Should Donors Be Anonymous?

A recent NY Times Op-Ed piece advocated that all donors be open donors whose identities would be shared with the donor’s offspring when they reach age 18.

I was adopted in 1972 – pre-Roe v Wade era – where it was usually seen to be in the best interest of the child and “all involved” to not know they are adopted. I was fortunate that my parents disagreed and my adoption story was told to me from birth, though I have no info on the birth family really as my parents are not reliable reporters and didn’t write down what little they were told. The mystery has become part of my identity… but that was a self-individuation process that evolved. The recent NY Times Op-Ed is simplistic and one-dimensional, but after all, the author is only an 18 year old boy.

I do feel that donor records should be anonymous if that is preferred by a donor but I also believe they should not be destroyed. I have to say as an adopted person I have always wondered about bio parents/family and while I never felt traumatized about it, there is some comfort for me in knowing that my birth records are out there “somewhere” and should I ever really need them I can subpoena them. Certainly this young man’s discomfort is not unusual and his identity formation as an adult man and a father to be, if he should choose, will be shaped to some degree by these questions. It seems natural to me.

I did not turn to my parents to navigate my adoption issues – my brother is now doing some searching and has told my parents – I worry more about them especially my mom – my mom’s infertility grief is still a bit raw even 40+ years later and me being pregnant is a joy for her but it is all complicated… I guess that is my point … it is all complicated and that is OK.

My daughter will know more than some others as we have a known donor and I have pictures. He was a friend, and still is a “Facebook friend” (LOL) despite living half way around the world. I am sure of one thing – it will be complicated – but I learned from my parents that there are all kinds of families – and that is what I will tell my daughter.

Susan J. 

2 thoughts on “Should Donors Be Anonymous?”

  1. There isn’t one answer that’s right for all families.

    I agree that anonymous donors should be allowed as well as open-ID/ID-release donors and it’s up for the donor to choose which he (or she – I think the same should be for egg donors) wants to be. And then it’s up to the recipient to chose which he/she/they feel is right for their family.

    While personally, I think the benefits to ID-release outweigh the negatives, and for my own family, I chose an ID-release donor, that doesn’t mean it should be forced upon everybody.

    I read the NY Times piece referenced and am sad for the author… maybe through things like the donor sibling registry he’ll find some more pieces to his puzzle and find peace with his situation.

  2. Surprisingly, I agree with Susan J.

    First, governments of other countries have tried to control this industry with dismal results. When governments limit the industry to only “donors known at the age of 18,” the donor pool drops in numbers and quality. There are consequences to donor shortages such as price increases and waiting periods. For a woman over 35 or 40, a waiting period can make the difference between fertility and infertility.

    Because anonymity generates more donors, it also allows banks to be selective when it comes to accepting donors. I remember that 80% of the donors I liked had SAT scores in the top 1% and I seem to recall that they were all tall. Supposedly they were all students at one of a few top universities and so in some regard, they had the “right stuff.” I notice that my child is extremely well-functioning. She’s aware of the trade-off which is that her off-the-chart abilities comes at the expense of possibly not knowing her paternal side. Also, due to the large selection of donors, I was able to select a donor with criteria that matched my other family members so that my daughter felt like she fit into my family.

    Second, when the government gets involved with a process, there is no telling what the outcome is going to be. I’m sure there are elected officials who hate the idea of lesbians and single parents having access to sperm banks. I don’t know how they would legislate against these two groups, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t try. Kansas now has only one abortion clinic, planned parenthood, because the closets and doors were the wrong size in the other two clinics so the state shut them down. That’s how weird it gets.

    Third, we have sibling registries that have created friendships among many half-siblings. Once a donor becomes known to an 18 year-old sibling, he, or in the case of egg donors, she, becomes known to all siblings, including underage siblings. This situation of being known to underage offspring would certainly prevent many bright students from becoming donors. It’s virtually impossible to track all vials of sperm.

    Fourth, there are couples who use sperm banks who never tell their children that they were conceived by donor insemination, even though it is recommended that they tell. These families would not be served well by limiting their selection to only donors willing to participate in an identity-release program.

    I do have to sympathize with a young man who desperately wants to meet his biological father. It seems that donor children (and adoptees) differ widely in their needs and I’m not sure why this is the case. Many entities have had success hiring private detectives to locate donors. I made sure that I selected a donor who provided enough information that I could track him down.

    At this point, I think we should have a two-tiered system of anonymous and identity-release donors. Also, we should study donor children in two-parent lesbian, heterosexual and single-parent families to determine what percentage of children in each type of family would benefit by identity release.

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