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June 20, 2012

Column #1608

“Anonymous Father’s Day”

By Mike McManus

                        Father’s Day for millions of kids was not a happy day, because they don’t even know who their father is.  They are the product of a donated sperm, emplanted in their mother.

             This issue first surfaced two years ago when a report was published, “My Daddy’s Name Is DONOR,” by Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval Glenn and Karen Clark by the Institute for American Values in New York.

             The first artificial insemination occurred in 1884, and is now routine.  Why?  One in six married couples is unable to conceive a child.  Understandably, there is sympathy for such couples.  However, 2.3 million couples give fertility experts $3.3 billion annually.

             It is time to ask some questions about what happens to the babies of sperm donors. Babies grow up and are often dismayed to discover that their father is anonymous.

             Marquardt’s study asked a million households if their mother used a sperm donor.  Result: 485 adults said yes – 262 of whom were born to heterosexual couples, 113 to single mothers and 39 to lesbian couples.

             The same study assembled similar numbers of young adults who were adopted as infants and others raised by their biological parents.

             “Young adults conceived through sperm donation are hurting more, are more confused, and feel more isolated from their families,” it concluded.

 “They fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes such as depression, delinquency and substance abuse.  Two-thirds agree, “My sperm donor is half of who I am.”  Nearly half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception.  They are more apt to be substance abusers and are twice as likely as those from intact marriages to get divorced. 

No one knows how many sperm donations there are, because shockingly, no one is required to keep track.  The best estimate is that 30,000-60,000 U.S. children are born annually. It is a big international business. India and South Africa advertise that they charge less.

This week the Family Research Council aired a moving new DVD, “Anonymous Father’s Day,” which interviewed three adults with sperm donor parents. 

One at age 3 asked her mother, “Who is my daddy?”  Her mother took her to a meeting of infertile women, and the child felt like, “I was thrown to the sharks.”

Barry has spent years looking for his father.  He was told he couldn’t ask questions about donors.  Many were not sympathetic: “That is the way you were given life.  If that had not happened, you would not be here.  Accept it”

His response, “If that were true, anyone who is a product of rape would have to endorse rape.”

Alana remembers looking at pictures of her family when she was young and noticed her sister looked like her mother, but she did not look like either parent. Her mother divulged the secret when she was 5.   At age 7 her parents divorced; she learned “My father wanted full custody of my sister, but not me.”  

She asserted, “We were always told how wanted we were, especially by our mother. But we were abandoned by someone…I wondered what it would be like to meet my biological father. I wanted to see him.”

Therefore, she registered with www.donorsiblingregistry, which has made 8,000-9,000 matches between adult children and their donor dad.  

Stephanie did not learn about her origins until two years ago as an adult.  She’s glad she did not know as a child, because “I would have been a lot harder on my dad, telling him, `You are not my dad,’ which would have cut him to the quick.”

What should be done about this mess?

“We should end anonymous donation of sperm,” says Elizabeth Marquardt. “Other nations have banned it – Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Sweden and  British Columbia in Canada. 

“We tolerate the creation of two classes of children. If a man walks in a bar, and gets a woman pregnant, he is liable for child support.  There is a legal norm even if you did not mean to be a father. On the other hand the state allows the deliberate creation of children who have only one legal parent. The state can’t ask him for support, and obscures him from the children.”

Finally, what about the Catholic position that opposes sperm donation?

“It makes a lot of sense,” she said. “Don’t do it.”  If one has a right to know where you came from, how can anonymous fathers be morally acceptable?

Certainly, anonymous sperm donations should cease by creating a registry.  If fathers knew their children would seek them out, how many would do it for $150?

Copyright © Michael J. McManus is President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist


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