What we found remarkable was the complete openness of Britten's parents, who told her the truth about her origins when she was old enough to ask (apparently where babies came from), and continued to answer her questions as she got older. JoLana Talbot said everyone should have all the friends and family they could, and the Schreibmans spoke of expanding their own family. Hugs all around. Britten and her half sisters, especially Talbot's younger daughter, look very much alike. When JoLana mentioned "strong genes" we noticed that nobody winced.
For the half hour that this story took up, little was asked of Britten's father, who is both her day-to-day dad and her biological father. Wendy Kramer who, with her son, founded the Donor Sibling Registry spoke from audience, saying that since the registry began in 2000, it had made 11,000 matches. FMF assumes that the site is booming today. Reunion shows always lead to an uptick in search and reunion.
The reunion of mothers and their adult children lost to adoption has been a daytime TV and tabloid staple. Enough tears are shed to float a battleship. Before my reunion with my adopted daughter Rebecca, I watched these shows as often as I could--not often because I had a day job. These reunions gave me hope that someday my daughter and I would reunite. Whenever a reunion show was on television, ALMA would be flooded with calls and letters. After they reunited, Lorraine and her daughter were on one in Boston.
This Wednesday, June 11, TV host Katie Couric launches a whole new reunion genre, that of a woman and her egg "donor" (Katie, ABC, 3 p.m. EST*). We applaud their reunion--everyone should know whose DNA they carry --and we hope that this televised reunion makes the public more aware of the need for full disclosure and openness when children are created artificially.
According to The Tennessean: When Britten Gilmore was seven or so, her mother, Janet Schreibman, explained the birds and the bees and told her that she was born with an egg from another woman. Using the Donor Sibling Registry website, Gilmore began searching for that woman when she was 13. Within a couple of years she got a match. She found her egg donor, JoLana Talbot, through Facebook. They will meet in person for the first time on Katie.
'ALWAYS FELT AN ATTACHMENT'
Talbot's story is a puzzling contradiction. Her job, according to The Tennessean was to be a "human egg farm--take hormones to increase production, but no smoking, sex or drinking, not even coffee....She donated seven times--348 eggs total--and earned $1,500 per donation." (Low by industry standards. Eggs from coeds at Ivy schools go for many times more.) But while Talbot dropped her eggs much like cold-blooded creatures, this "egg farm" still had mammalian instincts; she was a human egg farm, after all, and "she always felt an attachment in the eggs she left in Tennessee. She called the fertility clinic every time she moved to leave her new address."
Schreibman, the mother who raised Gilmore, demonstrated sensitivity beyond that of many who achieve parenthood through egg donation, who later insist that the child's origins are irrelevant. "'We feel there's no reason to keep these people from each other,'" Schreibman said. "'DNA does matter. If it didn't matter, we'd give birth to whatever child we gave birth to at the hospital and then just pick a baby and go home.'"
Unfortunately the enlightened attitude of egg-donor Talbot and Schreibman is not shared by all donors and recipients. In the United States, the identity of egg and sperm donors is kept secret by the fertility clinic--unless the donors allow their names to be known to their offspring. In the United Kingdom, Australia and several other countries, donors must agree to allowing their progeny to contact them when they turn 18.
HARVARD AND FREE MARKET BABY PRODUCTION
Glenn Cohen, a Harvard law professor who specializes in bio-ethics, defends the American system because it allows donors to choose not to have a relationship with the children they created, and to remain forever anonymous from them. Cohen's attitude is appalling. It ignores the need of the individual to know his ancestral heritage.
Cohen's denial of this human need for an accurate hereditary and a continuously updated medical history is another example of the Harvard faculty siding with those who profit from unnatural family creation methods--at the expense of children. Harvard's law faculty joined Elizabeth Bartholet, also a law professor there, in promoting the deceptively-named "Children in Families First Act of 2013" (CHIFF), which would require foreign countries to allow Americans to adopt their children as a condition of foreign aid. In other words, give us adoptable children, we will give you aid. Bartholet, as we have written before, is a great proponent of moving children from one country to another via adoption. She adopted two from Peru to avoid "pedaling my resume around the country in an effort to appeal to birth parents and beat out others scrambling for the limited number of U.S.-born babies," as she wrote in her 1993 book, Family Bonds.
We do not sanction using women as breeders to meet the needs of those who desire children. The physical risks to the egg donor, as well as the psychological strain of knowing she has children "out there" are too great a price to pay to create children for someone else. However, as long as there is money to be made, it is going to happen. The laws in the U.S. need to catch up, so that we do not create more children who may live a life of genealogical bewilderment. Just as the reunion shows of the past helped the public realize that for adoptees, life began before adoption, let's hope that reunion shows like the one tomorrow on Katie will jump start legislation that recognizes the unique needs of children created with parts from people other than those who raise them.--jane
*Katie 2:00 pm NBC in Portland. Check local listings.
A documentary film on donating eggs by the Center for Ethics and Culture. This explains what can happen when you donate eggs.
Eggsploitation Updated and Expanded trailer from CBC Network on Vimeo.
Nashville teen finds her egg donor mom
Donor Sibling Registry
Egg Donor or Egg Seller: Fulfilling Another Woman's Dreams or Filling Your Pockets?
Action is the sincerest form of thanks
Would-be Egg 'Donor' imagines a child growing up with genetic strangers
Encouraging intercountry adoptions with hard cash
Lethal Secrets by Annette Baran and Reuben Pannor
The psychology of donor insemination presents both problems and solutions. Breaking the bonds of silence and ending secrecy is necessary, the authors believe, to address the inherent psychological problems in creating children this way. As the world continues headlong down the road of high-tech procedures and methodologies, there is a need to maintain a strong sense of importance of the human element and historical, genetic connections.
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