Thursday, August 19, 2010

Manless Moms Equal Fatherless Children

“I don’t need a man to be a mom” Jennifer Aniston proclaims on the cover of People. Aniston recently starred in a new comedy, The Switch, in which she plays “a single woman with a ticking biological clock who turns to a sperm donor to have a baby.” This movie, on the heels of The Kids Are All Right telling what happens down the road when the man’s seeds sprout and seek him out, may portend a new Hollywood genre, trendy reproduction.


In the old days, say the 1990’s, sex educators criticized movies because characters had wanton sex, never pausing to use “precautions” but never suffering the real life consequences that often appeared after nine months. Now there are babies without all the grunting and moaning. You can see how this might confuse adolescents in sex ed classes.

There’s some irony is all this single mom craze. Lorraine and I lost our babies because our men didn’t stand by us. Of course the acceptability of being a manless mom (unwed mother in old fashioned parlance) depends on who you are. If Jenn were a poor black woman or Mexican woman with an "anchor baby", calling attention to her desire to excise the dad from her child’s life would be met with an investigation from child welfare officials, once more proving the rich are different from us.

At age 41, sperm donation alone may not do the trick for Jenn so she may have to select another item from the Café Repro Tech menu. Adoption is always an option. It avoids nine months of indisposition and has a lot of PR possibilities. Little Louis is likely doing as much for Sandra Bullock as her Oscar and her split from Jesse James publicitywise.

If Jennifer wants to experience the real mom thing, there’s always those Ivy Coated Eggs (presumably salmonella free) which would allow her to pre-select all the baby’s DNA.

And if these options lack appeal, there’s the combo, donated sperm and egg with a surrogate to do the dirty work. If fact, she might as well double the output and have twins, ala Mathew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker. If you’ve got the dough, have it your way at Cafe Repro Tech.

Lorraine here: Do we decry all this technology that creates babies without a two-sided cultural heritage? Yes, we do. "Daddy's Name Is Donor" may be a funny slogan on a t-shirt, but it is not amusing to the approximately estimated 30,000-60,000 children are born each year through sperm donation in the U.S.

The lead author, Elizabeth Marquardt, of the report from the Institute for American Values discussed in the previous blog, When Daddy's Name is Donor...  elicited a comment from her that is worth repeating here:
In the full report, we also write, on page 72, "Advocates who claim donor conception is no big deal, 'just like' adoption, also reveal their ignorance about fierce controversies in the field of adoption, historically and today. In the recent past, children were too readily separate 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."

In Table 1 of the report (the 138 page pdf of the report is available at Family Scholars.org) you'll find the full summary of the survey data which includes all the numbers for the adopted persons. 
And this is from Karen Clark, one of the co-investigators of the report, a blogger at FamilyScholars.org, and the child of a sperm donor herself:
I am very sympathetic to the experiences of adoptees (as is Elizabeth) and in fact I am trying to advocate for opening adoption records (in my blogging efforts) as well as banning donor anonymity. Several of my posts are directly related to adoption loss. One person left a comment under one of our posts suggesting that they thought we even had a "radical anti-adoption" stance. Please help us support you by joining in on our discussions related to this topic. I want your voices heard along with the donor conceived...Thank you.
-Karen Clark
www.familyscholars.org
We at First Mother Forum believe that whenever possible children should full knowledge of who each parent is. This is an unalienable, unassailable right, and to deny it to anyone is to commit a grave moral failing.

10 comments :

  1. I remember my mother saying "your baby will not have a father." This was a big reason to surrender,"a child needs two parents". Thankfully we got away from that way of thinking somewhat, and single moms were able to keep their babies, without a father, and other single moms are able to adopt without a father. One of my good friends is in this category. Her child is fine.

    I am a bit uneasy about cozying up right-wing "pro-family" think tanks(read that as anti gay and lesbian, anti-single mother) and slogans about every child needing a father and mother coming from first mothers.

    Although some natural fathers take an interest in their kids, many do not, or the mother does not want them involved for good reason. So if we are advocating single moms keeping and raising their kids, many of those kids will not have a father in the Ozzie and Harriet sense, which is what I think that institute really sees as the ideal.

    Beware of strange bedfellows, no matter how nice they try to appear.

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  2. Am also a bit perturbed by FMF embracing the American family values contingent on this one issue. Of course, being a single mother through adoption puts me at . . . ahem . . . a slight disadvantage here but surely you realize that those who assail the very idea of non-heteronormative married parenthood won't be offering too many alternatives to single women faced with unwanted pregnancy. Except adoption.

    What do you mean by the sentence, “We at First Mother Forum believe children should have both a mother and a father . . .”

    Does it mean that all children must grow up with two biologically connected opposite-sex parents? Nice idea, but as Maryanne says, it doesn't exactly work that way all the time, does it? I mean, seriously—my kid has parents. We know that. I would love to find them. In the long run, my feelings cannot change the situation that brought us together.

    Does it mean you think there should be no donor insemination at all, not even when the father is known and agrees to have contact with the family and child?

    Does it mean you disapprove of single parenthood on principle, or just when it's about donor dads?

    If so, then why the blanket statement?

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  3. Dear Jessica:

    We know that the ideal two-parent family is impossible for everyone; we also believe that single mothers today ought to be given all the help they can to be able to raise their children, with or without fathers. Families break up, men don't marry the women they impregnate, and women often do not want to marry or live with the men whose babies they carry. One of my granddaughters did not see her own father after she was two years old--so she has no memory of him--and then he died. That's not a pretty story, but it is her story, her life.

    But she, just as the children of the other situations I mentioned, knows who half of her DNA and cultural heritage comes from. She was not denied a full and complete identity.

    It's the test-tube creation of children who will grow up without knowledge of their fathers, or mothers, in the case of purchased eggs, that we do not condone. I have no problem with single mothers per se; it's the fad to create children with whatever means possible--eggs from the U.S., or the Netherlands, wombs in India, high-priced eggs here at home from Ivy-league coeds, anonymous sperm donors, sold or donated embryos. I was watching a silly show on Bravo about a designer the other day, Flipping Out, and the unpleasant "star" of this icky reality show wanted to buy a friend's unused embryos--two for $5,000. Or $10,000 for a child. He was quite aggressive about it. I believe in this new series starting he has a child; I don't know if I can bear to find out where or how he got it.

    We are creating a class of people who will never know what biological ties to the human race they have, and we decry that this is becoming an acceptable fad today. This means that all these people are taking part in some grand experiment of the human race without their consent. We are doing this without knowledge of what this means to the people so created in laboratories and without giving them information that the rest of the world has.

    Your daughter, adopted from China, almost certainly is healthier being raised by you in a culture not of her birth, and by a single mother, than languishing in a Chinese orphanage and then released without ties to anyone. Some who comment here will not agree with me, but that is what I believe. I think being a single parent must be a difficult and sometimes lonely road, despite its rewards.

    There are almost certainly positions of the Institute for American Values that we do not agree with. I said in a previous blog that the name alone is worrisome because I can only imagine the positions it comes with. So be it. But as far I know, no one else is doing this kind of research; for that reason alone, it is worth reporting as it bears on the health and happiness of donor children and adopted people.

    If anyone else has research on this, I'd love to know about it.

    {This is being added to this post.}

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  4. Hi there. I want to leave a comment relating to one of the quotes on the sidebar, but it is sort of related to this post too, so I'll leave it here. The quote is the one by Justice Barbara Madsen:

    “Short of preventing harm to the child, the standard of ‘best interest of the child’ is insufficient to serve as a compelling state interest overruling a parent's fundamental rights…. To suggest otherwise would be the logical equivalent to asserting that the state has the authority to break up stable families and redistribute its infant population to provide each child with the "best family."

    I reconcile the "best interest of the child" and the absurd conclusion that it would mean we should break up families and give all the kids to the "best" families by noting that it is NOT in the best interest of children to grow up in a world where their own children could be taken from them if they don't get rich, and where they would be assigned other people's children if they happen to be successful. By expanding the child's interests to include an interest in the world they will grow up to be an adult in, it's possible to keep the "best interest" rule without having to invent a competing right to parent children and then agonize over whose rights come out on top. I think kids have a right to a world that preserves their future rights, in fact, it is a Constitutional obligation for Government to secure those rights to our Posterity, which means people of the future.

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  5. I'm with you opposing anonymous gamete donation. I am all in favor of all children being able to find out their genetic heritage, if they wish, no matter how they came into the world, and believe there will be unforseen consequences of randomly creating children in the lab, surrogates, any sort of anonymous donor material not biologically related to the parents who raise the child

    But that is not what this statement says: "We at First Mother Forum believe children should have both a mother and a father"

    Having both a mother and father is not the same as knowing your genetic heritage. This statement connotes being raised by a mother and a father; it is not even about the subject at hand, which is anonymous donor gametes. Bad choice of phrase, perhaps, but it certainly comes across as a ringing endorsement of the heterosexual biological nuclear family, not of single motherhood of any sort.

    It also seems a much closer agreement with a right-wing "pro-family" agenda than I think you intended.

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  6. All children, no matter how created, must have a mother and a father; and all children deserve knowledge of their mothers and fathers.

    If you are a regular reader of this blog, you understand that in context.

    Or you choose not to.

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  7. I did misspeak at the end of the blog and have changed the last couple of lines to this:

    We at First Mother Forum believe that whenever possible children should full knowledge of who each parent is. This is an unalienable right, and to deny it to anyone is a grave moral failing.

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  8. Single moms who are playing the dating game can find themselves surrounded by adoring men who want to be a part of their lives. While this can be a wonderful thing, there are also times when it can be daunting, especially when a man becomes rather pushy about his attentions. When a pushy suitor pursues a single mom, there can come a time when she has to put her foot down and make things clear to the gentleman – or the jerk – in question.


    grants for single mothers

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  9. his means that all these people are taking part in some grand experiment of the human race without their consent.

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  10. And then you have the parents where they lived together (or even got married) for a few years and then there was major arguments and fights leading to separation. And effectively here, the "father" was often nothing more than a sperm donor. So shouldn't all the negatives apply there also? Certainly the far right (and obviously WRONG) religious types that want an exclusive man+woman family should be as down on separated couples and widow/widowed as those with donors of either sex.

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