John M. Smoot

Why sperm ‘donation’ is bad for dads and kids

John M. Smoot
By John Smoot
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February 27, 2013 (PublicDiscourse) - In 2006, as a Probate and Family Court judge in Boston, I began hearing a case filed by a self-represented woman who requested an order that a sperm facility disclose the identity of the father of her two young daughters. She gave as her primary reason that the children suffered from health issues and needed a complete medical history from their father. As a secondary ground, she cited the children’s need for financial support. After multiple hearings and several trips between the Probate and Family Court and the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the complaint was dismissed in 2011. (The first decision of the Appeals Court can be found here.)

By the end of the case, the process of anonymous sperm “donation” struck me as inhumane, and sperm “donation” in general as thoughtless, even though many of the individuals involved behave in understandably human ways. In today’s article I explain the problems for fathers and children created by sperm donation. Tomorrow I address the role of money as a problematic incentive for “donation” and offer suggestions for how we can slow the growth of the sperm-sale industry.

Harms Arising from the Sale of Sperm

When we focus on the friend, relative, or child who may have ties to sperm donation, we avoid seeing certain realities, or if we glimpse them, we often keep quiet in order not to offend. I know wonderful women who are kind and loving mothers to their children conceived through sperm donation. But the impact of a billion-dollar gamete industry reaches well beyond them.

Advertisements for sperm and egg donations are ubiquitous. We currently sugarcoat the process with euphemistic language, labeling “selling” as “donating” to make adults feel good about their “altruistic” donation. And who will want to say otherwise?

In August 2011, Rene Almeling, an assistant professor of sociology at Yale University, released a carefully researched book called Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm. Almeling interviewed staff from clinics as well as sperm and egg donors. Her factual findings prove useful for showing the ills of commercial sperm donation.

First, the process of providing sperm degrades and objectifies men. Men report to a facility where they are directed to a room containing pornography. There, they masturbate until they ejaculate into a cup, and then they deliver the cup to a staff member. The contents may be split up into as many as nine vials and frozen with liquid nitrogen. If the man’s sperm quality is good enough, he will get paid. Almeling writes that the founder of one facility “proudly showed off what he called ‘masturbatoriums,’ small rooms with erotic pictures on the walls and flat-screen televisions for watching pornographic movies.”

Almeling also records the following comments from sperm sellers:

Ethan: What’s weird about it is going into a doctor’s office and jerking off. It’s kind of like a sexual thing you’re using in a totally nonsexual way. It’s not the privacy of your own bedroom, and it’s not whenever else you might choose to masturbate. This is like masturbation on demand. You’re a lab rat. You can go in and smile and say all the nice things you want every morning, but they really want you for one thing. You are a walking sperm donor.

Ben: I felt like a piece of meat almost. I felt like a cow. I’m being milked for something that I can provide.

Dennis: You’re sort of like an asset to them, and if you’re not performing, they don’t want to have any part of you. I finished giving my sample, and they were like, “So you’ve had three bad samples. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what the problem is, but you really need to fix this.” I was like, “Yikes. Okay!”

The men’s profiles are then paraded on the internet like cattle at an auction and women shop for sperm based on features like height, weight, eye color, SAT scores, and athleticism.

Second, selling sperm corrupts our society’s concept of fatherhood. Humans should care for their children. It has always been considered a tragedy when they fail to do so. Our society already suffers from an absentee father crisis. What message does it send to children when men so obviously don’t care when, where, or to whom their children are born? The boom in the sperm sale business will damage children’s perception of what it means to be a man and a father. As anthropologist Margaret Mead has written, “the supreme task of any society is to teach its men to be good fathers.”

Third, the sperm sale industry deliberately creates fatherless children. Thanks to better treatments for male infertility, fewer heterosexual couples are purchasing commercial sperm. Instead, the buyers are primarily singleheterosexual women and lesbian couples. Single heterosexual women who want marriage and children are giving up on men swamped by a culture antithetical to male maturity. An excess of recreational sex, pornography, and video games has fostered male self-absorption.

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Lesbian couples more often choose to purchase sperm over adoption, in part because the countries whose children U.S. couples most frequently adopt—Guatemala, China, Ethiopia, South Korea, and Russia—explicitly ban gay and lesbian couples from adopting. Single gays and lesbians can try to skirt these policies by not identifying their sexual orientation unless asked. But married same-sex couples must reveal their marriage. Still, the shift from adoption to buying sperm is more likely due to lesbian women’s wish to have their own biological children, the same desire that motivates single heterosexual women.

Fourth, sperm sales encourage the commodification of children. As improbable as it may seem, some children born are not fully accepted and loved because they fail to develop as advertised. In other words, a mother who pays for looks, intelligence, and athleticism but sees none of those in her child may not love the child unconditionally. In consumer terms, this would be called purchasing a “lemon.”

We all want to believe that no one would ever do this. But we need to remember that as the sperm is shipped around the world, nobody checks on who is getting it. Nobody checks child abuse records. Nobody checks mental health history. Nobody checks anything about the buyers.

Fifth, while the harms I’ve discussed apply to both “identity release” sellers of sperm—sellers who agree to let conceived children access their biological information once they turn eighteen—and anonymous sellers, anonymous sperm sale is particularly inhumane. Thanks to the efforts of adult commercially conceived children, buyers can now learn more easily that donor anonymity is often painful for the child conceived to endure. Olivia Pratten, who is donor-conceived, wrote in 2010:

If biological roots didn’t matter, we wouldn’t have a whole fertility industry whose priority is to maximize the genetic continuity of the parents using the technologies. If it didn’t matter, no one would care about having their own biological children. People who are infertile grieve not being able to pass on their lineage to their children. I grieve the same thing: not knowing the person who gave me mine.

In May 2011, Pratten won a landmark victory in a Canadian court, which ruled that “assisted reproduction using an anonymous gamete donor is harmful to the child, and is not in the best interests of donor offspring.” Unfortunately, in November 2012, an Appeals Court reversed the lower court decision. Pratten plans to appeal the most recent decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Britain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and parts of New Zealand and Australia have already banned anonymous sperm “donation” on humanitarian grounds.

“Cryokids” Speaking Out

If you read the stories of adult donor-conceived children with anonymous parents on websites such as Anonymous UsConnect ItTangled Webs UK, and Confessions of a Cryokid, you will feel the deep pain many of these adults experience. One study found that among donor-conceived offspring:

65% agreed that the sperm donor is half of who they are.

45% were bothered by the circumstances of their conception.

Almost 50% report that they think about donor conception at least a few times a week or more often.

58% agreed that when they see someone who resembles them, they wonder if they are related.

46% agreed that they have worried that someone they are physically attracted to could be related to them.

One donor-conceived adult wrote that

this ground swell of questions and loss from one group has resulted in another group responding with answers in the media—the parents and donors. It’s as if Hollywood is telling the story the way everyone would like to hear it, especially donors and parents worried they might have made a poor decision. The witty romantic comedy or the quirky indie film provides a happy ending so we all can know, yes it's ok, “The Kids Are Alright.” Yet, the kids aren’t alright, they are usually pretty upset and in many ways they haven’t really been truly heard.

It is not uncommon for donor-conceived children who speak against sperm and egg donation to be faulted for being “ungrateful.” Donor-conceived filmmaker Barry Stevens has responded, “if that were true, then anyone who is the product of a rape would have to endorse rape . . . It’s quite possible to be grateful for your life and question aspects of your conception.”

Both sperm donors and their children are harmed by the sperm-sale industry. The money paid to donors especially fosters the irresponsibility to which donors are already prone—but more on that tomorrow. 

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

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Ben Johnson and Andy Parrish

Did Minnesota’s Planned Parenthood lie about illegal organ harvesting?

Ben Johnson and Andy Parrish
By Ben Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Somebody in the abortion industry is breaking a Minnesota law that bans the sale or donation of aborted babies' body parts.

That's the conclusion of numerous elected officials, who are renewing calls to investigate Planned Parenthood in the wake of undercover videos about the harvesting and sale of fetal organs and tissue.

Dozens of Republican state legislators asked Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to investigate the abortion provider after the Center for Medical Progress released videos detailing the little-known practice. The sale or donation of fetal organs or tissue is illegal under state law.

The local Planned Parenthood affiliate - Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) - said that it had never been involved in fetal tissue donation.

However, in the latest video released by CMP, the head of a biological company says it has an abortion facility operating in Minnesota.

Perrin Larton, the Procurement Manager for Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR), says she procures fetal organs and tissue from abortion facilities "in San Diego, in Oregon, in Minnesota, and soon we will be starting in New Jersey and Philadelphia."

At the heart of the issue is a Minnesota state law that requires abortion facilities to dispose of aborted babies' bodies "by cremation, interment by burial, or in a manner directed by the commissioner of health." To do otherwise is a misdemeanor.

Thus, ABR's research would be illegal in any case.

As it turns out, ABR has been registered as a non-profit in the state of Minnesota since April 2009. Its location is listed as 1010 N. Dale St. in St. Paul.

A former ABR employee, Deborah Heap Tierney, listed her occupation on LinkedIn as "procurement specialist" at the company, in Minnesota, from February 2009 - two months before ABR's business filing as a nonprofit - to November 2009.

Investigators want to know: If organ donation was illegal, what was she procuring, and who acted as ABR's supplier?

"Why is the nation's largest and oldest fetal procurement company in Minnesota in the first place, let alone four miles from Planned Parenthood Minnesota?" said State Representative Mary Franson, R-08B, in a statement sent exclusively to LifeSiteNews. "Minnesota law requires a dignified and sanitary disposal of fetal remains. Sales or donation of fetal remains is not permitted."

"Advanced Bioscience Resources admits in a recent video that they procure fetal tissue in Minnesota. That alone is illegal and criminal," State Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-39B, told LifeSiteNews. "I am calling on Ramsey County Prosecutor John J. Choi to investigate these claims and if true to pursue criminal charges against them."

But what about Planned Parenthood? Did it tell the truth when it denied ever having participated in ABR's organ harvesting business?

State Rep. Matt Dean, R-38B, sent a letter on July 24 to Sarah Stoesz, the president and CEO of PPMNS, to find out. He asked for the affiliate's "official policy on the donation of fetal tissue."

Echoing Cecile Richards, Stoesz replied on August 3, "I want to be absolutely clear." Although Planned Parenthood "believes strongly in the value of fetal tissue research...PPMNS does not participate, and has never participated, in any type of tissue donation program that would involve providing fetal remains (with reimbursement of expenses or otherwise) to any commercial vendor or to any other entity for the purpose of medical research."

When asked for official policy, she responded, "PPMNS does not and never has donated tissue of any kind and, accordingly, does not have a policy dedicated to this issue."

She then said that one of its policies requires that state law be followed on the disposal of aborted babies' remains, and the policy was adopted in 2011. She sent a copy of their policy, which was signed by Stoesz and two other PPMNS officials on July 27 - three days after Dean's letter.

Gov. Mark Dayton accused Republicans of "full-time grandstanding," saying, "As far as I'm concerned there's no basis for an investigation at taxpayer expense into a private nonprofit organization that has stated they don't engage in those practices here in Minnesota."

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith - who was part of the Planned Parenthood affiliate's leadership - agrees. Smith is a former vice president for external affairs at PPMNS.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-31A today told LifeSiteNews through a spokesperson that the state's Democratic leadership has turned a blind eye to a burgeoning scandal, and justice must be enforced at once.

"Speaker Daudt is outraged by the developments with Planned Parenthood," Susan Closmore, state House Republican communications director, told LifeSiteNews. "Speaker Daudt has called on Governor Mark Dayton to investigate this issue."

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Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

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Vatican: It’s ‘impossible’ for transsexuals to serve as godparents

Sofia Vazquez-Mellado
By Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

MADRID, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews)- After Alex Salinas, a woman living as a man in San Fernando, Spain, claimed her parish priest had allowed her to be the “godfather” for the baptism of her two nephews, local bishop of Cadiz and Ceuta, Don Rafael Zornoza took the matter up with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The response, which strongly affirms Church teaching on the nature of gender, was published yesterday on the diocese’s website.

“On this particular case I inform you of the impossibility of admission,” read the response. “Transsexual behavior publicly reveals an opposition to the moral demand of resolving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sex. It is therefore evident that said person does not comply with the requirement of leading a life of faith and to the function of godparent (CIC, can 874 §1,3).”

“This is not seen as discrimination, but merely as the recognition of an objective lack of requirements that by their nature are necessary to take on the ecclesiastic responsibility of being a godparent,” it concluded.

The prelate explained how Pope Francis has confirmed this doctrine on several occasions and quoted his last encyclical Laudato Si: “Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.”

Bishop Zornoza also quoted Benedict XVI on the “ecology of man,” as “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.”

“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father,” continued Zornoza quoting Francis. “Thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology.”

The bishop went on to explain that if parents are unable to find a suitable person to qualify as godparent, the priest can baptize the child without godparents, “which are not necessary to celebrate this sacrament.”

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“Words have been attributed [to me] which I have not pronounced,” he noted, referring to the media falsely reporting his approval of Salinas as godfather. He explained he had reached out to the Congregation “due to the complexity and the media relevance this matter has reached, and keeping in mind the possible pastoral consequences of any decision on the matter.”

Local media reported that the baptism, scheduled for this September, has been cancelled, and that Salinas’ sisters will not baptize their children until the bishop changes his mind.

Salinas, who had declared herself to be a “firm believer,” has now claimed to be an “apostate” due to the Church’s rejection, reported Spain’s EFE.

In a petition started by change.org, Salinas wrote she didn’t understand why “the Catholic Church denies me the possibility of being a godfather” if Spanish authorities have already changed her name from Alexandra to Alexander in her official IDs.

The petition falsely celebrated a “victory” after Salinas claimed she was being allowed as godfather.

Mainstream media, which initially reported Salina’s “celebration,” have not yet reported on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s response.

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Forced abortions at Canadian clinics central to cover-up of 12-yr-old’s abuse: pro-life leaders

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By Pete Baklinski

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A renowned Canadian judge is calling for an investigation into why two Canadian abortion centers failed to report an underaged girl who was forced by her stepfather to undergo two abortions after being repeatedly raped by him, one at the former Morgentaler Clinic in Newfoundland and the other at a Winnipeg, Manitoba hospital.

Retired Manitoba justice Ted Hughes told CBC News that the province of Manitoba should investigate how a 12-year-old girl with a previous record of abortion could be given another abortion and not have providers bring the child to the attention of welfare officials.

"I'm surprised that child-and-family-services, the ministry, isn't taking an aggressive stand. I would have expected that, because, unquestionably this child was in need of protection," said Hughes, who received national attention last year when he made 62 recommendations for improving the child welfare system after investigating the 2005 murder of 5-year-old Phoenix Sinclair.

"Do I think this should be looked into? I certainly do,” he said.

After making these concerns public yesterday, Manitoba's Office of the Children's Advocate stated on the same day that it has launched an investigation, but that its findings will not be made public.

Pro-life leaders say the girl’s experience at the hands of abortionists is an indictment of the entire industry.

“Abortion centers are not health care centers. They are businesses, and their product is dead babies, professionally emptied uteruses. So they have a vested financial interest in not asking any questions,” said Jonathan Van Maren, communications director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, to LifeSiteNews.

On Friday, the girl’s 35-year-old stepfather was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sexual assault that began in 2011 when the girl was 11 and continued for over two years, during which the girl became pregnant twice. The stepfather traveled across country for the first forced abortion at the former Morgentaler Clinic in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He then took the girl closer to home for the second forced abortion at the Health Sciences Centre in the Women's Hospital in Winnipeg.

"He arranged abortions for both pregnancies, including cover stories," said Justice Christopher Martin at the sentencing, describing the man’s crimes as "shockingly calculated and cruel” and “among the worst nightmare scenarios.”

The man was arrested in 2012 after sexually assaulting his step-daughter’s best friend and the girl’s mom after breaking into their home. He cannot be identified to protect the victims.

The young girl, who is now 15, called both abortions "murder" in a victim-impact statement.

While legal and human rights experts are busy pointing fingers at who might be ultimately responsible for failing to help this girl as a victim of sexual assault, hardly anyone wants to point a finger at the abortion industry itself.

But Canadian pro-life leaders say the blame for this girl’s ongoing abuse rests primarily with the abortion establishment.

“By providing this abortion service for this young victim without asking any questions and without bringing in social services, these abortion providers were essentially protecting this incestuous stepfather and child rapist and setting up a situation that allowed him to continue abusing this poor little girl. They were protecting the perpetrator, not the victim,” Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition told LifeSiteNews.

Douglas said that what this girl experienced in the hands of abortion providers proves that the abortion industry does not really care about women.

“It says they don’t care anymore for this young girl than they do for the little victims that were in her womb. They don’t care about the girl, they don’t care about the baby. All they do is provide death,” she said.

Natalie Sonnen, Executive Director of LifeCanada, said that legalized abortion in Canada has created a situation that “favours the abuser, without doubt.”

“Thousands of women and girls are susceptible to coercion by these men who get away with their crimes and are propped up by the industry. It is an absolute tragedy that these girls or women can be forcibly aborted and then sent back into the abusive relationship again. We have known for years that coerced abortion is a huge problem that our society refuses to address, for fear of offending the sacrosanct abortion establishment,” she told LifeSiteNews.

Various attempts have been made by pro-life politicians to introduce bills that would offer women some protection from coerced abortion, but with no success.

In 2008, Alberta Conservative MP Ken Epp saw his bill titled The Unborn Victims of Violent Crime reach second reading before it was squelched by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who was keeping his promise to steer clear of the abortion issue. The bill would have allowed for separate punishments for killing an unborn child in a violent attack on a pregnant mother.

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In 2010, Tory MP Rod Bruinooge introduced a private member’s bill in 2010 called Roxanne’s Law that would have made it an offense to coerce a woman to seek an abortion. The bill was named after Roxanne Fernando, a Winnipeg woman beaten to death by her boyfriend in 2007, after refusing to get an abortion. Again, following Harper’s lead, the bill was only supported by half of the Conservative caucus and a handful of Liberals and failed to pass first reading.

Jonathan Van Maren, communications director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, criticized politicians and the abortion industry for opposing the above bills that could have helped the young girl if they had been passed.

“The term ‘pro-choice’ rings hollow for many women and girls who are coerced into having an abortion, or feel that they are pressured into having an abortion against their will. Yet, the abortion industry and most of our politicians opposed Roxanne's Law, which would have made it illegal to do so.”

Van Maren said that far from securing women’s freedom, abortion-on-demand has reached a point where it is now being used as a “tool of oppression, not only for the pre-born child who is, as this poor girl tragically recognized, murdered, but also for those women and girls who bear the scars of their lost children and the trauma of being forced into this so-called government funded service against their will.”

Mike Schouten, Campaign Director for WeNeedALaw.ca, said that Canada’s continual resistance to regulating abortion has manifested itself in what he called a “real life tragedy.”

“While it is understandable that we focus on the rapist and the callousness of his crimes we also do well to collectively ask ourselves how we have come to live in a society that cares so little about the health and well-being of women, and in this case a young girl,” he told LifeSiteNews.

"This tragedy is a direct result of individualizing abortion to the point where the maximum amount of energy is put into protecting the so called ‘right to choose’ and little or no effort into actually caring for the health of this young girl."

"This sad story is another indication that a time of reckoning is coming whereby Canadians come to understand that abortion does not liberate a woman. Rather, it brings a host of new problems, and in this tragic case allowed for the continued abuse of a vulnerable young girl,” he said.

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