Category Archives: adoption

Brangelina, Brava

My latest piece for Verily magazine:

Mr. & Mrs. Smith, at last!

On August 23, 2014, one of the world’s most recognizable couples wed in a small civil ceremony on their private estate in France. Of course I’m speaking of Brangelina, the celebrity duo otherwise known as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The pair has six children together: Maddox adopted from Cambodia, Pax from Vietnam, Zahara from Ethiopia, and three biological children: Shiloh, Vivienne, and Knox.

To the surprise of many, it was their children who made many of the most important decisions surrounding the ceremony—from her dress design to the wedding vows. But this all makes sense, considering the couple says it was the kids’ insistence that led them down the aisle.

Their (and our) interest and jubilance surrounding their parent’s marriage is well-founded. Relationship stability is of monumental importance to happiness and societal well-being. In fact a study in the journal Children, Families, and Foster Care reported that family stability and healthy child development go hand-in-hand.

Read more…

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An Adoptee’s Review of MTV’s Generation Cryo

By Kristi Blazi Lado

I’ll admit that that my ignorance on donor conception was somewhat willful. The human rights abuses in adoption has occupied so much of my psychological space that I just haven’t been open to learning about something that had so much potential to be worse.
When I first saw the promos for MTV’s Generation Cryo, my first thought was for the love of all-that-is-holy, no doorstep ambushes, Jersey Shore behavior, or anything that would make people who are searching for biological relatives look like lunatics. I’m glad I gave it a chance because not only was the subject was treated respectfully but I was able to fully appreciate the parallels between adoptees and the donor-conceived.
 
Generation Cryo is a documentary series following sperm donor-conceived Breeanna Speicher in her journey to find her biological father. Bree tours the country to meet some of her 15 half-siblings that she discovered through the Donor Sibling Registry, a non-profit organization created to help siblings connect with each other and possibly their donors. A few agree to travel to California to support Bree in her search.
In watching this show, I observed family dynamics that were glaringly similar, if not identical to closed adoption situations.
 
Parental Pressure
Many of the young adults in this show were very worried about hurting their parents, particularly their fathers, and in the worst cases were saddled with managing their parents’ feelings of insecurity.  Some seemed to accept this as being their responsibility and (much like in-the-fog adoptees) modeled their parents’ attitudes toward the donor. In the worst cases, meeting the donor was seen as an act of disrespect to the parents.
It was very sad to witness Jonah and Hilit’s dad, Eric, struggle with not being their genetic father and the effect it had on his family. He admits that he was hesitant to tell his children how they were conceived because he wanted them to be “his” kids. He remarked, “Adding donor… adding siblings is not my definition of family.” Eric’s wife, Terri, is the only one in their family that expresses interest in meeting the donor. I love what she says in response to Eric’s disapproval: “I would want to know where they came from because that would help me know my children better.” Exactly. Isn’t that why adoptees search? We want to know ourselves better.
Eric wasn’t the only parent with unresolved issues. When Paige and Molly inform their mother of the donor’s name she looked less-than-pleased remarking, “This is going to hurt him [their father] a lot… more than you know,” and “You are mine. I don’t want to share you with him.”
Luckily for Breeanna, her two mothers were very supportive of her search. I couldn’t help but notice that the three siblings expressing the most interest in meeting the donor – Breeanna, Jesse, and Jayme – were the three that didn’t grow up with a father figure. I don’t feel this is a coincidence. It seemed easier for these families to deal with the idea of having the donor in their lives because there was no perceived threat to an existing father’s role.
The parents’ approval of the siblings’ relationships, while being a great thing, also (in my opinion) exposes the hypocrisy of those who disapproved of their children finding the donor. In other words, relationships with biological relatives are considered healthy & ok as long as nobody feels as if they are being replaced. It was obvious to me that the ease of which the siblings relate to one another was likely due to the fact that their parents were not threatened by these relationships.
This show has strengthened my conviction that the degree to which the parents have come to grips with their infertility and accepted the truth of their child’s origins will have a significant impact on the level of anxiety that child will feel about searching for his roots.

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

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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It’s wrong to buy, sell, and trade children.

Here is an outstanding work of journalism done by Reuters chronicling one woman and her journey to become a mother.

And why the simple desire to parent, should never be the only qualification when assigning anyone custody of another helpless human being.

The Puchallas had rescued Quita from an orphanage in Liberia, brought her to America and then signed her over to a couple they barely knew. Days later, they had no idea what had become of her.

When she arrived in the United States, Quita says, she “was happy … coming to a nicer place, a safer place. It didn’t turn out that way,” she says today. “It turned into a nightmare.”

Twin Troubles

Couple annuls marriage after discovering they are twins separated at birth.

The pair apparently had no idea they were related, though felt an “inevitable attraction” that brought them together.

This is why people need to know who they are, where they come from, and the identities of their biological parents. As Margaret Somerville says, every person should be conceived via “one, identified man and one, identified woman”.

There is a lot of pain behind the words in this very short article. A lot of pain.

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Burdens of Adoption

This is an interesting and sad story one woman writes about never meeting her mother who gave her up for adoption, despite many attempts on her mother’s part to reach out.

The woman wasn’t told until adulthood. Then she delayed.

The cost for my biological mother and I was enormous. I didn’t find out about her breast cancer; was never reminded of her letter to me, or her desire to meet me. I did not get the opportunity to make decisions in full knowledge of all the facts.

I just finished Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein’s memoir, Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited, and they too never get to meet their mother. She died when they were nine years old.

It all just reminds me of the real urgency in finding your biological parents. People grow old. They bare the weight of pain. They die. …If there is someone out there that you love and they don’t know it, you have to seek them out immediately to tell them.