Monday, April 28, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
[From Diane Allen, Infertility Network of Canada]
As you may be aware, Parliament in the United Kingdom is considering amending birth certificates of those born through donor conception.
The International Donor Offspring Alliance (IDOA) is asking all those who support their aims to endorse their submission to the UK government.
*** NB. You do not need to live in, or have been conceived in, the UK to sign. Moreover, progress made in 1 country (in this case, the UK) can help advance the rights of donor offspring in other countries around the world.
IDOA's brief calls upon the UK government to ensure that:
1. Donor-conceived people have birth certificates which record the names of donors
2. Provision is made which makes it almost impossible for donor-conceived people not to see that certificate early in their life.
IDOA has considered, anxiously & at length, the tensions between the legitimate privacy of those involved (and particularly the donor-conceived themselves) and concluded that, while there is no perfect solution, systems can be developed which represent an acceptable balance. In its submission, IDOA has not sought to explore the complexities of competing solutions because members are more interested at the moment in engaging MPs' interest in the issue of principle.
The British Association for Adoption and Fostering actively supports IDOA's position, and over 20 organizations, including many prominent ones (e.g. Barnardo's, the NCH and NAGALRO) have endorsed BAAF's submission.
To add your endorsement to IDOA's submission, either personally or as a representative of an organization, please contact IDOA directly ASAP at
ABOUT IDOA: http://web.jaguarpaw.co.uk/idoa
IDOA was formed in 2007 to act as an advocate for those conceived through the use of donor eggs or sperm. Currently, there are members from the UK, US, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand & Australia, including donor offspring (of both sexes; aged 24-64), as well as academics & social work practitioners who have a professional interest in the field.
IDOA believes that:
* Everyone has the right to know the truth about their own life, including the manner of their conception & the identity of their biological parents.
* Where the state is involved in providing or regulating donor conception, it must not cause, promote or collude in deceiving people or depriving them of information about their own origins; nor may it discriminate against particular groups in terms of the provision of significant information about their own lives.
* It follows that the birth certificate of a donor-conceived person must enable them to know the identity of their biological parents.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
This week I sank to the depths of hell and may have well encountered satan him[her]self - I caroused some of the DC message boards in attempts to find some motivational topic to write about. Lo and behold I have found something! Not that it’s anything new, of course (nothing is new in the roundabout bullshit that most DI mommies spout based on their own distorted means of thinking!), but it reminded me yet another irony of being a donor-conceived child.
If you are not familiar with the mind-boggling world of the DC community, let me explain something. The majority of members are 30-something recipient moms with DC kids ranging in age from newborns to about 8, an over-whelming number of SMCs and lesbians and of course the “my husband is infertile” women. The most obnoxious tend to be the single moms, who feel that it is their feminist right to have a child ALONE!!!
The weird thing is, there are VERY FEW donor-conceived people who venture onto these boards. I mean, this a community for the donor-conceived, so where the hell are they?!?!
Let me let you in on a little secret…we avoid them like the plague. Why you ask? Because 99.9% of the vocal recipient moms don’t like us, and will do anything and everything imaginable to rid the community of our existence…we ruin their perfect little happy disillusioned world that DC is a “cure” for infertility and everybody is so happy and grateful to be alive!!
Reading the communication on the boards the past couple days I saw numerous posts on how many cycles it took to get pregnant, how to tell when you’re ovulating, whether or not to pick a donor who wears glasses, and the prospect of using artificial gametes for lesbians to procreate together (don’t even get me started on the disturbing and potentially dangerous implications both ethically and scientifically that could bring about, and even worse that it was thoroughly embraced by a woman who I thought was on [our] side!!)
Not one discussion (and this was on a donor conception DISCUSSION board) about the ethics of donor conception, if anonymous donors are just, or anything pertaining to the feelings of donor conceived offspring. It’s as if no one cares how we feel.
One thing I find truly fascinating about these creatures we call recipient moms is that if an adult donor conceived person voices an opinion which differs from their own on any number of topics pertaining to donor conception, they immediately jump down this individual’s throat and accuse him or her of being mal-adjusted, and use some random bit of research (which almost always concerns small DC children – under 8 – and their parent(s)) to back up their claim that [we] shouldn’t feel this way. It amazes me how they continue to live in their little worlds when adult donor conceived people (whom their children will eventually gain ranks with) have something to say, unless it’s what they want to hear they refute it by whatever means necessary, no matter how absurd.
The other point I want to make is in regards to selfish DC mothers. Look at the infertility industry – everything is about the woman. Even sperm donors…most “DI dads” probably don’t even care if they have kids or not but simply are sick and tired of their wives bitching a moaning about wanting a baby that they surrender and agree. Donor eggs and donor embryos are also just alternative methods of satisfying greedy selfish women who want a baby. Now, I’m not saying that women who conceive naturally are NOT selfish, most are but have the luxury of having a hubby or themselves fertile.
How many “DI dads” do you see active in the DC community – I can name two. If the husbands really were as gung-ho about the process as everyone wants to believe I would think there would be more actively voicing their opinions. All I’ve got to say is that it must be difficult to be a DI dad. I don’t think I could be legitimately happy to know that in order for my wife to have her coveted baby she had to have it with another man. That child must be a constant reminder of the dad’s weakness, his inadequacy, his Achilles’ heel. It’s no wonder that divorce rates are so high in DC families, and so many where the dad wants nothing to do with the child afterwards.
Donor conception allows for selfish maternal behavior to be greatly rewarded at the expense of everyone else involved, and the difference between this and natural conception is that legally children’s best interests are not rendered important during pre-conception. Which is different from natural conception where prior to conception the interests of a child are not constructed, as that child does not exist and therefore its future interests are not of relevant at the time.
Friday, April 11, 2008
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.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Donor children demand to be told parents’ IDs
Sophie Goodchild, Health Editor
Ministers today faced a fresh challenge over fertility reforms.
A new campaign group has accused the Government of refusing to recognise the rights of children born through sperm or egg donation.
The International Donor Offspring Alliance says children who are not told the identity of their genetic parents are at risk of trauma in later life.
It is lobbying for a new style of birth certificate that would record the names of sperm or egg donors so children can track down their parents.
Last week, Gordon Brown was forced to allow MPs a free vote on plans to allow scientists to create embryos with animal and human cells under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. This was in response to pressure from the Catholic church.
About 40,000 Britons have been born through donated sperm or eggs. The Government has already changed the law to allow children conceived after April 2005 to trace their genetic parents.
Peers have tabled an amendment to the Bill, which will be debated next month, that would mean birth certificates being marked with a symbol so children would know they were born through egg or sperm donation. But campaigners say this does not go far enough. Tom Ellis, 25, of the Offspring Alliance, said: "All we want is parity with the rest of society. Adopted children have this information from birth, but our birth certificates are the only ones that can contain a lie."
However, Infertility Network UK, a support group for couples who have had children by fertility treatment, said parents should be left to inform their offspring privately about their origin rather than having new-style birth certificates. Spokeswoman Susan Seenan said: "We polled our members and the response was an overwhelming 'no' because a certificate is very much a public document.
"We are in favour of children being told they are conceived through donor conception but putting it on birth certificates is not the way forward."
Eric Blyth, professor of social work at Huddersfield University, suggested a solution that took account of both sides. "All birth certificates should carry a statement that there may be other information relating to the individual whose birth is recorded," he said.
"If this statement were on all birth certificates it would not compromise the privacy of any individuals."
'THEY LIED TO ME... IT FELT LIKE A BETRAYAL'
TOM ELLIS learned the secret about his birth when his parents split up three and a half years ago.
His mother told him the man he called "father" was in fact infertile and his genetic parent was a sperm donor.
Mr Ellis, a 25-year-old Cambridge mathematics graduate, said he was stunned by the revelation.
He said: "They [my parents] never really intended to tell me at all. It was a big shock - a really big thing to take in.
"It's very difficult - if someone lies to you then it's hard and feels like a betrayal." Mr Ellis added: "My brother was also donor-conceived but with a different father. I'd always assumed he was my full brother." The clinic where he was conceived, the Infertility Advisory Centre in London, has since closed down and former staff have refused to help him trace his father.
But he is determined to uncover the truth and has already registered with a DNA matching website to trace any other siblings his father may have helped create.
Mr Ellis said: "It's hard because there is very little information out there but we're going to keep pressing for this."
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how far I’ve come in my search the past five years. Prior to 2003, the only information I had under my belt was that I was conceived via artificial insemination (and for whatever that meant to me then I now can’t recall). I knew I had a biological father out there, but I knew absolutely nothing about him and figured that it was such a bizarre circumstance that there was no way I would even have any information EVER about this man. In May 2003, after the Oprah show featuring none other than the Donor Sibling Registry, my innocence was lost and I finally started to truly question my own existence. I look back and see that as my point of enlightenment.
With the help of my therapist at the time, I wrote a letter to my mother’s OB/GYN asking for information. Unfortunately, I hadn’t the nerve to send it for fear that my mother would find out. I spent the summer of 2003 becoming very informed in donor conception issues and strongly spoke out against the practices.
After learning that the Oprah episode was to be re-ran in September, I knew this was the spark to talk to my mother. Albeit slightly cunning and manipulative, I played dumb to my mother and innocently brought up that I had seen an Oprah show about artificial insemination! I said that I couldn’t believe there were so many others, much older than me in fact, and there were sperm banks, and donor numbers, and that I could even have half-siblings!! I told her how the people on the show had information about their donors and I wondered if I had some too.
My mother confessed at that point that she asked her OB/GYN to order a donor who had ‘brown hair, blue eyes, about 5’8”’ and she remembered that the sperm bank was in Georgia and it was supposedly the best at that time (mid-1980’s) for screening diseases, especially the newly discovered AIDS virus.
Alas!! I had something, no matter how little I was becoming a super-sleuth and it took several months later to conclude the only possible sperm bank she could have used was Xytex Corporation. I emailed Xytex several times with no response. I still had no donor number, and there were very few older offspring listed on the DSR from Xytex. By this time I was studying in Australia, and had surrounded myself in donor conception issues and activism with the Aussie TangledWebs members.
Not long after, a girl [name withheld to protect identity] joined PCVAI who was a Xytex baby!! Thrilled to talk to someone who was near my age and conceived from the same sperm bank, all of the sudden I had a one-track mind. I soon learned that the sperm bank contacted her donor on her behalf to see if she would want contact, and they then had quite a meaningful relationship! After getting to know Myfanwy Walker and Michael Linden while in Melbourne and seeing how incredibly close they were and how much they looked alike, I realized then that all I wanted was to find my biological father as well. My mind also swam with the remote possibility that my newfound friend could also be my half-sister. Comparing photographs of myself and her and her biological father, I kept hoping that maybe there was some slim chance, and I knew that if I didn’t have an answer, yes or no, that it would haunt me forever.
I finally got the nerve to make a call to Xytex, and considering a 14 hour time difference between Augusta and Melbourne, it required me to call in the middle of the night. I spoke to the secretary there and was informed on several different occasions that transactional records were destroyed after 10 years, and since I had no donor number there was no information they could give me. Sheridan Rivers did send me a list of supposed donors from 1983 and 1984, but I quickly realized it was not every donor, as several that I knew of from the DSR were not listed even though they donated at that time.
Seeing that I was not getting anywhere with aggravating Xytex at least once a week (as well as emptying my checking account for ridiculously expensive international calling cards), I had a brief thought of filing a lawsuit to demand my information but soon realized it was a hopeless cause in my case. For all I knew, they could be telling the truth and really did not keep any records of transactions. I let it lie until I was stateside once again, and then my curiosity piqued in regards to the possibility of my friend being my half-sister.
In September 2005 we finally set out to do a DNA test, and at the same time a reporter from my hometown (who had seen me in an article in the Chicago Tribune and contacted my parents while I was still in Australia) wanted to do a public interest story on me and my search. As fate should have it, the day he called me to set up a time for our first interview was the day I received the devastating news that the DNA test came back negative. Of course being young and naive I immediately told him of the negative DNA test. His story, little did I now at the time, had changed from simply about my story to my negative test. Even during the interviews I informed him that I did not want anything about the DNA test or names of people used, nor did I want him to contact my mother since I had not told her about the DNA test. Several days later I get a nasty phone call from my mother threatening me about living in a ‘fantasy world’ and did I ever once think about how much this was hurting her. It turns out the reporter called her and told her of the DNA test and what she thought about it…that bastard!!! I was about ready to call the editor and complain, but didn’t want to make any more of a scene.
After she retreated from her soapbox, I thought all was over and done with, until the story came out – on the front page of the Sunday paper!! He seemed to have left out that slight detail as well. My little sister called and told me I was on the front page of the paper and how furious mom was going to be, and my mom (who was on a weekend getaway in Canada at the time) came back and went through the roof!! Like her decision to conceive me with a sperm donor was so humiliating that it should be locked away and kept secret from the world. Even my maternal grandmother, who had and still does always support me in these senseless family battles was outraged and told me how could I ever do something to her my mom like I did.
I still to this day to not understand the rationale of people who think that our pain and suffering is not near as devastating (or should even exist) compared to the decisions and lifestyle choices our parents made, and how painful it must have been to be 30 years old and want a baby of their own and not be in a relationship. I mean ::gasp:: how could I EVER be ungrateful to be alive after I was soooo loved and wanted, and to top it off I have to publicly state this to the world?!?!
Now I was to speak at a conference in Toronto three weeks after this incident, and since my poor car I worried about driving the 7-hour trek each direction (and without AAA assistance, which I relied on heavily), so I had to convince my furious mother to let me use her car that weekend. After throwing myself a pity party about getting stranded out of the country if my car broke down, she agreed to let me take hers. She still was against me speaking at the conference, but was slowly learning that I wasn’t going to give up, regardless.
After that conference I was busy with school and spent the next year and a half fairly distant from the DC community focusing on my studies. Last summer (2007), I received an email via the DSR from a donor, but since I was not a paying member of the registry – I had joined long before there were yearly dues – I could not access my messages. Since I knew my mother was so opposed (and she could see my debit card transactions), I used a friend’s credit card to pay my $40 so I could read this message. He was a donor from Xytex at the right time and had characteristics that definitely fit what my mom had asked for – brown hair, blue eyed, 5’9. I messaged him back and waiting over a month to hear back from him. We corresponded for several months and finally agreed to do a DNA test.
As soon as I sent mine in and we were waiting for the results I got what I can only describe as ‘cold feet’. It was this enormous fear, not of a negative result, but of a positive result!! I suppose because I had already done a DNA test that came back negative, I knew how to react and I knew the emotions I would encounter but after a couple weeks I would get over it. A positive test was uncharted territory. The fear that somehow if I had found my biological father it would destroy the relationship with my mother, or that’s the only thing I could think of that seemed justifiable. It was almost as if, having spent 22 years wondering and dreaming about my biological father, that I would somehow be disappointed if he wasn’t all I had dreamed him up to be!! Now, it sounds ridiculous I know, and had it been positive I’m sure my fears would have been diminished in place of that knowledge.
But sometimes I wonder if this ignorance is bliss mentality might be keeping offspring from searching or wanting to know. You see so many people who hate their biological parents already, so what’s to say my biological father might not be some bum or complete jerk and I wouldn’t want anything to do with him anyways?! While this is entirely possible, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to know who he is. He’s still my father and that will never change.
I finally got my donor number this past February, after once again using the Oprah show (and a DC friend who was on the program) as motivation to once again bring up the subject to my mother. She nonchalantly told me that she had seen some sort of vial number in her medical records back in 2005 when I asked her to release them to me (she got them but interestingly enough she conveniently forgot to show them to me when I came back to the states). She didn’t think anything of this number, but when she told me that it was D20-35 I know instantly that this was in fact my coveted donor number, as all the donor numbers listed on that sheet Xytex sent me in 2005 were written as D-_ _ _ _, and most of the numbers began with 2. She told me she hadn’t mentioned it b/c it didn’t look like the examples I had shown her. While I could go on all day about a conspiracy theory, it’s not worth my anger, as now I have my number.
We hadn’t talked about it since 2005, and I had since then done another DNA test and was in the middle of possibly a third with two offspring who found each other on the DSR. It was like the dam burst and I suddenly in the excitement and momentum of the moment I spilled everything that I had done, and amazingly my mother didn’t object. She simply took it in as I’m a grown up young adult and these are my decisions. She didn’t say she agreed, or even supported me. But she didn’t threaten to disown me, or tell me how ungrateful I am. She still does occasionally bring up the subject and doesn’t understand why I can’t agree with her decision to use DI to have a baby. But luckily the seas have calmed and at least I am now able to search without fear.
If you are wishing to begin searching for your donor or half-siblings, the first step is to register on as many registries as possible (see list of registries from across the globe to the right under searching for donor families). It doesn’t matter if you have a donor number or not, but definitely helps. For male offspring, there is Y-chromosome genealogical DNA tests, such as FamilyTree DNA, which can trace your Y-chromosome lineage and give you most common ancestors with surnames. This is helpful if you know at least a little information on your donor, such as if he was a university student, med student, name of the university, year of birth, or anything else that may set him apart. Simple paternity and siblingsip DNA tests, such as through Genetic Tests Laboratories which can be used if there is another offspring or donor who you think may be a match, but you don’t have a donor number. There are also Private Investigators and adoption reunion groups that can help if you have a name (after maybe doing a genealogical DNA test). In the United Kingdom, a program called UKDonorLink is a voluntary registry, which UK conceived offspring as well as donors could submit a DNA sample that is then cross-referenced to all the samples in their database to search for matches. With the Internet and many other modern technologies, searching for biological families has never been easier or more accessible, so take advantage of it!!