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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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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