I am the daughter of a sperm donor. For a long time I didn’t understand how this had negatively impacted my life, until I read David Blankenhorn’s Fatherless America. It was like stepping into a series of scenes from my adolescence. Never before had someone so eloquently and acutely described my personal struggles. I now staunchly defy the pro donor-conception script I was expected to embrace. Two years ago I asked for David’s help in creating The Anonymous Us Project—an anonymous story collective for people involved with Artificial Reproductive Technologies (ART), and he obliged. Through the stories I’ve received on my site and the research I have read, I am convinced that I am not alone in my struggles being donor-conceived.
So I was surprised with David’s new stance on same-sex marriage as described in his recent New York Times piece. I feel he underestimates, inter alia, the rapid expansion of donor-conception that will accompany same-sex marriage, and with it, many of the social ills he so diligently describes in Fatherless America.
David pivots his resistance to same-sex marriage because his desire to enhance the public’s understanding of marriage as it is related to parenthood has “largely failed to persuade.” He says that, “In the mind of today’s public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens.” But in his conclusion he asks, “Can we discuss whether both gays and straight people should think twice before denying children born through artificial reproductive technology the right to know and be known by their biological parents?”
This final remark suggests that anonymity is the only problem with ART. It is true that straight people started ART, but same-sex marriage will increase the demand for sperm and egg donors—inherently denying children access to one or both of their natural parents.
The connection between marriage and parenthood is not a vestige—it is a thriving expectation that those who get married will at least consider pursuing parenthood. Marriage is a celebration of two people’s union and the possibility of parenthood. And gay marriage entails not just social approval of gay love, but also social approval of the possibility of gay parenthood.
But should we celebrate the possibility of gay parenthood?
Most people approve of gay couples adopting. I am one of these people. Adoption exists as an institution because of human frailty; sometimes people are unable to raise their biological children, but those children still need loving homes. Adoption is not a market that provides children to the adults that desire them. It is for parents to find children who—tragically—cannot be raised by their biological parents. The problem for couples interested in adopting these days is that because of abortion and birth control, many children that would have been adopted were simply never born.
Because of this, many gay married couples that want to become parents will opt to use ART.
But there’s a big difference between ART and regular adoption. Donor-conception, unlike adoption, is a market where new humans are created to fulfill the demands of the adults that want them. “Commercially conceived” persons are deliberately denied a relationship with one or both of our biological parents. The tragic, primal wound ubiquitous in adoption literature is woven into every commercially conceived person’s life story.
Motherlessness and commodification of human life and the womb are concerning. According to the 2010 My Daddy’s Name Is Donor report (released by Blankenhorn’s colleagues at the Institute for American Values), the first large comparative study of young adults conceived via commercial conception, “Donor offspring are significantly more likely than those raised by their biological parents to struggle with serious, negative outcomes such as delinquency, substance abuse, and depression, even when controlling for socio-economic and other factors.”
Being raised by one’s biological parents is not only ideal according to social science research, but according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is a human right. My biggest fear is that the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples will strip children of the right to be raised by their natural parents, because law and culture will demand that we celebrate all the means by which same-sex couples become parents.
Alana S. Newman is the founder of the Anonymous Us Project.
The Anonymous Us Project
David Blankenhorn, How My View On Gay Marriage Changed
My Daddy’s Name is Donor, 2010
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