Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
I suppose you have heard the dismay over the lesbian couple who ordered a white baby from a sperm bank and got a black baby. They are suing the sperm bank for “Wrongful birth and breach of warranty.” Not surprising: it is after all, a commercial transaction. Suing the business is what dissatisfied customers do. The plaintiff, Jennifer Cramblett, says that she wants to make sure the offending business establishment is held accountable and that no other family endures the same lapse in customer service that she did.
So I have a modest proposal for regulating the sperm bank industry. My proposal will address the problem at the front end, making such mistakes less likely, instead of addressing it at the back end, with a law suit after damaged goods have been delivered.
Are you ready for my modest proposal?
I propose that sperm donors be required to deliver the product in person.
Yes, in person.
You have to admit this would solve a lot of problems. First, no racial mix-ups like this one would be possible. Second, the prospective mother(s) could take a good look at their child’s prospective father. They might be able to observe for themselves difficult-to-quantify factors that might elude the sperm bank’s intake/marketing/promotional questionnaire. The Aryan Nation neck tattoos for instance. Or the fact that the man hasn’t showered in a week. Or his messianic complex that leads him to want to spread his seed all over the world in order to save it.
The prospective mother(s) just might notice stuff like that in an in-person meeting, when Prospective Dad drops off his sperm.
They might even want to talk with one another a bit. The chance to talk might give the mother(s) some information about their future child’s father. (The child will carry his genes for the rest of his or her life. Half of the child’s body will come from this guy with the vial.) Some children actually do want to know something about their fathers, after all.
Most prospective mom(s) think this will not happen to them. But, you never know. They might get unlucky and give birth to a statistically unlikely, amazingly selfish child who wants to know where she got her freckles or her hair, or goodness knows what else about his or her father. So, that conversation could turn out to be important down the road.
As a matter of fact, if personal delivery of sperm were required by law, people might develop a custom of taking photos of each other during this all-important meeting. The adults could have a souvenir of their special day. And who knows how important such photos might prove to be to the child later?
Of course, if the mother(s) didn’t like the looks of the sperm donor they chose from the catalogue, they could send him back and order a different one. Maybe the word would get out among the donors at the sperm bank that this particular mother(s) was/were particularly particular. So the next prospective donor might want to bring her/them a special gift so they would be more interested in using his sperm, rather than Donor #379’s sperm. He might bring her/them flowers or chocolates. He might even decide to comb his hair and curb his use of the f-word in casual conversation.
The mother(s) and the sperm donor might want to think about how well they will get along with each other, on the remote chance that they might ever need to collaborate for the benefit of their child. As a matter of fact, seeking the benefit of their child might lead them to forsake all others and be more committed to their child’s other parent than to their current or future sex partners or love interests.
If they really want to seal their commitment to each other and the good of their child’s future, they could take a truly radical step. They could allow the sperm donor to assist with the installation of the sperm. Using a turkey baster, of course. Or if everyone consents, a more natural form of sperm installation. Who knows, they might actually find that they like each other.
Nah. That’s just fantasy. It will never come to that.
But still, you have to admit: personal delivery of sperm would have protected the interests of all the parties involved in this mixed-race baby mix up.
I hope you enjoyed a good laugh here. What makes my little story funny? We laugh because we all know that the sperm bank industry exists for the purpose of separating mothers and fathers from each other, and separating fathers from their children.
It is no laughing matter, though. As a society, we are permitting the sperm bank industry to operate because we implicitly or explicitly approve of adults getting the children they want, in whatever way they want. We are not thinking through what it means to be a child who is purchased, who is haggled over in a lawsuit. The sperm bank industry and the legal structure that allows it to operate creates children who are separated from the source of half of their own bodies. They are deliberately separated from half of their genetic heritage, half of their cultural identity, and all of their relationship with their fathers.
If you can see this because I made you laugh, I am glad for that. I have written a companion piece which might make you cry. Whether you get it through laughter or through tears, I just hope you can come to see the truth: there is no regulation of the sperm bank industry that truly does justice to all parties.
The sperm bank industry should be abolished, not regulated.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, which Inspires the Survivors of the Sexual Revolution.
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Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.
Founder and President, The Ruth Institute
San Marcos, CA 92078