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June 22, 2010

"My Daddy's Name is Donor"

The scene was a playground at a small charter school in a suburb of Phoenix. When asked by a classmate about his parents, the young kindergartner looked perplexed. "I have two moms, a mommy and a momma." "But what about your dad," asked a persistent classmate. "Oh, I have a pretend dad; I can look at him sometimes on the internet," the young boy replied. So went this actual conversation.

This young kindergartener was a "product" of sperm donation, a common reproductive technology that has been widely practiced around the world for decades. This kindergartener lives in a fictive world created by his lesbian "mothers" who choose to deny the reality this young boy has a father, a world that cannot acknowledge that this young boy has one-half of himself that he will never be allowed to know. But he is not alone, nor is this situation only the domain of homosexual relationships. According to the NY Times: "Sperm donations generate between 30,000 and 60,000 conceptions every year, and roughly 6,000 children are conceived through egg donation annually as well. About a million American adults, if not more, are the biological children of sperm donors." There are no laws in the U.S. limiting the number of sperm or eggs that can be donated, nor are there disclosure requirements.

Interestingly, European countries like Britain, Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland do not allow sperm and egg donations to remain anonymous. By law, donor-conceived children can have complete access to their family histories when they turn 18. These countries have also placed limits on the number of children a sperm donor can father.


What happens to the children conceived in this fashion?

The Institute for American Values has just released startling findings about the lives of adult offspring of sperm donation. The Institute for American Values describes their work "My Daddy Name is Donor" as "the first-ever representative, comparative study of adults conceived via sperm donations." The Institute studied 485 adults ages 28-45. They used for comparison groups of young adults (562 adopted as infants and 563 raised by their biological parents).

"For young adults conceived through sperm donation the study reveals that:

* Two-thirds agree, "My sperm donor is half of who I am;

* About 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;

* Nearly half say they have feared being attracted to or having sexual relations with someone to whom they are unknowingly related;

* Two-thirds affirm the right of donor offspring to know the truth about their origins; and

* About half of donor offspring have concerns about or serious objections to donor conception itself, even when parents tell their children the truth.

* They are twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to struggle with substance abuse or delinquency, and 1.5 times as likely to struggle with depression or mental illness.

* Donor offspring are more likely to have experience divorce or multiple family transitions in their families of origin."

To see the full report visit: http://www.familyscholars.org/assets/Donor_FINAL.pdf

Isn't donor conception "just like" adoption?

"Adoption is a good, vital, and positive institution that finds parents for children who need families," states the Institute for American Values publication. Adoption was created as society's attempt to replace for a child that which was lost: a mother and a father. We would emphasize that adoption bears little similarity to the intentional act of creating and bearing a child and then denying that child either its mother or its father--be it a single heterosexual mother or a homosexual couple.

Children as pawns or trophies in an adult game

One of the most telling comments came from one grown-up donor baby who was quoted in the study describing the feeling of existing entirely for "other people's purposes, and not my own." The confusion associated with the (to be expected) wondering and worrying about your place in your parent(s) world must surely be an invisible wound for children that festers and seeps over time. How tragic to live your life with a question mark regarding your purpose and your identity; to live with an always nagging feeling that an important piece of your life's puzzle is missing.

Some of the most compelling arguments against the seemingly cavalier thinking regarding the importance of children being raised by both their mother and father comes from experts who describe a "culture of rejection." As divorce thrives and multiple-purpose households evolve, children are caught in the flux with rejection being a core feature--rejected by a donor, rejected by a divorcing parent, rejected by a step-parent, rejection of the family unit as a whole. Though not all forms of family rejection are deliberately brutal, they nonetheless are serious. Here's the point to remember: Parental fidelity to the relationship that generated a child has a powerful positive influence in the life of that child. It should not be dismissed as irrelevant.

It is now quite common to hear the argument that since more children are seeing the breakup of their parents, or are experiencing other difficulties, tragedies, and disappointments, another one will hardly make a difference (referring to the growth of single parent households and homosexual parenting arrangements). Thus, a precedent for loss or suffering is permission to inflict more, or somehow makes it acceptable. This is a cruel mindset that must be rejected!

Conclusion


Identity--knowing who you are, where you came from, understanding your place--helps form the foundation of a successful life. Without the knowledge of your genetic history and genealogy, unanswered questions can end up defining you. The link to our progenitors has a strong pull.

Reproductive technologies have blessed countless lives. But they can also be used as a tool to thoughtlessly bring harm to vulnerable children who deserve better. Unfortunately for many children and for society, the trend in public policy is toward adult "needs" supplanting children's needs. UFI will continue to help implement public policy that will keep the focus aligned with the best interests of children and their families.

We are beginning a year of preparatory meetings for a worldwide conference on Youth and Children's Rights (July 2011 in Tunisia) where we will run head-on into organizations and national governments who will turn a blind eye toward the real needs of children. Issues of reproductive technologies, reproductive rights, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious freedom, and national sovereignty are sure to figure prominently in the negotiations. We at UFI are preparing to serve the families of the world as we work to exert a positive influence on the outcomes from this gathering. Stay tuned for ways that you can be involved and help!


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