Unintended Consequences: Rethinking Anonymous Third Party Reproduction

July 25, 2012Carole 23 Comments »

As an embryologist by training and experience, my focus is usually on the technical aspects of IVF. But when I become aware of unintended consequences arising from high tech reproduction, I am forced to reconsider the status quo of how we provide assisted reproductive services to patients.

I have been following a heated discussion regarding the rights of donor conceived children which started out as a simpler ethical question “How old should an egg donor be to donate her eggs: an ethical debate” on Dr. Craig Sweet’s Fertility Blog. The age question (which I also took up in a previous post) was replaced by a very heated discussion of whether the practice of anonymous donation is harmful to some donor-conceived children.

The last time I looked there were over 90 comments on Dr. Sweet’s Blog post and he threatened to delete inflammatory comments if the temperature of the debate wasn’t reduced so the post may already be gone. The comments on this post made me aware of the VERY STRONG feelings regarding anonymous gamete donation that exist on the part of donors, donor-conceived children, intended parents and even “search angels”. What’s a search angel? Apparently, search angels are volunteers who use information supplied by donor-conceived persons or adopted persons to search public databases to try to find biological relatives. These volunteers are very passionate about reuniting biological families.and apparently there is no shortage of people who want these services.

The debate rages on blogs and other venues regarding whether the current practice of anonymous donation of gametes violates a basic human right to identify their biological relatives. Many European countries, Canada and at least one province in Australia have banned the practice of anonymous gamete donation. Why? Because some (not all) donor-conceived offspring expressed a deep need to identify their donor and extended biological family but the existing laws and the contracts agreed to at the time of their conception blocked their efforts.

In the US, the majority of both egg and sperm donors overwhelmingly choose to remain anonymous. Anonymous sperm donors have no expectation that donor-conceived children would ever contact them. That is slowly changing as some sperm banks are offering sperm donors the option of “open” donations which means the donor will allow their offspring the option to establish contact when they reach adulthood. However, most sperm donors still routinely relinquish all parental rights and have no financial responsibility for offspring conceived with their gametes. California Cryobank donors sign the following waiver : I have no intention or desire to be deemed a legal parent of any resulting child(ren) and, to the fullest extent possible, waive any and all claims that I may have to parenthood or any child(ren) that may result from my donation(s). I intend for this waiver to apply regardless of whether my semen specimens are used by a married or unmarried woman and regardless of the state in which my semen specimens are used.

Anonymous egg donors similarly waive all their parental rights and responsibilities to donor-conceived offspring. Another consequence of these anonymity agreements is that the donor-conceived child is cut off from any biological relatives before they are even conceived. Donor-conceived children may grow up and eventually regret the “no donor contact” decision that was made for them.

Creation of donor registries is one solution which creates a database of donor ID linked to donors which can be accessed by children as they become adults. Wendy Kramer and her donor-conceived son Ryan created the Donor Sibling Registry website which allows offspring who know their sperm donor’s ID to connect with half-siblings conceived by the same donor. If donors want to find offspring who are registered on the site, that is possible too. Contact occurs only if both parties are agreeable to the contact.

One alternative to anonymous donation is known or directed donation. This option means that the donor is known by the recipient and is frequently, but not always, a relative of the recipient (eg. sister donating egg to sister) so that there is a shared genetic lineage between the donor and recipient. The extent of the known donor’s involvement with the donor-conceived child may vary in known donor arrangements but donor parental rights are still typically waived. For donor-conceived children who need (or want) to identify their entire biological network, open arrangements offer this transparency.

If society decides that donor-conceived children have a basic human right to discover the identity of their donor and perhaps extended biological relatives, that will have widespread implications. Giving donor-conceived children these rights retroactively would mean that previous conception contracts are violated, donor confidentiality and privacy are made null and void and both the donors and recipients lives are disrupted. All the social simplicity of donating gametes anonymously which was appealing to the adults involved in the original third party reproduction agreement is made complicated and messy. When there are competing rights, whose rights should prevail? Should a system persist that sets up an inherent conflict of interest between adults participating in third party reproduction and the children that are created by that collaboration?

The more I learn about the real anguish some of these donor-conceived children express, I feel that they have a compelling case for transparency regarding their origins. Donor-conceived children who were given no choice in the matter at the beginning should perhaps be consulted when their needs and opinions can be known. I have become uneasy about a system which irrevocably decides for a child, prior to conception, that they may never have access to the identity of half of their biological relatives.

I realize that “changing the rules” on donors and recipient families who were promised anonymity will create problems and it may never be possible to offer this “open” gateway to all donor-conceived offspring who seek this currently. Just as the offspring are seeking biological connections, some donors also seek their donor-conceived offspring. In cases where contact is mutually agreeable, we should have a mechanism to facilitate this contact.

As I read the angry comments back and forth, I felt sick and frustrated. Isn’t there some middle ground that can be a starting place for discussion? Why do we get bogged down by side-show questions like What makes a mother? , a recurring theme with no “correct” answer. The intended mothers most commonly expressed the viewpoint that daily nurturing of a child regardless of their biological origin makes a mother. Several donor-conceived persons weighed in on this point saying how grateful they were to their intended mother.No doubt that many happy families are produced and many donor-conceived children never long to know their biological relatives from the donor’s side.

Eventually, someone asserts that donating gametes is no more significant than donating blood or plasma. Understandably, we become uncomfortable when someone asserts the primacy of genetics over everything because this view taken to an extreme has given rise to numerous examples of genocide and eugenics. However, to deny the importance of kinship in human relationships is equally without merit. Kinship and genetics do matter to people. If they didn’t, there would be relatively little interest in assisted reproduction.

Most adults experience a change in priorities when they have kids. A parent’s focus naturally moves from their needs to their children’s needs. In our rush to solve conception problems, are we choosing the expediency and simplicity of anonymous donation which promises a socially simple solution for the adults involved without considering that this decision may create an unsolvable problem for some of the kids we are helping create?

We must listen to the voices of donor conceived children who are miserable because of the current policies of anonymous donation. Some donor-conceived children express deep unhappiness with not being able to know the identity of the other half of their biological relatives. Other donor-conceived children express satisfaction with their life and do not apparently feel any need to connect with their donor derived biological relatives. Unfortunately, the status quo of anonymous donation supports only the second child’s needs but not the first.

I realize that banning anonymous donation going forward could very well be a game changer for infertility patients and ART clinics, based on the effect of these bans in other countries. A ban on anonymity would be expected to drastically reduce the number of donors willing to participate and this will make providing donors for infertility patients difficult. When anonymous donation was banned in the UK, the number of sperm donors declined and UK fertility patients sought sperm donors elsewhere but recent evidence suggests that the numbers of known donors are increasing with time. Canadian infertility patients came to the US to find egg donors. It would likely make providing donor services to infertility patients more difficult, at least in the short term.

Banning anonymous donation would negatively impact the business of egg and sperm banks which rely mostly on anonymous donors. Estimates suggest that 30,000-60,000 children are conceived annually in the US from sperm donation but in the absence of little real tracking data, these are estimates at best. Fewer children would be conceived from donor gametes, because the only other kind of donor (called known, directed or open) donors are a relatively rare bird. I wonder if known donation would become more common if anonymous donation were not an option. Would we more readily turn to our relatives and ask them for gamete donation to help us conceive a child rather than ordering sperm from a catalog or going through an egg donor agency, if anonymous gametes were not so readily available?

Donor-conceived child Kathleen LaBounty blogs at Child of a stranger regarding her efforts to find her biological father. She characterizes the current anonymous donation arrangements as a type of hypocrisy. She notes that “couples use donor sperm or egg because they very much want at least some biological connection to their child. And yet, she says, by using anonymous donors they cut off that child’s other links.”And not just with the biological father, but aunts, uncles, grandparents. It’s half of the family,” she says.

Events around the globe suggests that increasingly, donor-conceived children who want more transparency about their origins are gaining political momentum. In 2011, a Canadian court banned anonymous gamete donation because it agreed that donor-conceived children had lesser rights than adoptive children when it came to discovering their biological relatives. ASRM’s response to the Canadian ruling was that it will strongly oppose any move to ban anonymous donations. “We think that people ought to be able to build their families the way they see fit,” says Sean Tipton, the political spokesperson for ASRM. “And you don’t change the rules in the middle of the game.”

ASRM whose mission is to advocate “on behalf of patients, physicians, and affiliated health care providers” is not particularly well-positioned to advocate for theoretical future children when anonymous donation arrangements are made. However, change may be on the horizon, whether or not ASRM works to support this change. In 2011, the state of Washington passed a law requiring that sperm and egg banks release the identity of their anonymous donors to donor-offspring at their request when they are at least 18. Because the Washington law allows donors to opt out and preserve their anonymity, it is unclear what real effect it will have.

I need to be clear here. I support third party reproduction. I support the rights of single men and women, gay and straight couples to use third party reproduction to have their families. My personal unease arises from a growing concern that anonymous gamete donation may not be the best model moving forward. We may have a “lost generation” of kids who are blocked from finding their biological roots but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. And even for these kids, genome sequencing may eventually provide them the medical answers they need, if not the social connectedness they crave. The current system of anonymous donation is poorly positioned to support the future emotional and medical needs of all donor-conceived children and will likely be challenged by real (not theoretical) donor-conceived children as they reach adulthood and become politically active.

Here is a link to many more resources for donor-conceived children who want to find their donor, including blogs by donor conceived children and parents of donor-conceived children. These links are also interesting reading for anyone interested in learning more about this issue.

© 2012, Carole. All rights reserved.

23 Responses to this entry

  • Graph Paper Story Says:

    What I find particularly interesting about this importance placed on biology when it comes to donation is its conflict with the message often sent to “selfish” infertiles that “biology isn’t important, just adopt”. There are certainly some opposing attitudes out there about whether biology matters – sometimes, they even seem to come from the same people.

  • Carole Says:

    Hi Graph Paper Story,
    Yes, there is nothing simple or clear cut about how we feel about this topic. People who say “just adopt” probably haven’t given the issue of kinship much thought. My guess is that this “just adopt” advice is a quick, poorly considered answer to a painful problem that they don’t want to consider too deeply. We all know instances of both deep love and deep disregard or even cruelty between either on one hand, family members or in other instances, complete strangers. Kinship doesn’t guarantee nurture and non-relatedness does not prevent great love. I think any policy/law/contract that doesn’t allow people to explore all these types of relationships is short-sighted and may even be unintentionally cruel to the children conceived by these agreements. Carole

  • marilynn Says:

    I am grateful to you for writing this post as I am the search angel who caused such a big stir on the good doctor’s blog. I was asked to comment by donor offspring friends of mine. Its so hard when everyone says they are blaming their problems on DE or that it has to do with when they were told or how they were raised or how the people raising them handled it. They all love the people who raised them. They just were born with fewer rights than other people and it is not fair to them.

    I got personally attacked so I struck back in a not very grown up way. I am embarrassed for that. They called me lots of names it hurt my feelings I got angry. It takes away from the point which is that the social family is not a substitute for the genetic family its in addition to the genetic family and so to manage that reality its important to acknowledge that donor offspring loose something. I’d never say they all care about that loss to the same extent or even at all. The issue is whether anyone should be able to make the decision to force that loss on another person.

    I’ll answer any questions, I’ll invite the same donor offspring to comment if you want. I appreciate what you said above and will play nice, I promise.

    I actually found Kathleen LaBounty’s brother. You mention him in your post. Even in reunion the law won’t ever treat them as legal brother and sister. If she ever wanted to take care of him in her old age social security would not consider him as a qualifying dependent relative because the father’s names won’t match on the birth records. Food for thought about loss because just knowing these relatives is not enough the birth records have to reflect genetic parents as parents to be legal siblings or those rights are also extended to step siblings which is so ironic because many of them have step parents named as parents and they could have rights to be treated as legal kin to their own genetic family as well as the spouse of the genetic parent that raised them but not if that spouse is named as a parent rather than just being a step parent. Its tough.

  • marilynn Says:

    Excuse me you mention her, kathleen in your post, not her brother.

  • Carole Says:

    Hi Marilynn,
    I appreciate your passion and advocacy for donor-conceived children and you made me aware of this issue. Thank you. I am probably much older than you and I learned the hard way that passion is not enough. If I can give you one piece of advice, it is this. To be effective, we have to start every conversation assuming that the people we disagree with are just as good as we are and came by their perspective from another direction, based on different experiences. If we put ourselves in their shoes, and if we can see the argument from their position, we can better translate for them our viewpoint because we are looking for commonalities, not differences. It’s the only way to get past our emotions and meet somewhere in the middle to solve our common problems. Otherwise, we are just taking sides and throwing rocks and nothing gets better. Look at the current political arguments for another sad example. Peace and Best Wishes.

  • marilynn Says:

    I’m interested in talking about universal experiences of loss and differential treatment, not how individuals feel about that loss or differential treatment. I think it is important to treat all people equally at birth and obligate all people equally to and for their offspring. I think when a person is not going to be raised by their genetic parents that all parties should have to have the approval of the court because they are a neutral third party and their involvement helps diminish instances of black market adoption etc. I’m not suggesting that people stop raising other people’s offspring I just think we should apply a universal standard of care whenever someone is not going to be raised by his or her genetic parents.

    This is not to say that I equate eggs to babies. I equate all people born as being someone’s offspring and someone’s genetic family. Conception, intention, eggs, commissioning and the rest of it are neither here nor there when discussing equal treatment of the born person. Everyone has a genetic mother why shouldn’t everyone have the identity of their genetic mother recorded? Why would some people have a genetically accurate birth record while others do not? Don’t they deserve one? Isn’t it helpful to have genetically accurate vital records? Why not differentiate if it makes clear who reproduced and who did not for the benefit of the relatives of the person who reproduced and the offspring? Why conceal that from anyone? Should some genetic parents have the luxury of concealing their connection to their offspring while others are obligated to be recorded as the parents of their offspring? Is that fair? Some people who are legally obligated never intended to be parents and would gladly have signed papers prior to birth saying they would not seek visitation in exchange for not having to support their offspring yet they will be named and obligated based on positive paternity alone. What makes a person a donor vs a deadbeat? Payment by the genetic parent who wants to raise the kid alone? Sometimes it looks like payment is what donor status turns on. Consent of the genetic parent who wants to raise the child is often not enough alone. It becomes dangerously close to a contract where a child is the object and obligation is being waived by one genetic parent – should they really have the right to do that? Should parents have the right ot just opt out without getting court approved guardianship or adoption? Why are some kids not entitled to that?

    People are quick to point out that not all donor offspring feel the same as I think they will. I do recognize that most of the people I speak with are raising donor offspring in an open communicative environment where genetics is not the determining factor in what makes a person family or not and those people won’t end up being that interested in meeting or knowing their relatives. I get it. Some donor offspring worry about accidentally dating an immediate relative while others don’t worry at all. Some donor offspring would not be upset to learn that they were in a relationship with a sibling, aunt, cousin or parent; because they were not raised to think of that person as family therefore, in their eyes, a romantic relationship with a genetic relative would not be considered incest.

    So those people would not be interested in knowing who their genetic relatives are to avoid dating them. But if others are interested in knowing would it not be fair to say they all had a right to know who their immediate relatives are and then those not interested could have the information and then simply make a conscious decision to date their anyway?

  • Alana Says:

    I am donor-conceived.
    I understand that infertile people may not want to adopt because they want a genetic connection to the children they raise. But sometimes you can’t get what you want.
    If one partner is infertile, or if you’re a same sex couple, or if you’re unable or unwilling for whatever reason to find a partner of the opposite sex, that doesn’t mean you have the right to someone else’s kid. It doesn’t mean society has an obligation to provide you a kid just because you want one.

    Adults have the right to have sex with other consenting adults. Often enough, when it is a man and a woman having sex, the woman will get pregnant. The woman and her sexual partner (the father of the child) have the right to raise that child. And children have a right to be raised by THEIR parents.

    It’s highly illegal to buy/sell/trade kids when they are outside of the womb and look/act/smell like a human. It should be just as illegal to buy/sell/trade kids before they’ve developed into a recognizable baby.
    Because for the child, the difference is the same- they’re still being bought/sold/traded.

  • donor conceived in Oz Says:

    Dear Carole, great article.
    I’d just like to clarify a few things though. Here in Australia anonymous donation in ALL states has been regulated against since 2004. The National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines on this effectively removed anonymous donations and as such there have been no anonymous donations occurring in this country since.
    The cbs story about sperm donor numbers decreasing after anonymity was removed in the UK is a fallacy, and is scaremongering. Data published by the HFEA which regulates assisted reproduction in the UK clearly shows that apart from a small drop in egg donors in 2006 (sperm donors increased) that donations of sperm and eggs has increased such that now the numbers are higher than they were before anonymity was still an option.
    See: http://www.hfea.gov.uk/3411.html
    Here in Australia the law was changed in the adoption area (which also allowed anonymity) retrospectively to allow adoptees access to information on their parents. There was initially an equal backlash against this but now we view it as the right thing to have done and by and large it has been acknowledged a success. If the same model is followed then there should be no reason why doing so in donor conception should not also be successful and it is something that has been recently recommended by a parliamentary committee in the state of Victoria.
    Best wishes.

  • Carole Says:

    Dear Donor Conceived in Oz,
    Thanks so much for your information regarding Australian law. It does seem like the tide is turning and the observation that with education and experience, known donation is becoming accepted is encouraging. Carole

  • Carole Says:

    Hi Alana,
    I am sorry for your pain. Obviously, your current situation is a source of pain for you. I wish for you to find a way to get the information you need regarding your biological origins. From my 12 plus years of working with infertile couples, I know that infertile couples who seek to become parents via gamete donation are hoping for the best outcome, that they can have the joy of having and raising children. They want to offer a good childhood and life to these kids. Gametes are not yet kids, though they have the potential to become children if a huge number of biological steps fall into place. Most gametes don’t become children so it is premature and inaccurate to equate gametes with children. You may not agree with this distinction but it is real. That certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work very hard to protect your rights and the rights of other donor-conceived children but to characterize infertile people as children stealers/buyers is equally unfair. I think you would be surprised at the number of parents with donor-conceived children who are asking these questions on behalf of their donor-conceived children whom they love. Best Wishes. Carole

  • N Says:

    Dear Carole,

    I very much enjoyed your blog post and reading Dr Sweet’s post as well. The early comments were both informative and thought-provoking. While still early in the IVF journey, I do believe it is important to consider the ramifications of decisions made on all parties (parents and children). I will say the comments did reach a point of no return and I was plenty happy when Dr Sweet requested that commenting no longer continue.


    PS This is one of the few blogs I check on a regular basis b/c it is so informative! So, thank you!

  • Carole Says:

    Thank you N, I am glad you find the blog useful! Best Wishes! Carole

  • Marna Gatlin - Parents Via Egg Donation Says:

    Dear Carole –

    I have read your blog for a long time with great interest and I was so hoping you’d weigh in on this topic and share your opinion.

    I am a mother via egg donation, and have a child who is almost a teenager. My child knows his origins, he knows where his genetics come from, and has been in contact with his egg donor.

    We happen to love our egg donor, she’s amazing. In our home she is beloved, we have the utmost respect and reverence for her. In fact, I am meeting her in a couple of weeks for brunch and am excited to see her. Like I said she’s amazing.

    However, we also in our home recognize my role as my child’s Mom, as I too have a place in my son’s life. I may not have given him half of his genetics but I did carry him, nurture him, love him, and worry about him. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this kid — so much I sometimes forget to breathe.

    For people like Marilyn that doesn’t seem to be enough. Marilyn continues to feel that my son is disenfranchised some way. In fact, he even weighed in on the topic as a donor conceived child and said that he didn’t feel kidnapped, or held hostage, or anything remotely negative regarding where he came from or who he was born to. In essence he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out. He’s happy, he’s loved, and he’s thriving, and that’s the message he wants to impart upon the world. Not all donor conceived children are miserable or unhappy, in fact many many donor conceived children via egg donation are incredibly happy.

    What I will tell you is that anything third party can in fact be incredibly complicated and full of twists and turns. That’s why thinking looking into the future, planning accordingly, and talking about feelings and thoughts with a mental health therapist before embarking upon fertility treatment I feel is incredibly important.

    I have always felt it healthy for donor conceived children to know their origins and who their genetic parent is. Much like open adoption. The days of secrecy I think need to be put behind us.

    Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    Kindest regards,

    Marna Gatlin

  • Carole Says:

    Thanks Marna for your kind words. I am glad you commented here. Your perspective on open parenting is very helpful. I think that since we can’t be sure at conception what these kids might need, a system that allows the possibility of contact down the road may be the most useful one, so that each donor-conceived child can decide among all possible options-to know or not know, to meet or not meet, etc. One size does not fit all, so I agree, the old system of secrecy needs to be replaced but change is slow. Your voice is a powerful one to speak for change because as a parent, you are constantly thinking about what is best for your child. Thanks for weighing in.

  • Craig R. Sweet, M.D. Says:


    Like you, I have been working with patients trying to build families for a very long time. I would also agree with you that we need to pay better attention to the donor-conceived offspring.

    After reading the discourse on my recent blog (http://www.sweetfertility.com/?p=546), I became increasingly concerned regarding the polarization of views and the utter intolerance expressed some of those posting. Deep inside some of posts that were charged with emotion, there were some important points.

    I do have grave concerns, however, about any retroactive changes to previously agreed to contracted anonymity. Such changes would create extreme instability in the reproductive world on a host of issues with numerous unintended consequences. In addition, the US Constitution, Article I, section 10, clause 1, expressly prohibits states from enacting any law that retroactively impairs contract rights. Such retroactive legislation could be in the courts for years and eventually be ruled as unconstitutional. Certainly beyond my knowledge base, perhaps the ART attorneys that read your blog could more intelligently comment on this concern.

    Instead, I feel that research, knowledge and education are the tools we must use to better understand all the components of disclosure and open identity. I am, however, a strong proponent of choice. One size, especially in a country that was founded on choice, will not fit all.

    I will be releasing a new blog over the next few days describing what I feel it might take to begin to move forward together. I will appreciate your comments, and perhaps, even your assistance.

    Keep up the great work and be sure to look me up at ASRM if you are going this year.

    Craig R. Sweet, M.D.
    Reproductive Endocrinologist
    http://www.SweetFertility.com (blog)
    http://www.EmbryoDonationBlog.com (blog)

  • Carole Says:

    Thanks for your insights, as always. I agree it may not be advisable to make transparency a requirement retroactively. We may have inadvertently created a “lost generation” of kids who won’t have the option of knowing their donors, no matter how much they care to. But more “meet up” sites like the Donor Sibling Registry may be helpful to give even these kids some “family” ties through siblings, if they desire them, without exposing the donor to an interaction/potential responsibility they don’t want. I look forward to your new blog post and am happy to help. I will be at ASRM (Sat-Tues) so we can discuss in more detail, if you like. Best Wishes, Carole

  • Anonymous Says:

    Carol I was surprised at your response to Alana about children being sold because you clipped in contract clauses where people donating actually agree to give up any children born resulting from their donations….That is the sale right there. Its a simple contract where someone is paid now for performance of duty at a later date if and when something occurs. No different than buying an extended warranty – paid now for service if and when the washer breaks; paid now to abandon parental responsibilities to their offspring if and when any are born. The release forms require donors to release more than their gametes they have to agree that someone else can raise their offspring or they won’t be allowed to become donors. So its an abstract promise at donation that goes into effect upon the birth of each offspring. Not taking care of their offspring is part of the terms of those agreements – they were paid up front for service at a later date.

    I’m passionate about it because I can’t believe the law allows people to be sold this way. I want to change the law so that people are born free with equal rights. It is not religious at all, its a civil rights and basic freedom thing. Its lovely that they are wanted and treated well but they were purchased and they have no right to be recognized legally as members of their own family they only get to be part of the family that bought them. Yes they raised them and that counts for something but how someone obtains a child matters. Paying lots of money for treatment to reproduce your own body is a personal decision none of anyone’s business; paying someone to let you raise their child without a court approved adoption is trafficking and that is why I seem so intolerant. Look at the terms of those agreements you posted through the eyes of the person who is the object of that contract. The goal of the donation is to produce offspring for other people to raise which means they had to agree to make offspring for other people to raise – if you were that person’s child and read that contract it would be very clear that you had been the object of a contract, sold by a parent to someone who wanted to raise a child. Somehow the fact that a woman gets to be pregnant with the donor’s embryo makes the sale of the person just no big deal. The pregnancy experience was donated or purchased as well. Knowing who their parents are is not enough we need to prevent people from selling parental rights to their future offspring.

  • Abram Says:

    Children want to and deserve to know their biological parents when they are born – not when they turn 18. That nonsense is BS.

    If people thought an 8 year old kid might show up and call them “Daddy,” THEN we would see a drop in donation.

    That’s why the law is nothing, or 18. BS!

  • Daleth Says:

    Interestingly, in France it’s NON-anonymous donation that’s banned. Even if you find your own egg donor and bring her to the clinic, what happens is she undergoes egg retrieval and her eggs are given to someone else, and another, anonymous donor’s eggs are given to you.

    Non-anonymous donation is also illegal in the Czech Republic and Spain. I don’t know what they would do if you brought your own donor to the clinic–it might not be as absolute as in France–but if you don’t bring your own donor, you will have an anonymous one. You’re not even allowed to see their photographs.

  • Daleth Says:


    I’m sorry that you’re suffering. At the same time, I don’t understand what you’re saying. You wrote, “If one partner is infertile, or if you’re a same sex couple, or if you’re unable or unwilling for whatever reason to find a partner of the opposite sex, that doesn’t mean you have the right to someone else’s kid.”

    So… wouldn’t that mean you’re also against adoption? Why is a woman who gives birth to an actual child allowed to give it up for adoption to an infertile couple, if a woman should NOT be allowed to give up her eggs to an infertile couple?

    I agree that donor-conceived children should be able to find out who their genetic parents are (or genetic parent–usually donor-conceived children ARE the genetic children of one member of the couple they were raised by; it’s just one-half of their genetic heritage that they’re not raised with–unlike adopted children, who are raised by people they share NO genetic heritage with).

    But that being said, if you think egg and sperm donation should be banned, then you have to also think adoption should be banned. Have you thought about that?

  • Carole Says:

    Interesting. So only anonymous donation is allowed. That is surprising because most cultures tend to want to preserve genetic links if that is an option. Any idea what the reasoning is behind this?

  • Daleth Says:

    I don’t know what the reason was that Czech and Spanish lawmakers made non-anonymous donation illegal, but there are two major principles in French law concerning the donation of any body part (organ donation, sperm, eggs…): (1) the principle of anonymity and (2) the principle of gratuity (i.e., being free, not involving financial compensation). Egg donors can’t be paid in France–so they don’t have many donors, but they do have some, which is actually kind of inspiring; there are women who donate for purely altruistic reasons.

    And they keep it anonymous partly to ensure that there can’t be any back-door/black market payments, and partly to ensure that no psychological or financial pressure can be placed on the egg donor. For instance, they want to prevent a situation where a woman’s sister and parents are all pressuring her to donate eggs to her infertile sister when she really doesn’t want to. They also think, although this is clearly a secondary consideration in the law, that it’s psychologically easier for the child to form an identity and for the family to feel like a family if there is NOT some known third person around who also played some role in parenthood.

    The question of genetic origins is less of an issue there because most people there are, obviously, French. If an Arab or African woman needed an egg donor–I mention them because the largest minority groups in France are Arabs from North Africa and black Africans from the former French colonies in Africa–my guess is that her doctor would find a donor of her ethnicity, or else, and this is more likely since there’s such a shortage of donors in France, she would go to Spain, where there are plenty of Arab and African donors, and no shortage because Spanish law permits egg donors to be paid (although not nearly as much as they’re paid here–it’s like $1200-$1300 per cycle in Spain).

    Other ethnic groups common in France are Portuguese and German, but I suppose if they really cared about the ethnicity of the donor, the Portuguese woman would go to Spain and the German would go to the Czech Republic–egg donation is banned completely in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, so the Czech Republic is the closest a very German-looking woman could get to matching her coloring, and there are actually people of German descent there so she might even get an ethnic match.

    But if you look at the situation in England, for instance, lots of couples go to Spain even though there’s no ethnic connection whatsoever and the Spanish donors generally have darker coloring than most British people. I think the thing is, when you were actually born and raised in the country that your ethnicity comes from, and you’re going to give birth to and raise your kids there, you are secure in your identity (as an English person or French person or whatever), and you know you’re going to pass that identity on to your kids regardless of what their genetics may be.

    The situation is different in America, where people identify as Italian or whatever even though they don’t speak the language, have never set foot in the country, etc. The only connection they have is the genetic one, so they’re more preoccupied with matching that genetic connection when they choose a donor.

    I get the impression we are much more interested in genealogy and genetics than most Europeans are, since most Europeans already know their family history and it goes like this: either “(1) my family has pretty much been around here forever, or (2) my family was originally in [insert other nearby country] and then they came here along with a bunch of other people from that country because [insert name of war or economic disaster], and we’ve been here ever since.”

    I can’t imagine a European being thrilled to discover a 5th cousin somewhere, because, like, half the people in their hometown are their 5th cousins! It’s just not the same as here, where we all (other than Native Americans) had a definitive rupture with our homeland at some point in our family’s past and have been trying to weave those threads back together ever since.

  • Carole Says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

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