Super-Spreaders in the World of Sperm Donation


Lockdown due to COVID has slowed some trends and accelerated others. One trend that has accelerated is that of unregulated sperm donation. It should be noted that the Church strongly discourages sperm donation, egg donation, and surrogacy, and IVF is sanctioned only where the sperm and egg come from the legal parents of the child-to-be. After reading this New York Times article about the boom in sperm donation due to lockdown, I can't help feeling the Church is not behind the times, but ahead of the curve.

Anyhow, in the article we meet the world of rogue sperm donors, who arrange to hand off sperm through Facebook contacts and through-the-grapevine email trails. Some charge as little as $30; others charge as much as $200. If there's travel involved, that must be reimbursed. You can imagine why business is booming in a time of economic downturn, because going through a sperm donation clinic can cost upwards of $1000, ad not many men have been able to come to clinics to donate due to lockdown.

Now, I am with the Church in thinking sperm donation is a bad thing on principle alone--more on that in a moment--but even if one does not take that position, the facts are worrisome. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends no more than 25 children per donor, to prevent accidental consanguinity, a potent source of genetic defects, including deadly genetic defects, in children. Other countries have lower limits; in the UK the limit is 10 children. The donors highlighted in this article have 100, 200, 300, and one estimates he may have fathered 1000 children. And this is not just a national phenomenon--one donor boasts he has children in 13 countries. One donor-conceived young man estimates he may have close to 300 half-siblings, some of whom live locally and whom he may have even dated at some point. It is unclear how or even whether these donors have been tested for disease, mental illness, or genetic issues.

Of course, these men are not fathers--they have nothing or next to nothing to do with their children, and not a one has taken any financial responsibility at all for these offspring. While we may be aghast at these narcissistic sperm donors (and, by the way, narcissism has been shown to be heritable), we should be equally aghast at the mothers, so desperate for a child that the wellbeing of the desired child comes in a distant second. It's even more extreme than that verse in Isaiah 4:1 that talks about how among the wicked at end times seven women take hold of one man in exchange for being under his protection; here dozens of women take hold of one man in exchange for a vial of sperm and nothing more.

But it was two comments to the article that caught my eye (the New York Times usually has great comments sections). When we think of the wellbeing of the child, we should not think only of their physical wellbeing. There are deep emotional and even spiritual aspects to these arrangements:

SDK (Feb 2): "As a donor conceived person born in the late 60s, I most likely have a much smaller number of half siblings. What troubles donor conceived people about this is not incest, although that is certainly troubling, but rather the feeling that we are a mass-produced commodity. Donor conceived people have feelings - familial feelings - about our biological parents, despite the fact that those feelings are inconvenient for the infertility industry, our own parents, and various bioethicists. Biology matters to most humans who have ever lived and it also matters to us - because we are also humans. Most of us, like adoptees, hope for a relationship of some kind with our biological family. Instead, we are told that those people do not want us or care about us, that we are an embarrassment, a complication, that there are too many of us, that other people signed contracts saying that WE cannot know whose DNA we carry in every cell of our bodies and whose faces we see in the mirror, etc. etc. We are humans - we are not a commercial product, not an experimental playground for utopian ideas, not a theoretical argument, not a eugenics experiment. Humans."

This is a profound cri de coeur, one that indicts both the mother and the father, for they both intended even before conception that the child be stripped of half of their heritage, physical and spiritual. This is a deep moral wrong.

There was a second comment that also made an impact:

Frank (Feb 1): "Why [would men do this]? Uh, genetic success and none of the financial or emotional responsibility? Rather like males of other species in the wild. Kind of like males of the nobility in cultures of an earlier day. Remarkable how modern, liberated women who don't want men to be involved in helping to raise kids have managed to re-create one of the most biologically patriarchal arrangements imaginable."

Indeed, indeed . . . this seems but a technological updating of ancient patriarchal privileges. Do women not see this?

Sure seems to me that the Church's position protects everyone, especially the innocent children.