In a comment on Family Scholars Blog, Narelle (who, I gather, was never given the opportunity to know who her biological father is) writes:
I am not saying that DC [Donor Conception] should be banned, but if it is to exist it should so via a model similar to open adoption, whereby the person born, after all this thinking and contractual agreement, is able to have the OPPORTUNITY to know their biological mum or dad. This should be a decision only the person born as a result can make, especially since their parents had a lot of time to think about what they were doing and the position they were bringing them child into.
Donor conception refers to sperm donation and egg donation (and perhaps some other procedures as well?).
I agree with Narelle; open arrangements should be the norm, and probably the legally-mandated situation. If someone can’t live with the possibility of his biological children contacting him someday, then he shouldn’t donate (or sell) sperm. (And the same for egg donation, of course.)
Narelle also asked several question intended to make readers understand her point of view as a person whose parents used DC technology. “How would you feel if the name of your biological father was sitting in a filing cabinet over the other side of the city, and only other people had access to that information, but not you? How would you feel when people ask you what nationality you are?” I’m afraid those and similar questions fell flat with me, because – insofar as anyone can predict how they’d react to hypothetical situations – my honest answer is: I wouldn’t care.
It reminds me of an “understanding transsexuals” questionnaire that was passed around a lot in the 1980s: “How would you feel if you woke up tomorrow and your body was the other sex? Wouldn’t you feel horribly wrong and out of synch with yourself?” Well, truthfully, I don’t think I would; I’d be taken aback, of course, and it would be annoying to have to deal with sexism, but I don’t think being female would inherently bother me. Being male has never been a positive or important part of my self-identity. (I’ve often wished I could switch sex back and forth, actually, but without the huge sacrifices and effort that real transsexuals must deal with).
Narelle’s questions, like the transsexual flier, miss the point. It doesn’t matter that I wouldn’t care. The point is, obviously she cares; and obviously she has an important need to know where she comes from, biologically. My lack of caring doesn’t magically cancel out Narelle’s needs.
One thing I like about Narelle’s proposal is that it leaves choice with the donor conceived person herself; if if a D.C. child prefer not to know, or simply has no interest (a possibility that discussions at Family Scholars Blog tend to brush aside), Narelle’s proposal allows them that liberty, as well.
How about infertile couples (either infertile because of something wrong, or infertile because they’re same-sex, or any other reason) who use DC technology? Don’t they have a right to keep their child’s biological origins secret from their child? No. Children are in the temporary caretaking of their parents, but in the end they belong to themselves – and that includes information about where they came from. The child’s right to know herself should supercede the desire of her parents to keep her origins secret.
I do think that both children and parents are served by laws that make custodianship clear and immutable; parents who conceived a child via sperm donation shouldn’t have to worry that the bio-father will appear out-of-the-blue ten years down the line and claim custody. And children shouldn’t suddenly have their lifelong home made insecure by a lawsuit coming from a person who has never been their guardian.
On the other hand, I would like to see more flexible and varied laws about who can be a parent. There’s no good reason that a child being raised by two mothers and a father shouldn’t have her relationship to all three of her parents recognized legally.
This exchange was also noteworthy:
Dan: Not to appear unsympathetic, but I guess the ultimate question is whether the whole debate over artificial insemination should be defined by the perceived “victim” status of children who wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the technology.
Narelle: i do not feel that i have to condone donor conception because it is what bought me life. so saying things like “whether the whole debate over artificial insemination should be defined by the perceived “victim” status of children who wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the technology” is really just insulting. so many people say well you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for it. i know this, however that does not mean i have to think it is right. do people born from rape have to condone rape? they would not be here without it! (blunt but true).
I was leery of this analogy when I first read it; the differences between rape and DC are huge and significant, after all.
While the analogy may disturb me and others, logically it makes sense for the narrow point Narelle was making: No one is obliged to approve of the means by which they were conceived. (Many “Alas” readers made the same point, in a different context, on this thread.)