Whenever I criticise private sperm donation I get accused of being a spoil sport. Babies are born, patients are delighted, donor is happy to help: what’s not to love?
Here’s the thing: I know the other side to well. The nasty underbelly that is not known enough because many who are caught up in this, understandably, don’t want to talk about it afterwards.
I deal with the customers who are violated. It is said that 1 in 2 will go on to experience some form of violence, victimisation or personal harm, whilst trying to conceive, during their pregnancy, or in the postpartum period. I speak to the lesbian women who never had intercourse with a man but have to endure, because he can’t get it up in the bathroom of the local Travelodge, penetrative sex (“Do you want to get pregnant or not?”). I speak to the women who find out during the pregnancy that their little cherub will be having 5 siblings in the same corner of town.
I cringe when I hear yet another donor state that ‘they’ve made up an agreement’. I deal with the donors who are chased for maintenance if the mother or the breadwinner loses her job because ‘that agreement’ is not worth the paper it’s written on. Donors who fail to realise that, unlike in a UK clinic where the donor never is the legal father, in most cases in unregulated donor sperm services they are the legal father and despite ‘agreements’ may have to pay. You simply can’t legalise your way out of parenthood and I see the aftermath years after the event.
Donors have admitted to me that the lie about their age, lie about their health, lie about their names. I know of the guy who had a vasectomy but enjoys the power of women waiting for him as he’s masturbating in another room. I know of clusters of children with hereditary invisible disabilities from the same donor but, of course, users are not told this beforehand or indeed, the donor doesn’t realise it himself.
And most importantly, I know about the children. The cute little innocent babies who grow into inquisitive people and want to know about their roots. I know about people who are uncomfortable knowing they may have lots of half-siblings without knowing how many and where they are. In the case of this sperm donor 10 children born within 4 months, possibly within a 20 mile radius of each other. Admittedly the latter happens in UK clinic sperm donation as well but the use is monitored and capped (maximum 10 families per donor).
Whatever the reason why patients/customers and donors choose this route, it is their right to do so. It often goes right after all. However I deal too often with the cases where it goes very wrong to pretend this is all plain sailing.
I am not angry. I just slam my head in despair. And again. And again.
Laura Witjens, NGDT
Public separate cases of donors having to pay child support. For the record, for confidentiality reasons, these are cases I have NOT been involved in.