Offspring of Egg and Sperm Donors to Benefit From New Law

There are some one million donor-conceived children in the U.S. today; my daughter is one of them. And starting July 22, one state started to improve their access to critical information about their donors.

Nineteen years ago, in my mid-30s, I decided to use an anonymous sperm donor to conceive a child. I signed many legal papers, including one that gave up any rights I might have to learn the donor’s identity — though I didn’t sign away my child’s rights to find him. In return, I received a sheaf of papers that disclosed health records for the donor and his family going back three generations. The sperm bank was California Cryobank, and its reputation was unassailable. I did of course consider what my child would think about the mysterious parts of her DNA but also believed that we would work through it.

In December, my amazing daughter turned 18 and sent a letter to the Cryobank to be forwarded to her donor. She knew that he might not want to be contacted but she felt that she had to try, and she held out hope that he might actually read the letter. She didn’t want a relationship with him so much as she just wanted to know who this man was who surely gave her the pale skin and green eyes that add to her beauty. He wasn’t interested in receiving the letter, and — after a few tears — my daughter moved on to college applications and prom.

We played by the rules of the donor game, and have no problem with it. But I have also had the joy of raising a smart, healthy, beautiful daughter made possible by an anonymous donor. Not all such stories have had happy endings. Some donors have not been honest in their applications, and some fertility clinics have not disclosed critical medical information to recipients.

Washington State is the first to grant rights to donor-conceived offspring to gain access to critical health information and, in some cases, to the names of their donors. The law allows donors to choose to safeguard their anonymity if they so desire. This is a step forward for children such as my own who wonder, “Who am I? Where did I come from?”

In a world where information is disseminated at the speed of light, where few questions go unanswered on the internet, where our children know how to find out almost anything — how much longer can anyone or anything remain anonymous? The sheaf of legal papers that I was asked to sign 19 years ago may be a relic soon. If I had been offered the opportunity so long ago to someday learn the identity of my sperm donor, I would have grabbed it for the sake of my daughter. So kudos to the Washington State legislature for the law that goes into effect this month. I hope many other states will follow their lead.

There are enough mysteries in life. It can’t hurt to have one less to worry about.

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