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I have stated in a previous article on a different issue that we are becoming a nation of public policy promise breakers.  That is, we make solemn and legally binding promises, which are relied on by people, and then break them later in the face of intense emotional narratives by other affected people.  Where is the proper place of integrity here?

I bring this up because the children of anonymous sperm donors increasingly are clamoring to learn the identity of their biological fathers. From the story:

Katrina Clark and Lindsay Greenawalt have much in common. Bright women in their 20s, raised by single mothers, keenly curious about the men whose donated sperm helped give them life. Clark’s search for her father succeeded after only a month, though with a bittersweet aftermath. Greenawalt is still searching, seven years after she started — persisting despite doubts and frustrations. “I’ve dreamt of you since I was a little girl,” Greenawalt wrote to her unknown dad in a Father’s Day blog posting in June. “There are so many things I want to know about you.” Greenawalt, who lives near Cleveland, and Clark, a college student in Washington, D.C., are part of an increasingly outspoken generation of donor offspring. They want to transform the dynamics of sperm donation so the children’s interests are given more weight and it becomes easier to learn about their biological fathers.

We have seen the same dynamic play out as adopted children search for their birth parents—and in some cases, courts have ordered the confidentiality promises under which the adoptions were made, to be broken.

This is a very slippery area. But, I believe strongly that society has to have integrity.  Once people rely on such laws or policies, the bargain should be kept (barring a truly urgent health or similar contingency).  If people want to be found, there are websites for such re-connections.  If the policy of confidentiality for donors and birth parents who give up their children comes to be seen as unwise or unjust, by all means change it—but prospectively,  so as not to violate earlier assurances.

I have every sympathy for children who want to learn of their natural parents—which shows the importance of both natural parents.  But that isn’t the only issue at stake here.  Those who relied upon confidentiality in adopting out or siring children also have lives that would be impacted by breaking earlier promises.  Besides,  if we create a society whose promises and solemn legal assurances cannot be relied upon to stick, why anyone ever believe anything the society promises?

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