' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Sperm donors in the news again

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sperm donors in the news again

Normal human sperm morphology picture
looking to mate
In case you think that all sperm-donor daddies want to stay behind a closed closet door...a father in Australia is doing his best to do just the opposite: he is fighting to keep his name ON the birth certificate. The gay partner of the mother wants to put her name on the birth certificate in his place. We say, if birth certificates were not so critically important as both a real and symbolic document of identity, this would not be happening.

In the current dust up Down Under, Neil Richards, 58, of Sydney, answered a gay couple's magazine advertisement more than 10 years ago for a sperm donor and provided sperm to Jesse Star, 49, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. This is a man who wanted to have a child:
Richards paid $5,000 for the fertility treatments for Star, was present when the baby was born, paid for the midwife who attended to the home birth, and gave the couple $150 a week in support for the first year. Star and her partner, Sofia Marita, agreed that he could be involved in the child's life, but how much was not specified.  He now sees the child once every two weeks for five hours.

The couple has since split up, and now Marita has taken Richards and the New South Wales Registry of Birth, Death and Marriages to court to have Richards name removed from the child birth certificate. Richards says he has spent more than $50,000 in legal fees in the last ten years to keep his name on the birth certificate. Despite this, a sperm donor has no legal responsibilities and cannot make decisions about the child's upbringing and education.

Lethal SecretsThe birth certificate is more than a bit of paper. It tells people who you are. No one seems to care about fathers these days," he said. We do; we believe they have the right to raise their children if the mother cannot or does not want to.

We applaud this father who is fighting to a) know his child; b) give his child an identity that is real--not fake--as putting Sofia Marita's name on the birth certificate would be. Here in America anonymous sperm "donation," is norm. Women and couples who go this route are then free to raise their children in peace, without nagging intervention on the part of the biological father.

But this is wrong on so many levels, and robs a child of knowing who is ancestry is on one whole half of him. It's all fine that such children will know, for the most part, half of their biological identity; but that is half a loaf, and not good enough when we are dealing with identity. Doctors seeking a family medical history do not say, Oh, just write down your mother's side; we don't need to know the rest of your genetic profile. Likewise, everyone deserves to know their full lineage.

Several years ago when I attended the American Adoption Congress conference in Atlanta a toddler was in  attendance. I wondered what she was doing there until I went to a seminar of artificial reproduction; the little girl, we were told, was the sperm-donated daughter of the woman in the wheel chair she was always with. I sat in stunned silence while this woman told us how, after a relationship that ended, she decided to become pregnant with purchased sperm, and no, while she had an anonymous profile of the man who had fathered her child, she did not know who he was, and there was no route for her to do so.

Her demeanor indicated she expected us to think this was just fine and dandy. I mean, there were sperm-donor children attending as grown up and they were attending because they wanted to change the law and find their fathers. I know on other sites where sperm-donation is discussed, they do not refer to the sperm donors as fathers; but biologically, unless you are a new kind of being, that's what these men are.

Plucky Annette Baran, that early social-worker advocate of open records for adoptees, spoke up and told the woman what she had done was wrong. Wrong. Unethical. Selfish. The woman seemed quite nonplussed. I could only assume that she came to the conference fully expecting to be understood and accepted. Yet anyone who conceives a child with a anonymous sperm seller are thinking of no one but themselves when they procreate this way. They are not imagining the world ten, twenty, fifty years hence when the infant will be an adult with questions of identity, questions that are as old as the human race. At least, there are places in the world where anonymous sperm used for procreation is against the law: Great Britian, and now, as we learned the other day, in British Columbia.

As one commenter has noted: Even if you don't like the way it turns out, everyone deserves to know where she came from.--lorraine
 Link to Sperm donor tries to stay on birth papers
For a convincing case that lies of omission can create dysfunctional families, read:  Lethal Secrets, Annette Baran and Rueben Pannor's book on the psychology of donor insemination.
See also: Anonymous baby making in British Columbia is outlawed


  1. The thing that strikes me - the woman was in a wheel chair, which implies she is handicapped. Who did she have the child for and whom does she believe will be there for this child if she passes on? That is singularly selfish.....

  2. This woman was perfectly justified in what she did, handicapped or otherwise, with the exception of using an anon donor. Her potential life span or arrangements upon her death are not relevant to the discussion.

  3. “Women and couples who go this route are then free to raise their children in peace, without nagging intervention on the part of the biological father.

    “But this is wrong on so many levels, and robs a child of knowing who his ancestry is on one whole half of him.”

    So true. I cringe every time I read or hear about fertility tourism, with countries like Spain and Romania on the list as destinations. I wonder if the person allowing their gamete to be harvested is given any information about the list of things it’ll mean to the child that may be conceived. Are they asked to sign away their right to know if a child was conceived? Are they asked to sign away their right to contacting their child? Do they have any idea about the lifetime implications of their actions? Do the recipients understand the socio-economics that lead many women to allow their eggs to be harvested?

    I heard Professor Naomi Cahn speak about the fertility market at the last Adoption and Culture conference. She wrote Test Tube Families: Why the Fertility Market Needs Legal Regulation. She argues that for many of the same reasons we seek to allow adoptees equal access to their OBC, donor conceived children should have the same access to their origins.

    Money seems like a big driver for the recipients (cheaper than adoption) plus the prospect of not having to deal with the birth parent.

  4. Have you seen this article?


    A woman had her husband's sperm retrieved after he died and is hoping to conceive without him.

  5. Hey, Anon 707--there's an even worse article out there, and I'm sorry that I can't retrieve it for you now. But there was a mother of a deceased young man fighting for the right to harvest his sperm because she felt she was entitled to a grandchild. Don't go with that myself. . . think your little wigglies should die with you and *mother* should keep her cottin' pickin' hands off them. There is no "right" to grandmahood.



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.