Monday, April 2, 2012

Party like it's 1940!!

1940 Census poster, The Newberry Library
Today at 9:00am EDT the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) rolled out the 1940 United States Census to the public --- currently their server has crashed, so try later!

I'm not just blogging about this because I'm a genealogy nerd (though I'm pretty freakin' stoked!!  I feel like I've waited 72 years for this....), but because Census records are a fantastic tool to use to track down information about our bio-fathers and his family.  On many profiles the ages of the donor's parents are listed.  If his parents were born before 1940, they will be in the Census.  And of course, the more detailed the donor profile, the more useful these tools can be!!  My best advice on using the Census is if you have a potential candidate person.  Again, it's not a tool for dry run searching.  Talk to me about what tools are useful before you have a person of interest....(hint, hint --- DNA!)

And of course for much older offspring, those conceived pre-1970, the chances of your biological father being listed in the 1940 Census increases dramatically!!

Strictly using Census records is not going to get you anywhere, but in combination with other print and electronic records and trails, they are a fantastic tool to help you piece together your own story.

So go take that Family Finder Test!!!!  GO!!!  NOW!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Retrospective access...a world first!!!

This might just be the greatest day thus far for donor conceived people everywhere!!!!!!

But especially for those who have fought for YEARS to change legislation in Victoria, Australia.  And for my dear friend Narelle Grech, who is bravely battling stage 4 bowel cancer.  I really wish I was down under right now with all my TW mates in Melbourne celebrating this incredible day with you all.  You guys were my inspiration, my support, my family and I miss you terribly....

Narelle Grech
Melbourne social worker Narelle Grech is thrilled that donor-conceived children may now be able to find their biological parents, especially as she has been diagnosed with bowel cancer.  Photo: Justin McManus [The Age]









Tangled Webs PRESS RELEASE: 

Wednesday 28 March 2012
Justice at Last for Donor-Conceived Victorians

The final report of the Law Reform Committee of the Parliament of Victoria’s inquiry into access by donor-conceived people to information about donors has recommended changes to the law to enable all donor-conceived Victorians to apply for information about their genetic identity regardless of when they were born – a world first.

The issue was referred to the Law Reform Committee in the wake of the passage of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act in 2008. The inquiry was prompted by concerns raised by donor-conceived people about the impact on their day-to-day lives of the law that denies them basic information about their medical, social and cultural backgrounds as they shared their stories of grief and loss from being denied knowledge of their full identity.

“I am overwhelmed that donor-conceived people will finally have the chance to know who they are. It has been such a long and tiresome struggle for many, but there is now hope that this has not all been in vain. I commend the committee for their dedication with respect to this issue,” says Kimberley Turner, a 28 year old donor-conceived person. “They truly listened to those involved, and recognised the imperative need for change. I cannot thank them enough for standing up for what is right and just. I look forward to discovering the missing pieces of myself and my heritage, and to passing this on to my own children.”

“I am so relieved and happy that the committee has recommended a change to the cruel laws which denied people like me who were born before the arbitrary date of 1988 the right to information, even though it was recognised that people born after 1988 should have it,” says Lauren Burns, a 28 year old donor-conceived person. “Before this inquiry we had no rights and faced a bureaucratic black hole if we wanted to know where we came from. It was horrible being treated as a second class citizen.”

The overwhelming majority of public submissions to the inquiry supported the removal of secrecy provisions. In the course of extensive public hearings the committee heard from donor-conceived people, donors, parents of donor-conceived people, counsellors and doctors. Contrary to popular opinion, testimony showed that many donors care about the wellbeing of the people they helped create and are willing to provide information. Donors currently outnumber donor-conceived people on the pre-1988 voluntary register set up to facilitate mutually desired contact, which is administered by Births Deaths and Marriages.

“This issue is about people. The donors who, by making their sperm or eggs available to help others, have created lives and the people who have been born from the donations of sperm and eggs. As a sperm donor from the mid 1980′s I welcome the recommendations of this inquiry – which recognise the fundamental human rights of donor-conceived people to have access to information about their biological parents and their genetic and familial heritage. It is true that as sperm donors 25 years ago we were promised anonymity. However, the interests of the donor-conceived people should, in my view be paramount. I support changes to legislation and practice which will enable donor-conceived people to have knowledge of their genetic heritage. I believe that can and should be achieved in such a way as to best respect the rights of all parties concerned,” says Ian Smith, a sperm donor from Prince Henry’s Hospital.

Myfanwy Cummerford, a 31 year old donor-conceived person welcomed the changes. “We’ve fought for so long for something that most people can take for granted. The ability to answer the most basic questions – Who am I? Where do I come from? We are the only group of people in Australia discriminated against on the basis of how we were conceived and when we were born. This is a human rights issue and I cannot thank the Law Reform committee enough for not only listening to us but having the guts to take action and recommend these changes.”

Currently donor-conceived people born prior to 1988 have no mechanism to directly apply for information about their biological identity. The recommendations of the committee will bring the rights of donor-conceived people born prior to 1988 into line with adopted people, who received the right to apply for information about their biological parents in 1984. Back then Victoria led the world by reforming adoption law, changes which were systematically replicated in subsequent adoption law reform both in Australia and internationally.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for 15 years and I am so thrilled that the Law Reform Committee has truly listened to the voice of the donor-conceived person. We are elated that these recommendations finally afford us the ability to be treated as equal citizens of our community with the recognition of the truth, which is rightfully ours,” says 29 year old donor-conceived woman Narelle Grech.

TangledWebs urges the Victorian government to legislate the recommendations of the Law Reform Committee as soon as possible, in recognition of the lengthy time that pre-1988 donor-conceived Victorians have waited their turn for equality and justice.

TangledWebs also implores past donors to register their details on the voluntary register because in some cases where records have been lost or destroyed this will be the only way information can be shared. Donors can lodge their details on the voluntary register by contacting the Victorian Registry of Births Deaths Marriages (www.bdm.vic.gov.au) or they can discuss their options further by contacting the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (www.varta.org.au).

Contact: 
info@tangledwebs.org.au


More coverage:
Health concerns spark call for sperm donor revelations - By Sarah Dingle, ABC News 7.30 Report
We can't keep them in the dark - By Clem Newton-Brown, The Age
Sperm donor reform to be a world first - The Age
Offspring support Vic sperm donor reforms - By Mike Hedge, 9News
'Donor' children and the right to know - By Kate Hagen, The Age
Donor children seek lost pieces of genetic puzzle - ABC News
Sperm donor identities should be revealed to children, says parliamentary committee - By Sophie Gosper, The Australian

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

WARNING: Scam artist targets donor-conceived

A man going by Steve Curtis has been emailing donor-conceived adults telling them he is their biological father.

An email reported on fraudwatchers.org states the following:

> Subject: YOUR ARE MY DONOR OFFSPRING...

> Hello,

> My name is Steve Curtis and you are my donor offspring. i am sorry i am
> writing you now to inform you that i am your donor parent. I have been
> trying all that i can to locate you all to no avail. But now, i found your
> posting over the internet trying to locate me and i took the opportunity
> to write you immediately.

> My dear, i really want to meet you cos its been a long time i left the
> states to UK and now am happy i have found you. Please, get back to me so
> that i can send you my phone number so that we can discuss on how to get
> close to each other.

> Once again, i am willing to do anything just to meet you and hug you once
> again.

> Thanks and God bless you,
> Steve Curtis.



His email address is mr.stevecurtis@live.com, and the street address he gives (18 Berwick St,
London, UK) in his message is that of a London restaurant (http://www.mediterraneancafe.co.uk).


This is HUGELY concerning to me, as this is obviously a very emotionally charged subject for all of us, and especially the young offspring who are posting their information on sites like AmFOR, that may not have the understanding or savviness to realize that this is scam.  


Please get this message out not to fall for this scam, but also be diligent in screening your emails in the future...I feel that this won't be an isolated incident.  Unfortunately, something like this could be detrimental for actual contact, if the recipient feels that it could be a scam. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pratten v. British Columbia

Olivia Pratten (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
Yesterday and today Olivia and her team are once again back in court battling the province of British Columbia and the College of Physicians in the B.C. Court of Appeals in Vancouver.  Here's a link to the BC Supreme Court case ruling.

A fantastic video featuring Olivia, discussing the case and the issues.  Please watch this video, she discusses so eloquently why she is doing this, what's in it for her, and she takes on some of the most common misconceptions about this case!!

Also, a radio interview featuring me that aired live yesterday on The Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 in Vancouver.  Listen to or download the podcast, here (lead for Tuesday Feb 14th - go to minute 12:26/6:41 to begin my segment).

8:45 –9:00 DONOR OFFSPRING WANT THEIR RIGHTS RESPECTED Should a child conceived by a donor sperm or egg have the right to know about their biological parentage? That question is being looked at once again in the BC Court of Appeal. It’s hearing an appeal of a ruling last year that declared the province’s Adoption Act unconstitutional because it didn’t give people born of donated sperm or eggs the same rights as people who were adopted. Lindsay Greenawalt is a donor conceived adult and she has identified her donor father, though she hasn’t reached out to him yet. Why is it important for her to know this part of her history? And what does she think about the donor’s right to privacy?
LINDSAY GREENAWALT, DONOR OFFSPRING 

Op-Ed:
Sperm donor children have the right to know their identity
Barbara Kay
National Post
February 14, 2012

Olivia Pratten and Shelley Deacon are the issue of anonymous sperm donors. Both have been seeking information about their hidden bio-history for years. Last year the B.C. Supreme Court granted the women access to their bio-files, and in the process, struck down as unconstitutional provisions of the Adoption Act. The government was given six months to amend the act, and now the government is in court seeking to overturn that ruling.

The government’s main argument is that when Ms. Pratten and Ms. Deacon were conceived, all such procedures were done on an anonymous basis for everyone. But should they have been? And if they shouldn’t have been, why should these young women – and all the other donor children they represent – go through life suffering the torment of knowing only half their genetic identity?

Sperm donation has been with us for a long time. The oldest recorded case in the U.S. took place in 1884. Originally it was meant to help married couples whose infertility was linked to the husband’s low sperm count. There was shame attached to it. In those cases the children usually weren’t informed. But now sperm donorship is probably more widely used by single women with ticking biological clocks, and for lesbian couples, than for married couples. There is no longer any moral stigma attached to it at all.

Just last week, on the popular TV musical sitcom series Glee, a show overtly didactic in educating its viewership on such politically correct subjects as total acceptance for gays, the disabled and the obese, Sue Sylvester, the series’ hilariously acerbic cheerleader coach, announced that she intends to become impregnated by a sperm donor. Her assistant approvingly observes that this is something Sue needs, implying that a child is nothing more than a kind of therapeutic accessory to adult lives.

For another example of liberal attitudes, in the recent movie, The Kids are All Right, a lesbian couple has raised two children from the same sperm donor father. As teenagers, the kids set out to discover their bio-father’s identity. They find him. There is some tension between the women and the kids. Hijinks ensue. In the end the father is amiably ejected from their lives. The message is that once the kids’ curiosity has been satisfied, and civility established all around, life will go on without the father in their lives pretty much as before, if not better.

Are the scenarios posited in sitcoms and movies written by liberals realistic, or are they the wishful thinking produced by commitment to progressive social theories?

In stories posted on AnonymousUs.org, an online story collective founded by a donor child, the picture does not sound quite so rosy.

There is great anguish amongst many donor children about the missing part of their identity.
And research backs up the importance for children of knowing their full biological identity. A few years ago The Commission on Parenthood’s Future released a report: My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived through Sperm Donation. The study belies the politically correct notion that how children are conceived is irrelevant, and that love is all they need.

According to lead researcher Elizabeth Marquardt, two thirds of sperm donor kids agree that “My sperm donor is half of who I am”; half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception; nearly half fear having sexual relations with a possible unknown sibling (some sperm donors have a hundred offspring; unwitting half siblings in England have married); about half have ethical reservations about the propriety of the system.

We hear a great deal about the principle of “the best interests of the child” when parents can’t agree on custody. The “best interests” should always be consulted when courts consider issues involving children’s rights. And it is in the best interests of a child to know his or her biological father’s genetic history.

Sperm donation is not like adoption. Adoption is a well-regulated, non- profit service with service to the needs of a living child as its mandate. Sperm donation is an unregulated marketplace, with service to the wishes of an adult clientele as its raison d’ĂȘtre. Is a sperm donor’s genetic anonymity more important than his biological issue’s knowledge of her own physical identity?

Donor children are not asking for money from their biological fathers; they are not asking for an intimate relationship; they are not seeking to punish their mothers. They simply want to know who they are. And so the court must consider this question asked by a donor child: “If my life is for other people’s purposes, and not my own, then what is the purpose of my life?” They should conclude that it was wrong in the past to deny children the right to their biological history, and children today should not suffer for that mistake.



News:
Sperm donor identity case heads back to court with B.C. government appeal
The Canadian Press
February 14, 2012

VANCOUVER - A woman who scored a major victory last year against laws to protect sperm donors' anonymity is heading to the Appeal Court of British Columbia today to fight the government's stance against the case.

Olivia Pratten will be attending the two-day appeal of the ruling as the Attorney General's Ministry attempts to overturn the judge's order giving the province 15 months to amend current laws.

"I'm disappointed that I'm back in court and that they've appealed it," Pratten said of last May's decision by a B.C. Supreme court judge who deemed the Adoption Act, which covers donor conception, unconstitutional.

Judge Elaine Adair also granted a permanent injunction against the destruction of donor records, saying offspring conceived through donated eggs or sperm have a psychological need to know their genetic background in the same way adopted children do.

Pratten, a Toronto journalist, was born in 1982 through donated sperm because her parents were unable to conceive on their own.

She spent a decade trying to learn her biological father's identity, only to discover that records containing that information had been destroyed by her mother's fertility specialist.

In 2008, Pratten launched a lawsuit against the B.C. government and the provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, saying she and others like her should have access to information about their biological parents.
[read more]


B.C. seeks to overturn anonymous sperm donor ruling
Keith Fraser
The Province
February 14, 2012

The B.C. government was in court Tuesday seeking to overturn a ruling that paves the way for people born through anonymous sperm donors to find out information about their parents.

Two such people born in B.C. — Olivia Pratten and Shelley Deacon — filed affidavits arguing that their rights were violated because they couldn’t get access to the information.

In May last year, B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Elaine Adair struck down as unconstitutional provisions of the Adoption Act.

The judge noted that the law allows adopted children to access information about their birth parents but not those conceived through sperm donors.

Adair suspended her ruling for six months to give the government a chance to amend the Adoption Act.

But instead of passing a new law, the government appealed the ruling.
[read more]

Friday, February 10, 2012

Anonymous Father's Day: A Must See


On Sunday, January 29th at 7pm, several dozen donor-conceived adults, loved ones, journalists, students, adoptees, and even a former donor, packed the modest quarters of the SoHo Digital Arts Gallery in New York City, mingling together for an evening of stories, education, and awareness on the infertility industry's dirty little secret...that babies conceived through anonymous sperm donors grow up, and many are angry, very angry, that their biological father is as much of a mystery to them as the whereabouts of Amelia Earhart.  And they are going to astounding lengths to locate their biological fathers and change a system meant to protect the financial interests of a multi-billion dollar industry at the expense of everyone involved - the donors, the parents, and of course, the offspring.

After hors d'oeuvres, wine and mingling with some of the cast and crew, attendees made their way downstairs to the showing, with nearly every seat filled and several guests standing in the back of the room.

Anonymous Father's Day was produced by Jennifer Lahl and Matthew Eppinette.  According to Lahl, rather than marching on Capital Hill, the best way to make the point and to instigate change was to let the offspring speak for themselves, let their stories speak for themselves.

The film features the narrative interviews of three donor-conceived adults:



It also features interviews with several pundits in the donor conception world:

  • Elizabeth Marquardt, Director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute of American Values (Family Scholars) and the leading author of the breakthrough study My Daddy's Name Is Donor.
  • Diane Allen, Canadian mother of a son conceived through IVF and founder of the Infertility Network.


There were also cameo appearances from several other donor-conceived adults:

  • Olivia Pratten, Canadian journalist, and plaintiff in the current lawsuit which halted the destruction of medical records related to donor conception and is attempting to dissolve anonymous gamete donations in British Columbia [Pratten vs British Columbia (A.G) and College of Physicians will be heard in the BC Court of Appeals in Vancouver on February 14-15] .
  • Kathleen LaBounty, a Houston native who sent over 600 letters to Baylor College of Medicine grads and went through 16 DNA tests with former donors trying to identify her biological father, she blogs her story at Child of a Stranger.
  • Damian Adams, Australian donor-conceived adult and author of the blog Donated Generation.
  • And me!!  Yes, Cryokid and I had four appearances and mentions in the film....including one notable story relayed by Alana S, regarding a very nasty comment posted here on this blog several months ago.


Alana, Lindsay, Olivia, Jennifer, Karen, Stephanie, Kathleen
Overall I felt the film was fantastic, and I feel that anyone contemplating donating sperm (or eggs) or using a donor should watch this film and understand how WRONG anonymity is, for everyone involved.

I think that potential donors need to understand not only what they are doing and "man-up" to their responsibilities or at least being known to the children they create and provide updated medical history to their offspring, but also the much needed sense of identity that many donor-conceived adults find missing.

But more as in inference, the fact that these potential donors need to understand that their abilities in the future to remain anonymous are dwindling by the minute.  As DNA databases like FTDNA and 23andMe grow and connect genetic relatives, as social networking sites like Facebook provide more and more personal information...the actual concept of anonymity is quickly diminishing.  Sometimes all it takes is a donor profile with some non-identifying information and some ingenuity and research skills.

My only concern with the film, and it is only because I already have heard the concerns/complaints, is that the stories were all very one-sided.  Nearly every interview came to the same conclusion.  That anonymity is unethical, inhumane, and inherently wrong and must be ended.  And while I agree with this statement wholeheartedly, I also see this as a point that can be used against those of us who are trying to legislate against this practice.

Yet, many nay-sayers will claim that everyone involved in the film is opposed to entire practice of donor conception.  But even in the film Alana S states that she thinks that the ideal system is one like Sweden, where there is a central registry and all donor-conceived children can make contact with their biological father when they come of age if they wish, and they can also make contact with all of their half-siblings.  There is also a strict limit on the number of children any donor can create, and medical histories must be routinely updated even after they finish their donating.

This was a philosophy that was echoed after the premier, during a Q&A session featuring myself, Alana, Stephanie, Kathleen, and Olivia.  When asked if we were given a magic wand and could make the system however we wanted, every single one of us had the same answer.

Our idealistic wish would be that sperm and egg donation would be eliminated entirely.  But we all acknowledged that this is never going to happen.

So our realistic wish would be change that will make the system more child-centric and foster positive development, identities, and health for children and adults created through assisted reproductive technologies.  We were all pretty much in agreement that a system like Sweden has in place would be the most beneficial in addressing the concerns related to identity, health, and family.

Dinner Reception with cast and crew at The Smith
And while I didn't want to get into this during my review post, I will update soon on the entire AFD premier weekend's festivities and get-togethers in the city!!