February 10, 2008

Childless Fathers and Fatherless Children

On Friday's episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, several young women were introduced as products of the sperm donation industry. In fact, one of the young women said of herself that that is exactly what she is--a product--emphasizing the dehumanizing nature of the industry. Two sperm fathers were also present during the show, there to discuss the many children they are starting to become aware of and have relationships with.

What struck me about this program is how the natural implications of the industry were viewed so casually, the emptiness of the children created by what our culture has said is a valid and even ideal family model--single parent and child. Regrets were not communicated by the mothers or donors of these young people, but the offspring certainly felt cheated out of a part of their own identity.

Is it really any surprise that the children of anonymous sperm "donors" are forced to address the decisions made for them by their mother and sperm father? We're not surprised--we've always understood the implications associated with reproductive technologies that make the marital union unnecessary. And Oprah and her guests didn't seem surprised--they too have understood the implications, but they are not looking for a corrective for the industry, they just want to change the rules of the game. In hindsight, each of us sees and knows that fatherless children lack a substantive piece of their life. And now we have to contend with the issue of childless fathers, those who regret the literally hundreds of donations many of them made at sperm banks and wonder where their children are.

It was also said on the program that up to 30,000 children a year are born by this manner of conception. As a society we've been terribly worried for our children with deadbeat dads, now our society is electing to make this paradox the norm--fatherless children and childless fathers.

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