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.

Noteworthy conference in British Columbia - May 2007

It looks like an excellent conference will be taking place in Nanaimo, British Columbia this May, called "Nobody's Child, Everybody's Children: An International Conference on New Reproductive and Genetic Technologies". (By the way, B.C. is above Washington State, for you Americans :-) It should be well worth your travel pennies if you can afford it. I would absolutely love to go to this conference but alas, I just don't have the funds at the moment. I'm going to monitor their website and hope to acquire as much information as possible about what took place at the conference.

The main distinguishing feature of this conference is that it will feature the voices of those who are AGAINST repro tech, as well as those who are for it. It will thus allow for a real, balanced debate. Olivia Pratten will be there - the daughter of a sperm donor whom I featured on an earlier blog entry. her mother Shirley Pratten will also be speaking. By the way, they are looking for more voices of donor conceived offspring for a panel discussion, so if you would like to go, let Olivia know: opratten@mailup.net

Another person who will be speaking is Dr. Jeffrey Nisker, the man who gained fame here in Canada as a pioneer of Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). As a doctor at the University of Western Ontario, he was the first person in Canada to offer this procedure, which involves testing IVF embryos for various traits (usually genetic or chromosomal abnormalities) and then choosing the "best" ones to implant. However, Dr. Nisker became disillusioned with the procedure and stopped doing it altogether, because the majority of his customers wanted to use PGD for sex selection, not for a serious medical reason.

Another speaker will be Elizabeth Marquardt, who recently finished the excellent report "The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children's Needs". Also read an article by her here: "My Daddy's Name is Donor".

I've made a "poster" for the conference at the top left. Unfortunately the pic is not "click-able" as I don't know how to do that. If anyone does, please let me know. I've put the URL underneath so you can paste and copy.

February 15, 2007

Babies are the new slaves

In talking about the growing practice of using poor women in India as commercial surrogates, where these women are inseminated with sperm from some wealthy Westerner, bear the baby and ship it off to the Western infertile couple after it is born, Dr. John F. Kilner recently got it right:
Human beings ought not to be bought and sold in this way, any more than they should be bought and sold in slavery. That the purchaser is nice and plans to treat the one purchased well does not justify purchasing a slave. Turning human beings into things to be bought is inherently demeaning, as many philosophical outlooks and political systems generally affirm, not to mention various religions including the Christian faith.
It seems like the light is dawning. At least some people are waking up to the new slavery in our midst, a slavery where the slaves are our very own children. We sell them for a price. We buy them for a price. Sure, we buy them in order to love them, but what's the difference? The crucial problem is that they had no choice in the matter. What if they didn't want to be raised by strangers? What if they wanted their real mommy and daddy? No one cares, and apparently neither should they. They should be happy because after all, they have LOVE, right?

Read the article about Indian surrogates here.

Sex selection - why not?

A Feb. 6th article in the NY Times discusses the ethics of sex selection. It turns out that people have a hard time arguing against it given all the other things that are already allowed. Thus, scholarly articles are written today in serious academic journals, concluding that "there is simply no moral justification for prohibiting parents from using sex selection technology to balance their families. "

Also thus, Dr. Jeffrey M. Steinberg, from Encino, Calif., who runs three clinics and will soon be opening a fourth in Manhattan, says nonchalantly:
''Reproductive choice, as far as I'm concerned, is a very personal issue,'' Dr. Steinberg said. ''If it's not going to hurt anyone, we go ahead and give them what they want.''
Right. There's only one little problem with this view of things, which is used to justify basically EVERYTHING that happens in repro tech. That little problem is that when they say "anyone," they forget to include the MOST IMPORTANT PERSON in the equation: the CHILD.

They intentionally leave out the child, because it would screw up their equation. If they included the child they would realize that the child IS being hurt. It's being hurt because it is being treated like a commercial product: some want a blue baby, some want a pink baby. It's all about parental satisfaction.

The child is also being hurt because often, it pays for sex-selection with its life: in IVF, one lucky girl or boy will get selected, and the rest get dumped in the garbage. So much for not hurting "anyone." What they really mean is "anyone who counts," because before a baby is officially "wanted," it means nothing to anyone, and no one seems to care if it gets hurt.

February 14, 2007

Questions every "intended parent" should answer before they go through with assisted reproduction

A traditional surrogate mother wrote these painful questions to the "intended" parents of her now three-year old son Richie, whom she rarely sees:
Why did you do this to me?
How could you take someones baby?
Did you know it hurt?
Did you know it hurt so deeply that it stopped my life as it was that day?
Do you care?
Do you love that boy like I do?
Does he feel like he's yours?
Do you love him like your own?
I miss him.
Was it all worth it to you?
How could you do this to him?
Do you wonder how he will feel when he's grown?
Do you think he will hate me?
Do you think he will understand?
Do you think he will blame me?
Will he look for me some day?
Will you be angry if he finds me?
Will you keep him from me?
Do you want him to know me?
Do you want him to love me?
Why does our relationship not matter?
Am I the only one to blame?
Are you guilt-ridden as well?
Can you feel me?
When you look at him, who do you see?
Do you see me?
Do.. you know.. who I am?
Do you realize... what I've done for you?
...What I've given up for you?
...How much I wish things could change?
Will he call me mom?
These questions say it all. Stop the awful baby trade, which has already produced so much human suffering! Every time I even think about surrogacy, I get sick to my stomach. It's unbelievable that such a practice is legal in our supposedly enlightened society. We allow people to exploit women and dupe them into manufacturing and giving up their very own babies. We fool them into thinking they are doing a wonderful deed for a poor infertile couple - and in the process we rip out their heart and give them a heartache that never goes away. It's barbaric. It's like dog breeding. It's too much to believe.

February 10, 2007

They may not care as little children, but eventually they will

This is a part of what Damian Adams wrote on his own blog on January 14, 2007:
The point is that as a juvenile you are too busy being a child to be concerned with identity issues and family relations. These don't surface until teenage years and in some instances not until adulthood. For me personally it did not change until I was 28 and had children of my own. Until that time I was a supporter of donor anonymity and also reasonably proud of myorigins. Now it is completely the opposite. Through my own childrens eyes I have been able to recognise the unbreakable bond that flesh and blood gives us. No matter what may ever happen between my wife and myself, or whatever mayhappen to me, I will always be my children's father. Nothing can ever change that. As soon as I thought about how it would break my heart that my children might ever grow up not knowing who I am, was I able to relate that to my own situation of being donor conceived. I was able to fully understand how the severance of my biological connection with my father had deprived me of family relations, it has left me with only knowing half of who I am, and has given me a different family name than the one I otherwise should have. It has also deprived me of a family heritage and family health history. I cannot answer health surveys or questions from doctors acurrately which can adversely affect my health. I was also unable to answer all of the questions in our recent national census.
Of course, prospective DI parents will probably not be deterred. The human mind has an amazing ability to ignore evidence to the contrary of what it wants to believe. They want to believe that they're not doing anything wrong and that their children will be just fine because biology doesn't matter after all (except when it does - to them). So they're able to rationalize their way out of the most obvious slap-in-the-face truth. Which is why we need the STATE to disallow this kind of behavior. Not just anonymous donation, but gamete donation in general, should be made illegal. It is wrong because it robs children of half of their biological heritage, and that is utterly selfish and incredibly immoral. It needs to be ILLEGAL, because relying on the good will of those who are desparately trying to have children is very likely to be insufficient.

February 08, 2007

Elizabeth, an aching donor child

Thanks to Michael Linden, I found a blog today that absolutely blew me away. It is at: http://frabjousdays.blogspot.com/

Michael Linden has reproduced one of her blog entries. You HAVE to read the whole thing. I won't repeat the whole entry here as it is long but ABSOLUTELY worth reading. Here is only a little part of what Michael reproduced on his blog. These are the words of Elizabeth:
I am passionately opposed to donor conception, because it deprives children of a basic human right: to know, and be brought up by, their mother and father. It is completely different from adoption, because in that case the child already exists and needs to be cared for. Donor conception exists for the convenience of people who want to be parents. Wanting a baby is a natural desire, but is not to be achieved by unethical means. Why can't infertile people adopt a baby? 'Because it wouldn't be ours.' Why do they privilege the genetic link on the one hand and deny it on the other?
YESSSS!!!! Thank you so much Elizabeth, for courageously saying the truth. Keep it up!!

The New Eugenics: the California Cryobank

The California Cryobank is an institution in the new eugenics, the propagation of the baby trade, very similar in fact to the slave trade of old. Get the baby you desire, with the characteristics you desire. The first to be auctioned off are the men who donate the sperm to make the baby. Not just every man will do.

Today, buyers don't have to stand on the dock and examine their muscles and teeth of the various people offered for sale. Instead, they can examine all of these people on their computers from the privacy of their own homes. In fact, the Cryobank does the first round for them:
Today the California Cryobank—probably the world's premier sperm bank—tests for a dozen genetic disorders and for almost as many infectious diseases. Donors must complete a 38-page, three-generation medical history, and submit to months of blood testing. The cryobank accepts only college graduates or students enrolled in a four-year program. (The cryobank's offices are in Westwood, Palo Alto, and Cambridge, Mass., meaning that most of its donors hail from USC, UCLA, Stanford, Harvard, and MIT.) And donors must stand at least 5 feet 9 inches tall. By the time it weeds out the sickly, the short, and the dim, the California Cryobank accepts only 3 percent to 5 percent of applicants.

The cryobank barrages customers with choices. A recent catalog listed more than 170 men of every race, national origin, and appearance. A client can buy the entire long medical history (written in the donor's own hand, so the client can judge handwriting). Some donors make audiotapes that clients listen to.

...The California Cryobank supplies tall collegians because that is what women want. (The ideal donor, he says: 6 feet tall, college degree, brown eyes, blond hair, and dimples.)
And who is out there seeking to buy the genes of these wonderful men?
Rothman estimates that 40 percent of his clients are single women or lesbians.

YES They KNOW Even If You Don't Tell Them

A common experience among the children of sperm donors is that they somehow KNOW it even if you don't tell them. Which just shows that they are NOT growing up in an absolutely normal conditions, despite their exterior happiness and adjustedness. They have always felt something was off, and from everything I've read, they are usually not surprised to find out the truth. Here is Plotz reaveling what he found in his own research into what happened once parents told their children the truth:
Their kids were generally not surprised, they report: Some kids told their moms that they always felt something was off.
Gage says he wasn't very surprised when his mom broke the news: "I have always noticed differences between my dad and me. … His personality is nothing like mine." Many mothers said their kids felt "relief" when they learned dad was not dad. As Jacob's mom put it, "He always knew but he didn't know."
Oonce they are told, the children tend to feel the following:
They find themselves with children who no longer know exactly who they are and no longer have a complete family. The mothers don't have much to tell them.
So now, these mothers are interested (finally) in helping their children re-establish their identity and learn about their donor fathers:
Some mothers with a single child hope to find genetic siblings, perhaps to build a new kind of family. And one divorced mother says she dreams about meeting her donor, maybe falling in love, and having him become, at long last, the father to his own children: "Wouldn't that be a story and a half?"
Good luck. That's the kind of thing that's supposed to happen BEFORE you have someone's child!

What happens to the "social" fathers?

While many would have us believe that the relationship between donor sperm children and their "social" fathers is hunkey-dorey, the reality is often quite different. Here is an excerpt from Plotz on this subject:
The mothers seem ferociously close to their children but, with a couple of exceptions, the "social" fathers seem distant. In the divorced families, the mothers have assumed essentially all parenting responsibility. Three divorcees uttered almost exactly the same sentence to me: "My husband is not emotionally involved with the children." Even in most of the intact families, the mother dominates the relationship with the child. Ruby notes that her son has always called his father by his first name, never "Dad."

The mothers ignore—perhaps intentionally—a painful question: Is it the lack of genetic connection that chills the father-kid relationships? You can see why the mothers don't want to address this: If genetic distance causes the chill, then the mothers might feel responsible, because they chose the sperm bank. The moms tend to attribute the fathers' distance to temperament, to their inherent emotional unavailability.

But I suspect sociobiology matters enormously here. The mother has a genetic connection to her child. The father has none. The father also knows that his wife chose a man who is supposed to be smarter, healthier, and more physically gifted than him to father their child. It's easy to see how that could squash his paternal self-esteem and alienate him from his kids. And the artifice of pretending a child is your own flesh and blood must be wearing. ...
And get this, regarding why some moms told their kids they were the children of sperm donors:
Several moms say they told because they wanted to encourage their kids not to be like their fathers. One mother, for example, revealed her son's origin to him two weeks ago, after he told her he wanted to attend professional wrestling school instead of college. "I told him so that he would know that he is better than that, that his genes are better than his father's," says "Sarah."

(This case is especially awkward for another reason. Sarah, like another mom I talked to, told her son he is Nobel sperm-bank offspring, but did not tell the father that the son knows. In other words, the son knows his father is not his genetic father, but the father doesn't know that his son knows.)

Oh what tangled webs we weave. Of course, there's always ONE sure loser in these games: the child.

The Responsibility is With the Mother

It seems that often, the people who are most responsible for stealing a biological parent from their children's lives are the very ones who are supposed to be most loving and closest to them: their mothers. How very tragic. From the stuff I have read, also confirmed below by Plotz's research into the Nobel Sperm Bank, it is often the mothers that drive the engine that leads to donor insemination. Their biological "need" to have children, their desparate and yet self-centered hunger for children, is what often precipitates these travesties. Plotz writes:

The other defining quality of these repository families is that they are hugely matriarchal. All of the mothers I spoke to went to the repository because they wanted to. The husbands were reluctant or ambivalent. (Several had grown-up kids already and didn't want more.) "He had nothing to do with it," says "Joan," a California mother.

A "Practicing Roman Catholic" Donor Sperm Recipient

One of the women who accepted donor sperm from the genius clinic describes herself as a practicing Roman Catholic. She writes to Plotz:
As a practicing Roman Catholic (yes, I still am) I was terribly torn between my desire/need to create a family and the religious/ethical dilemma that this presented. I prayed for guidance. We, of course, considered adoption and actually started down that path but found ourselves emotionally and intellectually involved in Dr. Graham's quest.
How this woman convinces herself that she is a practicing Roman Catholic is beyond me. Going to church on Sunday doesn't make you a Catholic! It so turns out that the Catholic Church could not be more OPPOSED to the kind of family-breaking that this woman has done here through donor insemination.

The woman goes on to explain how "all you need is love," and her children are thus even LUCKIER than most children:
Yes, our children and I think the other Repository children have had every possible opportunity in life beginning with the gifts of being wanted and loved. Our children are as much a gift from God as any other children—not the "cold, utilitarian approach toward children" you described in your article.
This supposed "practicing Roman Catholic" actually delights in the genetic heritage of her children:

They are considered to be the best students in their small, parochial school and test right off the top of the charts on academics as well as music (both play instruments) and art. This is also not a surprise given that they receive lots of individual attention from dedicated teachers. I can't determine where the good genetics stop and the good environment begins—I am not sure that I need and/or want to.

Well, of course the children are happy. Especially since they believe their daddy is really their daddy. It turns out that this supposedly practicing Roman Catholic keeps the dark secret hidden from her innocents. They have no idea that they were conceived by donor sperm. What is your problem, lady? How self-centered! I have no doubt however that in time, the truth will come right out. And then...watch out!
One thing that my husband and I have not come to terms with is telling our children about their biological father and the role of the Repository. We have said nothing but we have kept the red capped vial that conceived each of them and the correspondence from Red #46. Within the family only their maternal grandparents know. Once we discussed when would be an appropriate age for disclosure and we couldn't agree—I don't want to ever tell them ...

On the Genius Sperm Bank Donor Fathers

One of the men who donated sperm for the Genius Sperm Bank was a businessman, whom Plotz describes as "an extremely successful businessman, someone who has launched several companies, including one that's almost a household name. He's rich, accomplished, athletic, and driven. He also has no children of his own." This impressive man explained to Plotz why he donated his sperm. He says:

The repository was perfect for me because I was not responsible for the kids. I really did not care. That is why I did not want to know how many kids I had.

I have not had children. I have never been interested in children. I acknowledged it and decided not to have the child suffer my disinterest. I left home very, very young. I left home after high school and never went back.

So you never think of your repository kids?

No, I guess I don't think of them. They are so anonymous to me—I guess because I have never been really interested in children anyway. I never followed up that much.

Are you afraid that one of the kids might manage to find you?

I would expect that they destroyed any documentation on that. But I might be thrilled. It would be nice to have it all turn out well. I would probably get immediately emotionally involved. It might be a bit of a kick.

Wow. So donating sperm was basically a way for this man to pass on his genes and have children without having to take care of them or be responsible. And then if they turned out well, it would be nice to meet them someday, he just "might" get a kick out of that.

Yeah, that's a real role model. Why are we fuelling this kind of parental irresponsibility and narcissism on a grand scale?

Another one of the donor fathers, Donor White, provides a different reason for having donated. According to Plotz, "He wrote that he and his wife had never been able to have their own children. He also wrote that he couldn't shake the memory of his own great-grandfather, who had fathered his only child just before going off to fight and die in the Civil War." Donor white has at least 13 children thorugh the sperm bank. He says:

The indirect success … is not like having your own children, of course, and I will likely never be able to see any of them in person, because I would be 75 years old before they become adults. Moreover, many of these children will likely never know that their adopted fathers are not their biological fathers. Still, I know these children are out there somewhere, and they are thought about often. I have seen very pleasing photographs of several of them, with their parents' permission, and have been able to form my own mental images of others while running on the beach in the quietness of the early morning. This is a rather poor substitute for having one's own children, but it does provide a sense of continuity that was not present before. In my view, a person's genes really belong to all of those many ancestors from whence they came, and we are only allowed to borrow and make use of them during our lifetimes. I have the satisfaction, then, of having been able, in an anonymous way, to connect the past with the future in a continuous line like a curve on a graph.

Plotz also writes about the sperm bank fathers that:
Most of the donors have something unusual in common: an unsteady personal life. The vast majority of men their age are married and the vast majority have children. Yet only two of the seven, I believe, are married. Only three have their own (non-repository) children. Only one of the fathers is married to the mother of his child. (At least two men had relationships that foundered in part because the woman desired children. "She wanted to have children and I did not. But sometimes I would be in the next bedroom donating sperm. She did not try to stop me, but she was not happy about it," says Average Guy.)

...Most of the Slate Seven remember their "work" for Graham with satisfaction. A couple are purely happy about it. They think fondly about any genetic kids. A couple are pleased with the venture in an intellectual way: They don't think much about any kids but praise Graham's goals. A couple feel slightly embarrassed by what they did. None thinks of himself as a father to the bank children. Even those who believe most strongly in heritability insist that fathers are made by nurture, not nature. Even so, all of them expressed some enthusiasm at the prospect of meeting their biological offspring, though they worry about tampering with the kids' families.

The Average Guy has the most perverse and complicated feelings about being a donor. He has kept obsessive track of his repository kids. He took notes every time a repository staffer contacted him to report a birth, allowing him to figure out his offspring's birthdays and sexes. He corresponded—anonymously through the repository—with one mother who used his sperm. Though the repository eliminated identifying information from the letters, he was able to figure out the first names and professions of her and her husband, as well as where they lived. (How did he find their hometown? you ask. The parents sent him a studio photo of their daughter: He searched photo studio catalogs to find the studio that used the logo embossed on the frame. VoilĂ ! It was one in … I'm not telling. He showed me the photo: The girl's resemblance to Average Guy is astonishing.)

But despite his obsessive record keeping, Average Guy says he is often ashamed of what he has done. He is chagrined that he has selfishly avoided responsibility for raising kids. And he feels that spawning more than a dozen rugrats contradicts his own environmentalist ethos. "I am concerned about overpopulation and America's destructive appetite for resources. I have contributed to this problem in a big way by creating so many new consumers."

In one final way, the donors seem very much alike. All sound blue when they discuss their genetic offspring. They seem sad that they have kids they can't ever meet, can't watch grow up, can't ever help. They understand the melancholy reality of sperm donation. It's fatherhood without the responsibility, but also fatherhood without the delight.

February 07, 2007

Doron Blake, the Ramm children, and other Genius Designer Babies

Doron Blake, now 23 years old, is a designer baby. He is one of the people featured in the German film "Frozen Angels, which is supposed to be excellent but which I haven't seen. I want to get my hands on this film! It can be ordered here. Has anyone out there seen it who could comment on this blog? I'd love to know what people thought of it.

Doron is a bit of a star. He is the child of a an acknowledged genius (although not a Nobel Prize winner). The anonymous donor sperm that created him came from the notorious "Nobel Prize Sperm Bank" (officially called "Repository for Germinal Choice”) where the eugenic-minded California nutcase inventor Robert Graham recruited various scientific geniuses to donate sperm in order to improve the human race by making superbabies. Despite the notorious reputation Graham did not end up using Nobel Prize winners, as he decided they were too old for their sperm to be effective. Read a book on this subject by David Plotz, called "The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank" (2005), or read his online summary of the book in the making here. Some 240 children were eventually born using this sperm, but the majority are anonymous, although Plotz talks about several of the children in his online summary of the book.

One of the few known children from this sperm bank is Doron, who was the poster baby for this project to better the human race. His mother ("a middle-aged hippie and New Age psychologist living in Los Angeles") had him as she was nearing 40 and didn't have a suitable male partner in sight. Why should that stop a woman from having children these days? Rather than accepting her fate, she went to a clinic where she could "choose" the kind of baby she wanted - indeed, he would be the child of a genius!

Doron has an IQ of 180 and an extreme talent for music, as his mother had wanted. His mother has intentionally paraded him before the media since his wee years as a walking ad for what sperm donation can do, with all his accomplisments neatly catalogued for the public. When he was little he was on the cover of Mother Jones. He says of himself: "I was [Robert Graham's] emblem. I was the boy with the high IQ who was not screwed up. I was his ideal result."

His mother made him the center of her universe, induged and overindulged him. She even breast-fed him until 6 years old! Doron excelled in school, became a math prodigy, "qualified for a Los Angeles school for the gifted then won a full scholarship to Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire, one of the nation's best high schools."

But Doron was not automatically happy because of his privileged genetic parentage. In fact, quite the opposite. He says:

"Most of being a prodigy was negative. People have always been saying 'prodigy sperm child' all my life. But I am not that wonderful at anything. You feel a lot of pressure because you don't want to let people down, or you don't really feel free to be what you want to be.

"I don't feel safe with people I don't know, and I don't feel very confident with others. That may be the effect of having things expected of me."

So, Doron has rebelled against this genetic determination, and against the parental and societal expectations that he must have felt all his young life. Doron is going to Reed College, not a top school by any means (the only school he applied to), and majoring in comparative religions, not a hard science like his donor father. His ambition is to be a high school teacher. "He has rejected studying elite subjects at elite universities. Instead, Doron is an introverted student of psychology who plays three different instruments but has few social contacts. Doron prefers to investigate the universe alone—and to find his place in it on his own terms."

Indeed, Doron has learned a very important lesson about human worth the hard way. He says:
“It was a screwed-up idea, making genius people. The fact that I have a huge IQ does not make me a person who is good or happy. People come expecting me to have all these achievements under my belt, and I don’t. I have not done anything that special. I don’t think being intelligent is what makes a person. What makes a person is being raised in a loving family with loving parents who don’t pressure them. If I was born with an IQ of 100 and not 180, I could do just as much in my life. The thing I like best about myself is not that I’m smart but that I care about people and try to make other people’s lives better. I don’t think you can breed for good people.”
See the full article.

By the way, it's interesting to see what happened as Plotz wrote the book I mentioned above. According to the Times Literary Supplement:

Plotz soon found himself acting as detective and matchmaker, tracking down donors and brokering meetings with their offspring. These stories are the moral and emotional heart of the book. “Donor White” fathered nineteen children, but became deeply attached to the one whose mother sought him out. His reaction is the reason that sperm banks forbid such meetings; “donor offspring” become real children who laugh, play, have personalities, give you trouble, and make you proud. In this case, the father needed the daughter more than she needed him; she was a contented child who had no emotional void to fill.

Other children had a hole in their souls, and longed to find a “real” father unlike their distant stepdads, or to have any father at all. Many were disappointed. One young man, expecting to find a loving, genius dad, got Jeremy - “an obscure doctor”, Plotz writes, “whose notable accomplishment in life was leaving a wake of ex-wives and forgotten children”. Plotz also interviewed the faintly creepy son of a Nobelist who became a donor - the son, not the dad.

Doron doesn't seem to be very curious about his father, but he says that having a father would have helped him understand men. "I am not a masculine, macho guy. Maybe it would have been good to have more experience relating to men." Of course, Doron now knows who his father is. He says the media showed him an article about his father a while back (name John, a computer scientist of some sort) and he said he would not object to meeting him, but the meeting never happened.

Courtney Ramm, who is 17 (maybe 18 by now), is another one of the Nobel Sperm Bank children. She is a ballerina in New York and in 2006 she graduated from the Laguardia High School of Music and Art. She also has a sister and a brother and both are sperm donor babies. Her sister Leandra is a talented and accomplished singer. Her brother Logan (sperm donor Fuchsia) has autism. Read about their family here, in a brochure featuring her family (pictured below left).

Where are the rest of the Nobel Sperm Bank babies now? Plotz writes the following:

There are no Nobels and no criminals. All of them seem smart and engaged in the world. Most write a good e-mail and talk a good game on the phone. Two are quite prominent. The rising young businessman became a fabulously successful middle-aged businessman. The emerging political activist has become a semi-famous, sometimes controversial political activist. The two promising graduate students are now junior professors at decent universities. One of the prodigies has retired from a successful career in the intelligence trade to do consulting and muck about with high I.Q. organizations (groups like Mensa, but higher I.Q.'s required). The Average Guy has returned to grad school, where he's finishing a degree in environmental policy. Most of the Slate Seven remain connected to hard science, which would please Graham, who valued science and scorned just about everything else.

The second child prodigy, who has abandoned hard science, has transformed most radically. He donated in the early '80s when he was a math whiz. Today he writes, "In many respects I feel I am a failure. The closest I have come to conventional success was when I made my living writing term papers for rich kids at Columbia, NYU, etc." But I don't think he really feels like a failure: He has just discarded the notion that intelligence, especially analytical intelligence, is an important measure of life. He has abandoned math and academia to become an artisan. "I have gone from being an intellectual whore to … I dunno what … I will never win a Nobel Prize, but I don't care. I will never make any 'great' contribution to science. No matter. I have come to terms with myself and who I am. This is the best part of growing old."

Some other donors, too, seem to be grappling with the burden of expectation. Several seem conscious of how well they have done in their profession versus how well a "genius donor" ought to have done.

Sadly, at least some of these donor sperm children seem quite aware of their status as consumerized products, made-to-order for a certain feature: intelligence. One 14-year-old donor sperm baby writes of himself:

"the thought that I was genetically engineered to be intelligent might have provided further impetus to my drive to improve my grades, but I do not believe it was the main factor."