BioethicsTue Jun 19, 2012 - 7:09 pm EST
‘Get over it’: children of anonymous sperm donors met with hostility, ridicule, say activists
June 19, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - For children of anonymous sperm donors yearning for a connection to their biological father, the world can be an unwelcome place.
Instead of meeting compassion, many say that society treats their pain with a dismissive or even hostile attitude - a rift caused by lack of awareness as much as by the brute force of a $3.3 billion industry.
Alana, the child of a sperm donor and the activist behind AnonymousUs.org, says she realized the hard way what she was up against when she began her awareness campaign.
“I thought it would be so easy to arrive, state the obvious that children need their fathers, and everyone would be like, oh my God, thank you for reminding us!” she said in the documentary “Anonymous Father’s Day.” “But there is a huge monster of money and people desperate for children, who don’t want me to make it harder for them to buy and sell children.”
She said that she has often met with ridicule and vitriol from people who tell her to “just go the beach and get a puppy and run around and have fun, and just get over it,” and even recounted the horrifying words directed at a colleague, who was told, “too bad you weren’t the load your Dad flushed down the toilet.”
“People are extremely vicious,” she said.
Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Center for Children and Families at the Institute for American Values, who authored a study on the subject, said that most children begin to ask who their father is at “about age three.”
People are normally encouraged to “share, if we have them, stories of loss or confusion” about our families, Marquardt noted, “but these people somehow are just supposed to be grateful to exist.”
Documentary creator Jennifer Lahl, who was also behind the film “Eggsploitation” on the practice of egg donation, told LifeSiteNews.com that she has also noticed peculiar hostility to those most victimized by the commoditization of children.
“Just from the work that I’ve been doing ... there’s a lot more sympathy toward [exploited] egg donors than towards donor-conceived children,” Lahl told LifeSiteNews.com at a screening of the latest documentary in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.
“When I show ‘Eggsploitation,’ there’s an overwhelming, oh my gosh this is horrible, we shouldn’t do this to young women,” she said, “versus, when I show ‘Anonymous Father’s Day,’ it’s like, well, so what? We’ve all had bad upbringing experiences.” Lahl said the reactions of egg-donor children are harder to track because she said most “are never told” of their origins.
Another hurdle, according to Alana - a women’s studies major who says she was inappropriately ridiculed as a Christian extremist because of her advocacy - is the gay and lesbian community, who see sperm donation as “the cleanest method for them to have children.” Another major demographic, she said, was “older couples with money.”
“The fact that they’re willing to spend $100,000 for a kid is—money talks, and I can’t compete with that,” she said.
Lahl said she was hopeful that the LGBT community would be won over to oppose sperm donation once they heard the stories of children conceived in this way. “If we can educate gay men on the harms of fertility drugs, on the harms of these procedures to the women that they need, and the reality of the children’s needs and children’s right to know, then I’m hopeful that we’ll win them over,” she said.
Statistics from 1988, the latest official numbers available, placed sperm donor births at 30-60,000 per year in the United States. However, as records are in many places now minimal to nonexistent - sperm donors can even be found on Craigslist - the true number has become virtually impossible to track.
Barry Stevens, one of 500-1,000 half-siblings fathered by a fertility clinic owner in the U.K., said that many object by saying that people shouldn’t question how they were conceived because they wouldn’t otherwise exist.
“If that were true, then anyone who is the product of a rape would have to endorse rape,” he said. “It’s quite possible to be grateful for your life and question aspects of your conception.”
Stevens said he learned of his origin when he was 18, after his stepfather died suddenly in an accident.
“I’m one of the first produced by science, and not sex. There was no sexual act that produced me, except masturbation,” he said.
Stevens illustrated the “genealogical bewilderment” suffered by those like him by describing a scenario in which a couple gives birth at a hospital and asks to see their baby a few hours later.
“The nurse says, OK, we’ll bring you a baby. And the father says, well, of course, we want to see our baby.” The nurse responds, “Oh well, we don’t do that in this hospital. Don’t worry, everybody who comes here is very healthy, very intelligent, we’ll bring you just a random baby, but it will be perfectly healthy and it’ll love you and you will love it, everything will be fine. What could be wrong with that?
“And of course, there is something wrong with that,” he said.
“If it’s so important in that situation, why is it so hard to understand that it might be a little bit important to us?”
Click here for more information on Anonymous Father’s Day.
Click here for more information on Eggsploitation.