' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Even in 'modern families' the need to know biological heritage

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Even in 'modern families' the need to know biological heritage

Opponents of gay marriage often raise the specter of gays raising children they adopt or create through "modern fertility techniques" claiming that gays raising children would lead to the breakdown of the family, which would lead to the disintegration of civilization. Well, of course gays have been raising children long before recorded history. Those Greeks doing it in bath houses were often married with children. And gays like my late sister Helen married members of the opposite sex, had children, divorced, and taken up with a same-sex partner.

 Since the 1970's gays have adopted children both from foster care and as newborn infants. They have also created children through sperm and egg donations, IVF and surrogacy. With courts striking down gay marriage bans, it's likely that more gays will marry and acquire children. The critical question
isn't gays raising children, but assuring that all people, regardless of who nurtured them, have the absolute right to know their genetic ancestry. 

Gay parents are demanding that their names be put on their child's original birth certificate, regardless of whence came the genetic material that created them. Some states are accommodating them, passing laws that allow the names of same-sex parents to be recorded as Parent A and Parent B, rather than mother and father. In other states, gays are suing for the right to be listed. 

Daddy chaos in film 
In truth, though, the fact that a name appears on a birth certificate has never assured that that person is a biological parent. Even today state laws often require that the name of the mother's husband be shown as the father--even it was physically impossible for him to be the father, because, say, he had had a vasectomy or was deployed in Iraq when the child must have been conceived. States often do not even allow the father's name to be put on the birth certificate if the mother is unmarried. Furthermore, nothing keeps mothers from giving false names to the vital statistics registrar. In fact, giving the name of another woman in the past was a cheap and easy way to do a back street, black market adoptions--and it was done plenty. In other words, birth certificates are in reality certificates of titleor ownership, showing who is legally responsible for supporting the child, not a document truthfully stating heritage and DNA.

So while we in the adoption reform movement may succeed in passing legislation that allows adoptees in all states to access their original birth certificates, these victories do not in any way guarantee all people the ability to know their biological heritage. 

That's the birth certificate legal maze. But what of the individual whose certificate of title offers no information about where his embryos came from? Today the new fertility technology is ahead of understanding the ethical ramifications of identity for these made-in-test tube babies.  

We need laws prohibiting anonymous sperm and egg donations and creating registries that will allow all adults to learn the names of those whose genes they carry. Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and several western European countries prohibit anonymous sperm donations. At some sperm banks in the United States, sperm donors willing to be named and not anonymous--with the possibility of someday meeting their offspring--are paid more than anonymous donors, but a quick check of the data surrounding egg donation in the U.S. finds that most are completely anonymous, mostly coming from college students, who are paid, on average, $5,000 per donation. Wikipedia notes: 
"The combination of egg donation and surrogacy has enabled gay men, including singer Elton John and his partner, to have biological children. Oocyte [immature egg] and embryo donation now account for approximately 18 per cent of in vitro fertilization recorded births in the US....Well over 47,000 live births resulting from donor oocyte embryo transfer have been and continue to be recorded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States." 
Elsewhere in the world the laws vary. Egg donation may be totally illegal, as in Italy, Germany, Austria, perhaps in reaction to the abhorrent genetic practices of the Nazis. Again, given that there is going to be egg donation, and that people who can afford it will use it, the U.K. has the sanest policy: egg and sperm donation is legal only if non-anonymous, but egg donors may be compensated. 
Why the author had to adopt

The inborn drive to reproduce oneself is how the world continues to populate, but when these technological extremes continue to explode in number, what is normal will change over time. More and more individuals will not have any idea what their true ancestry is. Perhaps the current interest in all things genealogical is a reflection of that. Today we have TV shows tracing the ancestry of celebrities and regular people, the Troy Dunn franchise, a short-lived network show that traced biological families for adoptees, websites such as Ancestry.com, DNA testing for a mere hundred bucks, and a television show such as the cancelled-after-one-season, The New Normal, about gays and their surrogate, as well as her mother. Adoption? It is everywhere, from TV soap operas to sitcoms such as Mom and heavy dramas like The Black List, to the more obvious ones which advertise in the title, such as I'm Having Their Baby and who could forget--Sixteen and Pregnant.

Are we ever going backwards? No. This is the new normal. This is the future. Despite how babies are made, and though we often feel like two voices howling in the wind, we will continue to proclaim that every living soul has a inviolable right to know her or his one true genetic background, no matter how such individuals were created.--jane and lorraine
Suit: Gay parents want their names on birth certificates
Sperm donation laws by country
Egg donation

FROM FMF:                                                         

Is it a 'Birth' Certificate or Certificate of Title?
Gay Moms Want Sperm Limits in The Kids Are All Right
Action is the sincerest form of thanks (about singer Ricky Martin and his decision to withhold the identity from his sons of the woman who provided her eggs for them.)

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant by Dan Savage
Savage and his partner were one of the first gays couples to adopt a new born. In this 2000 book, he describes why they wanted to adopt, why they refused to consider an older child from foster care, the process they went through, and how they were picked by the baby's mother. 

 Lethal Secrets by Annette Baran and Rueben Pannor
A convincing document for openness and honesty when children are created with reproductive technology. It builds a convincing case that lies of omission car create dysfunctional families. For donor conceived children who find out after a long period of secrecy, their main grief is usually not the fact that they are not the genetic child of the couple who have raised them, but the fact that the parent or parents have kept information from or lied to them, causing loss of trust. 



  1. ONLY adoptees and other children conceived in this new Frankenstein age have a right to state opinions about this. Even "birthmothers" do not, including those psycho anon. egg donors. This effects US more than anyone else and I will curse this sick technology until the day I die. It is like something from a horror movie and much to macabre to EVER be considered healthy or sane. I am so sick of these selfish, selfish people who will do anything to have a child, a child they don't deserve.

  2. This is First Mother Forum, Anon.

  3. I know gay people can be wonderful parents...and not so wonderful. Just like the general public. Some are good some are horrible. their ability to parent is not the issue. Its when "their" children are used to push their agenda(as usual) as in "gay rights" That they believe they can change birth certificates to put 2 woman or 2 men on it...please. One of their biggest arguments for comong out of the closet is that they want to live as their authenic selfs...hmmm I beleive most adoptees get that why can't they get that their children are going to want the same thing. All we are asking for is to live and know who we are basically. Maybe no looking for a change of lifestyle just wanting to know the very basic about ourselves. Feeling a little resentful that this marginialized group of peole don't get that. Why? Is it because all they see is "baby"..no human, all they want is to create a family at any cost..and the people who are allowing them that ability(the little human) has no rights?

  4. As I have stated before, this is not a game. Gay, straight, whoever you are....the child you are either creating or bringing into your family is a HUMAN BEING. Birth certificates can not be falsified, heritage cannot be hidden. The baby will grow up and need to know the truth. I do not understand what people do not get about this.

    I have mentioned a member of my extended adoptive family, who had a child thru donor eggs. Anonymous donor, basically chosen at the last minute because the first donor had some hidden medical issues. The child will never be told of her origins. I am certain of it. The parents are very flippant about it. It is obviously not important. They have a cute little toddler now, and they think there will never be any reason to tell her the truth. For me, it's like watching a train wreck. But it's not about the little girl. It is all about the parents.

    That is the case almost all of the time. Some gay parents are definitely using their children to further their agenda. Anonymous donors and surrogacy are creating babies left and right, a lot of money is changing hands, and no one is thinking about the babies.

    Adoption is impossible enough. No one can live with the secrecy and lies forced upon adoptees. It is tearing me apart, and mine was just a "simple" closed adoption from another era. How are all these other children going to cope with the lies forced upon them?

    We need a license to drive and to have a dog....maybe we should require some kind of license to have children? Because a lot of these "parents" are unfit, in plain English.

  5. @just sayin
    yeah you got that right. First mothers NOT adoptees. First mothers that were conceived and born the natural, sane healthy way. First mothers who know who the hell their real parents are. First mothers who have their own OBC's. First mothers who don't have a clue how it feels to be adopted or created like a Frankenstein monster. A part from someone here, a part from someone there, a part from someone over there. So any condoning of this like Jane exhibits is not only inexcusable, it is abusive.

  6. I am an adoptee who became an egg donor. I did have the best of intentions- I felt guilty about an abortion I had had and wanted to make up for that. I also believed that by helping a couple become parents would also keep another adoption from happening. I was young and naïve- and I believed that when I gave the clinic my requirements-parents who would tell their child they were donor conceived and would never give the embryos away- that they did as an extensive psychological testing on the parents as they did on me. I no longer feel that confidence and hate that my bio-children might not have that knowledge. I've joined the donor registry as well as provided a notarized waiver of confidentiality to my clinic file. What they also do not talk about is how the donors suffer from secondary infertility more than 30% of the time. I was overstimulated and had an extended cycle to produce more than 30 eggs. Then after the fact- I found out they split the eggs between 2 couples not just one. I would never do or recommend anonymous donations again.

  7. Jane nor I are condoning creating a child without that child having the ability to know fully his genetic background--no matter who. Personally, both of us abhor the creation of children with sperm from here and an ova from there and a surrogate carrier to be the petrie dish. We are merely pointing out that birth certificates legally may not be the document of DNA, but rather who raises the child.

    Jane wrote about this before:

    Is it a 'Birth' Certificate or Certificate of Title?


  8. I think it's absolutely vital that the voices of adopted people get heard, and very widely, when it comes to creating children using reproductive technologies. I really respect the views of those expressed here and think your experience is absolutely vital in understanding how these technologies affect those born through it. As some of you have said so rightly, no-one has thought of how this will all feel to the child who has to live with the truth and facts (or absence of) of their conception.

    But I also have to say, as someone with very many people in my family who are gay, that I have felt very uncomfortable with some of the things said about gay people on this site recently. I don't like whole groups of people to be described as if they are the same (and typically in a negative way), and I try to stop myself doing that when occasionally, if I am steaming mad, I do it too.

    Just saying...

  9. Cherry, et al:

    We all have gay members of our families and among our friends. At least, Jane and I do.

    We have tried to keep the blog open and free, but some of the comments did get uncomfortable. I also didn't want the blog to have a lot of comments about Woody Allen which is why most of them disappeared (as well as general attacks) under the previous post.

  10. To be clear -- I am absolutely opposed to creating children through "donated" eggs. I am absolutely opposed to anonymous sperm donation. I am absolutely opposed to using a surrogate to carry a child unless the surrogate is a close friend or relative of the couple who will get the baby.

    However, I am aware that artificial means of reproduction are not going away as long as money is to be made. Thus we in the adoption reform community need to focus on assuring that children have the right to learn whose DNA they carry.

  11. ANON 51

    Let's see. . . You are opposed to donor sperm, donor eggs and surragcay. You endorse nature over nuture. Would your perspective change if one of these methods were used to avoid a genetic disease that would result in chronic debilitating illness or death? Is your preference for nature so strong that the couple only has three choices genetic russian roulette for their offspring, selective abortions or childness?

    I wonder if the main reason nature trumps nuture on this blog is because that is all you have?


  12. If people are at risk of having a child with a chronic debilitating disease or early death, they can choose not to have a child or adopt a child from foster care. The risk of having a damaged child does not justify the exploitation of others to meet their need for a child.

  13. Jane is absolutely correct....no one should be manipulating eggs and sperm and genes, DNA, etc., in order to have a perfect child. Adopt from foster care, if, in fact, the CHILD is the most important thing to the soon-to-be-parent. The focus must be on the child. But it is not. It is on selfish parents who want what they want, however they have to get it.

    Listen to Jennifer, and what donating eggs did to her, physically and emotionally. To find out her eggs were split among two couples had to be the shock of a lifetime. And even though she waived confidentiality....will any children resulting from this ever get to know anything about her?

    My family member who used donated eggs also had health problems. She was blasted with hormones such that she developed breast cancer pretty soon after the child was born. She is younger than I, and already suffers from osteoporosis. Her MD's have said that the hormones are almost definitely the cause.

    The child that she had is developmentally and speech delayed. She is on the Autism spectrum, and will need to be in special classes once she goes to school. Cute as a button...but there are a lot of problems there. Anonymous donation of eggs and sperm should be illegal.

    Then we have my adoptive mother, who basically is in dreamland. Not long ago she asked me if I thought this particular family member would, quote, "look to make another baby?' I nearly died. But, to my mother....this is an adorable baby. Once again, it doesn't matter what we know or don't know about her medical history. Doesn't matter how she got here. She's cute. We can curl her hair and put pretty dresses on her. We can live, basically, a lie. The parents wanted a baby, so, in this case, they made one. In my AP's case, they "got" one.

    I can't fault my mother for this thinking because she is of another generation. I can't change her now. But there are a lot of other people who think this way, engineering babies to suit their needs. It's frightening. And sickening. And the children are the ones who really suffer.

  14. to anon 51......not having children is not terminal


  15. 'I wonder if the main reason nature trumps nuture on this blog is because that is all you have?'

    You said that to hurt, didn't you? How spiteful and bitter you are.

    And defensive.

    Well you keep trying to stuff Nature into that tiny little inconsequential space you've assigned it in life, and see how that goes. It'll probably take up most of your life's energy but that's your choice. Just so long as you don't have the temporary power to force that futile, unrealistic, unsustainable habit on anyone else.

  16. What should a woman do if she is unfortunate enough to be a carrier of serious heritable disease, but becomes pregnant by accident? Should she have an abortion? What if a couple decide to take the risk and go ahead and get pregnant anyway? During the 1930s sterilization was used as a way of preventing people considered "unfit" from passing on their genes.
    The genie out of the bottle can cut both ways.

    It doesn't seem entirely logical to me to dismiss the modification of an unfertilized egg in order to prevent disease out-of-hand, yet to support abortion for women who wish to terminate their pregnancies. Particularly so if the donor egg comes from a couple who have had conventional IVF and wish to donate their leftover eggs specifically for this purpose, and who also agree to releasing the donor's identity to the future person (I think this should be a prerequisite).
    Of course I may change my mind about much of this. The issue is still under debate in my own head, as well as in the public forum.

    This is an interesting conversation between a woman born with mitochondrial disease and Dr. David King, director of the pressure group Human Genetics Alert:
    They both bring up important issues.


  17. 'I wonder if the main reason nature trumps nuture on this blog is because that is all you have?'

    Without nature there is nothing to nurture. Everyone has the right to know who they are made of on the genetic level regardless of who nurtured them. There are no blank slates and there are no storks.

  18. Women need to know that each is born with a finite number of eggs. It's a crap shoot. Some are very fertile, others are not. Taking hormones is SO INVASIVE it isn't worth it. NO research to speak of and lots of baloney.

    I posted a year ago about Spanish women being paid about $5000 as donors. That was a lot of money in a major recession. Some did it more than once and then discovered they were infertile. No one told them anything.

    Par for the course.

  19. Adoptionvictims.....How true! there are no blank slates or storks. Somehow, we adoptees got here. No matter how AP's try to hide it, or gov't tries to keep it secret, we all have genetic and ethnic backgrounds that we are entitled to know about. If the girl did not give birth to me, my parents wouldn't have ever had me to raise. What is so threatening about that?

    Anonymous donors are another travesty. The resulting children/human beings are entitled to know their origins. It sickens me to see how some of these prospective parents think.

    If you want to play games with someone's life, get a puppy. Human beings can not be treated this way.

  20. @Anonymous 51
    "I wonder if the main reason nature trumps nuture on this blog is because that is all you have?"

    I wonder if you stalk and troll this blog what you have? I wonder if you are just jealous and spiteful because you will never have a biological child, or had to buy someone else's from a baby broker?

  21. With how hard it is to live under the radar and never be found, biological parents in closed adoptions and anonymous gamete donations are going to eventually become a thing of the past. More and more adults who are searching for the people who conceived them are finding those people.

    So while third party reproduction is becoming more common due to the polluted environment we live in and gay couples becoming more accepted, I believe we are moving towards the UK model where anonymous gamete donation will be banned and these people will be allowed access to their donors.



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