Monday, June 25, 2012

Does Biology Matter?

The front page of The New York Times' business section reports on a new scientific breakthrough: a noninvasive blood test that can determine paternity while a child is still in the womb, as early as the eighth week of the pregnancy.

In other words, as soon as a woman finds out she is pregnant, she can find out who the father is.

The Times glowingly describes this new technology's many uses: "Men who clearly know they are the father might be more willing to support the woman financially and emotionally during the pregnancy." Even better, "state governments might one day pursue child support payments without having to wait until the birth."

Biology clearly matters a great deal. It can mean the difference between loving and not loving, feeling responsible and not feeling responsible, being held accountable, or being off scot-free.

The law cannot make a man into a loving father. But at a minimum, if he makes money, the law can enforce his financial obligations to his children. In the eyes of the law, biology alone is good enough to sustain a huge child support enforcement effort (with pitiful results, but at least the attempt is made). And for the economically marginal men who often father children out of wedlock, it's a huge cost imposed on the basis of biology alone.

Everywhere you turn biology alone matters enormously -- with one glaring exception: children conceived by donor insemination.

When these children grow up to be adults who yearn to know who their biological father is (as many but not all do), they face a wall of angry derision for their unacceptable desire.
These are the planned fatherless. These are the adult children around whom an industry has grown. They are supposed to be grateful they are alive at all. They weren't given the choice, they didn't do the planning and now that many are beginning to find their own voice, the planners and choosers do not like it one bit.

"I thought it would be so easy to arrive, state the obvious that children need their fathers, and everyone would be like, oh my God, thank you for reminding us!" Alana, a woman conceived by a sperm donor and who runs the story collective, said in the new documentary "Anonymous Father's Day." "But there is a huge monster of money and people desperate for children, who don't want me to make it harder for them to buy and sell children."

She recalls a story a colleague told her about one person's response to donor-conceived children with negative or ambivalent feelings: "Too bad you weren't the load your dad flushed down the toilet." 

"People are extremely vicious," Alana reports, according to LifeSiteNews.

Why the vitriol? Oprah Winfrey's America is not generally a place where adult children are asked to silence their feelings about childhood troubles and trauma on the grounds of filial piety.

Single moms don't object when we point out that dads matter. They know they do, and if their children's fathers aren't there, they know whom to blame: the absent and unreliable dad. Adopted parents for the most part have less anxiety about the idea that biology matters. After all, children aren't deprived of biological connection by their adoptive parents (who are reassured to know that although biology matters, it cannot possibly compete with 18 years of loving support in a child's eyes).

Anxious parents, gay and straight, are right now planning families where they are going to deliberately and with much forethought deny their child any right to know his biological roots. They are creating families through IVF using donor sperm because biology matters to them (otherwise they would adopt). How do these adults cope with the idea they may be deliberately depriving a beloved child of something important, something that matters?

So far, mostly by shooting the messenger.



Unknown said...

Hi Narelle,

My name is Smita and I am a journalist at that's life! magazine.

I'm really sorry to contact you like this but I've just read about your amazing story in the newspaper.

We'd love to share your story in our magazine. If this is something you might be interested in doing please email:

Look forward to hearing from you soon!

Kind regards,

Smita Mistry

Wild Orchid said...

There was a bittersweet ending to lovely Rel's story. She passed away this week after a courageous 2 year battle with colon cancer: Just 8 days after the story of finally finding - And meeting (!) - Her biological father was published.

You will always be in our hearts, Rel. You were an inspiration to all of us. You were a beautiful soul. A lover... And a fighter. May your story continue to inspire others... And may it be part of a larger story of the much-needed changes you fought so hard for. xo

"Suddenly, She's There"

Unknown said...

There are many avenues to choosing a sperm donor, so before making that crucial decision, consider all the different aspects and chose the rigth and credible person.

Unknown said...

I question the assertion that "[Infertile couples] are creating families through IVF using donor sperm because biology matters to them (otherwise they would adopt)." In Australia adoption is rarely an option and donor conception is often the only hope that these parents have of raising a child. There are very few local children available for adoption and Australia has recently cancelled almost all of its international programs. Prospective parents added to the adoption waitlist today have a 1/10 chance of receiving a child in their lifetime.

Infertile couples (such as my husband and I) generally go through years of treatments and heartache trying to conceive a child before making the difficult decision to use a sperm donor. I am sure that it is not a decision that anybody makes lightly.

Many parents accidently conceive children that they don't want. In contrast, donor conceived children are always desperately wanted and very much loved by the parents who raise them. It is sad to know that these children sometimes feel so deprived. I certainly hope that this will not be the sentiment of our child (who will be conceived through IVF using a sperm donor but will always know the truth and have access to his/her biological father's identity).

sk said...

Being 'wanted' doesn't change anything -adoptive parents 'want' their children and it's the rejection from the donor(and the birth parent)and lack of contact that's the issue.

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