Assisted Reproduction: An Overview
Conservative estimate is that more than 60,000 children are born each year in the United States by anonymous sperm, egg, and embryo donation. Fertility treatment centers and some adoption agencies are involved in these fertility adoptions. They have no social regulation and most do not see an ethical responsibility for their adoption placement activities. These children are being disconnected from their genetic history and many go to families who have no intentions to tell their child about their donor conception.
It is time for the adoption community to advocate for adoption regulations and accountability for all donor conception programs. As stated by Marilyn Waugh, Past AAC Director, at an AAC workshop with donor issues “These are our people.” The first step in becoming more familiar with assisted reproductive technologies is to become more familiar with American Adoption Congress Assisted Reproduction Technology Policy Statement. The following indicates the statement passed by the legislation committee and board of directors in October 2001:
The American Adoption Congress (AAC) believes that all individuals whose genetic and biological origins are different from those of their legally recognized families have the right to know those origins. This includes people created through the donation or sale of eggs or semen, the transfer of embryos, gestational surrogacies, or any other reproductive technology. Knowledge of one’s origins can be vital to the psychological and physical well being of human beings. Denying a person this information can have potentially serious consequences upon that personís family relationships, health, and reproductive choices.
AAC is concerned that technological advances and financial incentives rooted in donor/seller secrecy have outweighed legal, ethical, and humanitarian considerations in this area. To date, the legal and ethnical debate has not sufficiently included the experiences of people conceived through assisted reproductive technologies, an the rejection of secrecy in adoption practice.
Therefore, AAC opposes any policy or practice in which the identities of donors/sellers and the origins of the individualís genetic material are sealed, kept secret, not permanently recorded and retained, or otherwise withheld from the person conceived through the process of assisted reproductive technology.
Becoming more educated regarding assisted reproduction and donor conceptions is the first step to become an advocate for these families and their children. Great internet sites include:
www.fertilityplus.org – which gives information regarding fertility treatment and donor parenting options.
www.donorsiblingregistry.com – a registry and internet form group that aims to offer an opportunity for donor conceived people (children and adults) to make connections with half siblings and donors by mutual consent of all parties.
www.infertilitynetwork.org – provides e-mail membership of notification of seminars, support groups, as well as research and major news stories related to infertility, miscarriage, conception, adoption, and genetic technologies. The network provides opportunities to purchase many video, audio, and written information.
www.donor-conception-network.org – is the donation conception network from England. This is a network for those who are being open with their children concerning their donor conception.
www.xyandme.com – carries a series of children’s books to assist parents in disclosing their conception by assisted reproduction and donor. They believe that every child has the right to know of his/her circumstances and their special story that occurred before they were born.
Acceptance of the donor triad into the adoption community will be very helpful in representing these familyís needs. Activities that could be helpful for this goal would be the following:
* Write letters to the editor of magazines and newspapers in which articles regarding donor issues have appeared. The most recent article in the New York Times entitled “You, Gamete, Myself” by Peggy Orenstein would have been very helpful to have had editorial responses for the adoption community.
* Contact local fertility support groups through RESOLVE and American Fertility Association and volunteer to speak at their meetings or write an article for their newsletter regarding your adoption status and your recommendations for families who have children through donor conceptions.
* Contact universities to inquire if they have ethics classes regarding reproduction to speak at these classes regarding your ideas concerning the ethical responsibility of the community for assisted reproductive technology and donor conceptions.
* Contact sperm banks and egg/embryo donation programs and investigate and support programs that promote openness and identity released donors.
* In your local adoption groups, include donor conceived people and their family. In brochures for the local support groups, encourage these families to attend your support network.
* Contact the Washington Office of Public Affairs through www.asrm.org and forward AAC’s policy statement on assisted reproductive technology.
* Contact the mental health group of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine through www.asrm.org/mentalhealth.
* Contact on-line bulletin boards regarding your position with openness in donor practices with the International Council of Infertility Information Dissemination located at www.INCIID.org and parent place located at www.IVILLAGE.com.
Through our adoption experience we all know that children brought into families will eventually become adults with their own unique concerns and difficulties. Also see “The Rights of Children Conceived by a Donor Conception” which may be helpful as you are assisting these families obtain their recognition and acceptance.