A recent article in the New York Post profiles Ed Houben, a 44-year-old Dutch man who has at least 99 children around the world resulting from his efforts as a serial sperm donor for the past fifteen years. Unlike most sperm donors who enter the practice for the extra cash involved, Houben’s donations are entirely free. He’s even set up his own website where women from all over the world can find him, check out his STD testing results, and peruse his photographs, IQ results, etc.
As is often the case with sperm donation, Houden expresses little concern for the children created from the practice. His interests are the women who are eager for a child. Yet, what’s perhaps most egregious is his disregard for any limits on the practice:
When he hit his maximum at the hospital, he began going to other clinics in the Netherlands. He did not worry about the potential ramifications. “The doctor and I were becoming pretty good friends, and I said, ‘Do I need to stop? Is there some kind of genetic danger here?'” Houben says the doctor assured him that with a population of 15 million, he could safely father 500 children in the Netherlands alone.
While I oppose the practice of sperm donation altogether, as I believe it unfairly privileges the desires of the parents over the needs of the children created from the practice, I’m also in favor of strict legal limitations as to how many times a man can donate or sell his sperm (as in the case in France or Spain where donors are only allowed to father five children through the practice). Such legal limitations on sperm donation at least limit the possibility that genetic half-siblings in a small population could accidentally partner and procreate—a common fear among young adult children conceived through sperm donation.
All of this, however, evidences the sheer messiness of the practice. Houben and his ilk consider these concerns a trivial matter: “Sperm cells are like candy at Mardi Gras, the more you throw out, the better you get.” Yet for the children conceived through such means, it’s no laughing matter.