Monthly Archives: October 2013

Introduction to Harms of Donor-Conception

Today there is an epidemic in use of Artificial Reproductive Technologies, which includes, most troublingly, 3rd Party Reproduction (3PR)– the use of donated or sold sperm and eggs, and surrogate wombs. There are several causes of this epidemic, some related to social structure, some related to environmental phenomena, and yet others related to technology and new consumer products. My intent is to offer a brief overview of little explored motivations in use of 3PR, then share my concerns on how this will affect men, women, and the children of these arrangements differently, and finally offer some ideas on solving these issues.

Third Party Reproduction and The Quest for Immortality

The desire for children is a natural inclination, often compared to the deep desire for delicious food, or safety, or love. People often describe their need to reproduce as their purpose in life. In fact many arachnids, bees, and ants die immediately after mating. Nothing lasts forever, including ourselves, but at least half of our genes can be born again through our children. Our need to breed could be defined within a larger, more sci-fi quest for immortality.

 We pursue immortality in two ways: genetic & memetic.

Genetic immortality is the preservation and/or reproduction of genes. Genghis Khan’s Y chromosome is well-preserved in the bodies of some 16 million men today, or 1 out of 200 males on earth, which he achieved through raping and pillaging.

Wealthy individuals like Larry King and Simon Cowell are buying nitrogen chambers to cryogenically suspend their frozen bodies after death in hopes of preserving themselves into the future, where the promise is that technology will be able to rescue and reanimate them.

Memetic immortality  has much less to do with physical matter, but rather the mental content and “cultural units” we carry– such as ideas, beliefs, recipes, songs, rituals, etc. Memes can be reproduced from mind to mind– as people influence each other and adopt new preferences or ways of thinking.

Children are unique pursuits in that they are capable of carrying on both our genes and our memes.  This makes them attractive vessels for total immortality, second only to cloning and/or preservation.

Cloning is more attractive than sexual reproduction of children because 100% of one’s genes are passed on. Genetic preservation is more attractive than cloning because precious energy need not be expended on tending to the metabolic, educational, and emotional needs of helpless children. But currently, having children is our only clear path toward achieving both genetic and memetic immortality.

Infertility Epidemic
Male sperm count has declined 50% in the last fifty years. Endocrine disrupting chemicals found in pesticides, plastics, cosmetics and cleaning supplies, as well as synthetic estrogens like the birth control pill are harmful to reproductive health and normal sexual development.

The gender of fish is determined by hormone levels in the aquatic environment. Today, 75% of the fish population is female. Also, scientists are reporting remarkable increases in the percentage of intersex animals of all species, including humans. [1]

The results of our polluting consumption habits have caused an infertility epidemic. Those who suffer from infertility are often deeply embarrassed to speak publicly due to the general taboo nature of sex, genitalia, and body part referencing. Infertility can often be seen as undermining to one’s self worth or sense of masculinity or femininity.

Additionally, careerism and birth control have influenced and increased the age in which the average person attempts to start their family. Marriage and children have become toppings on a life of other achievements, rather than foundational relationships common among young adults. Women, with our much more limited window of fertility, have especially false expectations regarding family/career balance and put too much hope in technology to fulfill our desires and fix our bodies.

 

Technology proliferated infertility. Technology perceived as the solution.
Reproductive technologies have become a multi-billion dollar industry because there are hundreds of millions of people who experience some type of barrier to reproduction–clinical or social–and are willing to pay money to overcome or work around that barrier. Billion dollar industries stem from the human desire to mate: cosmetics for example, and dating sites like Match.com help people find mating partners. But some obstacles to dating and reproduction are harder to control, including clinical barriers like: low sperm count, a missing or deformed uterus, low quality or lack of eggs– and social barriers like: lack of attraction to the opposite sex, or inability to attract/maintain a mate of the opposite sex.

A conflict arises when these new technologies that purport to overcome these barriers end up denying human rights to the very people these technologies create, and the people “biological resources” are harvested from. This most absurdly occurs during 3rd Party Reproduction, with use of donor sperm and eggs, and surrogate mothers.

The hormones women inject in the process of egg harvesting are known to be associated with cancer development[2]. Surrogate mothers have died “on the job” proving pregnancy and childbirth is still dangerous in the 21st century. [3] An American surrogate recently reported being stuck with over $200,000 in medical bills after nearly dying due to complications from her surrogate pregnancy. The couple took the two children, but are not paying for the woman’s incurred expenses.[4]

Besides the risk of physical harm to women who act as egg donors or surrogates, mental health and emotional well-being are real threats to children conceived via 3rd Party Reproduction.

The 2009 report titled, My Daddy’s Name Is Donor found that:

Donor offspring are significantly more likely than those raised by their biological parents to struggle with serious, negative outcomes such as delinquency, substance abuse, and depression, even when controlling for socio-economic and other factors.

Donor offspring and those who were adopted are twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report problems with the law before age 25.

Donor offspring are about 1.5 times more likely than those raised by their biological parents to report mental health problems, with the adopted being closer to twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report the same thing.

Donor offspring are more than twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report substance abuse problems (with the adopted falling between the two groups). See Figure 1. (p. 115)

Civil Rights leader Malcolm X successfully argued that African Americans were denied basic human rights when they were separated from their family members, denied knowledge of their heritage, and forced to live as the property of their masters–treated like chattel with dollar values placed on them.[5] Alex Haley began a movement with his unforgettable 1970’s saga Roots–which took America on a journey through the corruption of slavery, and made a clear point as to the importance of familial ties and cultural belonging.

Today, we are doing it all again.

We are denying people their identities, removing them from their natural families and heritage and literally selling them. Only today we do so before official personhood through the loophole of sperm and egg donation. We deny we are selling our children because we write the contracts and exchange money before the baby is conceived and born.

Grow your own victim.
The act of denying a person their heritage and identity is wrong enough in itself, but because of the huge profit margins involved with third party reproduction–upwards of $100k per pregnancy, we’re also failing to screen “intending parents” and committing gross acts of negligence. We are threatening children’s safety. Fertility industry entrepreneurs put their heads in the sand and commission pregnancies for anyone and everyone willing to pay, even pedophiles and child pimps.[6]

All legal adoptions in the US require home studies. Potential caretakers who have criminal backgrounds, unsuitable living arrangements, or recorded mental health problems are prevented from acquiring children. There are no such home studies for children conceived through third party reproduction. Also, there are age restrictions on potential adoptive parents. Most adoption agencies will not put a child in the care of adults who are over the age of 45 because they have learned through experience that the identity struggles with adoption are difficult enough, adoptees are better served when their adoptive parents are healthy and alive. The risk of being orphaned multiple times is decreased when a child is placed in a home with caretakers of an appropriately young age. This is in contrast to egg donation and IVF procedures that create new children to be raised by caretakers as old as sixty-nine.[7] In fact, many customers of commercial sperm and eggs are infertile precisely because they have developed cancer of some type already.[8]

The Road to Disposable Mothers
The sperm bank industry ballooned due to our unspoken epidemic in low sperm count and overuse of synthetic estrogens in a range of products. Thus, heterosexual couples began quietly using donated sperm. After a while, they began being open about using donated sperm and insisted that biology didn’t make a difference for the child’s wellbeing. Then lesbian couples began using sperm donors. They argued, if biology doesn’t matter for a child’s wellbeing, then why should a parent’s gender? They declared parenting is a set of tasks and obligations and women can fulfill those tasks just as well as men can. Single-moms-by-choice followed, demanding that we trust women to be able to judge for themselves if they’re capable of raising children on their own.

Gender equality language was used successfully in the normalization of third party reproduction. Naturally then, gay male couples saw lesbian couples being accepted after use of donor sperm and began arguing that they had a right to create children of their own through use of egg donation and surrogacy. Then single-dads-by-choice began using egg donors and surrogates.

The fertility industry welcomed gay couples and single men whole-heartedly because one pregnancy could generate over $100,000 in profit for doctors, lawyers, brokers, et al. Women as a group have little rallied against surrogacy or egg donation because so many powerful women have themselves used surrogacy and egg donation (Sarah Jessica Parker, Giuliana Rancic, Nicole Kidman).

And so we’ve arrived at a time and place where mothers are being disposed of and declared unnecessary luxuries. These sentiments in opposition to motherhood (and fatherhood) do not remain private and isolated in practice because high-profile 3PR clients typically generate a lot of press when they create children this way and will typically work hard to justify their decisions to an uninformed public. Additionally, the fertility industry itself is a multi-billion dollar industry that spends a lot of money marketing these services and framing their business in a positive light.

The Plight of The Fatherless
Much research has already been conducted on the negative effects of fatherlessness on children. We know that 80% of rapists come from fatherless homes and most likely act out of displaced anger. We know 75% of adolescents in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. We know that girls who grow up without their father are 711% more likely to become teen moms and 92% more likely to divorce. And we know that 90% of all homeless and runaway youth are from fatherless homes.[9]

There is no evidence that children conceived via sperm donation fare differently. In fact a new study out of Canada shows that children raised by lesbian parents are 15% as likely to graduate high school as compared to their peers raised by opposite sex parents.[10]

May I suggest that there could perhaps be additional barriers to the success and wellbeing of donor-conceived people such as loss of identity, medical alienation, kin alienation and threat of accidental incest, disenfranchised grief, and confusion over the sacred vs. commercial.

 

Next Steps
Restoring the value and dignity of fathers and mothers and protecting the right of children to be born free and raised in their natural families with full access to their heritage will require an international movement similar to The Green Movement or Abolitionist Movement. Just as health advocates have argued for clean air and water, safe chemicals and whole foods over processed foods, and just as African Americans had to fight for their right to work where they wanted and not be traded as property– Advocates for human dignity must ferociously conquer big business (the fertility industry) and its rich allies to protect public health and children’s rights for today’s and future generations.

 

 



[1] Colborn, Theo. Dumanoski, Dianne. Meyers, John Peter. Our Stolen Future. The United States of America. Penguin Group, 1996, 1997.

[2] Elton, Catherine. “As Egg Donations Mount, So Do Health Concerns”. 03/31/2009. www.time.com 10/09/2013

[3] Desai, Kishwar. “India’s surrogate mothers are risking their lives. They urgently need protection”. 06/05/2012. www.theguardian.com 10/09/2013

[4] Taylor, Rebecca. “Surrogate Mother Nearly Dies, Left with $200k in Medical Bills”. 11/01/2011. www.lifesitenews.com 10/09/2013

[5] Haley, Alex. The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley. The United States of America: Ballantine Publishing Group, 1964

[6] Meldrum-Hanna, Caro. “Disturbing child abuse case links Australians to paedophile ring”. 02/07/2013. www.abc.net.au 10/09/2013

[7] Daily Mail Reporter. “World’s Oldest Mother, 74, says giving birth to her daughter, now 5, has kept her living longer…” 07/18/2013. www.dailymail.co.uk 10/12/2013

[8] Spencer, Amy. “Giuliana Rancic: How I Got Through The Tough Stuff”. 2013. www.health.com. 10/12/2013.

[9] “Statistics.” http://thefatherlessgeneration.wordpress.com/statistics/ n.d. Web. 10/13/2013

[10] Regnerus, Mark. “A Married Mom and Dad Really Do Matter”. 10/08/2013. www.thepublicdiscourse.com 10/13/2013

Going The Distance for Children

Over at The Public DiscourseI had a piece published regarding a baby boy born after being frozen as an embryo for 19 years.

liamExperts estimate there are over 400,000 frozen embryos waiting for their summons in cryo-banks across the country. Many people rightly hold these embryos in high regard, recognizing them as more than tissue—they are human beings in early development, complete with unique DNA sequences, and the active potential, if given a suitable environment, to develop to adulthood. So when these embryos are “adopted,” taken out of storage, implanted into a womb somewhere and allowed to become fully grown people, should we celebrate?

To kidnap is to transport a person, against his will, and confine or falsely imprison him. A remarkable number of child kidnappings are motivated by custody disputes. Divorces and separations inspire some adults to take children across state lines, or often enough overseas, to avoid interference from and interaction with the other parent or guardian.

Using distance as a tool and taking a child elsewhere is helpful when your objective is to prevent kin from coming and finding the child you’ve taken, or if you’d rather not have your grown child go looking for their kin.

These adults try to increase the feeling of impossibility, to make the child and other parent or guardian feel like the chances of finding each other are slim to none. The more daunting the task, the more likely the kidnapped child will accept their circumstances and the more likely the other parent will stop looking or become defeated.

Distance often works to break the connection, but we still hear stories from those who speak up and declare that they’ve been robbed of family and identity.

Jane Jeong Trenka, author of Fugitive Visions: An Adoptee’s Return to Koreaand The Language of Bloodwas recently featured in the New York Times for her bold return to Korea. At 23, she put her trip “home” on a credit card and communicated with her mother through a translator. Five years after her birth mother’s death, she moved to Korea for good, divorcing her American husband and leaving her job and American family behind. She’s not the only one. The majority of Korean adoptees return to the land of the birth, at least to visit.

Trenka’s reconnection was successful only because she didn’t face the usual obstacles. Her birth mother had provided letters and gifts. Most international adoptees’ origins are shrouded in anonymity. In order to succeed at finding a birth parent, they must enlist the help of a private investigator, a translator, and an international travel agent. Then, once they arrive, the language and cultural barriers are steep—intimacy is blocked until they have learned each other’s language. And by then the parent(s) may be elderly or dead.

I know this from firsthand experience. Not only was my sister a Korean adoptee, but for my entire childhood I only knew three facts about my own biological father. He was blond, had blue eyes, and a college degree. I was born when there was no internet. No DNA tests. To find him seemed impossible.And so I never entertained the idea that I’d be able to find or know him.

But then miracles happened. I received a one-page tear sheet with a few fill-in-the-blank answers that suddenly gave my anonymous sperm donor father a personality. He was Polish. He was a scuba-diving instructor. He studied respiratory medicine. The internet bloomed and sites like FTDNA and 23andMe emerged. Suddenly, it didn’t seem impossible that I might be able to find him.

And I’ve been searching for eight years, with the help of DNA tests and a private investigator. The man we suspect could be my father unfortunately died several years ago of lung cancer, right around the time when I started looking.

For caretakers who don’t wish their children to long for their genetic kin, stories like Trenka’s and mine are annoying. There are only two options from here. One, adoptive parents or those using sperm or egg donors must concede that genetic ties are important and find some way of cooperating with the child’s genetic parents—which can be messy and inconvenient for the caretakers. Or two, the caretaker can make it even more difficult for the child to find his genetic kin. The caretaker will reign supreme with a hermetic title as Mother or Father.

Distance or Dungeon. Or both.

Today, adults can separate children from their genetic kin not just by traveling geological distance, but by bending time and space. They can bring a child into the world who is wildly younger than his natural parents or siblings by cryogenically freezing them as embryos.

This happened recently in an “embryo adoption” case. A child was born after living as an embryo for 19 years in a freezer. Read more…

 

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Beautifully Written: What Can We Do?

About Abortion?

by 41 Percent NYC

 

The scale of the human tragedy of abortion in New York City demands action.  But what can we do?  In such a large city the task can seem daunting, but we must do what we can.

First, we have to make sure that women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy have the help they need if they choose to carry their babies to term. We cannot accept a state of affairs in which a woman feels that she has no choice but to abort her baby.

Second, we need to do what we can to empower women and couples to avoid unplanned pregnancies.  We have been teaching our children for two generations that condoms and hormonal contraceptives will protect them from unwanted pregnancies.  But two generations later, here in NYC well over half of pregnancies are unplanned.  According to the Guttmacher Institute, 54% of women who obtain an abortion were using some form of contraceptive during the month in which they conceived.1  It is time to rethink the condoms-and-pills approach to avoiding unplanned pregnancies.  Maybe it is time to reassert the simple fact that the last few generations seem to have tried to deny: sex makes babies.  The fact is, sex is an extremely powerful natural force, not easily hemmed in.  Contraceptive methods will always fail some percentage of the time.  The unplanned, unwanted pregnancies which result keep our abortion rates so high.

Some say it is unrealistic to expect young people to abstain from sex when they are not prepared to take responsibility for the potential consequences.  Challenging it certainly is.  But if we think we can’t expect young people to refrain from sex, why do we think we can expect them to use a contraceptive method consistently and effectively?  We can choose the challenging path, or we can resign ourselves to high rates of abortion, STI’s and family breakdown.

Finally, we need to strengthen family and community support systems which can help young parents and families make their way through life’s challenges.  We need to strengthen church and community based marriage education, preparation and enrichment.  We need to provide women and families with knowledge-based methods of achieving and avoiding pregnancy.

If all of us, individuals, families, faith communities and community organizations, take a look around our neighborhoods to see what we can do to address New York City’s high abortion rate, little by little we can bring the numbers down.

Chantele shares her story of Toxic Shame regarding being donor-conceived. She cries when explaining the rejection she felt from her biological father, and his wife, and his children. Chantele has trouble recovering from feeling ashamed at the core of who she is. I would say to her, when your parents have committed a crime against you (and donor-conception is a crime against you) you need not feel ashamed about who you are. You never did anything wrong. But your father’s choice in abandoning you to strangers was wrong. And your mother’s choice in using your father like a tool was wrong. And both of their decisions to create a child with someone they don’t know nor love was wrong. And the fact that your parents don’t love each other is the source of your feelings of dissonance.

The solution is not to ask the entire world to accept donor-conception as normal.
The solution is to demand that people not abandon their children, not create children they’re not prepared to love, with other people they’re not prepared to love.

More videos can be found here:
http://www.varta.org.au/experiences-of-donor-conception/

The Abortion Business

Students for Life have put out a really excellent video exposing how Planned Parenthood is first a business- and any placating for women’s health is mere propaganda from a well informed public relations team.

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