beings here. as though they are items
on supermarket shelves! Creating donor con-
ceived people who all of these consenting
adults know will be unable to trace their bio-
logical mothers is, to me, ignorant and cruel.
I feel as though donor conceived people
are the last to be thought of in these trade
deals; only adults, including clinics, doctors
and wannabe parents are mentioned, and this
statement [of Dr. Simons] is completely false:
'However, even if the numbers of patients opt-
ing for such treat.Qlent drop, this would not
constitute a criticism of itself, a
pra,ctice that provides clear benefits to all par-
ticipants and to society.'
Clear benefits to all participants and
society? This is a joke, right? So, the purpose
of these programs - the person being born as a
result- is obviously then not seen as someone
of worth if you can ignore the effects these
agreements will have on
Have we, as a society, learnt absolutely
nothing from such movements as adoption?
To say and imply .that everyone will be a-ok
with this situation is naive. What about the .
person being born as a result who has n? say
in this intentional separation from their bio-
logical mother and their maternal family??
What about their half siblings possibly created
from the same women's egg donations, and her
children that she may go on to have? What
about the questions that the child/person may
8. Simons and Ahuja (2005a), http://www.bionews.org.uklcommentary.lasso?storyid-2534 (accessed April 25,
2005).
Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES 183
000691
Margaret Somerville ..
have as they grow up that their parents will
never be able: to answer?
Little bits of non-identifying informa.tion
will not substitute for the real person: that per-
son's family! You are not only encouraging
people to intentionally separate people from
their families, you are going to be the cause of
people who have to question their identity,
and no one on this earth should ever have. to
do that.
How dare someone take away someone
else's to know themself! It is one of
the most <!e-humanising experiences l have
had to face in my life. To look in the mirror on
a day to day basis and question so much is one
of the worst feelings.
Anonymous donation is completely un-
ethical and to suggest that everyone in society
will be happy with this egg-sharing deal really
strikes me as ignorant advertising by profes-
sionals and academics who should know better.
One day, the world will look back on these
experiments with human lives in disgust -
I am sure of it - and at the centre will be
the clinics, doctors ·and 'professionals' who
thought this was all a great idea ...
'If we don't stand for up for children, then we
don't stand for much at all.' -Marian Wright
Edelman
(Narelle Grecl), Donor-conceived adult, used with
permission of the author, Tangled Wtbs, Australia9)
And Narelle ·Grech's response is not a one-off.
Surveys of donor-conceived adults show the same
feelings and belic:fs she el(presses. In particular,
donor-conceived adults belieVe that they have the
right to know who biological parents are
and that no one, particularly not -society itself,
can justify breaching that right (Skelton 2006).
Yet some adults wanting to have children act
deliberately to breach it.
Deliberately destroying children's
biological links ...
One response to the British law prohibiting
anonymous gamete donations and recognizing
children's rights to know the identity of their bio-
logical parents has been to establish facilities that
are not bound by the law (see for instance, the
website Mannotincluded.comiO). The law covers
only frozen sperm, not fresh sperm, the latter of
which, therefore, can be provided anonymously
through unregulated internet sperm agencies.
One such agency, Man Not Included (see Bella-
fame 2005), whose 'Diamond Extra Package:' cost
£4147.50(UK), made a special 'pitch' to both
lesbians, who constitute around 40% of sperm
recipients, and, much more unusually, gay
sperm donor.s. That such agencies are targeting
lesbians and gay men might indicate that they
are all likely to want anonymity with respect
to genetic parentage, whether the person is the
sperm donor, the sperm recipient (the other
genetic parent) or the non-genetic social parent
(the biological mother's woman partner). Once
again, the rights and interests of the resulting
child are not factored into the arrangements.
In contrast, rather than soliciting gay donors,
the US Food and Drug Administration is imple-
menting new rules that recommend 'that any
man who has engaged in homosexual sex in the
previous five years be banned from serving as
an anonymous sperm donor ... [because] collec-
tively they pose a higher-than-average risk of car-
rying the AIDS virus' (Associate.d Press 2005).
The recommendation has been decried by gay
rights activists as discriminatory and stigmatizing.
In doing so, they do not mention the risks of
HIV infection to the resulting child as a relevant
consideration, and neither they nor the FDA raise
the issue of the ethics of anonymous donation,
which simply seems to be assumed to be ethical.
Sometimes, further scientific advances that
raise ethical problems can cause us to see ethical
9. Used permission of the author. See also www.tangledwebs.org.au
10. See for rnstance: .http://www.mannotincluded.com/ (accessed April 25, 2005). Note. When this website was
accessed on July 18, 2007, Mannotincluded.com was in liquidation.
1'84 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007
000692
(
. Children's human rights and unlinking child-parent biological bonds
in practices that, up to that time, we
have :.tccepted as ethical. Advances in NRTs have
done that with respect to artificial
by donor (AID), in particular when donation
is anonymous. The relatively long-established
societal view that AID, itself, and anonymous
AID were ethically acceptable practices is now
being challenged by people other than those who
have always disagreed with it, mainly on religious
grounds. It also merits noting, here, that some-
times scientific advances can solve rather than
create ethical problems. For example, those relat-
ing to so-called 'spare' or 'left-over' embryos from
IVF should be dramatically reduced now that
unfertilized ova can be stored and need
only be created when they are to be transferred to
a woman's uterus.
Ethically unacceptable biological
links ...
But the possibility of freezing ova other eth-
ical problems- including the opposite side of the
coin of anonymous gamete donation, namely,
identified problematic biological links - and also
shows that the ethical issues raised by NRTs
are not limited to their use by same-sex couples.
Very recendy, it was. announced that a Montreal
woman, Melanie Boivin, had undergone ovarian
stimulation and had her ova (eggs) frozen for Jlos-
future use by her daughter, Flavie, who has
Turner's syndrome and who will be infertile as a
resl:'lt. While Melanie's action was done entirely
out of love for her child, if Flavie uses those ova
she would give birth to her half-br9ther or half-
sister, and the child would be the son or daughter
and grandchild of Melanie. As well, it would be
the child of Melanie and her daughter's husband
(Somerville 2007).
Leaving aside for the moment the. most funda-
mental question of whether any gamete donation
is ethical, here's a sampling of some ethics ques-
11. Assisted Human Reproduction Act, S.C. 2004, c. 2.
tions I've been asked about this case: If a young
man is infertile and his wife fertile and they
belong to a cultural group in which genetic rela-
tionship is very important, is it acceptable for the
man's father to donate sperm to inseminate his
son's wife? This would result in the same genetic
relationship on the male side as would result on
the female side in the Boivin case. I would argue
that both are ethically unacceptable, but if the
male .donation is seen as acceptable, consistency
seems to require, at least at first glance, that the
female donation be treated in the same way.
Is one problem here that it's a parent donating
to a child? What about the other way around - a
daughter donating ova to her mother who has
experienced premature menopause? If we accept
that gamete donation can be ethical in some cir-
cumstances, would it be ethical for a brother to
donate sperm to a brother, or a sister donate ova
to a sister? Or is any donation between close rela-
tives unethical? An obvious case of such ethical
unacceptability would be a b_rother donating
sperm for his sister's use. This would not be
incest, because that requires sexual intercourse,
but the vast majority of people would see it as
ethically wrong, quite apart from the genetic risk
involved for the resulting child. But how should
we view these other 'related donor' cases and do
they all raise the same ethical issues? For instance,
is a man donating sperm for his son's use ethically
different from a woman donating ova for her
daughter's use? The wider question that raises is:
Are there ethically relevant differences between
male and female donation of gametes? And the
even wider one: Is gamete donation itself ethically
acceptable?
CANADA'S INCONSISTENT APPROACH
lrt Canada, the use of donated gametes for creat-
ing children is legally recognized in the Assisted
Human Reproduction Act 2004 (AHR Act) II
Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES 185
000693
(
·Margaret Somerville
which regulates this practice Whether and under
what conditions g<m:J.ete or embryo donation is
ethical is, however, a different question.
Children's rights to know their
genetic identity ...
The right of children born through gamete dona-
tion or .who are adopted to know the identity
of their biological parents is a confused area in
Canada. The approach taken with respect to hon-
ouring this right is inconsistent across the coun-
try and varies with the different ways in which
fully or partially 'non-biological families' come
about.
For instance, although some provinces have
been giving people adopted as children access to
information regarding their biological parents,
Ontario has only recently enacted law that will
allow them such access (a right that does not
operate retrospectively). One of Canada's national
newspapers, the Globe & Mail rightly applauded
this development: 'Ethics, human rights and
international law - as well as considerations of
such children's health and well-being, and, ever-
increasingly, what constitutes appropriate.medical
care - all require that · adopted children have
access to information regarding their biological
parents' Mail, 2004) And it is not just
these children who have this right, but all their
future descendan.ts as well. That means that as a
society we have two obligations: not to be complicit
in approaches that deprive adopted children of their
right of access to knowledge of their biological par-
ents and to establish systems that give them such
access. Both of these obligations are of the same basic
nature, ones of non-malfeasance - obligations not to
do harm.
But those obligations are owed not only to
adopted children, but also to those born through
the use of reproductive - a group
the Globe (whose editorial board strongly sup-
ports same-sex marriage) does not mention. Why
was it not of equal concern to them that the
Assisted Human Reproduction Act which was passed
by Parliament only in 2004 when we were fully
aware of children's claims to a right to know their
biological parentage, breaches both these obliga-
tions? The kt does not enact a right for children
born from donated gametes (spt;rm and ova) or-
who began life as a donated embryo to know who
their biological parents·are- to know through
whom life, itself, traveled to them. On the
contrary, at s. 18(2) the Act makes it a criminal
offence, with possible consequences of a substan-
tial fine (up to $250,000(C)) and imprisonment
(for up to 5 years), to disclose such information
without the consent of the donor(s) (s. 61(a)(b)).
And, in using the law to make them 'genetic
orphans' - choosing to give primacy to adults'
preferences (that donor-conceived children not
know who their biological parents are) over chil-
dren's rights and needs - we all, as a society,
become complicit in intentionally depriving these
children of their right to know their lineage. Not
giving a person the option of knowing their bio-
logical origins is harmful to them, which is the
reason society should not, contrary to the current
situation in Canada, approve, especially through
law, or fund any procedure that results in any
person not having access to knowledge about
their biological origins. ·
In this context, it is interesting to consider the
argument of advocates of same-sex marriage in
favour of its legal recognition, namely, that even
though not all same-sex couples will want to
marry they have· a right to have the option of
doing so, and apply the same reasoning to chil-
dren's rights to know their biological origins:
Even though not all children conceived through
donated gametes and NRTs will want to know
their origins, they have a right to have the option
of doing so.JZ
The most important and powerful lobby
group arguing against the possible future prohibi-
tion of anonymous gamete donation, and also
against the present prohibition in Canada of pay-
12. I am indebted for this insight to Prqfessor Frank Brennan SJ, personal communication, May 5, 2005.
186 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007
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c
human rights and unlinking child-parent biological bonds
ment for gametes, embryos or gestational servic-
es, ·is the 'fertility industry'. That is in both
Canada and other countries where such services
are. offered. Diane Allen, President of i:he Cana-
dian Infertility Network, says that, even with
the legislative prohibition of payment in place in
Canada:
a real, enforced ban on paym_ent to don9rs (and
surrogates) beyond reimbursement for expenses
directly related to the act of'donation - the
prohibition in [the Assisted Human Reproduc-
tion Act] ... - is just being ignored or p-eatively
circumvented at present, and Health Canada
seemS unwilling/unable to do anything about it
- they say people should 'caJI the RCMP' [The
Roya) Canadian Mounted Police - the Federal
police force in Canada]. Yeah,.right, you
just imagine the reaction!
{Personal communication,
email,.April25, 2005)
That likely non-reaction can be compared with
the likely to the selling o.f tissues and
organs. for transplant, sales that are also .legally
prohibited. In a case that attracted substantial
media attention, the Royal Victoria Hospital in
· Montreal refused to carry out a live organ donor
of a kidney from an allegedly altruistic
donor from a developing country to· a Canadian
· man. The reason: the hospital was .concerned that
there might have.been some form of payment
to the donor and that would be unethical (The
{Montreal] Gazette, 2005).
New rights for children ...
The legal recognition of same-sex marriage in
Canada not only raises new concerns about the.
negation of children's 'old' rights with respect to
their origins - their rights to know
who their biological mother and biological father
are and, unless the contrary is indicated as being
in the 'best interests' of a particular child, to be
reared by those parents. But also, the combina-
tion of same-sex marriage and avant garde repro-
ductive technologies now on the horizon raises
further ethical issues in this regard, which could
also be relevant to reproduction by infertile op-
posite-sex couples who use these technologies.
Professor Jack Mahoney (2003: 737) postulated
that '[a]ny genetic procedure that will turn out to
be harmful to the future child or to a future
or contrary to their interests, is
morally unacceptable.' In order to follow that
advice, current advances in NRTs make it neces-
sary to formulate a new right for children,
whether they are being brought into same-sex or
opposite-sex marriages, that would have been
unimaginable until very recently.
Children have a right to be conceived with a
natural biological heritage - that is, untampered
with biological origins - in particular, a right to
be conceived from a natural sperm from one
identified living adult man and a natural ovum
from one identified living adult woman, the man
being, and being known as, the biological father
of the child and the woman being, and being
known as, the biological mother of the child.
Society should not be complicit in - that is,
should not approve or fund - any procedure for
the creation of a child, unless the procedure is
consistent with the child's right to a natural bio-
logical heritage. A child's right to be conceived with
a natural biological heritage is the most fUndamen-
tal human right (Habermas 2003; Somerville
2004a, 2004b, 2006a, 2006b).
The rights to a natural biological heritage and
to knowledge of their biological origins are natu-
ral rights of the human person in that they are
not dependent for philosophical cogency on the
positive or common law of the state. No matter
what one's jurisprudential disposition, one can-
not postulate a just law that denies either of these
rights. Each of these rights is constitutive of the
human person's self identity which precedes citi-
zenship and which cannot be denied by other
citizens or the state, even in the interests of other
citizens who seek the prerogative to bear
without these rights. The right to found a family
does not include the right to bear children
Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES
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Margaret Somerville .
denied their natural rights of biological identity
and knowledge.l3 The right to found a family is
a negative content right, that is, a right not to be
interfered with in conceiving and bearing chil-
dren naturally. It is not a right to bear children,
in particular, it is not a right to have access to
reproductive technoiogies to do so - that is, a
positive content right. However, people claiming
such a right and, correlatively, arguing against
the legitimacy of any restrictions on access to
these technologies, propose that the right to
found' a family should be interpreted as a right to
bear children and have access to NRTs to do so. I
believe that access to such technologies is best
conceptualized as a privilege, which means that
access can be regulated and restricted, provided
those restrictions are in accordance with the
requirements of ethics and law.
Nor does right to found a family include
denying children at least the chance, when being
conceived, of meeting their biological parents.
Conceiving children with gametes from a dead
donor, as, for example, an Australian court
authorized {Kerjab 2005), denies them this op-
portunity. In that case ihe judge considered only
the rights and wishes of the ad!llts involved. He
canvassed the woman's rights to have access to her
dead husband's sperm which had been taken ai:
her request after he died and without his prior
consent, and focused on what the man could
be presumed to have wanted with regard to
her using the sperm to conceive his child post
mortem.
Moreover, one can reach the same conclusio·ns
in ethics withoui: relying on principle-based ethi-
cal analysis. Even from a perspective of ethical
relativism, because it is prima facie harmful to
children to create them ·without a natural biologi-
cal heritage or without the right to know their
biological origins or knowing their biological par-
ent is dead, doing so is Wiethical.
A right to a natural biological heritage or a
definition of the term 'biological origins' was not
necessary in the past, because there was no way
this right could be breached and the term 'biolog-
ical origins' could have only one meaning, the
natural union of a man's sperm and a woman's
ovum. Moreover, the addition of the words man
and woman in defining the right, rather than
simply referring to sperm and ovum, _as would be
more common, is not superfluous. It is theoreti-
cally possible to create an embryo with the genet-
ic heritage of two women or two men, including
by making a sperm or ovum from one of the
adult's stem cells and using a ,narural gamete frotn
the other person, or making an 'ovum' from an
enucleated egg fused with a sperm and fertilizing
it with another sperm, or perhaps by using two
ova .. Such practices must be prohibited and that
requires that we recognize that all children have a
right to be born of the union of a man's natural
sperm and a woman's natural ovum. As well, the
requirement that the gametes come from adults
preempts the use of gametes from aborted fetuses;
it prevents children being born whose biological
parent was never born.
In order to mitigate the harms to children that
can be avoided, a statement of children's rights
must be legislated. To summarize, these rights
should include:
1. The right to be conceived with a natural bio-
logical heritage - that is, to have Wimodified
biological origins - in particular, to be con-
ceived from a natural sperm from one ideJ?-ti-
fied living adult man and a natural ovum
from one identified living adult woman;
2. The right to know the identity of one's bio-
logical parents.
And a prohibition on societal funding or support
of any activities that contravene these rights of
children should be enacted. I leave aside here the·
ethics of society's involvement in intentionally
breaching a child's right to be reared by both a
mother and a father - a right which same-sex
13. I am indebted to Professor Frank Brennan SJ for this fo(mulation of children's rights with respect to their
biological origins (personal communication, May 9, 200S).
188 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007
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· Children's human rights and unlinlcing child-parent biological bonds
marriage obviously conflicts with '_in the most
fundamental way. Indeed, same-sex marriage leg-
. islates against this right of children.
'the right to found a family · ...
I have written elsewhere about how legalizing
same-sex marriage disconnects marriage from the
inherently procreative relationship between one
man and one woman and in doing so eliminates
the socierallevd symbolism and values rdated to
procreation, and the protections and rights of
children with respect to their biological family
that are established by the institution of marriage
when it is limited to opposite-sex couples (Somer-
ville 2004a, 2004 b). In the same chapt.er, I have
also written about marriage a compound
right under and national law- the
right to marry and found a family. This right
to a family (which I have argued above
should be limited by children's rights to have nat-
ural origins, know their genetic identity and be
conceived with natural gametes from an identi-
fied living adult man and an identified living
adult woman) automatically goes with marriage.
It connects same-sex marriage with the eXtended
development and more frequent use of reproduc-
tive technologies, because, as mentioned already,
they are likely to be employed to bring children
into same-sex rdationships, that is, to exercise, in
practice, the right to found a farnily. ·One way to
·describe the common thread between same-sex
marriage and reproductive technologies is that
both disconnect procreation from sexual intimacy
between two humans: Same-sex marriage involves
sexual intimacy with no possibility of procre-
ation; reproductive technologies involve procre-
ation with no sexual intimacy. The chief
executive of one Sydney (Australia) clinic said in
2005: 'In the future you will have sex for fun, but
when you want babies, you'll have IVF.'I4
The Canadian Civil Marriage Act recognizes
that same-sex marriage disconnects marriage from
procreation and institutionalizes that unlinking.
It does so by amending the term 'natural parent'
in federal legislation such as the Income Tax Act,
to read 'legal parent'. That corresponds to a
change from the natural/biological family to the
legal family as the norm and basic unit of society.
Because same-sex cannot create a natu-
ral/biological family (at least they cannot do so
naturally), such a change is necessary if their right
to found a family is to have any reality in prac-
tice. Attributing the right, as marriage necessarily
does, without providing for its exercise would be
meaningless. It would be analogous to establish-
ing a right to healthcare, but not providing any
access to it. But the right of same-sex couples to
found a family raises ethical and legal issues with
impact well beyond same-sex marriage.
For example, it raises questions of the division
of powers under the Canadian Constitution and
issues of federal versus provincial constitutional
jurisdiction. For instance, the Government of
Quebec is presently in the Court of Appeal of
Quebec challenging the constitutional validity
of the AHR Act (2004) on thr;: grounds that,
because health is a provincial matter, the federal
government had no authority to enact the AHR
Act.
The right to found a family also raises new
issues of constitutionally prohibited discrimina-
tion beyond that involved in excluding same-sex
couples from marriage itsel£ Diane Allen, Presi-
dent of the Canadian Infertility Network, wrote:
Lesbians/gays are planning a challenge to
the AHR Act on the basis that the ban on
payment to donors/surrogates discriminates
against their right to 'found a family' as guar-
anteed under Article 16 of the United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights ...
which states that '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.' (A successful legal challenge
could even require the government to pay for
14. http://www.theage.c:om.au/news/Opinion/lnside-the-sec:ret-world-of-IVF/2005/0S (accessed May 18, 2005).
Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES 189
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Margaret
surrogates and egg qonors for gay men, and
sperm donors for lesbian women, so that they
have an equal right to form a family.)
(Personal communication,
email, April 24, 2005)
The concordance of interests between the Govern-
ment of Quebec and gay rights advocates in pursu-
ing such a case, although for different purposes, is
an _increasingly common phenomenon in relation
to social-ethical values issues such as those raised
by NRTs. Another such partnership has been
between feminists opposed to NRTs·as demeaning
to women and men taking power over them, on
the one hand, and, on the other, people who
strongly object to NRTs on religious grounds.
In addition, because the Federal Government
can only change the definition of the family with
respect to federal law, there could now be incon-
sistency between who constitutes a family under
federal law as compared with under provincial
law.15 As Lambert wrote:
Basically, the question I am looking at is the
following: if the definition of marriage is
defined federally, and laws that are contrary to
the Charter are of 'no force and effect', how is
it that some provinces have continued to oper-
ate under one definition of marriage and oth-
ers under another? How can we justify this?
Does this mean that Canada has 'federal
Ontario law', 'federal Quebec law', etc.? I don't
have an answer to these questions and I'm not
sure w.hether I want to argue in favour of uni-
formity or pluralism. Nevertheless, I am trying
to find a justification for these solutions, and I
am not satisfied with the argument that supe-
rior court rulings on federal law should be
completely ineffective in other
. (Personal communication, May 10, 2005)
When the Americans were debating the defini-
tion of death, which is governed by state law,
there used to be a joke that one could be dead in
one state and alive again when moved to another
state with a different definition and so on. Here
people could be a family in one context governed
by federal law, but not in another governed by
provincial law, or even a family and not a family
within the same general context - for example,
the payment of federal taxes as compared with
provincial taxes.
Changing frQm the natural to
the legal family ...
The Civil Marriage Act, in eliminating the natu-
ral family (recognized by law) in favour of the
(purely) legal family as the basis of family law,
also results in ·a profound change in the legal the-
ory under-pinning that law. Instead of the state
using the law to recognize the natural reality of
the biological bonds that exist between parents
and children, as it does in the institution of tradi-
tional marriage, same-sex marriage means the
state must use the law to constitute parental
bonds, as it does in adoption. That is a move
away from the use of the law to recognize innate,
naturally based, fundamental human· rights, in
this case of children with respect to their parents
and vice versa, to seeing the law as establishing
those rights. The danger is that what the law cre-
ates, it can also take away. Rights established by
law are far ritore fragile than those just recognized
by law, because the latter exist indep·endently of
the law.
It is also interesting to consider whether the
basic presumption of rights of 'family privacy' -
the concept that the state must not interfere in
the family unless it can show justification for
doing so - will be changed by the Civil Marriage
Acts change from natur;u parent to legal parent.
As explained, parents' and children's natural
rights vis-a-vis each other, which the state must
justify infringing upon, will become legal rights
created by the state. That means that the holder
of the foundational right on which the family's
rights a(e established and to which exceptions
15. For an interesting discussion of the impact same-sex marriage could have on Canadian constitutional law, in
general, see Lambert (2005).
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Children's human rights and unlinking child-parent biological bonds
.must be justified by persons ·or . institutions
breaching it; shifts from parents to the state. In
other words, parents' rights· over children and
children's rights with respect t.Q their parents will
be derived from the state, not vice versa as at
present. That means parents' and children's rights
'with respect to each other change from being first
order ones. to second order ones. That, in turn,
means the ultimate rights with respect to
ing about what should or should not be done to
children, for example, their medical treatment,
rest with the state not the parents as is currently
true; where that matters is when there is conflict
between parents and the state about children's
treatment. Although parents' decisions about
children's medical treatment ean, as the law
presently stands, be overridden by courts, the
basic presumption is that parents have a right to
decide and contravening that right inust be
ly justified. Making legal parenthood the
tional form of parenthood may change that.
A change from natural to legal parenthood is
also consistent with some other approaches to
parenthood that have been suggested from time
to time in the past, and are surfacing again, for
example, the proposal that people should to
obtain a state license that would permit them to
have children· (Wagner 2005).
But while the legal theory discussed above
is important, and it would be a serious mistake
to underestimate its powerful impact on practice,
what really matters here ·is how the change
from natural to legal parenthood will affect
the rights and lives of real children in their day
to day existence.
First, although biology is the bond that
cannot, in fact, be annulled, the change means
that the law separates the bond between parents
and children from biology (Adolphe 2005). That,
in nirn, means that children do not have a prima
facie right to know and be reared by their own
biological parents or a prima facie right to be
brought up by both a mother and a father. Those
·rights are no longer the societal norm to which
exceptions in individual cases mUst be justified.
An old New Yorker Magazine cartoon, published
just after new reproductive technologies becanie
available, comes to mind. It shows a row of adults
at a cocktail party, each holding a glass of cham-
pagne. A nurse and a little boy, who is .holding
the nurse's hand, stand in front of them with
their backs to the reader. The nurse says to the
child: 'This is biological mummy, biological
daddy, gestational mummy, social mummy, social
daddy, the lawyer who made all the
ments, and your psychiatrist who will try to sort
you out as you grow up!' The attributes of par-
enthood have been fragmented by NRTs, whereas
previously they coalesced in two people, a female
mother and a male father who were, as a general
rule, the biological parents of the child. Same-sex
marriage and the law that enacted it in Canada,
the Civil Marriage Act, institutionalizes that frag-
mentation as the new societal notm.
Regrettably, Canada is not unique in enacting
legislation that legitimates de-linking children
from their biological parents and - and all
their descendants - from their wider biological
family. How many other coUntries will do like-
wise remains to be seen.
Two or more legal parents ...
The New Zealand Law Commission (2005)
lished a report, 'New Issues in Legal Parenthood',
which was immediately tabled in the New Zeal-
and Parliament. The Report makes it explicit how
radical the effects of changing from natural to
legal parenthood - disconnecting parenthood
from natural parenthood- are. The Minister in
charge of the Law Commission described the
report as follows:
[It] focuses on how the law determines who is
a parent, and is guided by principles including
the child's welfare and best interests, and the
desirability of clarity and certainty [about who
is a parent] at the earliest possible time in the
child's life. It also focuses on 'the need for indi-
viduals to access information about their genet-
ic and gestational parentage; the desirability of
Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES 191
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Margaret Somerville
autonomy and collaboration in parenting; and
the equality of children regardless of the cir-
cumstances of their creation or family form'.
One of the "suggested legal reforms is to
give donors of egg and sperm legal parenthood
status which could mean that a child has 3
parents. Donors would be able to 'opt in' to
legal parenthood after agreeing with the other
two parents. The role of the donor parent
would be defined within a pre-birth agreement
and the 'third parent' would be as liable to
child support as the other two parents. The
Commission also wants there to be a section
on the birth certificate of a child conceived
using donor gametes or surrogacy that can
indicate that 'extra information' is available
about the person's parentage.
(New Zealand Law Commission, 2005)
In words, the number of parents a child
has, if there is more than one, will be a matter of
private agreement between two or more adults.
Moreover, note that the child's 'best interests' are
not paramount contrary to what has traditionally
been true in family law; they are just 'included' as
one of the principles, among others, that 'guided'
.the proposals made in the report.
The Government of New Zealand was obliged
to respond to these proposals within 6 months.
They did so agreeing with some, placing others
under consideration subject to further consulta-
tion and research, disagreeing with others
($ee New Zealand Ministry of Justice, 2006). The
second largest opposition party in the parliament
responded immediately, as reported in the same
2006 document: 'New Zealanders s}10uld be ask-
ing just where the politically correct madness and
experimentation with our children's future is
going to stop.' In contrast, the
ald (2005) editorialized as follows:
[W]hatever the cause for political trepidation,
there is little in the Law Commission's sug-
gestions that does not represent a reasoned
response to societal change and developments
in birth technology and DNA testing. In sum,
they recognise that the law must protect chil-
dren and make their welfare paramount.
It does not seem to occur to the editorialists to
consider that it might be best for <:hildren if they
were not brought into the world through means
or in planned circumstances that will deprive
of having both a mother and a father,
preferably their own biological parents, and of
knowing their genetic identity and being able to
live in such a way as to fully experience it. More-
over, their statement that children's welfare must
be paramount seems to be at odds with the
report's stance.
Multiple parents ...
The questions raised by the Law Commission's
proposal range from the mundane, although ·
far from unimportant for being so, to brave new
reproductive world possibilities. For instance,
birth certificates are used to enroll children in
school, to apply for marriage licenses and so on,
which raises questions of protection of privacy
rights and issues of confidentiality for children
with more than two parents as the New Zealand
Law Commission recognized. One of their sug-
gestions is that another 'certificate' could be
designed for use for such purposes. What this
example should alert us to, however, is the very
widespread impact that disconnecting children
from their natural parents would have on a broad
range of everyday societal institutions.
Other possibilities are avant garde ones and
take us back, once again, to the question, what
are children's rights not to be brought into life in
certain ways that are or will become possible
with NRTs? Cloning (creating a child through
asexual replication in contrast to sexual repro-
duction) has been banned in Canada (AHR Act
2004 s. 5 [1] [a]), although, as noted before, that
ban might be challenged by couples in same-sex
marriages. But a baby who has three genetic
parents (the mitochondrial DNA ofone ovum
donor, the nuclear DNA of the gestational
192 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007
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(
Childten's human rights and unlinking child-parent biological bonds
mother's ovum and the DNA of . the father's
sperm) is likely to be born in the United
Kingdom. The UK Human Fertilisation and
.Embryology Authority, has given permission for
the creation of such a baby (Henderson 2007).
The child's three parents could be registered on
the proposed New Zealand birth certificate, if
they lived in that country.
As mentioned previously, technologies on the
horiron include making gametes from adult stem
ceils and an embryo from the gametes, or making
an embryo from two ova or two sperm. Does the
New Zealand proposal foreshadow not only two
women, but also three or more women or, like-.
wise, not only two men, but also three or more,
or some combination of three or more men and
women being the genetic parents of a child and
being entitled to be registered as par-
ents? There has been valid concern that legally
recognizing same-sex marriage could open up
polygamy, because, unlike opposite-sex marriage,
which links marriage to the primary inherently
procreative relationship between one man and
one woman, there is no inherent reason to
· .same-sex marriage to only two people· (Somer-
ville, 2005a, 2005b). And if marriages
can include more than two spouses, why should
opposite-sex ones not be the same? Moreover,
even when limited to two people, same-sex
marriage opens up marriage for redefinition
and, could set a. precedent that makes
multiple husbands or wives a possibility. on the
grounds that that is just a further redefinition of
marriage. But so far the possibility 'oUts opening
up multiple parenting, especially multiple genetic
parenting has not been on the radar screen.
Indeed, for people who oppose same-sex marriage
to have raised that as a risk, is likely to have been
branded as 'hysterical scare And yet
there are cases that carry 'early warning' signs
already being decided in Canadian courts, that
should have made this possibility apparent even
before the New Zealand report was released.
The Quebec Civil Code was amended in 2002
to provide for any two adults, who are neither
married nor in a civil union, nor in an 'ascendant
or descendant [relationship], nor a brother or sis-
ter', to enter into a civil union {see article 521.1).
The Code also amended the law to recognize
'parental projects involving assisted procreation'
(article 538). The spouse of the child's mother-
whether a man or another woman - 'is presumed
to be the father' (article 525). 'If both parents are
women, the rights and obligations assigned by
law to the father, insofar as they differ from the
mother's, are assigned to the mother who did not
give birth to the child' (article 539). In short, the
birth mother's civil union woman partner can be
the father on the child's birth certificate.
Iri a Montreal case, the genetic father of a
child born to two women in a civil union was
seeking to be named as the father of the child on
the child's birth certificate and to have parental
rights. The birth mother was strongly in favour of
granting him these rights, but her spouse object-
ed. The women's civil union had broken down
(Hanes 2004), and one can only speculate
whether the birth mother wanted to exclude the
other woman from access to the child.
In a 'London, Ontario case, three aduits- two
lesbian women and the genetic father of the child
- were in agreement in seeking an order that they
should all be registered on the birth certificate as
the child's parents. One of the women had a child
and listed the biological father on the birth
certificate (he is a friend of the couple). The: other
woman then applied for a 'declaration of parent-
hood' from the court. Basically, rather than her
adopting the child and. the biological father
giving up parental rights, they asked that three
parents be recognized for the child.I6 The trial
judge refused the order on the technical ground
that he: had no jurisdiction because the governing
legislation did not allow for more than two peo-
ple to be recorded as the parents, but he indicated
that he would have made the order requested if
16. I am indebted to Janet Epp Buckingham (BA LLB, LLD, for information about this case and discussion of it).
Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES 193
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Margaret
legislatior( had not stood in the way and it had
been a matter left to his discretion. The three
plaintiffs appealed to the Omario Court of
Appeal the grounds that the law limiting par-
ents to two is discriminatory against gays and les-
because they are specially situated and
cannot have children with just the two of them.l7
The Court of Appeal used its discretionary power
to act in the 'best interests' of the child and
ordered that the three plaintiffs be listed as par-
ents.IB
As a final thought on this issue, might it be
more ethical to include the biological parents on
the birth certificate together with an additional
parent or parents if the law recognizes the latter
as such, than not to do so? If so, should including
the biological parents be required by law?
THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS
OF THE CHILD
Like married women, children did not exist as
legal persons until the 20th century; hence nei-
ther could claim rights. Women's rights emerged
early in the century; the idea of children's human
rights is only now emerging. As one human-
rights lawyer puts it, 'children are the newest kids
on the human-rights block.'
The general nature of human rights has been
a barrier to recognizing children's human rights.
Traditionally, human rights have been negative
content rights against the state (that is, rights
against the state doing something to an individ-
ual). Children need positive content rights that
individuals must fulfill (that is, rights to some-
thing which others must provide).
The most widely adopted international con-
vention in history- every country in the world,
except the United States of America and Somalia
has ratified it- the Convention on the Rights of
the Chi/dl9 is the most prominent arid powerful
statement of children's human rights. Aie the cur-
rent developments in Canada with respect to
children's rights, outlined throughout this article,
consistent with the requirements of the conven-
tion to which Canada is a signatory?
I will leave aside the complex legal issue of the
impact of international law on domestic law
when they are not consistent with each other and
are applicable, on their face, to the facts
before the court, except to say that
courts have taken international law into account
in deciding domestic cases.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child
establishes children's human rights to know and
be raised in their birth families. Article 7 provides
that the child has 'from birth ... as far as possible,
the right to know and be cared for by his or her
parents'. Article ·8 gives the child the right 'to pre-
serve his or her identity, including nationality,
name and family relations as recognized by law'.
And Article 9 imposes a duty on the state to
'ensure that a child shall not be separated from
his or her parents against their will, except when
competent authorities to judicial review
determine, in accordance with applicable law and
procedures, that such separation is necessary for
the best interests of the child'. The convention
expressly recognizes the right of the child who is
separated from one or both parents to maintain
personal relations and direct contact with both
on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the
child's best interests. And it provides that 'where
such separation results from any action initiated
by a State Party, ... that State Party shall, upon
request, provide the parents, the or, if
appropriate, another member of the family with
the essential information concerning the where-
abouts of the absent member(s) of the family
unless the provision of the information would be
detrimental to the well-being of the child'. Could
that obligation be interpreted to give children
born from gamete donation that is supported
17. AA v. BB and CC, Ontario Court of Appeal File No. C39998, Court File No. FD 200/03.
18. A.A. v. B.B., 2007 ON CA 2, DATE: 2007/01/02, DOCKET: C39998.
19. Convention on the Rights of the Child, Adopted .and opened for signature, ratification .and accession by
General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989, entry into force 2 September 1990, in accordance
with article 49.
l1 94 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007
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Children's human rights and uQlinking child-parent biological bonds
wich state funds, or born into same-sex marriages
which are authorized by che state, rights to state
assistance co know cheir families?
As I have explained previously, legalizing same-
sex marriage, which gives same-sex couples the
right to found a family, overcly contravenes chose
rights of the child set out in the convention, if
the words in che convention are given their usual
meaning, which I propose is the correct interpre-
tation. When the convention was drafted, same-
sex marriage and its impact on children's rights to
know and be reared in their: birth family were not
in contemplation.
It merits noting that the state parties to the
convention have a duty to-implement the rights
of the child that it establishes. It goes without
saying, therefore, chat chere is a duty not to inten-
tionally contravene these rights ·as legalizing same-
sex· marriage necessarily does. Children's human
rights were almost entirely neglected in the court
cases and public and Parliamentary debates that
resulted in Canada's Civil Act, which
legally implemented same-sex marriage. Indeed,
raising the issue was seen as highly inflammatory,
as I can attest from personal experience.
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
So what ethical principles should guide us in
deciding on children's rights in this area?
Consent .••
The only people who 'do not participate volun-
tarily in their creation, and who do not give their
informed consent to . the arrangements agreed
upon, are the children. They are also the ones
most profoundly affected the way in which
they come into being. Ethically, those factors
indicate that when children's 'claims to know
their genetic origins and adults' claims to privacy
conflict, the children should previU.I, that is, their
rights take precedence. Adopted children
and children born from donated sperm, ova or
embryos want to know their biological identity.
. '
20. The Infertility Network is a registered Canadian charity.
(See their letters published in the Infertility Net-
work Newsletters20 in 2005 and 2006). Ethically,
we must ensure that their right to do so is
respected.
The emerging ethical doctrine of 'anticipated
consent' is also important in this context. That
requires us to try to stand in the shoes of the_ per-
son affected by our decision and to as_k: 'Can I
reasonably anticipate that if the person were able
to be asked, they would consent .to-.wpat I want
to do that will affect them?' What'i'htght we rea-
sonably assume that a future child would consent
to.-.if they were able to make their wishes known?
Evidence is starting to come in: 'Donor-con-
ceived adults' describe powerful feelings of loss of
identity through not knowing one or both bio-
logical parents and their wider biological families,
and describe themselves as 'genetic orphans'. ·
They believe society was complicit in a serious
wrong done to them in the way they were con-
ceived and ask, 'How could anyone think they
had the right to do this to me?'
Favour most vulnerable persons .••
The same result is reached in applying the ethical
principle of a preference in favour of the most
vulnerable persons. Children are among the most
vulnerable citizens. Homosexuals are also a vul-
nerable group, but as adults their claims take
second place to children's needs and rights. More-
over, in upholding children's rights we are acting
in the best interests of all children, whether their
sexual orientation later proves to be straight or
gay, and of all citizens, because, at one stage, all
of us are children.
Experimentation on children •.•
The word experiment is a loaded one and should
be used cautiously because of that, but in ethics it
is sometimes appropriate to apply it, in its neutral,
simply descriptive, non-judgmental sense, for the
insights that doing so can provide. Recognition of
same-sex marriage can be seen as an unprecedent-
Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES 195
000703
Margarei: Somerville
ed c:xpcrim.et:tt on children, in general, in terms of
the known and unknown risks and harms it pres-
ents for them by unlinking children from their
biological parents. The ethical guidelines govern-
ing experimentation on human subjects are most
strict with respect to those who either· cannot give
informed consent to their participation or are
members of a vulnerable population. Children
qualify in both categories, so attract the greatest
degree of protection. Consequently, those who
would subject children to such an experiment
must show that they are clearly justified in doing
so. N!J such justification has been presented in the
case of same-sex marriage.
It merits noting here th,at it has been proposed
that women who are egg donors should also be
considered as human medical research subjects in
order to give them the protections they need.
Ethics researChers foUQd that the risks of physical
.discomfort of egg donation were not adequately
disclosed and those of infertility, or even. death,
not mentioned. Likewise, the psychological risks
that exist for egg donors, regardless of whether
the eggs are used for research or to help another
woman conceive, were not considered (Stanford
University Medical Centre, 2005).
Chance differs ethically froin
choice ...
There is also an ethical difference berween a situ-
ation occurring by chance and intentionally
the same situation. Some children con-
ceived natutally..rnafnot be able to identify their
genetic father. But to intentionally create a situa-
tion that makes identifying either or both genetic
parents impossible - and for Parliament and soci-
ety to ensure that is the case, as has happened
with the prohibition in theAHRAct (2004 s. 18
(2), s. 61 (a)(b)) of the disclosure of gamete
donors' identities without their consent is
deeply unethical. We have obligations not to
deliberately create genetic orphans. Obligations
not to impose the deep suffering and loss of iden-
tity that results from loss of a sense of connection
to an individual-human-family past - a sense of
connection to those who gave us life. It is para-
doxical that in an era of sensitivity to individual
human rights and 'intense' individualism, we are
prepared to wipe out for others one of the most
important bases on which we found a sense of
individual identity. ·
Recognize a right to genetic
identity ...
Sandra Walters, a person adopted as a child, now
a lawyer and founder of an adopted pc;rsons' sup-
port group, the Forge Mt Not Society, to whom I
sent. a draft copy of this a_rticle, in her response
puts the case for children's rights to know their
genetic identity far mor7 powerfully than I can.
She writes:
I am glad that you could sense the grief in my
writing [to you]. Adoptees are generally not
permitted to express these emotions [about
their loss of knowledge of and with
their biological parents] as they are seen as
ungrateful, and it is one way that we have been
silenced (not doing today's donor-conceived
adults any favours).
I believe we need to examine the full
c:xteiu of how, as you state in your paper, 'not
knowing their biological origins is harmful to
children'. It is only when the harm is fully
acknowledged that we can look at adoption
and other forms of legal constructs of 'parent-
hood' as an exception to the ideal (children
knowing of and raised by a biological mother
and father), to be resorted to cautiously and
sparingly. There are alternatives to adoption
where the biological parents are physically
incapable of caring for their offspring: kinship
care or guardianship is preferred in many
countries as encouraging the child to remain
connected to her family of origin.
Your use of the term 'genetic orphans' hit
home with me, as it also applies to those of us
who have come out of the closed adoption sys-
tem, with closed records remaining in many
provinces and most states today. As you point
I;,· .t9.6 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007
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(
· Children's human rights and unlinking child-parent biological bonds
out in your paper, it is the 'fertility industry'
which is a powerful lobby group which would
seek to trivialize the import of the biological
connection. Documented research is needed to
demonstrate in a noticeable way the story of
pain and loss that we hear every month at the
Forget Me Not Society and which you have
read in letters sent to you (and which is surely
the tip of an enormous iceberg) . . . In mr.
view, there's something wrong if we, as
society. are not learning from our past mis-
. takes. But first we need to acknowledge them
as such; that's a message that I believe needs to
be communicated.
(Personal communication •. wed with permis-
sion of Sandra Walters, May 10, 2005)
Recognize harms and
problems ...
I would like to emphasize a point made by Wal-
ters that constitutes a type of harm to children
that needs to be recognized: Adopted children
must repress their grief about their loss of genetic
i4entity or be seen as ungrateful. Donor-con-
ceived children born through face an even
more complex trade-off in this respect as their
very existence is inextricably entwined with that
grie£ Without the use of donor gametes and.
NRTs and the losses to them that way of coming
into being entails, they would not exist. The the-
ore.tical choice for them (because they. cannot
have such a choice in fact) is existence with the
loss of connection to their genetic family that
entails or non-existence.
'First do no harm' ...
Powerful existential and ethical reasons, such as
those outlined above, concealing biologi-
cal parents' identity condemn the practice even
before we think of practical reasons that lead us
to the same conclusion. As the genetic basis
of medicine rapidly becomes more important,
knowing about one's ancestors and siblings, or
21. Arndt v. Smith (1997) 148 D.L.R. (4th) (S.C.C.).
even other close relations, can be crucial to
our health and well-being. Anonymous data on
sperm and ova donors, given at a certain date,
will be nowhere near as extensive and complete as
what could be learnt at a later time, especially
after those related to us have had children or
grown older. As well, we are becoming increas-
ingly aware, as discussed throughout this article,
of the psychological harm caused to children who
are denied access to their genetic identity -
knowing that identity is integral to a person's
sense of sel£
There is a saying in ethics that 'good facts are
·essential to good ethics'. In a different sense than
the one in which that maxim is usually used (that
we need the facts of any given situation to iden-
tify, analyze and deal with the ethical issues it
raises) making sure that children have all the facrs
about their biological parents is an ethical
requirement.
'Birth rights/non-birth rights' ...
Litigation involving alleged 'birth rights' (or more
accurately, 'rights to non-birth') of children and
their parents, based on novel legal claims, has
increased dramatically in the last fifteen or so
years (Crockin 2005). At the same time as· we are
seeing claims to rights to live one's life with one's
genetic identity intact, we are seeing also an
increasing number of cases claiming damages for
'wrongful life' - a disabled child sues for having
been born alleging that but for the negligence,
usually of a physician or geneticist, he or she
would never have been conceived or would have
been aborted.21 In claims for 'wrongful birth', the
parents claim damages fo.- negligence (for exam-
ple, a failed sterilization or abortion, or negligent
genetic advice), that resulted in the child being
born when it would not have been, giv-
ing rise to their parental obligations to the child,
.especially the additional costs of providing for a
disabled child. In both types of situation the
rights of children in relation to their birth are in
Volume 13, Issue 2, November 2007 JOURNAL OF FAMILY STUDIES 197
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c
I
i
\
j
Margaret Somerviiie ·
play, as are. the rights of adults with respect to
reproduction and having control and choice
about the children they do or do not have.
In 'wrongful life' cases the child's allegation ·
that, but for the negligence, she would not have
. been born, raises an existential problem for the
courts, because, if not born, the child would not
be present as a plaintiff. The vast majority of
courts have rejected such claims on the grounds
that life is better than no life - that one is riot
'better-off dead'. But claims by a child for delib-
erately creating her 'genetically disconnected life'
are not subject to the same problem. Moreover,
not only healthcare professionals, but also parents
could be subject to such claims.
CONCLUSION
So what are - or should be- all children's human
rights with respect to their coming into being
and knowledge of their parents? I .believe that,
arguably, the most fundamental human right of
all is the right to born from natural human ori-
gins that have not been tampered with by anyone
else: That the essenCe: of one's very being is natu-
rally human and un-designed. Those fundamen-
tal also include the right to know one's
biological parents and if at all . possible to be
reared by them within one's wider biological fam-
ily. Traditional marriage establishes these rights
for children as the societal norm. .
. Same-sex marriage, which is advocated by its
supporters with the best of intentions towards
adults, will have the effect in law and at the level
of societal norms, values and of set-
ting children adrift genetically. In taking away
children's right to a mother an<;l a father, prefer-
ably their own biological parents, which same-sex
marriage unavoidably does, we, as a society, are
guilty of wiping out affected chil<4en's day to day
experience of their genetic identity through inter.:
actions within their biological family and, with
anonymous gamete donation, their genetic iden-
tity its_elf. These children - and their descendants
- cannot sense themselves as embedded in a
web of people, past, present . and in the future,
through whom they can trace the thread of life's .
passage down the generations to them.
Experiencing that embedding and the sense of·
it generates, is probably essential for
experiencing an even larger one, described power-
fully by Joseph Conrad in the preface to his book,
Tht Nigger of tht 'Narcissus' {1897). Speaking of
the role of artists he says:
[The artist] appeals to our capacity for delight
and wonder, to the sense of mystery surround-
ing our lives; to our sense of piry, and beauty
and pain ... and to the subtle but invincible
conviction of solidarity that knits together the
loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the soli-
darity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspira-
tions, in illusions, in hope, in fear which binds
men to each other, which binds together all
humanity - tht dead to the living and the livirzg
to tht unborn.
Having access to knowledge of their extended
biological family is the primary way in which
each person can feel bound to both the dead and
the unborn.
Our most recent experience of people's loss of
genetic identity resulting from deliberate. action
on the part of society is with 'Children born fro.tn
donated gametes using NRTs, but, while only of
25 years' duration, it can provide important les-
sons about loss of genetic identity and of knowl-
edge about and contact with one's biological
parents. The same is true with respect to our
much more long-standing experience with adop-
tion. The conspiracy_ of silence that has surround-
ed adoption and is now being broken, provides
an equally strong message to the identical effect.
Donor-conceived and adopted children tell us
that they wonder: Do I have siblings or cousins?
Who are they? What are they like? Are they 'like
me'? What could I learn about myself from them?
That raises the issue of how our blood relatives
help each of us to establish our human identity.
As far .as we know, humans are the only
animals where experiencing genetic relationship is
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4
c
Children's human rights and unlinking child-parent biological bonds
integral· to their sense of themselves. What we
know of the effects of eliminating that experience,
is that doing so is frequently harmful to children,
biological parents, families and society. It is rrue
that sometimes unlinking children from their
biological parents is unavoidable and the least
harmful option available. But to set out to create
such situations, and for society to be complicit in
facilitating them, is unethical. The difference is
easily understood by comparing adoption when
that results from an .accidental pregnancy and is
seen to be in the 'best interests' of the child, and
surrogate motherhood where the intention in
becoming pregnant is to give away the child, that
is, to separate the child from his or her biological
mother. Society rightly allows and facilitates
adoption, where it is justified, and just as rightly
prohibits surrogacy and penalizes the people
in any aspect of it. . ·
NRTs challenge children's rights to natural
biological origins and to know and experience
their genetic family and heritage in their lives.
Including same-sex marriage in the legal insti-
. tution of marri!lge augments that challenge.
Through same-sex marriage we are formally
severing the genetic ties between children and
their parents and, thereby, their extended bio-
logical/genetic family of siblings and other blood
relations, and institutionalizing that severance at
a societal level. In doing that, we take away the
rights of all children {not just those brought up
by same-sex couples) to know and experience
their genetic heritage in their lives and withdraw
society's recognition of its importance to them,
their wider family and society itsel£ It is because
of this change that same-sex marriage advocates
are wrong when they claim, as they often do,
that same-sex marriage does not affect opposite-
sex Marriage is the institution that has
been used by societies for thousands of years to
establish fundamental human rights of children.
Same-sex marriage eliminates these rights for all
children.
As explained, because the right to marry inc-
ludes the right to found a family, same-sex mar-
riage also puts in jeopardy children's rights to
natural genetic origins, which is arguably the
most serious risk of all in light of the un-
precedented powers over humat"l: reproduction
introduced with NRTs. It's true that these
technologies could also be used by opposite-sex
couples, but legal prohibitions on their doing so
are less likely to be classified as discrimination,
and therefore invalid, than in the case of same-sex
married couples none of whom can reproduce
naturally.
If marriage involved only adults there is no
good reason to oppose same-sex marriage. But for
the sake of children, marriage should remain the
union of one man and one woman.
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TAB 36




1 1:\'TL. J. FAM. 35 (2010)
CIIILDREN'S HUMAN RIGHTS TO NATliRAL BIOLOGICAL
ORIGINS AND FAMILY STRUCTURE; SOl\IERVILLE,
MARGARET
CHILDREN'S HUMAN RIGHTS TO
NATURAL BIOLOGICAL ORIGINS AND FAMILY STRUCTURE
Margaret Somervill/
ABSTRACT
Over the millennia of human history, the idea that children- at least those
born into a marriage-had rights with respect to their biological parents
was taken for granted and reflected in law and public policy. But with
same-sex marriage, which gives same-sex spouses the right to found a
family, that is no longer the case.
Likewise, children's rights with respect to their biological origins were
not an issue when there was no technoscience that could be used to
manipulate or change those origins: a baby could only be conceived in
1
AM, FRSC, A.u.A. (pharm.) (Adel.), LL.B. (hons.) (Syd.), D.C.L. (McGill).
Samuel Gale Professor of Law, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine and the
Founding Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University.
The author is indebted to Professor Scott FitzGibbon of Boston College Law School
for many insightful suggestions for improvement of this text and for careful editing. I
also thank my McGill University colleague, Professor Michael Meaney, Ph.D., for
reviewing the discussion of epigenetics in the section on children's right to be reared
within their own biological families. As a biologist and a leader in the area of
environmental epigenetics, his review focused on the biological sciences basis of
those passages, and did not extend to an endorsement of any social or legal
conclusions drawn on that basis.
1
000710
vivo through sexual reproduction. But with assisted human reproductive
technologies (ARTs) and genetic technologies, that, too, is no longer the
case.
So, in light of these new realities, what are our obligations, as societies,
to children with respect to their biological origins and biological families?
What protections do children need and deserve?
I propose that the most fundamental human right of all is a child's right
to be born from natural human biological origins and that children also
have human rights with respect to knowing who their biological parents
and families are, and that these rights must be recognized. Children also
have a right to be reared within their biological families and to have a
mother and a father, unless an exception can be justified as being in the
'best interests' of a particular child.
The connection among adoption, the use of new reproductive
technologies, and same-sex marriage is that they all unlink child-parent
biological bonds. Each context raises one or more of three important
issues: children's right to know the identities of their biological parents;
children's right to both a mother and a father, preferably their own
biological parents; and children's right to come into being with genetic
origins that have not been tampered with; that is, 'designing' our children
should be prohibited.
Such 'designing' would result in losses with implications far beyond
those persons directly affected and far beyond the present time. It would
undermine the rights to equality and freedom of future generations.
Because the liberty and equality of all citizens is at the heart of democratic
societal institutions and of the values that democratic societies promote, to
create people who are neither free nor equal undermines those institutions
and values. In short, not to prohibit 'designer children' would undermine
the very foundations of our Western democratic societies.
INTRODUCTION
Some old and new phenomena-adoption is old, assisted reproductive and
genetic technologies and same-sex marriage are new-have recently
thrown the issue of children's rights with respect to their biological
origins, biological families, and family structure into the public policy
spotlight and public square debate.
2
000711
Adoption has long given rise to concerns as to children's rights with
respect to their biological families. Early in the twentieth century,
societally condoned sperm donation presented a similar challenge. In the
last thirty years, assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and genetic
technologies have brought, and will continue to bring, unprecedented
challenges. And, most recently, same-sex marriage has done so.
The connection among these contexts is that they all unlink child-
parent biological bonds.
2
Each context raises one or more of three
important issues: children's right to come into being with genetic origins
that have not been tampered with; children's right to know the identities
of their biological parents; and children's right to both a mother and a
father, preferably their own biological parents.
Over the millennia of human history, the idea that children- at least
those born into a marriage-had rights with respect to their biological
parents was taken for granted and reflected in law and public policy. And
children's rights with respect to their biological origins were not an issue
when there was no technoscience that could be used to manipulate or
change those origins: a baby could only be conceived in vivo through
sexual reproduction. But with ARTs that is no longer the case.
What, ethically, do we owe children whose lives result from the use of
ARTs? So far, we have largely failed to address this question. Our ethical
focus on ARTs has been almost entirely on adults' right to access these
technologies so as to found a family. But as the first cohort of children
born as a result of their use reaches adulthood and connect with one
another through the Internet, they are changing our focus. We are now
asking, what are their rights with respect to their biological origins and
biological families? And what are our obligations as a society to these
children? What protections do they need and deserve?
In this article, I propose that the most fundamental human right of all is
a child's right to be born from natural biological origins, that children
have human rights with respect to their biological parents and families,
and that these rights must be recognized. The articulation of human rights
.,
- Margaret Somerville, Children 's Rights and Unlinking Child-Parent
Biological Bonds with Adoption, Same-Sex Marriage and New Reproductive
Technologies, 13 J. F AM. STUD. 179 (2007).
3
000712
is an ongoing process. Children must move from being the 'voiceless
citizens' to becoming the new kids on the human rights block, and
nowhere is that more important than with respect to rights regarding their
biological origins and biological families.
I. CHILDREN'S RIGHT TO BE BORN FROM NATURAL BIOLOGICAL
ORIGINS
In the more than twenty-five years since Louise Brown, the first 'test-tube
baby', ushered in the brave new world opened up by ARTs, advances in
the technologies have made more and more previously impossible
interventions possible. Those 'advances' make it necessary to formulate
new rights for children in relation to their biological origins that would
have been unimaginable until very recently.
A child's right to be conceived with a natural biological heritage is the
most fundamental human right and should be recognized in law.
3
Children
have a right to be conceived from untampered-with biological origins, a
right to be conceived from a natural sperm from one identified, living,
adult man and a natural ovum from one identified, living, adult woman.
Society should not be complicit in-that is, should not approve or fund-
any procedure for the creation of a child, unless the procedure is
consistent with the child's right to a natural biological heritage.
The addition of the words man and woman in defining the right to a
natural biological heritage, rather than simply referring to sperm and
ovum, as would be more common, is not superfluous. It is theoretically
possible to create an embryo with the genetic heritage of two women or
two men, including by making a sperm or ovum from one of the adult's
stem cells and using a natural gamete from the other person, or perhaps by
using two ova or maybe by making an 'ovum' from an enucleated egg
fused with a sperm and fertilizing it with another sperm. The word natural
excludes opposite-sex couples from using this technology to make an
3
MARGARET SOMERVILLE, THE ETHICAL IMAGINATION: JOURNEYS OF THE
HUMAN SPIRIT 95-156 (2006); Margaret Somerville, The Importance of a
Basic Presumption of Respect for the Natural, 13 SACRED WEB: A J. OF
TRADITION AND MODERNITY 113 (2004).
4
000713
artificial sperm from an infertile man or artificial ovum from an infertile
woman.
The requirement that the gametes come from adults preempts the use
of gametes from aborted fetuses; it prevents children being born whose
biological parent was never born. And the requirement that the donors be
living excludes the use of gametes for postmortem conception. The right
to bear children should not include the right to deny children at least the
chance, when being conceived, of meeting their biological parents.
Conceiving children with gametes from a dead donor, as an Australian
court authorized,
4
denies them this opportunity. In that case, as is so often
true, the judge considered only the rights and wishes of the adults
involved.
II. 'DESIGNER CHILDREN' AND SOCIETAL VALUES AND
INSTITUTIONS
A topic linked to the previous one of a right to come from untampered-
with human origins, is the ethical acceptability of the enhancement of
one's children using genetic technologies. The central question raised is
whether or not this offends human dignity, whether of the child as an
individual or of humans in general. Some commentators argue it does and
others that it does not. I will not explore, here, however, the extensive
literature on the ethics of designing our children by genetically altering
them, whether for the better or the worse- when they are embryos.
Rather, I want just to mention some important philosophically based
objections to doing that, which have not been widely discussed.
Because creating 'designer children' involves genetic manipulation of
human embryos, it destroys the essence of their humanness and,
ultimately, the essence of the humanness of all of us.
5
Genetic
manipulation interferes with the intrinsic being of a person-with their
4
Richard Kerjab, Wife Gets Sperm of Dead Husband, THE AUSTRALIAN,
December 21,2005, at 3.
5
MARGARET SOMERVILLE, supra, notes 2 and 3.
5
000714
very 'self. As philosopher Seren Kierkegaard put it, designed persons are
not free to fully become themselves, which is the essence of freedom.
6
The power to fully become oneself requires that the person has non-
contingent origins. People need to have a sense that they can go back and
start again to remake or actualize their very selves, and, in order to have
that, they must not be preprogrammed or designed by another. German
philosopher Jiirgen Habermas
7
agrees that designed persons no longer can
own themselves, as they must do in order to make their beings and their
lives fully their own. Lacking self-ownership, people are not fully free.
They are deprived of the liberty that comes from the fact that no one has
interfered with the essence of their being. This lack of interference means
their genetic makeup has come into existence through chance, and that it
do so in that way is a necessary condition for such liberty. Moreover,
because these children are not equal to the designer, they are deprived of
equality.
This loss of liberty and equality affects the humanness of all of us
because, first, we would all be complicit in such manipulation by not
prohibiting it. And second, as Habermas explains, because tampering with
some people's origins destroys a necessary condition for establishing a
moral base for a secular society-that all people must be free from others'
interference in their intrinsic being if they are to have the capacity to take
part in the human interaction from which a shared morality arises.
8
The injustice of one generation imposing its will over another
generation (if the first generation designs its own children) would also
result in other losses that have implications far beyond those people
directly interfered with and the present time. The use of these
technologies by one generation challenges the basic human rights of
equality and freedom of future generations. And because the liberty and
equality of all citizens is at the heart of democratic societal institutions
and of the values which democratic societies promote, to create people
who are neither free nor equal undermines those institutions and values. In
6
S0REN KIERKEGAARD, EITHER/OR, PART 2 (Howard V. Hong & Edna H. Hong, eds.
& trans.) In 4 KIERKEGAARD'S WRITINGS (Howard V. Hong, ed., 1987), as cited in
Habermas, infra, note 7, at 5-11.
7
JORGEN HABERMAS, THE FUTURE OF HUMAN NATURE, 53- 66 (2003).
8 /d.
6
000715
short, not prohibiting 'designer children' undermines the very foundations
of our Western democratic societies.
Ill. CHILDREN'S RIGHTS AND DONOR CONCEPTION
We must explore two lines of enquiry in relation to children's rights and
donor conception: Is donor conception ethically acceptable? And, if so,
under what conditions, in particular, do children have a right to know the
identities of their gamete donors?
Is Donor Conception Ethically Acceptable?
Many people have come to see gamete donation and donor conception as
acceptable for opposite-sex couples who do not regard it as immoral. But,
as I discuss below, some donor-conceived people adamantly disagree.
Whether it should be available to same-sex couples or single women is a
much more contentious issue. It merits noting in this regard that some
sperm banks report that more than half of the women who use their
services are single.
9
It's also worth noting that the use of artificial
insemination can be reduced by prohibiting the sale of sperm or
preventing the donors from remaining anonymous. Many men would
refuse to donate if they would not be compensated or if their paternity
might become known.
The emphasis in the ethical and legal analysis of the use of ARTs,
including donor conception, has been on the rights and wishes of the
adults involved - for instance, the gamete donors or prospective
"parents". Some donor-conceived people strongly object to this approach.
They argue that the rights and well-being of children born through the use
of these technologies must be central to decision-making, which could
mean that some of these technologies should not be used at all ..
9
Jessica Yadegaran, No Mr. Right? More Women Start Families via Artificial
Insemination, CONTRA COSTA TIMES, August 16, 2010, available at
http://www. parentcentral.ca/parentlbab iespregnancy/pregnancy/article/848516--no-
rnr-right-more-women-start-families-via-artificial-insemination (accessed October 1,
2010).
7
000716
The impact of ARTs, including donor conception, on children born
through their use, other than that on their physical health, has been largely
ignored; it has been readily assumed that no major ethical or other
problems arise in creating children from donated gametes, and that
opposition to the creation of these children is almost entirely based on
religious beliefs. Such assumptions have been dramatically challenged in
the last few years as the people in the first cohort born through the use of
these technologies reach adulthood, become activists, and call for change.
They describe powerful feelings of loss of identity through not knowing
one or both biological parents and their wider biological families, and
describe themselves as 'genetic orphans' .
10
They ask, 'How could anyone
think they had the right to do this to me?'
It merits keeping in mind in this discussion that we are speaking of a
very large number of people who could believe they have been harmed in
these ways. Although precise numbers do not exist, it's estimated that in
the United States, alone, 30,000 to 60,000 children are born each year
through sperm donation
11
and, in 2005, about 6,000 babies were born
from ova donation.
12
It is also not irrelevant to this discussion that in
America the fertility industry brings in $3.3 billion annually.
13
A common strategy used to dismiss the arguments against donor
conception is that there is no 'proof that donor-conceived persons, either
as children or later, as adults, are harmed in any important way. Studies
carried out on young donor-conceived children, who declare themselves
perfectly happy with their parents and families, are often put forward as
evidence that no harm is caused. In contrast, donor-conceived adults'
claims of identity confusion, loss of connection to half their genetic kin,
psychological distress, and so on, tend to be dismissed as anecdotal and
irrelevant, and they are challenged to prove empirically the harm done to
them.
10
See Chad Skelton, Searc/zingfor Their Genes: Family Ties, VANCOUVER
SUN, April 22, 2006.
11
ELIZABETH MARQUARDT, NOR VAL D. GLENN & KAREN CLARK, MY
DADDY'S NAME IS DONOR 5, Institute for American Values (2010),
available at http:/ /www.familyscholars.org/assets/Donor _FINAL. pdf
12
/d., at 17.
13
/d., at.5.
8
000717
But that is to ask the impossible. Sociology is not hard science, and
qualitative research can indeed be a valid way to proceed. In addition, it's
very difficult to find a large random sample of donor-conceived people:
most parents never tell their children about their origins. Moreover, this
secrecy is itself likely to cause harm o many donor-conceived people, but
it is impossible to study that either.
Studies on young donor-conceived children, which purport to show
there is no harm, do not capture harms experienced only later. For
instance, in early adulthood, when we are forming a mature self-identity,
knowing our origins and biological family helps us to find that identity.
14
The ethical doctrine of anticipated consent is relevant in deciding what
we owe ethically to children brought into being through ARTs, including
donor conception. Anticipated consent requires that when a person
seriously affected by a decision cannot give consent, we must ask whether
we can reasonably anticipate they would consent if able to do so. If not,
it's unethical to proceed. So, ethically, we must listen to what donor-
conceived adults are saying about gamete donation to decide whether we
can anticipate consent to it.
They-like adopted children-tell us of their profound sense of loss of
genetic identity and connection. They wonder: Do I have siblings or
cousins? Who are they? What are they like? Are they 'like me'? What
could I learn about myself from them? These questions raise the issue of
how our blood relatives help each of us to establish our human identity.
15
Humans identify closely with their close genetic families, and it seems
that we also identify with traits in our family members that we like (we try
to develop the same traits in ourselves), and that we dislike (we vow not
to be like that-the positive power of negative identification).
16
In short,
14
See David J. Vellaman, Family History, 34 PHIL. PAPERS 357 (2005).
15
See generally T. Freeman, V. Jadva, W. Kramer & S. Golombok, Gamete
Donation: Parents' Experiences of Searching for their Child's Donor Siblings and
Donor, 1 HUMAN REPRODUCTION 1 (2009), especially at pages 7-9, where it is
reported that children were usually positively affected by meeting siblings and that
close bonding often resulted. Available at http://www.oxfordjournals.org/eshre/press-
release/freepdf/den469 .pdf (accessed September 10, 201 0).
16
David J. Vellaman, supra, note 14; ELIZABETH MARQUARDT ET AL.,
supra, note 11.
9
000718
from what many donor-conceived adults tell us we cannot anticipate
consent to anonymous gamete donation--or, indeed, to gamete donation
itself.
Two stories concerning the donation of gametes that raise additional
questions have appeared recently in the media. One related that a 'virtual'
sperm and egg bank is being established that will only accept offers to
donate from 'beautiful' people. Internet polling will determine who is
sufficiently beautiful. The goal-informed by the principle that 'everyone
deserves a beautiful child' -is to enable 'ugly' people to have beautiful
children.
17
If we tack on surrogate motherhood to this 'service', a person
could order a custom-made child and collect it nine months later.
The other story reported that New Zealand will possibly allow 'double
donation'; that is, would-be parents would be able to use both donated ova
and sperm to create embryos (a practice that is not legally prohibited,
although still fairly uncommon, in Canada). As Diane Allen of the
Infertility Network argues, this 'cannot be construed as any form of
infertility "treatment", but, rather, the deliberate manufacture of babies to
meet consumer demand'.
18
Donor conception may be a completely avoidable human tragedy in the
making, one for which we might be holding a truth and reconciliation
commission at some future date, when offspring ask, as some are already
doing, 'How could you have done this to us? How could you have
allowed this to happen?'
Is donor conception the twenty-first century version of the wrongs we
now recognize we did to some children in the twentieth century? Are we
repeating in a new context and in new ways the terrible errors and grave
injustices that occurred with Australia's 'stolen generation' of aboriginal
children, the United Kingdom's 'home children' sent to Canada and other
British Commonwealth countries, and the 'scoop' of native children from
17
Dating Site Creates Online Sperm and Egg Bank, NEWSWEEK, available at
http://www .newsweek.com/b logs/techtonic-shifts/20 1 0/06/21/dating-si te-creates-
online-sperm-and-egg-bank.html (accessed September 30, 2010). The dating site is
BeautifulPeople.com
18
Personal email communication from Diane Allen, Infertility Network, to Margaret
Somerville, June 28, 2010.
10
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reserves into Canadian residential schools and white adoptive homes, all
of which deliberately separated children from their biological families?
In all these instances, our intentions were, just as our intentions are at
present in regards to donor conception, to 'do good'. In donor conception,
however, we primarily intend to 'do good' to the adults who want a child,
rather than to the child; whereas in the instances of the other historical
wrongs I have mentioned, the perpetrators sometimes acted out of the
belief -although a grossly mistaken belief-that their policies were good
for the children. As an old human-rights axiom warns, an unalloyed
intention to 'do good' has its dangers: 'Nowhere are human rights more
threatened than when we act purporting to do only good' . Our desire to do
good can blind us to the risks and harms that are involved. Is that true of
gamete donation?
An argument that is used to support donor conception is that the child
would not exist otherwise and, therefore, should not complain. One young
donor-conceived woman, confronted with this argument, responded, 'If I
were the result of rape, I would still be glad to be alive, but that doesn't
mean I or anyone else should approve of rape'.
Children 's Right to Know the Identities of their Biological Parents
If, however, the practice of donor conception continues, what are our
obligations to people conceived in this way with respect to giving them
access to information about their biological origins?
It is one matter for children not to know their genetic identities as a
result of unintended circumstances. It is quite another matter to
deliberately destroy children's links to their biological parents, and
especially for society to be complicit in this destruction. It is now being
widely recognized that adopted children have the right to know who their
biological parents are whenever possible, and legislation establishing that
right has become the norm. The same right is increasingly being accorded
to children born through gamete donation. For instance, the United
11
000720
Kingdom has passed laws giving children conceived after April 1, 2005,
this right at 18 years of age.
19
Ethics, human rights, and international law
20
- as well as con-
siderations such as the health and well-being of adopted and donor-
conceived children-all require that children have access to information
regarding their biological parents. And it is not just these children who
have this right, but their descendants as well. Children deprived of
knowledge of their genetic identities- and their descendants- are harmed
physically and psychologically.
If donor conception continues, respect for children's rights in these
regards requires that the law prohibit anonymous sperm and ova donation,
establish a donor registry, and recognize children's rights to know the
identities of their biological parents and, thereby, their own biological
identities.
Adoption is our longest-standing experience of dealing with a situation
where children have been intentionally disconnected from their biological
parents and, often, did not know and could not find out who their
biological parents and relatives were. In the past, adoption records were
permanently sealed. We now recognize that as being harmful to the
adopted person and potentially to the birth family, and unethical. Yet
donor-conceived Canadians do not know who at least one of their
biological parents is, because donors in Canada are allowed to remain
anonymous, which is no longer the case in a growing list of countries
19
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, ch. 22, § 24 (2008), amending§ 31 of
the 1990 Act, by adding section 31ZA. The act provides that donor-conceived people
conceived after April 1, 2005, when they reach 16 years old, are able to apply to the
HFEA to receive the non-identifYing information that their donor provided (all
information given by the donor except for his or her name and last-known address).
Donor-conceived people conceived after April 1, 2005, when they reach 18 years old,
are able to apply to find the information their donor provided, including identifYing
information. Note that it is only non-identifying donor information that can be
provided at age 16. In order to get identifying information, donor-conceived people
have to wait until they are 18.
2
° Convention on the Rights of the Child, GAOR 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR
Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. N44/49 (1989), entered into force Sept. 2, 1990,
available at http://www 1.urnn.edu/humanrts/instree/k2crc.htm
12
000721
(including Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, among many others
21
).
That also is unethical and, if we continue with gamete donation, it must be
changed.
Adoptive parents were once advised by 'professionals'- as the parents
of donor-conceived children have been and still often are-not to tell their
children of their origins; they were told that secrecy was best. This, too,
should be changed, not least because people excluded from a secret that
relates to them in some major way often sense that they are being
excluded. Their not knowing what the secret is creates a situation of
doubt, which can be very difficult for them to cope with psychologically.
Moreover, such secrets can damage-sometimes even destroy- family
relationships once they come to light, as most inevitably do, often in
traumatic situations (for example, divorce or death).
Adoptive parents were also told that children were a blank slate, that
they would be just fine and would not experience loss because of their
adoptive family loving them, really 'wanting them', 'going through so
much to get them', and so on. For many adopted children, even those who
deeply love their adoptive parents, this has not proven to be true, as is also
the case for some donor-conceived children. Now, prospective adoptive
parents are counselled during the home-study process to expect and accept
this sense ofloss as normal.
Birth parents were told-as gamete donors are today-that it was in
their own best interests to 'put it behind them and get on with their lives',
that their relinquished children would be just fine, that they were doing a
'wonderful, selfless' thing in helping people become parents who couldn't
otherwise do so. But this 'moving on' was not always possible for the
birth parents, as is also true for some gamete donors.
The Ethical Way Forward
I suggest that the first step in dealing, ethically, with the issues I have
identified in this section, and with other related issues, is to place the
future child, and the child's human rights and our obligations as a society
to him or her, at the centre of the decision-making as to what should be
21
MARQUARDT ET AL., supra, note 11, at 77.
13
000722
required, allowed, or prohibited-that is, what we must, may, or must not
do, respectively-in the use of assisted human reproduction technologies,
including gamete donation.
The child cannot tell us what he or she would consent to, but other
people conceived in these ways can. As I've explained already, we must
listen to them in order to apply the ethical doctrine of 'anticipated
consent'; that is, if we cannot reasonably assume that someone affected by
our decision, who is not present, would consent if present, it is not ethical
to proceed.
The 'precautionary principle', currently most commonly used in
environmental ethics, might also help: we should exercise wise ethical
restraint-prudence-until we are reasonably certain that it is safe and
ethical to act. And that safety goes beyond assessing only physical harm
to the future child. It also includes taking into account existential harm to
him or her, and risk and harm to our societal values and ethics.
What impact, especially on important values on which we found our
shared societal ethics, would wanting only beautiful children have on our
concept of unconditional parental love? Hitherto, we have believed we
love our children simply because they are our children. Does the selection
and purchase of gametes to conceive a child make the child into an object
or thing, rather than a person? How will the child feel knowing that a
genetic parent sold what is (as one donor-conceived woman put it) 'the
essence of my life for $25 to a total stranger, and then walked away
without a second look back? What kind of a man sells himself and his
child so cheaply and so easily?' Is there something gravely ethically
wrong with the commercialization of the miracle of the passing on of
human life? Canadians decided there was, and that leads to yet another
recent donor-conception news story.
In 2005, the Canadian Parliament enacted the Assisted Human
Reproduction Act that made it a criminal offence to buy or sell gametes or
embryos.
22
Assisted Human Reproduction Canada-the agency that was
established to oversee the implementation of this statute-has just been
challenged with allegations it is failing to fulfill its obligations by not
22
Assisted Human Reproduction Act, ch. 2, § 7 (2004).
14
000723
seeking prosecution of those who take part in the continuing sale of sperm
and ova in Canada.
23
IV. CHILDREN'S RIGHT TO BE REARED WITHIN THEIR OWN
BIOLOGICAL FAMILIES
The general norm or default position in Western societies has long been
that parents have obligations to care for their biological children, at least
those born into a marriage. In more recent times those obligations have
extended to all their biological children. That means that children have
correlative rights with respect to their biological parents and family
structure. As adoption law impliedly recognizes, a child has a right to be
in contact with his or her biological parents within a family structure-
that is, to be reared by their biological mother and father within their
genetic family-unless an exception is unavoidable in the 'best interests'
of a particular child. In short, adoption can be viewed as a default
position where neither the biological mother nor father is capable of
adequately parenting the child.
It might be objected that there is no magic in biological matching. It
might also be supposed that genetically controlled development and
environmentally determined development run on entirely different tracks,
so that the suitability of a couple to parent a particular child can be
determined with little reference (except perhaps in exceptional cases such
as those presented by special-needs children) to the genetic structure of
the child, and still less reference to some sort of matching between the
genetic structure of the couple and that of the child. This conclusion might
have been unchallenged orthodoxy until recently. However, scientific
research is giving us possible clues to the contrary. This research indicates
that when we mess around with Nature in the context of human
reproduction, we may have no idea of all the implications of what we are
doing. Let me briefly refer to just two examples.
23
Tom Blackwell, Third Board Member Quits Fertility Industry Watchdog,
NATIONAL POST. t-.·1ay 31 , 2010. ami/able at http://www.nationalpost.com/news/
story.html?id=3094251 #ixzz 117Fa VOxL (accessed October 1, 201 0).
15
000724
Research is showing that smell can indicate whether an opposite-sex
partner is more or less genetically compatible in relation to reproduction:
women who are not pregnant find the smell of men who are
'immunologically dissimilar' from them- that is, men who are likely to
have genomes different from their own- more attractive than the smell of
men with similar genomes. Genetic difference between the parents
increases the likelihood of more immunologically robust offspring?
4
Such
studies raise interesting questions about the desirability of having parents
who have selected one another the old-fashioned way, rather than
through the impersonal mechanisms of artificial insemination by donor or
ovum donation. They also raise questions about the advisability of women
who are taking oral contraceptives, which affect pheromones and the
sense of smell, selecting partners for marriage or with whom to reproduce.
And a breakthrough in a new field of scientific research called
'epigenetics',
25
which investigates the interaction of genes and environ-
ment, breaches the barrier between environment and genetics by revealing
24
Suma Jacob, Martha K. McClintock, Bethanne Zelano & Carole Ober, Paternally
Inherited HLA Alleles Are Associated with Women's Choice of Male Odor, 30
NATURE GENETICS 175 (2002); Karl Grammer, Bernhard Fink & Nick Neave,
Human Pheromones and Sex:ual Attraction, 118 EUR. J. OBSTETRICS & GYNECOLOGY
& REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY 135 (2005).
15
'Epigenetics refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not
involve a change in nucleotide sequence. Such modifications include chemical marks
that regulate the transcription of the genome. There is now evidence that
environmental events can directly modify the epigenetic state of the genome. Thus
studies with rodent models suggest that during both early development and in adult
life, environmental signals can activate intracellular pathways that directly remodel
the 'epigenome', leading to changes in gene expression and neural function. These
studies define a biological basis for the interplay between environmental signals and
the genome in the regulation of individual differences in behavior, cognition, and
physiology'. Tie-Yuan Zhang & Michael J. Meaney, Epigenetics and the
Environmental Regulation of the Genome and Its Function, 61 ANN. REv. PSYCH.
439 (2010), available at http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/
annurev.psych.60.11 0707.163625?url_ ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr _ dat=cr_pub%
3Dncbi.nlm. nih.gov&rfr_ id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&jouma1Code=psych
(accessed September 12, 2010).
16
000725
that some genes are imprinted-'activated' - by parenting practices
26
and
other environmental factors (and that epigenetic changes can be a passed
on to future generations, including through the behaviour of the parents).
It may emerge, therefore, that the optimal parenting practices for a
child depend in part on that child's genetic inheritance-the child's
genome or DNA/RNA-and its amenability to activation by one or
another set of parenting practices. Good parenting for one child might be
mediocre parenting or worse for another depending on their genomes. A
further insight that might emerge is that parenting practices themselves
are in part a product of genetics and epigenetics, and that biological
parents may be more likely to be matched by nature in such a way as to
lead their parenting behavior to be optimal for their own biological
offspring. Confirmation of these possible outcomes must await further
research.
27
I hasten to add that in articulating these possibilities I am not
endorsing 'genetic reductionism', the claim that we humans are nothing
more than the functioning of our genes or 'gene machines'.
This new knowledge also gives rise to questions about criteria for
adoption. It raises the question whether there should be a presumption,
subject to an exception, where an exception would be in the 'best
interests' of a particular child, that children should be adopted by couples
comprised of a man and a woman.
26
Ian C. G. Weaver, Nadia Cervoni, Fances A. Champagne, Ana C.
D' Alessio, Shakti Sharma, Jonathan R. Secki, Sergiy Dymov, Moshe Szyf,
& Michael J. Meaney, Epigenetic Programming by Maternal Behavior. 7
NATURE NEUROSCIENCE 847 (2004), available at
http://www .nature.com/neuro/joumal!v7 /n8/full/nn 127 6.html (accessed
September 11, 2010). The extensive debate which has ensued from this
well-known study is reviewed in Lizzie Buchen, Neuroscience: In their
nurture, 467 NATURE 146 (20 10), available at http://www.nature.com/news/
2010/100908/full/467146a.html?s=news_rss&utm_source=feedbumer&utm
_ medium=feed&utm _ campaign=Feed%3A +news%2Frss%2Fmost_recent+(
NatureNews+-+Most+recent+articles)#B3 (accessed September 11, 2010).
27
I am indebted to Professor Scott FitzGibbon for suggesting the arguments related
to epigenetics presented here.
17
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V. CHILDREN'S RIGHT TO BOTH A MOTHER AND A FATHER
And that enquiry brings us to the issue of same-sex marriage, which has
been legalized in Canada
28
and some other countries. Under both article
16 of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights
29
and domestic
law, marriage is a compound right: the right to marry and to found a
family.
Giving same-sex couples the right to found a family unlinks
parenthood from biology. In doing so, it unavoidably takes away all
children's right-not just those brought into same-sex marriages-to both
a mother and a father and their right to know and be reared within their
own biological family. It does so because marriage can no longer establish
as the norm the natural, inherently procreative relationship between a man
and a woman and the rights of children that flow from that norm: in
particular, the right of children to both a mother and a father who are their
own biological parents, unless an exception is justified as in the 'best
interests' of a particular child, as in adoption.
The primary rule becomes that a child's parents are who the law says
they are, and they may or may not be the child's biological parents.
30
That
is, the exception to biological parenthood, which used to be allowed
through adoption law, becomes the norm. In other words, same-sex
marriage radically changes the primary basis of parenthood from natural
28
Civil Marriage Act, R.S.C. 2005, ch.33.
29
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, GAOR 217A (III), U.N. Doc. N810
(1948), adopted December 10, 1948, available in the University of Minnesota Human
Rights Library: http:// wwwl.umn.edu/ humanrts/instreelbludhr.htm (accessed
September 11, 2010). Article 16(1) provides: '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'.
30
See the very recent British Columbia White Paper on Family Act Reform,
available at http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/legislation/pdf/Family-Law-White-Paper.pdf
See also Todd Coyne, New BC family law could legalize having three parents,
VANCOUVER SUN, July 19, 2010, available at http://www. vancouversun.com/life/
family+could+legalize+having+three+parents/3297731/story.html
18
000727
or biological parenthood to legal (and social) parenthood as the Canadian
Civil Marriage Act expressly legislates.
31
That change has major impact
on the societal norms, symbols, and values associated with parenthood.
The same issue of children's right to both a mother and a father is
raised by society's involvement in intentionally creating single-parent
households, for example, by funding single women's access to artificial
insemination, which has been discussed above.
Same-sex marriage advocates argue that children don't need both a
mother and a father, and 'genderless parenting' is just as good as, or even
better than, opposite-sex parenting, because in the case of same-sex
couples, all children are wanted children. Research is showing, however,
that men and women parent differently
2
and, as I've already explained,
other research in epigenetics shows that certain genes in young mammals
are activated by parental behaviour. Science may well show us that
complementarity in parenting (having both a mother and a father) does
matter for children's well-being in ways we have not previously
understood. In short, mothers and fathers parent differently and, therefore,
it would seem, confer different benefits on the child.
Two further considerations also need to be taken into account. They
both rest on one prominent school of child-development thought which
emphasizes that children develop through a process of 'modelling' .
33
31
Civil Marriage Act, supra, n. 38, Consequential Amendments§§ 5-15. For
example, the amendment to the Income Tax Act states: 'The amendments to sections
56.1 and 60.1 of the Act replace the existing term 'natural parent' with the term
'legal parent' to ensure that support amounts paid under a court order or written
agreement involving both opposite-sex and same-sex couples and their children will
be recognized equally in federal law' (emphasis added).
32
See, for example, Gordon et al., Oxytocin and the Development of
Parenting in Humans, 68 BIOLOGICAL PSYCHIATRY 377 (2010), in which the
author identifies disparate parenting conduct, which is a function of
oxytocins
33
Gareth B. Matthews, Concept Formation and Moral Development. In
PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVES ON DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 175, at 185
(James Russell ed., 1987) ( 'A young child is able to latch onto the moral kind,
bravery, or lying, by grasping central paradigms of that kind .... Moral development
is ... something much more complicated than simple concept displacement. It is:
enlarging the stock of paradigms ... developing better and better definitions of
19
000728
The first consideration is that a boy needs an adult male parent on
whom to model himself and a girl an adult female parent; a same-sex
couple will, therefore, fall short with either the male or the female
children. The second consideration looks to the relationship between the
parents: children benefit when they can model their own relationships
with the opposite sex, in later life, on the relationship conducted by their
34
parents.
One argument against same-sex marriage raised in the Canadian court
cases was that same-sex couples could not found a family naturally and,
therefore, marriage was not an appropriate way to publicly recognize their
committed relationship. The Court of Appeal of Ontario
35
responded,
however, that these couples could use reproductive technologies to found
a family. The common thread between same-sex marriage and repro-
ductive technologies is that both disconnect procreation from sexual
intimacy between two humans: same-sex marriage involves sexual
intimacy with no possibility of procreation; reproductive technologies
involve procreation with no sexual intimacy.
The debate on legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada focused almost
entirely on adults and their right not to be discriminated against on the
basis of their sexual orientation. The conflicting claims, rights, and needs
of children were barely mentioned. It's worth noting that legally
recognizing civil unions, unlike the recognition of same-sex marriage,
whatever it is that these paradigms exemplify; appreciating better the relation
between straightforward instances of the kind and close relatives; and learning to
adjudicate competing claims from different moral kinds ... '. ). See also Lawrence J.
Walker, Karl H. Hennig & Tobias Krettenauer, Parent and Peer Contexts for
Children's Moral Reasoning Development, 71 CHILD DEV. 1033, 1047 (2000)
(reporting that both parents and peers 'have a role to play'). See generally A.
Bandura, Social Cognitive Theory: An Agentic Perspective, 52 ANN. REV. PSYCHOL.
1 (2001).
34
Scott FitzGibbon, Procreative Justice and the Recognition of Marriage. In FAMILY
LAW IN THE 21ST CENTURY, pp.1 006 (M. Obi & K. Niijima, eds., 2007), available at
http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/lsfp/208; Scott FitzGibbon, The Principles of
Justice in Procreative Affiliations, in WHAT'S THE HARM? DOES LEGALIZING SAME-
SEX MARRIAGE REALLY HARM INDIVIDUALS, F AM ILlES OR SOCIETY? pp. 125-54
(Lynn Wardle, ed., 2008).
35
Halpern v. Canada (Attorney General), 225 D.L.R. (4th) 529 (2003).
20
000729
does not negate children's right to both a mother and a father, because it
does not include the right to found a family. For that reason, I believe it
represents the most ethical compromise between respect for the rights of
homosexual people not to be discriminated against and the rights of
children with respect to their biological families.
VI. CONCLUSION
All these rights of children are of the same basic ethical nature-
obligations of non-malfeasance, that is, obligations to first do no harm.
Consequently, as a society, we have obligations to ensure respect for these
rights of children. It is one matter, ethically, not to interfere with people's
rights of privacy and self-determination, especially in an area as intimate
and personal as reproduction. It is quite another matter for society to
become complicit in intentionally depriving children of their right to
know and have contact with their biological parents and wider family, or
their right to be born from natural biological origins. When society
approves or funds procedures that breach these rights of children and,
arguably, when it fails to protect such rights of children-for instance, by
failing to enact protective legislation-society becomes complicit in the
breaches of rights that ensue.
Those obligations extend also to future generations. We should clearly
recognize that any genetic procedure that will tum out to be harmful to the
future child or to a future generation, or contrary to their interests, is
morally unacceptable and should be prohibited.
Knowing who our close biological relatives are and relating to them is
central to how we form our human identities, relate to others and the
world, and find meaning in life.
Children-and their descendants- who don't know their genetic
origins cannot sense themselves as embedded in a web of people, past,
present, and future, through whom they can trace the thread of life's
passage down the generations to them. As far as we know, humans are the
only animals who experience genetic relationships as integral to their
sense of themselves. We are learning now that eliminating that experience
is harmful to children, biological parents, families, and society. We can
only imagine how much more damage might be done to a child born not
21
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from the union of a man's natural sperm and a woman's natural ovum, but
from 'gametes' constructed through biotechnology.
To summarize, at the very least, children's human rights with respect
to their biological origins are:
(1) for the child's origins to be natural and untampered-with;
(2) for the child to know the identity of the progenitors of those
origins; and
(3) unless the contrary is unavoidable in the 'best interests' of a
particular child, for the child to be in contact with those progenitors within
a family structure-that is, to be reared by their biological mother and
father within their genetic family.
. . . "Children's Human Rights to Natural Biological Origins and
Family Structure", HeinOnline IJJF library 2011,
http:/ /heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.joumals/ijjfl &id= 1 &collect
ion=joumals; (2011) 1 International Journal of the Jurisprudence of the
Family, 35-54.
22
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