The Post, Ohio University - Athens, Ohio
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Ashley Herzog, Staff Writer
Apparently, “men” can now have babies, but no one has bothered asking how the children involved might feel about that. Last week, The Oprah Winfrey Show featured the world’s “first pregnant man,” Thomas Beatie of Bend, Ore. Over the course of the ludicrous interview, we learned that “he” is actually a woman who has undergone transgender hormone treatments but still has a uterus. Beatie required artificial insemination by an anonymous sperm donor to become pregnant.
I began to wonder why the couple elected to inseminate Beatie, rather than his female partner — which would have been safer and easier, since he will need a C-section and cannot breastfeed. But I also suspected the couple had a self-serving motive, such as calling attention to themselves and/or making a social statement. As my 14-year-old sister — who normally pays about as much attention to social issues as the characters from Laguna Beach — wrote to me, “It sounds like some whack jobs just want to become famous.”
Lest anyone accuse me of being anti-gay, my complaint isn’t that two women will be raising a child. Some Post readers might remember a column I wrote two years ago, opposing an Ohio bill that would bar gays from adopting children. I still hold that position today. I have great respect for people who rescue a child from foster care or a foreign orphanage, no matter what their gender pairing.
But I do have a problem with people bearing the children of anonymous sperm donors — often for selfish reasons, and with no consideration of the consequences for the child.
First, anonymous sperm donation is just that: The child can never find out who his or her father is, much less have a relationship with him. It’s one thing for an adopted child — who was most likely separated from his parents because of their poverty, young age or negligence — to struggle with not knowing his biological parents. It’s quite another for a mother to intentionally create that situation just because she doesn’t want her important life to be interrupted by visitation and custody agreements.
Gay couples certainly aren’t the only guilty ones. Two months ago, Cosmopolitan published an appalling story titled “I Suddenly Had Baby Panic,” written by a single 30-something woman who developed an impulsive desire to have a baby. She might have sought a father her son could have a relationship with, but didn’t want to be burdened by “awkwardness and custody battles.” She shamelessly admitted that she “shopped” for her child’s genes the way she would for shoes or a new car: “It’s a cross between online shopping and online dating.” If anyone inquires about her son’s father, she plans to tell them that “he doesn’t have a dad; I had him on my own.”
Except she didn’t. Like everyone else on the planet, her child has a father — he’ll just never know him, since the bio-dad signed anonymity agreements to ensure that his son never comes around to bother him. How do you suppose the child will feel when he realizes his father’s only motivation for creating him was money? That he was probably short on cash and had bills to pay, so he masturbated into a specimen cup? What might he think when he realizes the sperm donor might have fathered dozens of half-siblings, none of whom he will ever meet? And how will he feel about the fact that his mother planned it this way?
It doesn’t matter; Mom is too busy thinking about what she wants to even consider her son’s needs.
Ideally, when people decide to have a child, it’s because they’ve decided to put aside their selfish desires and devote their lives to caring for someone else. They believe that children have a right to a relationship with both biological parents — and if this arrangement isn’t possible, the couple should adopt a child who needs a home.
But they shouldn’t use childbearing as a self-esteem-boosting exercise. They shouldn’t conceive just because they’re bored with life and feeling unfulfilled, and think a baby will fill that void. They shouldn’t conceive just to prove a point about the role of gay or transgendered people in society.
The acceptance of anonymous sperm donation speaks to the current childbearing generation’s self-absorption and sense of entitlement. They think that if they want a biological child, they deserve to get one — even if they have to purposely deprive him of a relationship with his own father. Even if it means a homeless child is getting the shaft so that the sperm-donor parents can have their custom-made, genetically desirable offspring. They’d rather “shop” for a baby with good genes than consider adopting one of the millions of needy children who are already here.
Contrary to popular perception, single parents and gays can adopt in almost every state (though many require gays to adopt as individuals, not as couples). If a person or couple can’t conceive naturally, why don’t they consider this very selfless option? Or, at the very least, can’t they seriously contemplate what being conceived from an anonymous father might mean to the child?
Unfortunately, the definition of “child welfare” has become “whatever the adults want.”
Ashley Herzog is a senior journalism major.