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Laura Perrins: Sperm bank mothers deprive their children of a basic right. The right to know your father


The Daily Telegraph ran a recent piece on ‘sperm bank mothers’. These are women who decide to go it alone and use sperm from a sperm bank to conceive a child. The piece says that some social stigma attaches to such a decision but eventually this will recede. I am not convinced any stigma still attaches to it but I am pretty sure it should.

The women profiled were all successful professionals, mostly over 30 or 40, who for one reason or another had not found a husband with whom to raise their children. Children were much desired. One mother described the longing being so strong that she felt she had no choice in how she conceived her children. We know this is not true.

The piece reassures us they all great mothers and the ‘outcomes’ for such children are bright. I am sure this is true. It is not in doubt that these mothers love their children as much as the next or that all the objective indicators we now love to measure, such as exam grades and future earnings, will probably be better than average. That is what having an educated, successful mother will do.

And I have no doubt that there are men out there who have been stringing women along for years on the promise of marriage and children, or at least commitment and children, only to bolt when push comes to shove. This is reprehensible. They are usually the ones that promptly marry some 25-year-old and have three children in quick succession leaving our late thirty somethings high and dry.

What is in question is whether it is moral deliberately to conceive a child with the intention of depriving that child of its natural and human right to be raised or at the very least know its own father.

Knowing your own father is not and should not be an optional extra that a mother can decide she may or may not allow her child to have. Knowing your own father, knowing your biological and familial history is what makes us human.

University entrance, future earnings, having houses with huge kitchens are neither here nor there if you have been denied this basic human experience. It may not be ‘fair’ to say this to a woman who deeply longs for a child, but it is not fair on the child who has no say in the matter whatsoever until it is 18, when it can ‘seek’ out the father that up until now it has been deprived of.

These decisions have real consequences as this website, which reveals some of the heartache of people who have been donor conceived, demonstrates. The first testimony is by a person who objects to anonymous donation, not donation per se, but it is insightful. It explains:

I am donor conceived. I have three siblings that I grew up with and each of us share the same mother but have different donors. My mom raised us on her own.
My view is that our rights are taken away before we are even born. They sacrifice our right to know our donor father or mother so what? They can make more money? Because they get more donors this way? Because this may be easiest on the parent seeking artificial insemination and easiest for the cryobanks?

When are our rights ever considered? No one bothered to consider the consequences or to try to set up a system that is fair to all parties.
We do not know half of our lineage; this includes medical information and information that could tell us about our heritage that contributes to our sense of self and identity.

There are plenty more such human stories. The counter argument is that many children grow up without knowing their father be it through divorce, death, or an unplanned pregnancy which the father then turns his back on. This is true – but these cases do not involve the deliberate conceiving of a child on the explicit understanding that the child conceived and born will have no right to know or be raised by its own father.

What is in effect happening is that the mother, donor and IVF doctor are agreeing, over the head of the child, that this child will be conceived but deprived of a father. This is wrong.

It is not that the father does not exist – he does but it has been decided by adults to deprive this child of its birthright to be raised by its own father. So don’t bother telling me that we live in a society that protects ‘children’s rights’ when these ‘transactions’ go on every day.

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