Greece and its creditors have to compromise. Barry Eichengreen

Familiar Feelings

Donating sperm is much more than a mundane transaction; it is an act of responsibility. Biology will ensure that you get what you give.

“Semen donor” – what a peculiar designation. After all, there isn’t much of a donation involved, is there? A donation is normally a selfless act that doesn’t claim any rewards or services in return, but semen donations entail just that. Men who decide to “donate” their semen so that women, completely unknown to them, can fulfil their desire to have a baby, do claim a reward for their “generosity.” But I do admit; semen seller would sound even odder, wouldn’t it?

Besides the designation question, there are other inconsistencies surrounding the semen donor. For example, is he a father? This question is interesting in two respects. On the one hand, we tend to regard the social parents – those who invested a lot of effort to raise and care for the child – as being far more important than the biological parents. People split up all the time and parents are no exception to this. They often break up even before their baby is born and engage with new partners for an indefinite period of time. It is therefore important that children can also see their parent’s partners as caregiver, role model, or trusted person.

Furthermore, the growing number of homosexual couples, rightly pushing for their adoption rights and the right to raise a normal family, is also contributing to a rethinking of the “normal family.” It would be consistent if people that use reproductive
medicine to fulfil their desire to have children, would also be considered a normal family.

An Irrational Quest

Because of semen donations, the biological bond between children and parents is becoming increasingly irrelevant; at least, that’s one way to look at it. The people who care for the child and raise it with love and effort are the ones that matter – not the man who merely contributed his genetic information.

There are however two sides to every question. Children do have a right to learn about their biological origins. Yet, one can’t help but wonder where this desire to learn the truth about the semen donor comes from. After all, if the bond between the social parents and their children is so strong, why does the latter need to know who else contributed to their set of chromosomes?
The answer is not hard to find: we know that we owe a lot of our physical and psychological characteristics – that determine and influence our life in so many ways – to this one person. The seemingly irrational longing to learn about this unfamiliar ancestor stems from the rational knowledge of the heteronomy that shapes our destiny. We know that part of ourselves derives from our biological parents and that learning about them is the key to learning about ourselves.

Actions have Consequences

Hence, the biological father will always remain important – regardless of the role that the social father plays in the child’s upbringing. It would therefore be a bad mistake to trade in the right to know about your biological ancestors against economical interests to safeguard anonymity and to – pardon my French – keep the semen flowing.

Sperm donors have to come to terms with the fact that they are having a huge influence on the life that springs from their “donation.” The same must be clear to those who praise the miracles of reproductive medicine and who try to reduce sperm donation to a purely economic transaction. Any endeavor to play down the importance of the biological parents – be it in the context of adoption rights or reproductive medicine – will undermine the moral responsibility and consciousness that they should in fact have with regards to their offspring. Whether they were born out of a mundane transaction or a sensual night of love; actions do have consequences.

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