Prohibiting Anonymous Sperm Donation and the Child Welfare Error (Policy and Politics) by The Hastings Center Report

Prohibiting Anonymous Sperm Donation and the Child Welfare Error (Policy and Politics)

By The Hastings Center Report

  • Publication Date: 2011-09-01
  • Genre: Life Sciences

Book Synopsis

Should anonymous sperm "donation"--a misnomer, since sperm is usually purchased--be permitted? A number of countries, including Sweden, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, and several Australian states, have answered no. (1) The United Kingdom recently joined this list, instituting a system whereby new sperm (and egg) donors must put information into a registry, and a donor-conceived child "is entitled to request and receive their donor's name and last known address, once they reach the age of 18." (2) The arguments offered by the legislators in these jurisdictions in favor of these measures, along with the arguments offered by scholarly proponents such as Naomi Cahn, focus on one major consideration: child welfare. (3) The claim is that donor-conceived children are harmed when they are deprived of access to the identity of one of their genetic parents. Interestingly, opponents of these measures have battled on the same playing field, disputing the empirical evidence underlying the claim of harm to children. In relying on this foundation, I will argue, both sides are making an error. These child welfare arguments are part of a larger error in using what I call "best interests of the resulting child" reasoning as justifications to support governmental interventions that aim to alter when, whether, or with whom individuals reproduce. (4) This is a tempting but erroneous transposition of "best interests of existing child" reasoning from family law. It allows the construction of a false overlapping consensus around the genuinely uncontroversial imperative "do not harm children," obfuscating the controversial reasoning that must actually underlie these interventions.

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