Recently, I watched an Oprah show featuring children of sperm donation. Whatever your views are on the ethics of using sperm donation to make children, there was no denying the brokenheartedness of the three young women sitting on Oprah’s stage that day. They wondered out loud to the audience: “Does he ever think about me?”, “Do I look like him?”, and “Does he know I’m out here?”

Two half-siblings told their story. In their search to find their sperm-donor dad, they found each other. Oprah’s crew filmed their first encounter, as one waited at the train station for the arrival of the other. It was hard for me to hold back the tears as I watched this brother and sister find each other for the first time. They couldn’t take their hands off each other’s faces. They found it impossible to stop looking into each other’s eyes, as if looking at themselves in the mirror. “I belong. I look like someone. I am a part of something – a family.” The longing for community and family, perhaps the most important communal structure, is strongly present inside each of us. It’s part of what makes us human.

A new law is being considered in the United Kingdom next month which will strip away the legal need for a father. Birth certificates will report “Parent A” and “Parent B”. This controversial new law has many far-reaching and negative consequences. One of the law’s contentious issues is:

Fathers Not Needed
The act would remove the requirement for fertility doctors to consider a child’s “need for a father” when offering treatment to single women or lesbian couples. Campaigners say that this sends a message to society that fathers are not important.

Liza Mundy’s book, Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction Is Changing Men, Women, and the World (I would have added men, women, children, and the family as my tagline) quotes Robert Nachtigall, a San Francisco fertility doctor as saying, “Let’s face it: donor gametes is an experiment…This is a huge, social experiment mediated by technology. Who the hell knows how it’s going to turn out?”

I wonder what kind of interventions will be needed to clean-up after this enormous techno-mediated social experiment to offset the damage done to the lives of so many children who grow up without the love and care of a father. I can’t help but think many of these children will need the help of psychiatrists and psychologists to manage their way through the confusion and despair they feel while trying to gain their sense of identity and belonging. On the Oprah show, 19 year old Katrina said she feels like a “product” made by a “de-humanizing industry.” Susan expressed feelings of betrayal. Kathleen feels like a stranger.

The majority of children in the U.S. still live with both of their biological parents but this figure is down and the trend continues to drop.

Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse, Senior Research Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty asks this, “What if the proportion of U.S. children living with their two married parents were as high today as it was in 1970?” In 1970, 69% of U.S. children lived with their two married parents, compared with 60% in 2000, a drop of 9 percentage points.” Roback-Morse offers these realities if we had not experienced the 9% drop:

643,000 fewer American adolescents would fail a grade each year.
1,040,000 fewer would be suspended from school.
531,000 fewer adolescents would need therapy.
464,000 fewer adolescents would engage in delinquent behavior.
453,000 fewer youth would be involved in violence.
515,000 fewer youth would begin smoking cigarettes.
179,000 fewer youth would consider suicide.
62,000 fewer youth would actually attempt suicide.

Dr. Roback-Morse is herself a mother of one biological child and one adopted child. She is correct in her assessment – it takes a family to raise a village.

Through the work of CBC and other like-minded organizations we can challenge, criticize and counteract this huge technologically-mediated-social experiment, for the future of society and for the sake of children.