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

3 thoughts on “Introduction to Harms of Donor-Conception

  1. donor conceived says:

    Go Alana! Thank God for your voice of reason.

  2. polly says:

    Thank you for having the courage to speak the truth. It is not a truth that the world wants to hear. It is a truth that will be recognised in future years but for those created in these dehumanising ways…it will not be enough. There will be MANY hurt, angry people in our world; the world needs to be prepared!

  3. Greg says:

    Until the outcasting and enslavement of the childless stops in our society the demand for children will never decline. The childless are expected to carry the bulk of the workload in the workplace instead of those will children doing their fair share of work. They are also expected to pay taxes to fund public education to which they get no benefit from. On top of that they are outcasted by friends and family as being selfish for not having children. They are also viewed as not being privileged as those who have children.

    At the end of the day it’s these children in demand who suffer.

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