My agenda, if I could be said to have one, is to be an advocate for reducing the stigma associated with building a family through donor sperm. I want my children to grow up in a world where insinuations that their conception was shameful, immoral, unethical or cruel are marginalized to the point of extinction. I know those attitudes will never disappear completely, but I’d like to see them on the endangered species list.
Containing and limiting the stigma is a job, first and foremost, for parents and would-be parents on donor-conceived children. No one else is going to do it for us.
So, what can we do? People who are thinking of using a donor can research the issues (the Donor Sibling Registry has a wealth of resources) and only use an “open identity” donor. If none of us used truly anonymous donors then the sperm banks would be forced to reconsider their business model. Parents of donor-conceived children must try to speak openly about their choices, with their children, family and friends. The stigma begins at home with silence and secrecy. Telling your donor-conceived child early and often about their biological origins is a respectful way to raise them, and a contribution to squelching the stigma.
The sperm banking industry in the U.S. is woefully under-regulated. It claims to be adept at self-regulation, but skyrocketing numbers of oversize half-sibling groups, lackadaisical recordkeeping, and their refusal to create a national registry demonstrates their breathtaking cynicism and disregard for donor-conceived families. The industry perpetuates donor anonymity because it’s good business. Setting limits on numbers of donor offspring from a single donor and creating a national registry would eat into their profits. Sure, they could charge more for a vial of sperm, but they know that beyond a certain dollar amount, many people would seek an alternative solution. Sperm banks are not the only places to obtain sperm in this day and age.
Ending donor anonymity and weakening the stigma of donor conception are two sides of the same coin. All of us, especially straight couples, can play a part in rolling back the stigma by speaking up about our choices and standing up as another type of alternative family. I know it’s not easy, but I think it’s just part of the deal.