September 04, 2007

Product mix-up

What a mess. White babies born to a white-black married couple that was supposed to have used the husband's sperm. The parents sue for emotional distress: yes, evidently. They have now separated under the stress; a divorce is probably on the horizon if the wife decides to keep these third party babies.

Similarly, IVF clinic boo-boos apparently happen quite often, and one nonprofit has decided to start keeping tabs. I smell lots of lawsuits in the air. The product ordered was not delivered; sub-par baby is an "emotional distress.

August 29, 2007

The fatal attraction of IVF

An Irish woman has died from IVF treatment. Not the first, and surely not the last. Attention egg donors - you aren't just giving your child away. You are potentially dying to give your child away.

August 28, 2007

Genetic links are only important for the parents, right?

In her article on transgenerational reproduction, the commentator, Ana Smajdor, points out something very interesting, ironic and important.

She discusses the recent case of the Montreal woman Melanie Boivin, who has frozen some of her eggs so that her 7-year-old infertile daughter Flavie would be able to use them someday. Smajdor points out that this kind of egg donation shows that the mother believes that the genetic link is important in having children. If Melanie Boivin had not thought that it was important to be genetically related to the child, then she wouldn't have frozen her eggs for her daughter to eventually use: "Because of course Flavie, like any other infertile person, could seek to use donated eggs if on reaching adulthood, she found herself longing to start a family."

The irony is that while Boivin believes that it's important for the child to be genetically related to the parent, the reality is that by using her mother's eggs, Flavie will be giving birth not to her own genetic daughter but to her half-sibling: in effect, Melanie Boivin will have a child with Flavie's future husband.

What a screwed up scenario. However, it's not as new as you may think. This has already happened! In her book Everything Conceivable, Liza Mundy mentions a case where the father of an infertile man donated his sperm for the son to use. The son has thus had a baby which is, in reality, his half-sibling.

August 24, 2007

More on birth certificates in the UK

Natasha Pearlman, "I feel so betrayed because I don't know who my father is" (Daily Mail, August 2, 2007) - An excellent article about Tom Ellis and how he has reacted to finding out about his real origin. And to think that there is opposition in Britain to placing the "donor-conceived" stamp on children's birth certificates:

"Bizarre", responded outspoken MP Evan Harris. "There is no proper evidence that children or adults suffer from not knowing who their 'real fathers' are, whether from IVF or from infidelity," he said. He was backed up by the chief ethicist for the British Medical Association, Dr Vivienne Nathanson. The committee's view of parenthood is decades out of date, she wrote. Parents ought to be honest with their children, but they should be coaxed into doing so, not forced. Placing "donor conceived" on birth certificates is "a highly genetic-determinist view of life".

No proper evidence, really? Does Tom Ellis and others like him need to scream harder? Something tells me that no hearing aid could ever help these people: they just don't WANT to get it.

Indeed, Vivienne Nathanson's whole argument (read it here
) is disturbing. She argues not only that there is no evidence that children are harmed, and that the whole arugment of harm is "illusory" but that the real harm here is to the parents, who would be forced to tell - and so their parenting is being undermined. No longer can parents choose the timing of telling their child - now they must tell whenever their child sees their birth certificate (if not sooner).

And then, of course, the terrible threat - if UK legislation mandates disclosure, then parents will go abroad and have their children elsewhere! Our country will be populated by aliens! To which I say, too bad, too bad.

And too bad for the parents who can no longer choose to lie forever. Nathanson's argument about timing would have more force if it didn't run smack against the statistic that up to 90% of parents choose NEVER to tell their children that they are donor-conceived. It's not about WHEN here, it's about telling AT ALL. That's really the right that Parliament wants to protect. Children have a right to know, and their parents often have too many "good" reasons never to tell them.

Nathanson is right that the parents' freedom of parenting is being clipped here. But where adult freedoms run up against the rights of children, Western law has long stood solidly on the side of the weaker party - the best interests of the children take precedence, thank you very much. Parents have a few years to figure out how and when to tell, while the child doesn't even yet know what a birth certificate is, can't read it or hasn't asked to see it. You'd think that would be enough time for the parents to get their act together. By the time a child knows what a birth certificate is, you'd think the child would also have the right to know who its biological parents are.

UK - committee suggests that birth certificates record donor conception

This is real progress. In the UK, a parliamentary committee has recommended that birth certificates let children know that they were donor conceived. That's wonderful news, especially since about 90% of donor-conceived children still don't even know it. Their so-called parents, who are really adoptive parents, biological strangers who ordered and bought these children from their real parents - don't even have to tell the resulting children of their true origins. As if it didn't matter. As if it shouldn't matter.

Some people have criticized this recommendation as "state intrusion on the sensitive and personal parental choice as to if an when to tell their child". Oooooh, so sorry. I forgot that it's always all about the parents. Naturally, the children have NO rights in this regard! They don't have the right to know who their parents are or where they come from! For all they care and for all it matters, they might have come from Crypton like Superman, and they shouldn't ask any questions. They can go on believing that they have Irish blood from their social father, who is actually not related to them. They can go on thinking that they face the risk of inheritable breast cancer from their mother's side, although she is in reality not related to them. It's all in their best interest, and love is all that matters.

August 20, 2007

The baby is so wanted that it must be really mine

By chance I noticed that this blog recently had the honor of being discussed on another blog. The blog "Right v. Easy," which is written by a woman who is raising the biological son of her cousin (conceived via her cousin's egg donation), discusses on her website how this blog has been on her mind for quite some time.

To which I say, that's great. The intent of this blog is to get people thinking about a perspective that they may not have encountered much. The rights of children in assisted reproduction continue to be far too marginalized in the field of reproductive technologies. The entire industry is focused on the desires of the customers (the intended parents) rather than on the rights or needs of the merchandise (the children, who are often not yet conceived when the transactions take place).

Anna from "Right v. Easy" is of course disturbed by the things she has read here. The typical arguments again rear their head:

1. The accusation of hate - this website is full of "vitriol".

In other words, I exhibit animus against people who use these technologies. How can I prove that I don't "hate" just because I disagree? Anyone is free to come to whatever conclusion they want about what I think. All I can say is, I of course have great sympathy for those who deal with infertility, or with whatever compels them to consider assisted reproduction. These are never easy situations. Most commonly they are extremely difficult life choices that involve deep emotions of grief and loss, among others. For many people, reproductive technologies offer the only hope of ever having a biological child - that's a huge thing to give up.

As much compassion as I feel for those who suffer with these difficult life choices however, I still can't blindly condone any and all actions they hereby decide to take in order to assuage their own grief and to heal their wounds. Pain doesn't make all things right. Just because you hurt, it doesn't give you the free pass to trample over other people to heal yourself. Some things are wrong and they stay wrong, regardless of why they are done or who does them.

Just because I can't have children, that doesn't give me the right to other people's children. I can't just go to my neighbour, who has 7 kids, and take one of hers. And what if she were to offer me one of her kids just because I don't have one? Should I take it? No, I can't do that. The kid, standing there staring at me with it's big blue eyes, has a right to its own mother, and she can't just pack up the kid's little suitcase and ship it off next door because she feels bad for me, the neighbour who has no kids. The fact is, even the mother doesn't have the right to give her kids to other people like that - because they are people too, not things, so they have rights of their own.

And yet, that's exactly what is happening today. Kind people who feel compassionate for the childless are trying to make them feel better by giving them their own children - before they are even born. The child still stares up at me with its big blue eyes, but this time, it has no chance to have its real mom, because she was out of the picture before it was ever born.

2. The "Most Wanted and Loved Child" argument

The gold standard of the fertility industry. Everything is okay because it was done "in the name of love". It's okay to make a biological orphan, as long as the baby is loved and wanted so, so, so, so, very much. Love and desire make up for AAAaaaaall the wrongs of the world.

If only this were so. But the donor-conceived children themselves (those ungrateful little grubs) say something different. Lots of them are saying that being loved and wanted was not enough. Having lots of fluffy toys and cake and things and things was not enough! These kids are aching to be loved and wanted by their biological parents, not by random, unrelated infertile people!

Having doubts about that? Look at adoptees. How many adoptees were loved and wanted? Probably just as many as donor-conceived children. Their infertile parents went through YEARS of adoption hassles and red tape to get these adoptive kids. Yes, they were wanted! Yes, they had their little scrapbooks and love and love and mountains of things! Their parents gave them everything, EVERYTHING. And yet, these kids still shut themselves in their large rooms, go on their brand new laptops and click on Facebook and send out plaintive little messages searching for their real biological parents. Why do they do it? Because biology matters, whether you believe it or not. Because being loved by random, unrelated strangers is NOT the same as being loved by people whose faces resemble yours, who have your genes and you have theirs, who understand you and who connect with you on a deep, instinctive, primeval level that we can't express in words.

No, love from just anyone is not all that matters. No, being wanted by just anyone is not all that matters. Other things matter too: like seeing your own face in your mother's face. Like knowing that you have your artistic talent from your father, and that you can develop it into something great because he did. Like being proud of your heritage and identifying with the heros in your family's past and present. Like having a feeling of belonging when you play with your own brothers and sisters, whose likenesses and differences reassure you that you are normal and yet unique.

Anyway, love and desire are feelings that are famously here today and gone tomorrow. How many people have fallen out of love? How many people have changed their mind about something that they really, really wanted at one time? Love and desire are not the most stable basis for a timeless relationship. The only sure thing is biology, which cannot be altered. Biology begets love in a way that desire itself cannot. Biology begets unconditional love that is based on immutable relationship - parents love their children, who contain parts of themselves - forever, no questions asked. It's instinctive, it's primeval, it's animalistic - but it's real, and it works, and it has worked for millennia. Whereas the love of strangers is never fully unconditional, because it is based on choice - and choice is based on desire, on a feeling that can go away. There is no underlying bedrock of immutability - indeed, even legal relationships can be changed.

3. The specific case of illness avoidance

Anna did not use egg donation due to infertility. She did it to save her future child from a terrible illness, and she paid a terrible cost for it - she gave up her own fertility, and chose not to have her own biological child. Her motivation was noble, and I sympathize with her difficult choices. She did indeed give up much, in order to spare her future child an awful existence.

And yet, I still believe that her actions went too far. She was free to choose not to have children. However, her concern for having a healthy child, and her decision to give up her own children, still did not entitle her to other people's children.

As the situation stands now, Anna paid a great price for her decision not to have an unhealthy child: she had no biological child of her own. However, she also made someone else share the cost of her decision. Her son has also paid a price: because he was chosen to be the healthy child, he has had to give up his own biological mother. So (biologically speaking) while Anna is childless, he is motherless.

Only time will tell what Anna's son thinks of this arrangement. It cannot be assumed, although he is wanted and loved by Anna, that he will be A-OK with being given up by his biological mother - and it is his right, as Anna will surely admit, to think whatever he wants, to seek out his biological mother in the future, and even to call her "mom" if he so chooses. This kind of right to his biological parents is a natural right, and no one can take this right away from him, only violate it (until he becomes an adult and can reclaim it for himself).

Do you think that donor-conceived children don't do these things? I invite you to read the latest post from the website of Umbillicly Challenged, who at 20 years old finally packed her suitcases and took off to meet her real, biological mother for the first time. She left her protesting "social" parents behind, even as they left umpteen messages on her cell phone. Her description of what she experienced when she met her real mother is worth the read.

Commercializing Human Life in Canada

Margaret Somerville is probably the most famous ethicist in Canada. She is a professor of both medicine and law at McGill University in Montreal, and she has a very special role in Canadian public life. In a testament to the fact that human nature has a need for a sure moral compass, for a definite right and wrong even when they no longer believe in God, Margaret Somerville is the unofficial priest of Canadian atheism. This is not a role that is only hers, because it is true of nearly every ethicist these days. But she is the most well known of these gurus of right and wrong, who tell people what is right when people no longer believe in an absolute right and wrong.

But I digress. Regardless of where Margaret Somerville gets her personal ethical convictions, she does seem to get it right most of the time.

The other day, Somerville wrote an excellent article in the Ottawa Citizen (she also wrote a similar article on MercatorNet). She discusses how in Canada, a growing coalition of disparate interests is trying to push for the further commercialization of human life in the "baby business", the reproductive industry. Currently Canada doesn't allow surrogates and gamete donors to be paid for their services. A lot of people who have something at stake are complaining about this and are gearing up to pressure for changes. Where would this lead us? Right down the ol' road to the depersonalization of the human person, basically: we are turning children, people and human body parts into objects for sale and ownership. Wombs for sale, eggs for sale, sperm for sale, embryos for sale, babies for sale (by traditional surrogates) - highest price based on highest quality, best quality to the highest bidder! People for sale, lives for sale. Buy a person, buy a life. Freedom for sale. That's called being "progressive."

These is a chance to do something about it right now. The Assisted Human Reproduction Office of Canada is holding a public consultation on this issue, and the deadline for comments is September 14, 2007. Anyone can comment. Please consider submitting your comments. You can read the consultation document and find out how to comment here (it's the first document at the top of the page).

August 16, 2007

One step closer to artificial wombs

An artificial uterus has been created to allow eggs and sperm to come together, and the early embryo to grow, in more "optimal" conditions.

August 15, 2007

Having babies with sister's ovarian tissue

According to this article, scientists have now successfully transplanted ovarian tissue from one non-identical twin sister to the other, who started menstruating normally. If she gets pregnant, she will get pregnant with her sister's eggs - but they will have been matured and released within her own body. So she is only a tiny sliver of a distance away from being the "real" mother. The genetics don't come from her, but they are stored, matured and released in her body. The game of chance (regarding which egg will develop and be released) is played out within her belly.

Then there is the case of identical twins, which have apparently also successfully undergone ovarian tissue transplant-donations.

What about the resulting children? Who is the "real" mother?

Even as I maintain that the "real" mother is clearly the biological mother, the woman who originally produced the eggs and whose genetics are in the children, this twisting of nature is still enough to produce a massive migrane.

August 14, 2007

UK babies as sources of spare parts

Do you have a sick child that is in need of a kidney donor or a bone marrow transplant? In the UK, you need look no further. Now you will be able to skip the organ donor waiting list and have a new baby to provide these services for your existing precious child.

The UK is considering legislation that would allow parents to create "saviour siblings" to treat their ailing current children. The conditions these children have need not be fatal or life-threatening, only serious. They include "sickle-cell anaemia, renal failure, kidney disorders and spinal diseases."

A tiny voice of reason peeps in at the end of the news story, saying: "This process is wrong because choosing one embryo means discarding the others, and because the purpose of creating that child is not for its own sake but for its cord blood."

Exactly. Imagine being created for your kidney, bone marrow, or cord blood. All the other embryos didn't make it through the selection process - your brothers and sisters were thrown into the garbage not because there was something really wrong with them, but simply because their tissue failed to match the tissue of an existing sibling. You are the survivor, only because you have the kidney that they want and plan to take.

You of course have no choice about donating these things. So in reality, it is not a true donation. It is a "harvesting" of the ripe product once you are born. The first thing your parents think of as the nurse presents you to your mother's arms is: "The kidney is ready!" And off you go to the operating room.

Great. That's how I always wanted to be welcomed into the world. And after the kidney is transplanted, you of course have to hang around for the next 18 years, since they can't very well get rid of you. But if they could have had only the kidney, without having all the rest of you attached to it - who is to say that they wouldn't have done it?

You are a product, like a tree that is grown for its apples, like a cow that is kept for its milk. You are not their equal, because your body belongs to them, and they take from it what they want, before you are even old enough to realize.

And these people are your parents, and society lets them do it. Of course, the parents who want to create saviour siblings are calling this legislation "
a great step forward

Yes. Forward...and down the cliff, like lemmings. Forward...into the pagan past. Forward...beyond ethical bounds and into the darkness. Forward...because forward must mean improvement and progress, right?

August 12, 2007

The incredible resemblance of parents and children

It's nice to see your own face reflected in someone else. Somehow you don't feel like a total alien anymore. You belong in the world, there are others like you! You were not a freak accident but part of a plan. You were meant to be this way, and yes, you do fit in!

Congratulations to the lucky donor-conceived girl who found her real dad.

Another similar article about other happy reunions is here.

August 09, 2007

A sperm donor reaches out to his kids, and they want to call him "Dad"

This is what all those "intended" parents dread. They spend so much of their energy convincing themselves and each other that the biological parents don't matter to the child. They talk about how their child is happy and well adjusted, successful and popular, and well, nothing is missing from the child's life.

Then one day, the sperm donor shows up on the scene. And the child calls him DAD! How could this aberration have happened?

The moms in this article don't seem to mind, because they are mostly single moms "by choice." Their children don't have a father figure at all, so they are all just delighted to make contact with their real father.

But for those people who have spent their parenting years convincing the children that the sperm donor is a nobody, that he is a "friend" or a "good man" or an "uncle" who merely donated a cell to help "mommy and daddy" make baby, this story must be the source of shivers and nightmares.

For all those who think that the donor isn't the real father - this one admits it openly! And the kids couldn't be happier about it.

Read the story here.

August 03, 2007

Biological mom loses custody of child she signed away in traditional surrogacy agreement

The nightmare scenario has happened, and not for the first time. (Read the full story here). This time it is in the UK, but it has happened a few times in the U.S. as well. Here the mom -admittedly psychologically imbalanced and apparently driven by a "compulsive desire to bear further children" - agreed to be impregnanted by the sperm of a stranger, and she signed an agreement to give up the child to that stranger and his wife. But once the child was born, lo and behold she refused to give it up. She kept her son, who is now 17 months old.

Alas, the court found that the boy's "natural father" and his wife would be "better parents" for the boy than his de facto natural mother and her husband. So, the woman now has to follow up on her agreement and give up her own son - a forced adoption, really.

What a convoluted case. This is the twisted world that we are sinking into as surrogacy becomes mainstream and socially acceptable. We are playing fire with natural human emotions, attachments and relationships. When babies are conceived with gametes from two people who wouldn't touch each other with a ten-foot pole, then we are asking for these kinds of problems. When we ask women to sign away their natural right to the child conceived and born of them, we are guaranteeing these kinds of problems.

The biological parents here both want the child, they both love him, and they both have an equal, "natural" (as the court put it) right to the child. But they were never married, they were never in a relationship, they were never physical and possibly they don't even know each other - and at this point they hate each other. So for the child, this is a zero-sum game: he has to lose one to win one, and by winning one he loses the other. It's clear that in such an arrangement, the child is the loser. The only winners here are the adults - the bio mom gets $$$ in her pocket (though she nurses a broken heart) and the bio dad gets his precious baby boy, predictably the "most wanted and loved baby in the world.".

August 02, 2007

Another "Rotten Apple": An ungrateful donor-conceived adult explains how he feels, and why

One year ago, a young man wrote an article for The Independent in the United Kingdom. He was 23 years old, and his name was Tom Ellis. Two years earlier, he had found out that his he and his younger brother were both conceived using the sperm of two different donors. The following are excerpts from his personal reflection on his conception story:

I had been taught by my parents, and at school, that any family is OK so long as somebody loves you. It's not. I wish it were. I now have a deep need to find out who my father is. I want to know what he looks like, where he is, what he enjoys, which parts of my character I share with him. I need to know who it is that makes me who I am. You can't put a child or an adult into a situation like this and tell them that all you need is love and care, because it's not true. You need the genetic links, too.

My brother was shocked at first, but now he doesn't think about it. It's not something he wants to think about. We're not close. Now my mum and her husband are divorced my brother still sees him, but I don't.

I don't call him Dad any more. He just doesn't fulfil that role for me at all. Looking back, I realise that he never did. If I had known, I wouldn't have put up with some of the things I did. He was not a father figure. He just had these children who were living with him.

The relationship with my mum has been very difficult too, since I found out. We are able to talk about it to a certain extent, but she deliberately put me in a situation where I have little hope of ever knowing my father. It is a terrible and cruel thing to do to somebody, to create somebody, and bring them into existence, with that intention. I think now that she didn't understand what she was doing, and wasn't very well informed, but it was still a selfish act.

She said that at the time she had counselling, but I get the impression that it was minimal. It seems to have been intended to get them both to be OK with the actual procedure, but not to think about the consequences to the person created through it. But it's not just the clinic's responsibility: it is society's in general. This is something that causes a great deal of pain - and that shouldn't be allowed.

It is difficult to say this in a way that doesn't shock people or make me sound psychologically damaged, but I don't think I should have been born. I can't compare living under these conditions and not living at all, but nobody should ever be created under these circumstances.

I expect that I probably have quite a lot of siblings, too, because when my parents wanted to conceive my brother there was no sperm left from my father, so they had to use a different donor. I'd like to find them, but it is not as important as trying to find my father.

I know that not everyone who was donor-conceived feels the way that I do. But I'd be surprised if deep down - however happy their family lives are - they don't all have some desire to know who their father - or even mother - is. Something is missing, and I think they are probably in denial, and they actually do want to know where they came from. Essentially, what people are doing when they donate sperm or eggs is giving away their own children, and if society thinks that's OK, I'd be surprised.

I have done a Master's degree at Cambridge and am reasonably successful, but it doesn't make me feel any better about not knowing who I am.

There is a saying that there are two lasting bequests we can give our children: one is roots and the other is wings. I think donor-conception denies a child both of these. I feel like a tree that has half of its roots missing. And without them, I can hardly stand up.

August 01, 2007

How many children a year are born from egg donation and artificial insemination?

In case you were wondering - and these figures are from the United States alone:
In 1992...there were just 1,802 attempts by women to become pregnant using someone else's eggs, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Three years later, there were more than 4,738 such cycles; by 2004, the most recent year for which data has been published, there were 15,175 cycles, resulting in 5,449 babies. By comparison, some 22,911 children were adopted from abroad that year, and although there are no official figures, one survey estimated that at least the same number are conceived annually via donor insemination. Donor eggs are now used in 12 percent of all in vitro fertilization (I.V.F.) attempts, making it among the fastest-growing infertility treatments.
This also gives an idea of the exponential growth of these treatments.
And what about births to older mothers?
The birthrate among women ages 40-44 has risen 62 percent since 1990, while the rate among those in their late 40s has more than doubled. Among those who used I.V.F. in 2004, about a third of the 43-year-olds used someone else's eggs; by 47 years old, 91 percent did.

July 31, 2007

Where does your baby come from?

A recent article reports on where Japanese couples who needed third-party eggs or sperm got these gametes:
Of those who donated ova, 87 were the wives' sisters, including 3 sisters-in-law, 12 were relatives, including cousins, and 12 were friends and acquaintances. 23 of the men who donated sperm were the husbands' brothers, including 1 brother-in-law, 24 were fathers and two were friends.
How fascinating. How will the children feel when they learn that their real mommy gave them away to be raised by their aunt? How will they feel when they realize that their grandfather is really their father?

Parents and doctors don't let themselves be bothered by such disturbing thoughts. The children will be happy of course, because all they need is love! It doesn't matter who loves them - strangers are fully welcome to take on the parental role. A parent is whomever the adults INTEND to be the parent - and thinking makes it so! The children will be fine as long as they are cuddled and pampered and have appropriate role models of both genders.

Why would they want their "real" mommy and daddy? Puh-LEEEEZE. Biology is so passe.

July 30, 2007

Those little IVF brats should be grateful for their medical problems! Without them they wouldn't even be alive.

A new article reports on a study that children conceived via IVF are more likely to have health problems even later in life. It says among other things:
A study of 3,980 articles in medical and scientific journals between 1980 and 2005 has shown significantly higher risks of long-term medical problems for children conceived through artificial procreation such as in vitro fertilisation or intracytoplasmic sperm injection, a method in which a selected sperm is injected into the ovum.

...Most recently, a study published in the June 21, 2007 issue of Human Reproduction showed that children conceived through IVF visit hospitals significantly more times (1.76 vs. 1.07 times) than naturally conceived children.
This is news which confirms what many who are involved or seriously interested in the industry already know. But when has the truth ever stopped us? After all, this kind of news would only be important if we really thought about the children more than about ourselves.

Of course, a "risk" is merely that; it is not a certainty. And we are already way past that. Today, we are INTENTIONALLY creating children who have problems. For instance, with the afore-mentioned intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), we are knowingly and intentionally creating children who are as infertile as their fathers - this is a proven fact and the doctors and the fathers know this, and yet they do it anyway. Moreover, ICSI may also pass on other genetic problems such as a predisposition to cancer. But who cares?

What I hear from the parents who do this is that well, creating children who have problems is still better than not creating them at all - after all, they get to LIVE, even though they are flawed! Isn't existence better than not existing? Isn't a life with problems better than no life at all?

Indeed, children are being tailor-made with disabilities that suit the parents. Children have already been intentionally created (through PGD and IVF) to be midgets, because their parents are midgets, and children have been intentionally created deaf, because their parents are deaf.

And all these parents are supposedly doing these children a favor by creating them, because a deaf life or a midget life or an infertile life is still better than no life at all. Those darn kids should be grateful! Right?

July 13, 2007

Egg co-parenting

The Seattle Times had an interesting article recently on two moms - the social mom and the "egg mom" who have maintained contact so that the twin daughters are growing up knowing the female source of their genes - the woman whom normal people would still call the "real mother."

Of course, this "egg mom" doesn't think of herself as the real mother of these girls - and of course, in our relativist, subjectivist world, that would indeed seem to "make it so," as Captain Picard used to say.

Except, there is a little glitch. Biology says that the "egg mom" is in fact the MOTHER, the ONLY one, regardless of what she may think of that or whether or not she agrees with it. Biology doesn't ask for personal opinions, and doesn't change based on social trends, opinion polls or political correctness.

And the girls may in time agree. They can't be expected to necessarily stick to the neat little story their "co-parents" have invented. Many donor-created children don't necessarily agree that their mother's egg is just a helpful little insertion into their social parents' reproduction - they know very well that the egg is identified with the person whose name in the real world is always "mother." They know very well that they have been half-adopted, and that they are being raised by a woman who is, in fact, a stranger. To quote "Son of a Surrogate", who explains how such children may feel:
What do we think about what you think? What you think doesn’t even make sense to most of us. It doesn’t make sense to the majority of people...Do you expect us to have this sort of delusional thinking that you do or do you expect us to think like 99.9% of the general population...
Read the article here.

July 12, 2007

I'm baaack

Though I have not been blogging for the past 3 months (family vacations, work comittments, etc.), I have not become less interested in the area of assisted repro tech. There is just so much to cover! And even though I've been away, I've noticed that quite a few people actually read this I want to continue getting the word out on children's rights!

Here is an interesting link:
CBC Radio One in Toronto did an extensive series on infertility and infertility treatments, and you can listen to the whole series online. Especially worth hearing is the interview with Olivia Pratten, who explains how the children of donor insemination actually feel - hello, is anyone listening?

I've also finished reading the Baby Business, and am making my way though Everything Conceivable by Liza Mundy. Both books are quite good. The Baby Business was a quicker read, but it had fewer stories. Everything Conceivable is a bit wordy and slow, but on the other hand, packed with individual portraits that are endlessly interesting - and disturbing. Both books are highly worth reading for anyone who is interested in this area.

April 04, 2007

Well-Known Writer Ends Quest for an Egg Donor

Dani Shapiro, an articulate and well-known writer and journalist, wrote an excellent article in Elle magazine in February about her experiences with searching for an egg donor. Her account is brilliantly insightful and honest.

Dani's article sheds a lot of insight into the consumerist mentality of those who search for egg donors. She writes shamelessly: "I became aware that I never would have chosen myself as a donor." She also reveals how egg donors are marketed like prized horses.

Dani also writes about her feelings of jealousy and being cheated on as her husband's sperm fertilized the eggs of another woman:
"At the very moment we sipped our drinks, Carly's eggs were in a petri dish being fertilized by my husband's sperm. I felt jealous, as if she were the other woman in our marriage. Michael's genetic material - his DNA - was cheating on me with the DNA of this blond, blue-eyed UCLA Law student. I imagined his millions of sperm swimming, tails wagging madly, toward her lovely, ripe eggs."
When the resulting embryos were being implanted into a surrogate mother, Dani felt similarly uncomfortable:
"Embryos that were half my beloved husband's. I felt nauseated as I accomapnied Sahakian into the room where Sandra was lying, her lower body covered by a white sheet, her feet in stirrups. All I wanted to do was shout, "No!" But I couldn't say a thing....I was acutely aware that I was watching something happen that I could never take back...."
As she pursued the goal of having a child through egg donation and surrogate gestation, it seems that Dani realized that the egg donor would indeed be the real mother of the resulting child. She also realized that to use donor eggs is, in a sense, to introduce infidelity (a third person) into the marriage forever - another person who will forever be the mother of her husband's child.

Dani ended her quest after the implantation of the embryos into a surrogate failed. She had realized too much about "the brave new world of assisted reproduction - a world, it must be said, that is many things, but normal is not one of them...The best - or perhaps the only - way to go through the process is to keep blinders on and run mainacally toward the finish line. Stop, and you may stop forever."

Highly reccommended! Read it here.

April 03, 2007

The Gay "Right" To Parenthood

A baby-making-and-selling clinic in LA has just launched "the first dedicated program for gay men wanting to become parents."

According to the article, the clinic says that it is "responding to huge demand from gay male couples around the world who want their own biological children but are often thwarted by prejudice and bureaucracy."

Ah, of's societal discrimination that prevents gay couples from having children!

Not to mention that ever-present, natural and maddeningly non-partisan obstacle: biology.

Well hey, if you're going to go the extra mile and buy a baby for $60,000 (the average cost at the clinic), why not choose the sex? "three-quarters of gay couples pay extra to choose the sex of their baby"(over 60% want boys). And why not choose the hair color and eye color? Wouldn't want baby to clash with the accessories. What about choosing the temperament and intelligence? Wouldn't want a baby that's too demanding and hampers the lifestyle. All the choices are available as the purchasing prospective parents sift through donor attributes.

So you see, when preparing to have a donor baby, there are so many things to mull over and worry about that are much more important than whether your future baby will have a mommy or not. After all, mommies are so passe and culturally imposed upon us. They don't really contribute anything irreplaceable or special, either because of their biological relationship or because of their gender - and neither do daddies. Everyone is replaceable and interchangeable, because all that matters is love, love, in that song by the Beatles. It doesn't matter who loves you, as long as someone does.

And if you say anything else, then you're just plain being mean and discriminatory to those who can't produce their own children.

Notice for those who don't want to wear the big yellow star labelled "bigot and homophobe": better get on the bandwagon and support the elimination of children's fundamental human rights to know and be raised by both of their natural, biological parents.

April 02, 2007

Who cares about legal or human rights? It's about what's "compassionate"...

The myth of idyllic homosexual families with is being deflated bit by bit with each similar story of bitter post-love battle that makes it into the media. Recently I wrote about one such case, where the bioloigical mom was fighting against her ex-lesbian partner (biologically unrelated to the child) regarding visitation rights. Now another similar case has surfaced.

Sara Wheeler is a lesbian woman who in 2000 was in a cohabiting relationship with Melody Wheeler. At that time, Sara conceived her own son through artificial insemination with donor sperm. Two years later, Melody legally adopted the boy with Sara's consent.

Some years later, Sara and Melody split up, and Sara filed to have Melody's adoption invalidated.

Based on the law and legal reasoning alone, the right decision would indeed be to invalidate the adoption, since it appears to have failed the legal criteria from the very start. The reasons for this were clearly stated by Justice Carley of the GA Supreme COurt on February 26 ,2007, in a dissent in which he criticized the 4-3 decision of that court to refuse to hear Sara's case (his dissent was joined by two other justices on the Court). Read his dissent here.

However, when faced with the powerful gay lobby, who cares about the language and letter of the law? This is about political correctness. One openly gay state rep thus said of Carley's dissent that it "sounded very anti-gay and very anti-gay-family". It doesn't matter that Carley is right. What matters is that he shouldn't even try to be right. He should just give in, because to enforce the law is to be mean to gay parents. Indeed, that seems to have been the judgement of the majority of the GA Supreme Court.

And there we are. Anyone who wants to be a parent can be a parent, even to children that have no biological connection to them, and regardless of the law or the basic rights of the biological parents or children.

By the way, I am not "blaming" Melody for this situation. Sara and Melody are both equally to blame for this tangled mess. This mess comes directly from the mentality that parenting and biology aren't connected - and this is something they both believed. They decided to use donor sperm, as if the biological father meant nothing to their child. Since they so easily erased one biological parent from their child's life, then why should the other biological parent get any special treatment? Sara cooked her own soup in this case.

March 12, 2007

Sperm donor recognized as one of three legal parents

On January 2, 2007, the Ontario Court of Appeal (the highest court in the province of Ontario) made the monumental decision that a child could have three legal parents (read the decision here). This case is already being appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, as such a redefinition has serious consequences on everything from step-families to polygamy. Perhaps Ontario birth certificates would now be able to provide three blanks: Parent A, Parent B, and Parent C.

The case involves a lesbian couple and a male friend who donated his sperm to help the lesbians have a baby. The male donor (who has his own family and children) chose to stay casually involved in his new son's life - he has dinner with the lesbian couple once a week. Most importantly, both he and the lesbians recognize that he is this child's biological father, and the lesbians allowed him to stay involved in that capacity, although they are the "primary caregivers" of the child.

This is a new trend that I have noticed taking root among homosexual parents. Since they can't hide the fact that they needed a third party to bring about "their" child, they come out of the closet about it - they "celebrate" it and create one big happy family, with the real father or mother becoming a very special friend - or in this case, a third parent.

The lesbian couple here went even further. They decided not to take the biological father off the birth certificate, because they recognize his importance and role (imagine, a donor father is recognized by everyone without the blink of an eye as a rightful legal parent! ). Makes one wonder about all of the social parents who waste so much blog space fighting against the idea that donors are real parents.

Rather, the lesbians sued to ADD the nonbiological lesbian "mom" as a third legal parent - and they won.

While the implicit recognition of the importance and rightful role of donor fathers is a good thing, the "three legal parents" decision is very disturbing. If three parents, why not four? (If the lesbians had used both a sperm and egg donor, the court would presumably have had to recognize four legal parents). Why not ten? Perhaps it really does take a village to raise a child. This is the true redefinition of parenthood and the family, and could snowball us straight into a world we do not recognize.

The outcome of this case shows that when we divorce biology and parenthood, we end up in a vertiable mess of unknown proportions. Once we allow biological strangers to get their name on the birth certificate AS IF they were natural parents, just because they love and care for the child, it's hard to keep the floodgates closed.

One problem is, love and care are unstable - they are not as immutable as blood, and it's hard to hang lifetime duties, responsibilities and rights on such flimsy hooks. If the lesbians break up, the nonbiological lesbian will now be forever involved with decision-making about that child.

Another problem is that love and care can be provided to a child by any number of people. There is nothing about love and care that is necessarily limited to two people. For example, if the biological lesbian mom discovers that she is bisexual, and she gets into a new long-term relationship with both a man and a woman, and these now love and help to raise the lucky child, why shouldn't they become the fouth and fifth legal parents?

March 08, 2007

How is egg or sperm donation any different than donating a kidney?

One of the arguments often advanced by those who favor donor conception is the comparison of egg and sperm donation to organ, blood or tissue donation. They will say, for example:
If my kidneys didn't work, would you have a problem with me accepting a kidney transplant?" No? "okay, then, my ovaries (testes) don't work, so I accepted an egg (sperm) transplant."
Would you get a blood transfusion if you needed one to save your life? That is someone else's donation, is it wrong? I don't think so.
This argument is an integral part of the "education" (some would say indoctrination, or rather, brainwashing) received by donors to prepare them for their altruistic task.

Thus for example, the website of the Abraham Center for Life (a baby "Ikea" with ready-to-assemble babies for sale), features an egg donor who is described as being "clearly psychologically prepared for the procedure". The donor dutifully and beautfully states that:
"I am not emotionally attached to my eggs. I do not go into mourning every month that I ovulate and lose an egg. I am not giving my couple a baby, I am giving them a chance to create a child. I cannot create their child. It is their desire, action, persistence and sperm that creates the child. If it were not for their desire to have a child, this particular child would not exist. I cannot guarantee that they will have a baby. All I can do is donate my eggs and the rest is up to them and God."
It would be a mistake to dismiss this argument as marginal to the repro tech industry, as it is central to the whole mindframe required to support donor conception. Indeed, the whole industry rises or falls on the truth of this one basic claim.

In order to believe that donor conception is ethically acceptable, both the donors and the social parents ABSOLUTELY NEED to believe that the donor is not giving away his or her own child, but merely a "cell."

That's because it is ethically acceptable to receive someone else's freely-given organ or tissue (though it is not ethical, and it is in fact illegal, to buy and sell these).

However, it is quite another matter to "donate" your own child to someone, or to accept a "donated" child. If the donors and social parents woke up to the reality of what they are doing, they would not sleep quite as well at night.

So they cling to the deception that an egg and a sperm are just like a blood cell, a kidney, or a liver.

Of course, this is false. There is only one way for anyone to have their own genetic child, and that is through their own egg or sperm. The whole purpose of your egg or the sperm is to create a child that is genetically yours. Whenever a child is created using your egg or sperm, that child is biologically your own child. You will always be the biological mother or father of the resulting child, and the bond between you will be natural and immutable. No power on earth will be able to eliminate this biological relationship.

This of course is a significant difference from donating blood, liver, kidneys, and any other organ or tissue in the body, which can't be used to create another living being that will be your own child.

So while the well-indoctrinated donor repeats hypnotically "I am not giving my couple a baby, I am giving them a chance to create a child. It is their desire, action, persistence and sperm that creates the child," the truth is quite the opposite. If the Abraham Clinic were to revise its statement in accordance with the truth, rather than with marketing propaganda, the statement would say something like this:
"I am not emotionally attached to my eggs. I do not go into mourning every month that I ovulate and lose an egg. However, by nature I do get emotionally attached to my own biological children, which can and will be created whenever these eggs are fertilized and develop into a baby.

These children also by nature get attached to me, because we share a unique bond that cannot be replaced or eliminated, as I am their own mother. I have a natural responsibility to care for my children, and they have a right to be cared for by me.

I am not giving my couple a baby, I am giving them a chance to create my own baby and keep it and raise it as if it were theirs.

I cannot create their child. But my eggs will enable them to create my child.

It is their desire, action, persistence and sperm, together with my eggs, that creates my child.

If it were not for their desire to have a child, this particular child of mine would not exist.

I cannot guarantee that they will have a baby. All I can do is donate my eggs, and they can combine them with their sperm, and the rest is up to them and God. This is the case in any conception, since even in a married relationship, all the couple can do is try, and the rest is up to God.

However, even though I can't guarantee anything, whenever a baby does actually result from my eggs and their sperm, it will be half my own baby. It will be as close to me biologically as any baby can ever get, and as close to me as any children that I choose to keep and raise. It will be my son or daughter, whom I have allowed to be created with the intention of giving him or her away to an infertile couple."
Maybe if egg and sperm donors were prepared by signing statements like these, they would no longer be so surprised when they meet their resulting donor children. Currently, donors sometimes seem to be utterly shocked by the fact that their donor children are, well, so THEIRS.

For example, one man who donated sperm in the 1980s was tracked down by one of his donor daughters, and agreed to meet with her. He said of the experience: "Seeing her was very emotional...The profile, the mannerisms, everything was so much like me that it was scary."

Like, whoa, she is SO much like me! How could this have happened? All I did was donate sperm, and then one day I meet this look-alike who seems like my own flesh and blood! Too weird.

So Bob has decided that "this experience was so overwhelming that he is not sure that he will do it again. ''If the bank comes to me and asks me to do this [meet his donor children] again, I'll probably say just release medical information but nothing other than that,'' he said.

So sad.

March 05, 2007

On being ugrateful for having been born

Several times I've encountered the following argument from people who are pro-repro tech: "If you are against reproductive technologies, then you are saying that the people born with the use of these technologies would have been better off never having been born."

The same argument is used to silence the children of egg and sperm donors, if they happen to question the goodness of their conception. Are they saying that despite living happy and fulfilled lives, they would rather not exist? How ungrateful and how very sad.

The presumption in this argument is that as long as you are alive, you should be grateful and happy about the circumstances of your conception, because after all, it created you.

The absurdity of this argument becomes visible when it is transplanted into other circumstances:
  • If the children of rape say they are against rape, are they saying they would rather not exist?
  • Do the children of incest, pedophilia and prostitution have a duty to support incest, pedophilia and prostitution?
  • Must the children of one night stands support random hookups and unprotected intercourse?
of course we are always grateful to be alive. However, it would be absurd to have an obligation to support the way we were conceived, not matter how unethically it happened.

Despite the fact that it gave us life, we can recognize that the way we were created was unethical and has caused us and others great pain. We can be against hurting others in the same way that we were hurt.

It is thus no contradiction to be glad for one's life, and yet against the perpetuation of this failed experiment upon other children in the future.

March 02, 2007

Why It's Not Enough to "Know"

A new fashion is here among the parents and providers of donor conception. It is now a good thing to tell your children that they were donor conceived, and even to be proud of it. It is "coming-out-of-the-closet" time! By saying these things openly to our children and everyone else, we will MAKE everything okay!

An article on the Donor Conception Network by Olivia Montuschi, the mother of a DI daughter, is typical of this trend.

One reason why this new movement has come about is because past generations of DI parents have found that they can't fully enjoy and develop their relationships with their children when they are in fact living a lie, when they are hiding an enormous and fundamental secret that their children have a right to know, and when they spend their lives in trying to conceal the truth and in fear of when their child could accidentally find out. (Montuchi even describes one DI mom who believed that her recurrent cancer had been due to the strain of keeping the "Secret", but she still believed it was all worth it).

Another reason for the change in approach by DI parents is the negative experiences of many parents whose children have indeed accidentally found out the truth at an older age. Montuschi goes through these effects, and even discusses how big the risk is that a child could accidentally find out.

So, forced into a corner because the quality of their parent-child relationship is at stake, DI parents are finally waking up to the fact that "parents' rights to secrecy would not be considered as weighty as the rights of a child".

That's all great, and a step in the right directon. Telling the truth is certainly liberating for the parents who live with their dark secret, and it probably releases some of their guilt.

However, it's not nearly enough. These DI parents and providers seem to think that just by telling their children "oh, by the way, we intentionally robbed you of your real mommy or daddy, because we wanted a baby of our own", their children will smile and say "that's okay, I love you and I consider you my real mommy and daddy."

Of course, children need a lot more than that. What they really need is to know and be raised by their real mommy or daddy. It's not enough just to tell them that their real parent exists somewhere out there, and that they were purposefully separated from him or her because a stranger really wanted to love them.

Playing Tricks on Ourselves

There is a truly golden 1998 article on the Donor Conception Network by Walter Merricks. It is called "Is It Ethical?" The subtitle is: "Is it ethical deliberately to bring into the world a child who will be unable to know half of his or her genetic provenance?"

Merricks acknowledges that biological origins are probably "at least as" important as a good upbringing. He admits that DI children may experience "future despair and 'genetic bewilderment'" and "conflicting feelings of loss and sadness," and that these consequences of donor conception "will perpetuate themselves through the next and the next and the next generation." He also realizes that children may "blame, argue, resent or revolt" against their social parents.

Yet despite all of these realizations, Merricks unexpectedly concludes that it is in fact ethically okay to put children through this mysery. He says that social parents are still practicing "responsible parenthood" as long as they inform their children that they are donor conceived and as long as they "offer them some strength and confidence; and try to prepare them for life as best we can" "in the context of a loving relationship."

What a classic display of twisting the truth to fit our wants and needs. Merricks' conclusion simply does not follow in any way from his admissions about the effects this has on children.

This willfull self-blindness is evindent in other articles on the DCN site. Talk about a fascinating social study in human behavior.

For example, read "The Things Children Say - The text of Alison Cobb’s talk to the Bristol National meeting." There, Alison discusses her two DI children, who were told from birth that they were donor conceived. Her son has been fairly mute about it all. However, Allison discusses the trauma that her daughter has gone through as a result:
"Octavia was a different kettle of fish entirely and started being quite troubled by the whole thing. She was very moody and would come out with comments such as "sometimes I think you are not my real Mummy" ...She also became very close to Daddy and was inclined to slightly push me aside....One of the concepts that she found very difficult to handle was the realisation that she wouldn't look like me. This was not something we had mentioned to her but she had obviously worked this one out for herself."
Her daughter felt "not belonging, different, not like her friends etc, etc." Finally, her social parents decided to send her to professionals, and she's seen various people to talk about her problems.

Alison's daughter has obviously had a very tough time dealing with her origins. She is still in school, so only time will tell how this issue will continue to effect her.

And yet, Alison seems completely unrepentant and appears to still support DI despite her child's problems. She ends on a chirpy note: "I am aware that there will be major issues to deal with in the future but right now we feel we have climbed the first hurdle and still have two very happy and secure and affectionate children."

Really, your children are happy and secure? I guess that's why your daughter is seeing doctors and counselors to get over her grief and confusion.

March 01, 2007

Jill Hawkins, mother of seven, mother to none

Jill Hawkins is a true "baby vending machine." Drop in 12,000 pounds and your husband's sperm, and nine months later, you get a baby to take home with you. Jill is a "traditional" surrogate - one who uses her own eggs and carries the baby to term, only to give it away to someone else once it is born. (see photo here)

The poor woman has been single all her life. She has no children at home -only cats. She has struggled with chronic deep depression, even attempting suicide. She has struggled with her weight. She has struggled with feelings of loneliness and neediness.

And at 27, she found the magic answer to her troubles: she would find meaning and love in life by giving away her own children to grateful infertile couples. She got a high from the feeling of pregnancy, which made her feel important and validated her weight. She fed off the pampering and attention she received from the infertile couple who were waiting for her to deliver. Even afterwards they owe her a debt of gratitude - though of course, she is no longer really welcome and sees her children once a year (read an interview with the social parents of Jill Hawkins' 6th baby here).

Oh, and the financial reward was quite an incentive for Jill too: "There's the emotional turmoil to think of as well as the health risks. But the money's lovely and it allows me to have good holidays and do the things I want with my life."

So that is what she did - seven times. She always claimed she didn't want children of her own - but now she finally admits that she would indeed like to have children. Except, at 42, it's very unlikely she'll have any children of her own.

Of course, she already does have children: two girls (14 and 3), four boys (12, 8, 5, 4), and a newborn baby. Only, she's given all of these children away to strangers for 12,000 pounds each.

Jill says of these children: "I think of them as my friends' children. Their real mothers are the women who are bringing them up, loving them, nurturing them and shaping their lives and personalities."

She may say this and really believe it, in which case she is deluding herself. I wonder if her children will be similarly deluded.

One thing is sure: neither she nor the "social" parents can speak for the children and guarantee that they will be fine with this arrangement. All pretending and role-playing aside, the fact is that Jill is the real, biological mom of these children. Her parents are their real grandparents. Her siblings are their real aunts and uncles, and their children are the real cousins. The children will someday grow up and fully realize this fact. Everyone will tell try to convince them otherwise. But in another article, even Jill admits the truth: "It is still half my child."

How can one not feel extremely sorry for Jill? Her story is truly heartbreaking. She even admits that giving her own children away was very difficult for her:

"initially you do feel very empty and upset. Your body has spent nine months nurturing this baby and suddenly it's not there anymore, so emotionally it can be quite traumatic. The first time, with Lucy, was the worst because I'd never had a child before. I experienced feelings I'd never had before, overwhelming emotions of wanting to protect this little baby. I didn't know if I would want to change my mind or how I might feel once Lucy was born, whether I would bond with her. I never thought of her as my own and I never wanted to keep her, but it was very hard to deal with once she was gone. I went to my parents, who've always been very supportive, and just cried for days."

She also found it hard to give up her second baby: "I needed the money and was honest about it with the couple. But I regretted doing it for financial reasons. It made me feel depressed afterwards....I couldn't detach myself like I thought I could. I couldn't think of it as a business deal. It upset me."

The subsequent babies were also hard to give up: "I cry my eyes out every time. But afterwards I sit and think about the last few hours we had together and look at photographs....Eventually it settles down but it's hard for me. Most surrogates go home to their families but I come home to nothing....I'm all on my own and feel very vulnerable."

But as sad as one feels for Jill Hawkins, who has farmed herself out for love and money and sold her own children through neediness and greed, one feels even more sad for the children. They are the pawns that everyone is playing with here. They pay for it all by seeing their real mom once a year, by dealing with a deep sense of rejection and grief, by never knowing half of their family, and by having a harder time figuring out their own identity.

Why do we let desparate infertile couples, who in their child-fever are not able to think rationally, take advantage of women like Jill Hawkins?

Frankly, it's clear that we can't rely either on Jill or the infertile couple to make the right decision here. Only the state can be disinterested and rational enough to protect the interests of the child. Surrogacy should be against the law, because no one has the right to buy or sell a child. Parents should not even have the right to give their own child away unless they are truly unable to care for it. This is because it's not just about the adults - children have fundamental rights too, and even natural parents don't have the authority to violate them.

February 28, 2007

A Brooklyn Egg Donor Sells Child for $8000

In case anyone doubts that there really is a baby market, this aticle might shed a little reality into your world. Jennifer Dzuira, a 28-year-old egg donor from Brooklyn, admits that she does it for the money.

It's illegal to sell human organs. But it's not illegal to sell babies today. According to the article, 10,000 egg donors sell their eggs (and the babies these eggs will make) each year.

Yet many of these egg donors are probably not responsible, despite tragedy that their acts have caused, a tragedy that their children pay for all their lives because they are raised by a stranger rather than their own mother, and they are separated from an entire half of their biological family, their heritage and even their ethnic group.

Jennifer, like many other egg donors, believes (at least at this moment) that she has done a noble thing. She had donated a cell, not her own baby. She says that she is just a "small" part of the whole picture, since this baby would not exist if it weren't for the two infertile parents who wanted it.

It's easy to think that way before the baby comes along. While the baby is just a potential thing, it seems like it's all about us and our own rights and needs and wants. It seems that we can decide what we want reality to be, and when we agree and sign a piece of paper, then that is what makes it so.

Then one day the baby is born, and grows up a little, and we realize what we've done. This is a real human being. This is someone who has a mind of their own. Rights of their own. This is someone whose rights we've violated. We had no authority to decide for this child that it would be okay to take away its real parents and give it to strangers. We had no ability to decide for them that they would be fine with this arrangement.

For this child, Jennifer will never be just a "small" part of the picture. She will be 50% of the picture. She, and her parents, and her siblings, and her family, and her eventual otehr children, will all be the "natural" family of this child. She will always be its biological mother, its REAL mother. She will be the answer to many of the child's questions about itself. And that child will always long for her in a hollow place in its heart, and ache for her with a pain that won't go away.

February 27, 2007

Mothers are the new fathers; daddies are the new moms

Recently I came across an older article on an Australian website, and it made me think about how we don't need fathers anymore. Now single women and lesbian couples are able to have children "from scratch" without having to deal with men at all. The clinic will deal with the man and get his sperm without the "customers" having to be bothered. The single moms and the lesbians will take the sperm home and the rest is history.

They will raise their little boy or girl with lots of love. Their baby is different because it was SO very wanted, and desired, and longed for (presumably unlike the "accidental" children of normal families). Their baby is pampered, just like a lap dog. Their baby belongs to them. They fought for their right to have that baby, and there's no way they will ever back down.

But what if their child later wants a daddy? What if that child thinks or senses that daddies have something to offer that women simply can't provide?

What's wrong with you, baby? Don't you see that love is all you need? Don't you see that men can't give you anything special and unique? Don't you see that visiting uncle Joe is just as good as having a father?

You ungrateful baby. Would you rather have not been born? Look at all that I did to have you. Look at all that you have. Look at the mountains of toys & things, and look at the sea of LOVE that I poured out on you. Why would you still want a daddy?

Don't you see that you are lucky, baby? If you had a father, especially a natural father, he'd probably neglect or abuse you. But this way you had all the love in the world!

It must be society making you say these things. They'd better stop teaching about mom-and-pop families in schools, and confusing people's heads. Fathers are NOT needed anymore! They only matter when they are wanted these days.

By the way, the same goes for mothers - single men and gay men are just as free to throw mothers to the wind, as mere "egg donors." And if the child starts to long for a mother one day? It would be a ridiculous and confused child. It must have had its head muddled by that regressive and discriminatory society. Time for some more re-education and progressive brow-beating.

February 23, 2007

God thinks it's moral - he gave me the baby

Among the comments on my blog, one DI mom produced the strange argument that donor insemination is moral because God approved it by letting her get preagant. She said:
"He is the One who made it possible to have kids through DI, the doctors are just a vessel to accomplish this great thing. If God had not wanted me to have kids through DI, He would not have let me get pregnant twice and carry both kids to term."
What this mom is really saying is: "God let it happen, therefore it must be okay."

Unfortunately that argument doesn't work, because that's not how God works. As everyone has observed in this life, God lets bad things happen all the time. Let's see:

- Illness, suffering and death
- War, famine and natural disasters
- Murder, theft, rape, incest, pedophilia, and all the crimes committed by men against one another

God doesn't stop these things from happening. Does this mean God thinks they are moral? Does it mean God wants them to happen?

Often, criminals benefit from their crimes (for example, they get rich by stealing). Occasionally, children are even born as a result of rape. Does this mean that rape is "moral" because God "made it possible" to have a child through the rape?

This argument just doesn't work.

The fact is, God allows us to do both moral and immoral things, because he gave us free will. We can use science for good or for evil. And strangely, God will allow good things to come from bad things: for example, he will allow rape to bring forth a new, innocent human life. Yet this doesn't ever make the rape good.

We can use science for good ends or bad ends. God will let us create babies and kill them. God will let us create babies and take them away from their parents. We can do lots of bad things, and God will let us. But that doesn't ever mean that he approves, or that he thinks this is moral.

On "judging" and reducing a person to their mistake

Among the comments left on my blog by people who have used or plan to use reproductive technologies, there is a steady refrain: don't judge us, only God can judge. In other words, who am I to point the finger and say "that was wrong"? Let me answer that.

First of all, it is not wrong to judge. It is wrong to condemn.

It is not wrong to say that something a person did was immoral. We may even have a DUTY to do so when we can alert others and prevent further harm. However, it is wrong to reduce the person to their mistake.

For example, it is not wrong to say "pedophilia is immoral," or "Bob the pedophiliac did something very immoral with a little girl". That is just a simple moral fact. We are free to say that pedophilia is wrong and that Bob did something wrong. We are free to make laws against pedophilia based on our moral judgment of its worth.

However, it would be wrong to say "Bob is evil". That's because a person is more than just their acts. A person is not just a "pedophiliac" or a "pornography addict" or a "murderer." Although we say these things, the person is more than just an act they have done. For various reasons, they may not even be responsible for the acts they have done. It is not our place to judge the human heart.

This blog is written in a passionate voice, because I feel strongly about this issue. The voice on this blog is thus strongly against reproductive technologies, and openly calls them immoral and wrong.

However, I don't intend this blog to be a condemnation of the people who have been involved in repro tech. I don't intend to reduce anyone to their mistake, and to say that a person is "bad" because of what they've done. That would be far too simplistic.

We are all evolving human beings. We all make mistakes. The person who got DI 10 years ago may not be the same person today. Moreover, I truly believe that many of the people involved in repro tech are not even responsible for the acts they have done, because they simply didn't know it was wrong. They truly believed it was a good and legitimate thing to do. They just didn't know - and many of them still don't.

I do post real stories on this blog, sometimes even the photographs of individuals. I do this to show what is happening in our society. I do this to show in a personal way the negative consequneces of repro tech.

However, I don't EVER intend to condemn any individual donors or parents who were involved in these actions. It is not my place to condemn them for their actions - that is indeed the place of God, who alone can see into the human heart.

This blog aims to INFORM, not to condemn. I hope that through the arguments, facts and resources made available on this blog, more people will realize that reproductive technologies are not the right answer to infertility.

February 21, 2007

Lesbian Ex-Partner Denied Visitation Rights to "Social" Child

Finally a sane decision. In a rather unexpected twist in the current cultural climate, the Utah Supreme Court has denied parental visitation rights to a biological stranger in favor of the biological mother.

Cheryl Barlow got pregnant through artificial insemination in 2001, only a few months after beginning a lesbian relationship with Keri Jones. They had planned for the baby together. Five months into the pregnancy, the couple entered into a civil union in Vermont, and later Barlow gave birth to a baby girl. They entered into a legal agreement where JOnes became the girl's co-guardian.

Two years later, Barlow discovered that Jones had been having an affair with another woman, and Barlow ended the relationship. Barlow then converted to Christianity, overcame her lesbian tendencies and is now no longer lesbian. She did not allow Jones to visit the baby girl, and successfully petitioned the court to have Jones removed as the girl's co-guardian. Jones sued for visitation rights.

The district court in Salt Lake City granted visitation rights to Jones. However, the Utah Supreme Court has just overturned the decision, and denied Jones any parental rights over Barlow's child. Read the full ruling here (PDF file).

So at least in this case, reason and sanity seem to have prevailed. Granted, this IS Utah, so it's not exactly representative of the general U.S. trends. However, let us rejoice in one victory at a time.

In this case at least, a biological parent won the right to raise, educate and protect her own child, without interference from a biological stranger who was only present in that child's life for the first two years. It would have been a travesty to give Jones the ability to influence that child forever.

Jones' arguments were that she had helped to "plan" for the child, that she "loved" the girl, and that the girl loved her back and called her "mommy." In other words, her argument was that LOVE and INTENT, rather than biology, is what makes a family. That argument sounds lovely, but it would open the door to chaos and to everything under the sun. Why not polygamy? Why not polyamory? But most immediately, that argument violates the natural rights of children to their own biological parents, and the natural rights of parents to their biological children.

To be fair however, Jones had a point given the situation. Jones believed that love and intent is what make a family. This is what gay and lesbian parents believe. This is what heterosexual adults using repro tech believe. (or at least, this is what they constantly repeat and try to convince themselves of). This is what Barlow surely believed too while she was with Jones. So this was the implicit agreement that Jones and Barlow had entered into. So Jones was simply sticking to the understnading that she had shared with Barlow.

Jones's trouble was that Barlow finally saw the light, and realized that such an agreement violates the natural law. It cannot have binding force, any more than any criminal pact can have binding force. Barlow was thus fully within her rights to repudiate this false understanding of parenthood and family. However, Jones remains stuck in the old mindframe. She, and all others who believe that "love is all you need," surely can't wrap their mind around this ruling by the Utah Supreme Court. They see it as a slap in the face of "love". I see it as a recognition of the natural rights which come along with undeniable biological ties between parents and their own genetic children.

Now if only they could right the other wrong done to this little girl: the fact that she was intentionally deprived of her father since conception, and will probably grow up longing for her daddy all her life.

February 20, 2007

No Studies? Look at adoption

Sometimes people will make the argument that there are no studies to show that genes really matter to children. They will say that it's love that really matters. If the children have love from two responsible adults, they will be just fine, even if these adults are biological strangers. The children won't miss their biological parents, because these are just "gene donors," not "real" parents.

There are studies that have been done on a very similar situation. I am coming to realize that studies done on open and closed adoption are probably the closest parallel to the donor gamete situation. This is something that others have already known for a while. The blog "Adoption Agencies Exploit People" specifically makes this connection. Also, "son of a surrogate" explains on his blog how he identifies closely with his friend who was an adoptee.

Often, the adopted children and the children of egg or sperm donors seem to tackle very similar issues. These children often have a truckload of "love" - they are very wanted and basically spoiled rotten by their infertile "social" parents who longed for them so much. And yet, these children often feel a deep void in their heart. They long for a connection to their real, biological parents.

Why do these "superloved" children care about their biological parents? It's weird, isn't it. Isn't love enough? Well, perhaps it is only human to care about that primal bond between us and the people who gave us our bodies and often also pieces of our personalities. Who among us would NOT care to know where they came from?

Indeed, in the converse, the parents also OUGHT to care about their biological children - and society has ALWAYS recgnized this until modern times, by making parents responsible for their biological children even when they don't want to be (look at child support payments). We know there is something NATURAL and FUNDAMENTAL about the biological bond that cannot be erased in any way between parents and children, and BOTH sides of that equation naturally do care - and OUGHT to care - about this bond.

So adoption and donor conception are similar. However, they are also very different in a way that makes donor conception a lot morally WORSE than adoption. Adoption is fundametally a good thing, because (and when) it is primarily focused on the CHILD. It is an instrument for fixing a problem. Where the natural parents cannot care for their child. The child was not originally conceived in order to be given up, but once it is born, its natural parents cannot care for it. Adoption offers that child a life outside of an orphanage. it gives that child love where that child would otherwise NOT get love.

On the other hand, donor conception INTENTIONALLY creates a child that will be robbed of one or more biological parents. The biological parents often would be perfectly capable of caring for that child, but they arbitrarily decide that this child won't be "theirs" - they make it a "gift" to infertile strangers. The child has no choice in the matter. In effect, this child is given up for adoption even BEFORE it is conceived. It is robbed of its biological parents without any necessity. The focus is clearly not on the child but on the desires of the parents.

This is why I do not share the view that some blogs seem to have (such as "Adoption Agencies Expoloit People"), that adoption is equally bad. However, it may well be true that young pregnant women are being expoited today and are being pressured into giving their children up for adoption in order to feed the humongous, hungry and wealthy baby trade. This is a great injustice. It is also very sad because it gives adoption a bad name. Adoption should always be a true last resort where the natural parents are truly unable to care for their child, and it should be as open as possible.

As further proof of the similarity of adoption and donor conception view this recent letter to the editor, printed in the New York Times:
New York Times
February 20, 2007
They Are Linked by Their Genes (1 Letter)

To the Editor:

Re "Sperm Donor Father Ends His Anonymity" (news article, Feb. 14):

I was happy to read about Jeffrey Harrison, a sperm donor who had the
compassion, sense and ethics to write to the teenagers who share his
genes, and who were looking for him.

As an older adoptee, I understand the teenagers' desires to know whom
they resemble. This natural interest should be honored by changes to
policies governing assisted reproduction as well as adoption.

When I researched the origins of policies sealing adoption records,
which go back to the 1930s, I found that some adoption agencies
preferred keeping participants apart, despite their awareness that
adoptees would want to know about their birth parents.

Similarly, most sperm banks keep people like Mr. Harrison and his
children apart, rather than address the needs of the very people they
help conceive.

Janine Baer
El Cerrito, Calif., Feb. 14, 2007
The writer is a member of an adoptee rights organization.

Ryan Kramer - 6 1/2 years searching for a sibling or dad

So Ryan Kramer has finally made a match, becoming the 2910th person on his own website, the Donor Sibling Registry, to make contact someone who is genetically related to him on his father's side: a sister 3 years younger than him and born on his own birthday. Wendy Kramer, his mother, posted this information on their yahoo list on Feb. 2nd.

Incredible. So much time and effort searching for biological connections. But I thought biology didn't matter? I thought all that mattered was love? And surely, Ryan has lots of love from his wonderful mother.

Question for Wendy and all other parents of donor conceived children: How could you do this to your child in the first place?

The Donor Sibling Registry has as its motto "Redefining Family." As hip, progressive and neat as that sounds, it's not what they are doing. What they are doing in actuality is "Picking Up The Pieces, Scrounging for Any Remains of Real Family." Hoping against the odds to find real siblings or even, on a super long shot, real fathers. Yes - reality does not offer a catchy and trendy motto.

Jesus the donor conceived child

For any of you who are believers out there, this could be an interesting thought. Jesus was also, in a sense, a donor conceived child. His biological parents were Mary and God Himself, as he was conceived by God in the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was conceived with the INTENTION of being raised by on earth by Joseph, his "social" father.

Notice that Jesus clearly shows us that "natural" parents matter. He never forgot about his "natural" father, and he called God "Father." We don't know what he called Joseph, and perhaps he also called Joseph "father". However, we do know that Jesus always felt a very deep connection to his real father in Heaven. In fact, this is the connection that mattered most in his life, and it is the connection that brought mankind salvation.

Dealing with a Brave New World

Sometimes it can be demoralizing. Reading the posts on the Donor Sibling Registry can be quite overwhelming to the point of depression. There are so many people out there using donor sperm and eggs, and they all seem to think it's a wonderful thing. They all go on and on about their adorable, cute and cuddly toddlers with perfect features (like purebred pets). the baby trade is truly an enormous industry already, and thousands of children are already paying for it, but no one cares and no one seems to even NOTICE - especially not the parents, social OR genetic. (see ex. photos and story here).

How can people be searching for genetic siblings for their children and yet seem completely unphased and in favor of donor conception? It's like it's fashionable now to use donor sperm. These people seem not to even want to meet the father - they just want contact with other families who have children fathered by the same man (whom they don't want in their lives directly). They form support groups and go on picnic outings, and compare their children and marvel at how they look and act alike. They seem to think this is all acceptable and cool. It's PERVERSE!!!

One woman recently wrote on the registry about finding 20 half-siblings through the registry, and she knows of 28 half-siblings in total (she even met two accidentally in her local playground) - this incldues 3 children that the sperm donor is raising as his own, having relinquished responsibility for the other 25. The woman who wrote calls this phenomenon "Big Love." She seems quite thrilled about it all, and discusses how 8 of the families got together in a zoo, had lunch and traded photos of their babies, marvelling at the biological similarities between them. How cute.

Not!!! I am disgusted by it all. What I see here is 25 children robbed of their biological father (who is probably quite a man, since so many families wanted him as a donor!). And not just their father: their real grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, and whole extended family. If they'd had a choice, would they really have chosen to have nothing to do with their father and that entire side of their family? These cute and cuddly babies will have children one day, and these children have also been robbed of their genetic heritage - all the way down the line to grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

What good does it do these children to have contact with their 25 half-siblings? How do they know how many others are out there? They are at the mercy of their parents and of chance. They don't know when they could fall in love with an unknown half-sibling. They don't know when their own children could fall in love with their uncles, aunts or cousins.

No, what these infertile couples are doing is not okay. And if they think it's so okay to have donor conceived children because biology doesn't matter, then what are they doing searching for bioligically related siblings on the Donor Sibling Registry? How hypocritical. Their own actions betray them and expose the giant lie at the center of their convoluted justifications.