' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Egg 'donor' and child unite on 'Katie'

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Egg 'donor' and child unite on 'Katie'

UPDATE on 6/12: Katic Couric successfully navigated the reunion between Britten Gilmore, her mother Janet Schreibman, and Brittan's "egg donor" JoLana Talbot and Talbot's two daughters. Couric and her guests minced no words in emphasizing the importance of knowing biological relatives and the joy of establishing a relationship with them. Kudos Katie! 

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.

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.

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. 



  1. I am glad Gilmore and Talbot have an opportunity to meet. I have a colleague who donated eggs twice, to the same couple. She was present at the birth of both her biological children resulting from the donations, and she maintains contact with their family. My colleague's mother had been an egg donor herself, and she said she grew up with the feeling that it was a great way to help a family trying to have children. But she wanted to do it for one family only, as she wanted to keep track of the children resulting from her eggs.

    My colleague is extremely happy with her decision. I have a lot of reservations about manipulating lives in this manner, before they are even brought into existence. I especially have a hard time with women being able to donate an unlimited number of eggs, and having no legal responsibility toward potential future lives that spring from them. That is a callousness toward human life that is bothersome to me. Contact between the egg donor and their child, such as the situation of my colleague, and reunions such as the one between Gilmore and Talbot, at least lend a more human element to egg/sperm donation.

    1. "My colleague's mother had been an egg donor herself."

      Does your colleague ever wonder about the half-siblings she may have somewhere in the world?

      "That is a callousness toward human life that is bothersome to me."

      And it is the child, who never had any say, who pays the price.

    2. Well bloody said Robin.
      I think the whole idea of egg/sperm donation is revolting.
      It is all about the adult and their 'rights' and has crap all to do with love and nuturing a baby/child.
      And to have a live reunion on TV is just irresponsible and exploitative ... poor kid.

    3. Hi Robin, this is in response to your comment:

      "Does your colleague ever wonder about the half-siblings she may have somewhere in the world?"

      Actually I must say that, as far as egg donations go, my colleague's mother's situation was better than most. She donated her eggs to her sister, my colleague's aunt. The aunt had a baby boy, whom my colleague refers to as her "brother-cousin" (and he refers to her as "sister-cousin.") It was all in the family, and there were no other donations.

      My colleague, however, donated her eggs to an unrelated family. As a result of her donations, that couple has two boys (her biological sons). The couple have told their sons, now 10 yrs. and 8 yrs. old, that my colleague is a "close family friend." I wonder if they ever plan to share the truth with them.

      "And it is the child, who never had any say, who pays the price."

      Exactly, Robin. It is why I have a problem with people saying we cannot worry about a child's best interests before they are born. The more we advance technology to manipulate the creation of life, the more it is incumbent upon us to enact legal protections/policies governing the lives we are creating.

  2. One problem I have with the anonymous egg donation is that there then are too many possible children out there who are so closely related. One of the reasons that Great Britain changed its anonymous policy is that one of the peers in Parliament became aware of twins who had unknowingly married. With the number of men who donate multiple times, and all anonymously, who knows what might happen in a single area? More cases are coming to light (Lorriane wrote about it a week or two ago) where related people met and became friends. That was a case where two men met and became good friends before they knew they were twins.

    I know of a woman who "donated" eggs to one of her professors--twice, because they did not take the first time. After the second time, she never heard from the woman again. So the woman does not really know if a child was born...and has made no attempt to find out. It seems to be more on the mind of her father than her, as he is the one who told me.

    1. Melissa Gilbert, a BSE adoptee herself, starred in a movie called "The Babymaker: The Dr. Cecil Jacobson Story". It's based on the true story of a doctor who ran an infertility clinic and used his own sperm to impregnate his patients. As a result, a large number of children in the city where the clinic was located were half-siblings.

      I'm not surprised a smaller country like Great Britain would run into a problem with people being closely genetically related and not knowing it sooner than a large country such as the United States would.

      "It seems to be more on the mind of her father than her, as he is the one who told me."

      Ophelia, you bring up an issue that is not frequently addressed. The egg or sperm donor is not only giving away their children, but they are giving away their parents' grandchildren and their grandparents' great-grandchildren.

      As for Professor Cohen's comment, it doesn't surprise me since, as in adoption, the child's perspective is rarely considered.


  3. Regarding the Dr. Cecil Jacobson story--it got BIG play here in the D.C. area, during my early childbearing years, so I was riveted, especially now (having recently read a paperback on his doings) at the stories of the anguished couples who saw the doctor as what they saw as their only hope to conceive. I still think of the Jewish couple who were promised a dark-complexioned Jewish donor and got Dr. J (a fair-skinned, chubby Mormon) as their daughter's bio-dad.

    But the reason I originally came to chime in was to say how REFRESHING it was to read that the woman who used the purchased egg say that DNA does matter; if it didn't, one could just take any baby home from the hospital. I have read that sentiment many times, here at FMF and occasionally elsewhere. See? It's not so hard to say!

  4. This subject really bothers me. We can't sort out the problems with regular adoption, and here we are creating human beings by anonymous donor. The people who are born from all this wonderful technology are going to have the same, if not more, problems as the adoptee from closed adoption. And, the professor's attitude about this is disgraceful.

    I have a family member who gave birth to a daughter through donor eggs. She and her husband had selected the donor, and then it was found out that she had been hiding some illness, or some such thing. They very quickly picked another donor. The child has all kinds of issues, probably because they did not take the time to screen as carefully as with the first donor. I am just speculating....but it seemed to me at the time that it happened very quickly. It left a very bad taste in my mouth that they chose the second anonymous donor the way they did.

    What's more, this couple will never tell their daughter about the circumstances of her birth. I know this for a fact, and it is killing me. Her husband has said it doesn't matter because the child will be able to see photos of her mother pregnant. Spoken like a true know-it-all. He does not know I am an adoptee, and his flippant attitude makes me sick. And, one day the truth will come out as it always does, and his daughter will be devastated.

    If we are going to continue with donors, and even with adoption, it can not be anonymous. NOTHING can be kept a secret. The children involved deserve the truth. Once again this is about the couple and their needs. It is never about the child.

    Reunions on TV? No, thanks. I would never be able to sit through it.

    1. Julia: why not tell the guy that you are adopted? I don't mean, call him up and tell him he's a jerk and you are adopted, but just drop it in the conversation as if you thought he knew. What you say after that is up to you, but
      People need to know about adoption and how it affects families.

    2. I plan to do so if it comes up again. The guy is a real arrogant jerk, though! Could be interesting.

    3. I feel for the kid: secret donor egg + "arrogant jerk" dad = trouble. On top of the normal developmental happenings!

    4. If he's an arrogant jerk you might be wasting your breath. Closed minded people will do what they want unfortunately.

    5. Be nice to him, like, You do have a point that unlike adoptees this child will never be separated from the only family she has ever known, deo volente, which is a good thing, but don't you see that telling a child lies about her maternal DNA may blind her for real dangers and can easily make her fear and suffer dangers which are not really a danger to her?

    6. Don't know when this might happen but I will keep you posted. I feel very sorry for the child.

    7. I read somewhere that 80% of couples never tell the child that s/he was donor conceived. Many people seeking egg donors also request that that the donor have similar physical characteristics to themselves. This is probably to keep questions from the neighbors to a minimum but also to decrease the possibility that the child himself might start to wonder about his origins. And having similar physical characteristics would certainly make it easier on the parents if they never planned to tell the child in the first place.

    8. Robin,

      Most infertile couples do not go through the proper counseling before they pursue either egg/sperm/embryo donation or adopting and thus are insecure. The other factor in wanting the donor to have similar characteristics is to avoid the dumb questions people have for them similar to what transracial adoptees experience.

      Still those are no reasons to not be honest with the child.

    9. JE,
      I too am uncomfortable with TV reunions although I thought Couric handled it much better that some TV hosts who are focused on the sensationalism. I also object when the shows are really just advertising pieces for private investigators.

      If it weren't for these shows, however, the public would still be in the dark about the effect of separating mother and child. I suspect many viewers were astonished to learn that children born from egg '"donation" would seek their donor, let alone consider her and her daughters family. The publicity from these shows gives others the courage to search and information to help their search.

  5. I am an adoptee, and chose to be an anonymous egg donor. I primarily did it out of guilt, because I had an abortion and couldn't get over it. The money wasn't a real factor- half went to taxes and I spent hundreds on transportation to and from the clinic to complete the process. I really thought I was doing something special that would help make up for what I did in ending a life- by giving a family a new life. Also, I thought that perhaps I would be stopping another adoption from happening- since I would be helping a couple create their own child. I 'demanded' a couple that would always tell the child the truth about their beginnings, and would not donate the embryos to another family. I was naïve and wrong. Not only could they donate the embryos(they 'owned' them) but they could split the costs of the IVF, etc by giving half the eggs to another couple. I did 2 cycles, each producing more than 35eggs. It wasn't until I had an infection after the second retrieval, that I found out about the second couple option- because I snuck a peak at my records when they were left in my room and saw that there were multiple pregnancies listed under each cycle. I have left a notarized waiver of confidentiality at the clinic and registered with the sibling registry. At the time I really thought of this as a way to heal and help, feeling that my closeness to my mother was why I had searched and not felt much about my father. In the past several years I've spoken to so many adoptees devastated by not being given their father's info from their mother, and have seen the results of genetic testing on others that I know how wrong I was. I pray that the children I helped create were given the truth and know that if they are anything like me or my mom- our tenacity will shine through and they will find me. I am ready to tell the truth when they do. Openness for all adults about their origins is essential- and when anyone turns 18 they have the right to full disclosure about their genetic background.

    1. Lisa your story is heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing it here. This is such a complicated matter.

      Of course you are correct about full disclosure when anyone turns 18. But there is so much opposition to the idea, I honestly doubt it will ever happen.

  6. Donor-conceived people born in the UK as a result of donations made after April 2005 are able, once they are 18, to obtain identifying information about their donor.
    Those conceived before that date cannot get their identifying information unless their donor has agreed make themselves identifiable. And if they were born before 1991 (I think) it is even more difficult if not impossible, for them to get their information.

  7. As for the shows with reunions: I agree with Jane that they can do a lot of good, because the bring the issue of being cut off from one's original family to the public consciousness, which tends to think of all adoptions as "good" and let it end there.

    In some cases, the reunion In Real Life can only happen because the show picks up the tab for transportation and lodging. However, the people who take part should and can insist that it is not just for the night before the show--but the night after too, so the individuals actually get some time to spend together.

    When Florence Fisher discovered that some of the early shows were not paying for the second night--she had a conniption, and insisted that they do so. She was able to because the shows were coming to her for reunions they could use as a basis for a show. Such shows raise public awareness of the need to connect with one's biological family, as well as inspire both adoptees and first parents to search.

    Personally, I was very glad that I met my daughter in an airport with no one there but her "driver" as she was 15. By that I mean, her father. We were both aware of his presence and being observed, but of course, without him and her other mother (who was waiting at home), there would have been no reunion at that time.

    I think her other made the right decision by not being present for the first contact. I think it would have been harder for all of us.

  8. Jane wrote:"Couric and her guests minced no words in emphasizing the importance of knowing biological relatives and the joy of establishing a relationship with them. Kudos Katie! "

    While I can understand your sentiment this whole issue does give me cause for pause. I think what needs to be emphasized is that in the majority of cases it is much better for a child to be RAISED by his or her biological parents, not just to know them or be able to establish relationships with them in adulthood. I cannot encourage purposely creating children who will be raised by non-genetic parents and thinking that is a positive thing just because they can reunite as adults. I'm afraid that could be the takeaway from Katie's show. Most people are not as informed about the issues of being separated from blood relatives as are those involved in family preservation and adoptee rights.

  9. Robin:

    We don't encourage sperm donor or surrogate mothers or donor eggs--take a look at the video we posted at the bottom of the blog.

    But since it does happen, it certainly is a good thing that Katie Couric on national television handled it positively, and it will encourage other parents of children born with donor sperm and eggs to understand, accept and finally support enthusiastically their children's search for their biological "parents."

  10. I don't understand people who think they can interfere with great forces outside of their control. Some people think they can stop teenagers or unmarried women from engaging in sex. Some people spend a lot of time talking about how to stop unmarried fornication or divorce. Sex, procreation, marriage, divorce -- these things are fundamental rights. I do not understand how one presumes to control these actions in others.

    You're not in charge of the conceptions of other women. You get to control your own conception and your own pregnancy, and that's it. The sexual and conceptual actions of other women are, rightly, outside of your control. By natural law, women have the power to conceive anonymously. You don't need any doctors to be involved. For better or for worse, women will make their own decisions when they procreate.

    I don't understand this blog's fixation on conception. Adoption deals with live babies born into the world. Conceptions have to do with sex, procreation, implantation and very early pregnancy.

    Conception, like sex, is one of the central aspects of being human. Women have always had the power to conceive anonymously. Women will, by the laws of nature, always retain this power.

    1. Since you are a reader here, we don't understand trying to control what we can or should write about. Conception leads to children, some of whom may not know their forebears. Thus it is a logical subject for our observation and opinion.

    2. I'm a firm believer in freedom of speech.

      I agree. Sex and conception lead to children. I find it confusing that you want to control sex and procreation. It's a social con point of view, yet you and Jane construct yourselves as progressives. I don't get it. That's makes it curious.

      Many of your commenters are social cons and anti-abortion. I get them and I understand their position. It's classic social con authoritarianism.

      Until a baby is born, I think it's the province of the woman. As do many progressives. That doesn't mean I agree with her choices. But I defend her right to chose her own circumstances, from conception to birth. I understand that we disagree.

    3. Because HER conception is no longer about HER when another human being. I am not talking abortion here , I am talking about donor conceived and adoption. If a woman conceives and does not abort a seperate human being is created and born. that human being has the right to know how they were conceived and who made it happen. It is NO longer about the woman or man that helped in the conception it truly BELONGS to the person conceived so they can feel confident to go on with their lives with the most information and power to make their own decisions about their lives. No one wants to " control" sex but once conception has occurred and abortion is not "chosen" then the priority is on the conceptee. Because they are aa seperate but equael entity in the whole process.

  11. Conception is not about "two" human beings. Once the sperm is in the reproductive tract, conception is about one (1) human being -- the woman.

    There is no second human at the point of conception. Implantation & conception is only about a woman and her uterus. The pre-embryo is not "equal" to a woman. A pre-embryo has no legal "rights."

    Women conceive anonymously every day. You don't need a doctor to conceive anonymously. Most anonymous conceptions are not in medical clinics, but take place after the bar closes. This world has billions of people in it.

    A child might hate how his mother conceived. He might hate his mother. But her right to procreate trumps a imagined-potential child's desire for his mom to refrain from anonymous sex or conceptions.

    A potential-imagined child does not trump her right to have anonymous sex. The imagined child is not equal to a real woman.

    I see a faction of people who very much want to control sex and conception. They have gone to great lengths to do so.

    1. So what are you actually trying to say? Still need sperm for implantation to occur. No zygote, no impantation. There is nothing to implant. It takes two humans. The egg comes from a human and the sperm comes from a human....don't think they have come up with non human sperm or eggs ...yet!



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