Friday Rant: Father's Day for Suppliers of Sperm and Their Offspring

Let's face it. As parents, there are at least a few times in our lives when we'd like to have a do-over. And while children may not concur with exactly which periods may qualify, they too recall times growing up that could have been improved upon. And as Father's day looms upon us, we can hopefully forgive ourselves for those mistakes and also find a place from which to forgive, or at least understand, our father's errors and love them for who they are. But what if you don't know who fertilized your mother's egg?

The AJC Atlanta News wrote yesterday that "Every year, an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 women conceive a child through sperm donation. [and] Of course, for every woman who conceives through donor insemination, there is a man who sells his sperm, and in most cases in the U.S., does it anonymously". And W. Bradford Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and a member of the Commission on Parenthood's Future, quotes from the Commission's recent report in this morning's WSJ: "Seventy-one percent of ... a large random sample of 485 young adults (18-45) conceived through donor insemination ... agree that: 'My sperm donor is half of who I am,' and 78% wonder 'what my sperm donor's family is like.' Half report that they 'feel sad' when they see 'friends with their biological fathers and mothers.' Donor offspring with single mothers also are much less likely to report that they can rely on their family. Fifty-six percent of these offspring said they depend more on friends than on family, compared to just 29% of young adults born to two biological parents." Wicox concludes that "despite the latest propaganda in favor of a father-optional future, this study suggests two stubborn truths: Children long to know and be known by their biological fathers, and they are much more likely to thrive when they have their own father in their lives."

While I do not choose to pass judgment on this practice in our increasingly complicated times -- nor wish to sound like a Luddite, though I frequently am -- these findings present a statistical anomaly. They imply that the children of those women who opt for and spend on artificial anonymous insemination would, and could, be better served if their mothers just bit the bullet and found a traditional heterosexual mate. The elephant in the supply chain room of anonymous sperm selling (even though it's called donating) is that the alternative reality for women who are determined to have a child and have not found a -- or do not wish to -- mate, might well be a miserable traditional union that would be far more damaging to their offspring.

So while nature vs. nurture will always be a topic of debate, Happy Father's Day to everyone who fulfills that role in their children's lives.

William Busch

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