At The Public Discourse, Alana S. Newman has a fascinating look inside a recent convention held by the American Association for Adoption and Reproductive Technologies Attorneys (AAARTA). The other attendees of the conference were, by and large, lawyers involved in facilitating third-party reproduction, including sperm and egg donation, embryo donation, and surrogate pregnancy. Newman’s description of what she saw at the conference, held in November in Charleston, South Carolina, provides a telling glimpse into the largely unregulated—but highly lucrative—business of making babies via third-party reproduction:
I enrolled at the conference expecting to find an environment focused on the wants and concerns of adults and “intended parents,” but what I discovered was more than just a blind disregard for the dynamic needs of children. The event was overflowing with a shocking enthusiasm for motherlessness, and it served as an opportunity to promote the fertility industry’s most lucrative package: egg donors plus surrogates, for gay male couples and single-dads-by-choice. …
Gay male couples are the Number One demographic to be targeted by American surrogacy agencies. This is for several reasons. For starters, partnered gay men are wealthier than any other demographic, earning an average of $116,000 per year per household, which is $21,500 more than the average heterosexual household. Secondly, LGBT individuals and couples are under great social pressure to have children. Their parents want grandchildren. Their friends and colleagues still connect marriage with child-rearing and begin inquiring about plans for parenthood soon after same-sex ceremonies. And some are pressed to acquire children for the sake of the LGBT agenda and the promotion of a la carte families. Children are the latest statement accessories.
For Newman, the “take-away” message of the conference was that efforts to preserve the rights of children to be born into and raised by stable families aren’t a political fight between the “left” and the “right”: “It is a tooth-and-nail duel between America’s conscience and those who stand to profit from mass confusion, chaos, and gut-wrenching family breakdown.”
Richard A. Wilson of Grund & Leavitt, a divorce and ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies) attorney, explained how the divorce revolution has enabled marriage redefinition and its lucrative sister, parenthood redefinition. Thrilled about the end of DOMA, Wilson said with a smile on his face, “Same-sex marriage never would have been possible without the high number of divorces in recent years.” Wilson has apparently profited handsomely from our country’s epidemic of broken families.
Julie Shapiro, an attorney and popular blogger on topics of Assisted Reproduction, gave some sobering advice to the audience. She cautioned, “Please be careful putting primary importance on the genetic link,” in reference to an intended parent’s claims to custody of a child. She continued:
“If genetic link is given priority in cases such as an intended mother [having a child] via her own eggs and a surrogacy arrangement, then that argument may give fodder to donor-conceived children who try to obtain rights and information regarding their gamete donor.”
In other words, the rights of children are in direct conflict with the agenda of the fertility industry and its clients.
Newman was herself conceived via sperm donation; she has become an advocate for the rights of those conceived by third-party reproductive technologies, and is the founder of the Anonymous Us Project, “a safety zone for real and honest insights regarding third party reproduction.” She was one of several donor-conceived adults interviewed last summer by Leslie Fain for her CWR article “Pain, Profit, and Third-Party Conception.” From Leslie’s article:
Growing up, all [Alana Newman] knew about her biological father was that he had blond hair, blue eyes, and a college degree. Years later, other details about her father began to emerge, thanks to her research: he was Polish and Catholic. He had been a scuba instructor, and had a degree in respiratory medicine.
With this information in hand, Newman created a scheme to make herself famous in order to gain visibility and get the help she needed to locate her father. She started blogging, wrote a screenplay, and began connecting with leaders in the area of donor-conceived rights and advocacy. She met a woman who helps people find adoptees. Someone paid for her to have a DNA test. Databases of scuba instructors and respiratory medicine graduates were used to identify the man she believes is her father.
Unfortunately for Newman, he died in 2007, the year she began searching for him. …
Newman, Kern, and Blessing all support bans on gamete donation, as well as surrogacy. There was a time when Newman believed differently; she even donated her own eggs twice. In fact, donor-conceived people are 20 times more likely to sell their own gametes than are non-donor-conceived people.
Does this finding mean donor-conceived offspring approve of their mode of conception? Not exactly, said Newman. … “I disagreed with anonymity, and offering myself as an open-ID donor was my small contribution to improving a system,” said Newman.
“And lastly, harder to explain, selling my own gametes was the only experience I could share with my father. It was the only thing I knew for sure that he had done. It was my attempt at poetry,” she said. “Only recently have I gathered enough information to say ‘No, I have to put my foot down, it’s wrong.’”
Not all donor-conceived adults are in favor of third-party reproduction bans; some take a more “pragmatic” approach: IVF, gamete donation, and surrogacy are here to stay—with cloning and three-parent reproduction not far behind—so the best that can be done is for the current “Wild West” state of affairs to be regularized and the highly profitable industry regulated by government. This seems close to the attitude of those attending the AAARTA conference in Charleston; for Newman, this kind of pragmatism doesn’t go far enough:
“[So, if] you own a slave, it’s best to feed [him] well, take care of [his] health, not whip [him], be kind, but at the end of the day it’s wrong to force people to work somewhere they don’t want to work,” she said.
“With third-party reproduction, it’s better if you provide a safe, loving home with good schools, perhaps pen-pal relationships with half-siblings and a picture of the donor, but it doesn’t matter how many PTA meetings you attend or violin lessons you buy the child. At the end of the day it’s wrong to coerce third parties to abandon their offspring so you can experience parenthood,” said Newman. …
“If it is illegal to buy and sell a person,” she concludes. “It should be illegal to pre-buy a person.”