John M. Smoot

Why and how we should tackle the sperm-sale industry

John M. Smoot
By John Smoot
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February 28, 2013 (PublicDiscourse) - Yesterday I explained the problems that arise from commercialized sperm donation—namely degraded men who are absent fathers to children disturbed by the circumstances of their birth. Today I explore more closely the role that money plays as men’s greatest motive for donating sperm, and its impact on future children. I conclude by proposing how we can challenge the sperm-sale industry.

Money Matters

Many people in the assisted reproductive technology world want adult-conceived donor children to hush their complaints and ignore their own suffering. But some new buyers are listening to them. Sperm banks now offer more financial compensation to donors who are willing to be identified when a child turns eighteen. According to Rene Almeling, one sperm facility now pays 55 percent more to donors willing to be identified ($100 per donation) than it pays to anonymous donors ($65 per donation). At three cups per week, four weeks per month, $100 per sample creates a monthly income of $1200.

This money is the primary incentive for identification, not a sense of responsibility or a desire to know one’s children. To increase sales, men sometimes are prompted by facility staff members to beef up their stated motives for donating. One staff member explained to Almeling that if a profile is negative, the man may be further queried:

“Do you really mean that money is the only thing for you?” And if it is, we are honest enough to just leave it that way. But a lot of times [donors] say, “Well, it’s not just the money, it’s also. . . .” [So the staff will say,] “Why don’t you rewrite this little portion to reflect that also?”

The facilities do not invest money in these men without expecting a substantial profit from the sale of their sperm. So they have every reason to make donor profiles as appealing as possible. Altruism is an appealing motive to sperm buyers. Avarice is not.

If men were not paid $50 to $100 per donation, how many would show up at the clinic each week? The commonsense answer is very few, if any. In contrast, millions of men go out of their way to donate blood every year for no fee. They are willing to undergo discomfort and inconvenience without reimbursement.

Like sperm donors, blood donors don’t know where or how their blood will be used, but blood does not create children. The reality is that selling sperm is nearly always a selfish act done for money with no regard for the wellbeing of the children produced. When men sell their sperm knowing it will be used to create children but don’t know where, when, by whom, or under what circumstances their children will be born, it is hard to make a case for altruism.

While some men (e.g., Ben in Almeling’s book) claim to sell their sperm because they think the world will be a better place with more of their genes in circulation, most sellers acknowledge the money factor. Consider this passage from a recent article in The Guardian on Simon, age 24, who is an anonymous donor in Denmark.

“I moved to Aarhus four years ago and I couldn't find a job. I didn't have any money, but I had an apartment I couldn't afford and that was how I came to be a donor.” Simon would sometimes visit Cryos five days a week, but he has now cut it down to twice-weekly. “It's such a weird experience,” he says. “You go in and everyone knows exactly what you are doing.” Simon earns around 2000 kroner a month and he uses the money to buy treats such as an Xbox.

The same article reports that Simon probably has more than 100 children and quotes him saying, “My parents don't know I do this. My mother would find it hard to know she had grandchildren she would never meet—that would upset her.”

Where is Dad?

When Almeling asked a past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, “What happens to the donors? Do they forget it, or is it part of their life for the rest of their lives?” the physician answered: “The sperm donors probably couldn’t give a hoot about what happened to those kids. They did it for the money. It was easy to collect the sperm and [then] good-bye.”

Betsy Cairo, a University of Northern Colorado professor who founded the CryoGam Colorado sperm bank in Greeley, Colorado, has observed to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “sometimes these donors are 19 or 20. They don't think that far down the road. Some might even forget they were a donor in college.”

Ultimately, these men are creating children with strangers around the world about whom they know nothing. Is the recipient capable? Will the children be safe, fed, loved? What country are the children in? They have no idea. There are no background checks, no criminal record checks, and no home studies. There are no testimonials in support of the sperm buyers, who often arrange through a doctor for the sperm to be shipped directly to their homes.

Moreover, no one knows how many children are born through sperm donation. There are more than 150 commercial sperm facilities in the United States. One facility cited in Almeling’s book ships approximately 2,500 vials of sperm around the world each month. There is no requirement that the purchasers report a successful birth back to the facility. It is estimated that only 20 percent to 40 percent of births are reported back. So there is no way to measure how many children are conceived each year with purchased sperm or how most of these children are doing.

Suggestions for Action

What can be done? Here are some suggestions.

Donors: If you have already donated sperm, but have second thoughts, regrets, or simply don’t want more children conceived through the use of your sperm, consider sending a letter (return receipt requested) to the sperm facility, unequivocally withdrawing your consent to the use of your sperm and demanding that it be destroyed. A strong argument can be made that a person cannot contract away the right to decide that no (more) children be conceived with his sperm. This is not about the sale of widgets. This is about creating human life. In responding to your request, the sperm facility may have to consider the emotional, psychological, and financial damage that may be caused by choosing to ignore an unequivocal demand from you that your sperm not be used.

Charitable Institutions, Non-Profits, and Foundations: Consider funding a professionally designed website that promotes the case against sperm donation. The site could post articles, stories from adult-donor-conceived children, and appropriate links to other sites such as Anonymous Us. It could serve as a referral resource for parents, professors, university staff, and friends of potential donors. These men could be encouraged or asked to review the site before making their decision.

Colleges and Universities: Proponents of sperm donation can promote it by showing thousands of young smiling children with their mothers but as I’ve stated already, it’s unclear how many children have been conceived through donation (60 percent to 80 percent do not have their births reported to the facility), and how well they are faring. It’s likely that many of them, especially those who are adults, are bothered by their birth circumstances. Professors, administrators, coaches, and campus ministry staff could counter the billion-dollar gamete industry, Hollywood, and pro-donation colleagues with newspaper articles, op-eds, letters to the editor, forums on fatherhood, mentoring services, and possibly, small counter-ads: “Thinking about sperm donation? Think again! Contact A, or go to website B, or send an email to C address.”

Politicians: Since last year, Washington state now allows children conceived through sperm purchased from in-state facilities to access donor medical histories and, unless a donor specifically opts out, donor identification when the children turn eighteen. If Britain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and parts of New Zealand and Australia have been able to ban anonymous sperm “donation” on humanitarian grounds, then such progress on a state-by-state basis in the United States is certainly possible.

Truth Be Not Drowned

G.K. Chesterton wrote that Aldous Huxley “lit up the whole loathsome landscape of . . . synthetic humanity and manufactured men and women” by naming his satirical utopia Brave New World. He said it would take a “certain amount of bravery, as well as brutality” and “some courage, and even self-sacrifice, to establish anything so utterly disgusting . . . in the world of fact.”Yet here we are.

John M. Smoot served as a trial court judge of Boston’s Probate and Family Court from 1990 to 2012. Reprinted with permission from The Public Discourse.

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Michael Lorsch, the real-life gay stripper hired by Canadian children's charity, Free the Children.
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So, a gay stripper walks into a top children’s charity and asks for a job…

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By Anthony Esolen

This week I'm taking a break from my essays on how to form in your children a wholesome moral imagination.  Instead I'd like to engage my readers in a fantasy of decadence.

Let's suppose that a prominent child-oriented charity in a once Christian nation hires somebody to meet with teenagers to encourage them to be “shameless idealists.”  Imagine that the pedagogue is a male stripper for a gay ho-down called Boylesque. 

At the Boylesque webpage, suppose you find a Mountie in a passionate kiss with a lumberjack, who is holding a bottle of beer foaming over. “Imagine your dearest Canadian icons,” say the Boylesque promoters, “stripped down and slathered in maple syrup for your viewing pleasure!”

Free the children? Teach them to blush. It's a good start.

The page features “Ray Gunn,” the Canadian “Mount-Me Police,” a rousing rendition of “O Canada” to make you “stand at attention,” an ad for a Valentine celebration of “debauch” at “our den of iniquity,” somebody named “Bruin Pounder,” somebody else named “Sigourney Beaver,” some stars of a “bisexual-athon,” and so forth. 

Imagine third-rate puns, puerile fascination with the parts down under, dopey titillation, debauchery, and “putting male nudity at center stage where it belongs.”

Now, let's see, what else can we add to this eye-rolling story? Suppose the boy-man who strips at Boylesque at night, after he works with girls and boys during the day, calls himself Mickey D Liscious. Let's give him an absurdly bogus education - a major in Sexuality Studies. Suppose the people who run the charity do more than look demurely aside from Mickey's mooning and lighting. They name him Rookie of the Year.

Now, to complicate the plot, suppose that people catch on to Mr. Liscious' nightly swinging, and complain to the charity. The directors say what cannot possibly be true.  They say they do not “discriminate” on the basis of what their employees do after hours. We presume that although whores and nudie wigglers may be welcome, people who write for conservative magazines would not be welcome, or embezzlers, pickpockets, bookies, loan sharks, dogfight promoters, or peddlers of contraband sealskin. The line has to be drawn somewhere. Prudence is a virtue. After all, we're dealing with boys and girls here. A priest who says, “Men and women are meant for one another, in marriage,” is to be shunned, but not somebody who simulates sex in front of hooting and howling strangers.

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Let's add the icing to the fantasy. We'll call the charity Free the Children, and we'll suppose that Free the Children encourages Mr. Mickey D Liscious to tell teenagers to be “shameless idealists.” 

Of course, everything in this tawdry and silly fantasy is fact. You can't make it up. No one would believe it.

You might suppose that I'd criticize Free the Children for its choice of Cool Child Companion, saying that he is the wrong boy to tell boys and girls to be “shameless idealists.” Mr. Liscious, for his part, believes that what he does at night and what he does during the day are of a piece, greasing the grooves and pistons of change. I take him at his word. He's right, and the directors of Free the Children agree. It's our turn to try to figure out what they mean.

By “idealist,” Mr. Liscious and his promoters do not mean “someone who believes that the immaterial is more real than the material.” Mickey is not giving lectures on Plato's Republic. They also do not mean, colloquially, “someone who believes in a high standard of personal virtue,” since such standards would deprive Boylesque of all those boys who like “a dirty flashmob” and “a Tim Horton's double-double served straight up.” They cannot mean that, because shame is what people with a strong sense of virtue often feel when they behave in a base or cowardly way.

The best they can mean is “unembarrassed promoters of some idea,” some fantasy of perfection upon earth, the Big Rock Candy Mountain, the dictatorship of the proletariat, a “better world,” and other gauzy dreams that earn you points at a beauty contest, while you tilt your head like a poodle and modulate your voice for caring and sharing. 

And all I can say is that the last hundred years have been stuffed to the eyeballs with shameless idealists: shameless ideologues. They had an idea, or an idea had them, and shame on them for it. The more wicked among them had names like Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Khomeini. The more foolish had names like Harold Laski, who carried water for Lenin; Beatrice Webb, who carried water for Stalin; and Neville Chamberlain, who made a nice little pact with Hitler and proclaimed “Peace in our Time.”

Wilson was an idealist whose ideas got the better of his prudence and shame. We paid for that idealism in a crushed and belligerent Germany. The flower people of the sixties were idealists who scoffed at “hangups.” They could gaze upon the stars and sing about the Age of Aquarius, while their children looked to the empty place at table where Daddy or Mommy used to sit. Margaret Sanger was a shameless idealist. Hospital dumpsters are full of the result. 

We have had enough of shamelessness and foolish wars against reality.  

You cannot make “the world” a better place. The world is the world, old and stupid. Man is a sinner, and worst when he forgets that he is. That's not to say that you should sit and do nothing. Do the dishes. Read a good book. Be kind to your bothersome neighbor. Darken the church door and bend your knee in prayer.

Accept reality, and do the hard and unheralded work of cultivating virtue. Children are imprudent because they lack experience. Let them learn prudence from their elders. It takes no courage to follow the dreamy fad of the day, and children are suggestible. Let them learn the courage to resist the foolish and ephemeral. Children are often intemperate, because they're full of energy and so are given to hasty action and violent passions. Let them master and marshal their passions by subordinating them to right reason. Children see the world in stark oppositions of just and unjust. Let them keep their strong sense of justice, but let them temper it with the mercy that comes from acknowledgment of sin. Let shame instruct them in clemency.

Deny reality, dive deep into vice, and you will be a slave. Free the children? Teach them to blush. It's a good start.

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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
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‘I am just getting started’: Florida AG vows to defend marriage despite rulings

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By Dustin Siggins

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is not backing down in her effort to defend the state's marriage amendment, even in the face of five judicial decisions against it.

On Thursday, the same day that U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the state's amendment was unconstitutional, Bondi told reporters that her continued defense of marriage was related to her "oath to defend the Constitution of the state of Florida."

"When I was sworn in as attorney general, the 37th attorney general of the state of Florida, I took an oath," continued Bondi. “Six years ago, by over 62 percent of the vote, the voters of this state put [the ban on same-sex marriage] into our Constitution. That is part of the Constitution, which I am sworn to uphold."

Bondi acknowledged Hinkle's ruling in her comments, including his "stay" of the ruling, and said that her continued defense of the law "is me doing my job as attorney general. And I will continue to do that and if anybody wants me to moderate my message or stand for less, I have a message for them: I am just getting started.”

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Bondi has taken fire for her defense of the state law. Critics point to her two divorces and a recent trip she took with her fiance as evidence of a double-standard, and in May she was heavily criticized for saying overturning the state's law would "impose significant public harm.” Same-sex "marriage" advocates took the comments as evidence that Bondi believes heterosexual relationships are superior to homosexual relationships.

Shortly after the uproar over Bondi's May statement, State Solicitor General Allen Winsor said in a statement that “Florida is harmed whenever a federal court enjoins enforcement of its laws, including the laws at issue here.”

“Florida’s voters approved a constitutional amendment, which is being challenged, and it is the attorney general’s duty to defend Florida law," he added.

Numerous studies, most prominently one done by Mark Regnerus in 2012, show that the best environment for children is that which consists of a married heterosexual couple.

Bondi joins a number of state attorneys general from both parties who are defending their state laws. Some Democratic attorneys general, perhaps most prominently Virginia's Mark Herring, have said they will not defend their state's marriage laws.

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Shock: UK mom abandons disabled daughter, keeps healthy son after twin surrogacy

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By Pete Baklinski

A UK woman who is the biological mother of twins born from a surrogate mom, has allegedly abandoned one of the children because she was born with a severe muscular condition, while taking the girl's healthy sibling home with her.

The surrogate mother, also from the UK — referred to as "Jenny" to protect her identity — revealed to The Sun the phone conversation that took place between herself and the biological mother over the fate of the disabled girl.

“I remember her saying to me, “She’d be a f****** dribbling cabbage! Who would want to adopt her? No one would want to adopt a disabled child,’” she said.

Jenny, who has children of her own, said she decided to become a surrogate to “help a mother who couldn’t have children.” She agreed to have two embryos implanted in her womb and to give birth for £12,000 ($20,000 USD).

With just six weeks to the due date, doctors told Jenny she needed an emergency caesarean to save the babies. It was not until a few weeks after the premature births that the twin girl was diagnosed with congenital myotonic dystrophy.

When Jenny phoned the biological mother to tell her of the girl’s condition, the mother rejected the girl.

Jenny has decided along with her partner to raise the girl. They have called her Amy.

“I was stunned when I heard her reject Amy,” Jenny said. “She had basically told me that she didn’t want a disabled child.”

Jenny said she felt “very angry” towards the girl’s biological parents. "I hate them for what they did.”

The twins are now legally separated. A Children and Family Court has awarded the healthy boy to the biological mother and the disabled girl to her surrogate.

The story comes about two weeks after an Australian couple allegedly abandoned their surrogate son in Thailand after he was born with Down syndrome, while taking the healthy twin girl back with them to Australia.

Rickard Newman, director of Family Life, Pro-Life & Child and Youth Protection in the Diocese of Lake Charles, called the Australian story a “tragedy” that “results from a marketplace that buys and sells children.”

“Third-party reproduction is a prism for violations against humanity. IVF and the sperm trade launched a wicked industry that now includes abortion, eugenics, human trafficking, and deliberate family fragmentation,” he said. 

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