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To the extent there has been any debate about in vitro fertilization, opponents have argued against it philosophically or theologically. (The Catholic Church strongly rejects it, and many of the public opponents have been Catholics, but not all.) But without denying the necessity of that kind of reflection on the issue, there is something to be said for looking at how the technology has worked out in practice, particularly from the children’s point of view.

In My Daddy’s Name is Donor (see the column to the left for the executive summary and the full text) , Elizabeth Marquardt of the Institute for American Values looks at the experience of the children conceived that way, and found problems. For example, here is first finding given in the statement of Fifteen Major Findings :

Young adults conceived through sperm donation (or “donor offspring”) experience profound struggles with their origins and identities.

Sixty-five percent of donor offspring agree, “My sperm donor is half of who I am.” Forty-five percent agree, “The circumstances of my conception bother me.” Almost half report that they think about donor conception at least a few times a week or more often.

The role of money in their conception disturbs a substantial number of donor offspring. Forty-five percent agree, “It bothers me that money was exchanged in order to conceive me.” Forty-two percent of donor offspring, compared to 24 percent from adoptive families and 21 percent raised by biological parents, agree, “It is wrong for people to provide their sperm or eggs for a fee to others who wish to have children.”

When they grow up, donor offspring are more likely to agree, “I don’t feel that anyone really understands me,” with 25 percent of them agreeing strongly, compared to 13 percent of the adopted and nine percent of those raised by biological parents.

Not a huge difference, but a significant one, and one that suggests that the philosophical objections ought to reconsidered by those who’ve accepted ivf as an obvious good. The newspaper stories show happy parents holding their newborn, and you have to feel great sympathy for those who suffer from infertility, which pastors have told me is the greatest source of suffering in the marriages they see, but that is not the whole story.

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