The Donor Who Dared To Say Don't

You wouldn't sell or give away your kids, would you? So don't donate your sperm!

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Donor Hero of the Month (September , I guess)

Here's one guy, at least, who is not in any doubt that he is their father and that they are most definitely his kids

What Is A Father: The Genetic Parent
As told to: Jennifer Wolff, Photograph: Alessandra Petlin
May 16, 2007 - 2:51:35 PM

Mike Rubino, 47, artist, sperm donor, father of untold numbers of children

I might have 10 kids, or I might have 50 kids. I have no idea. For sure I know about seven kids through six different mothers who live in six different states, from New York to Hawaii.

I donated sperm once or twice a week for about five years in the early 1990s. Before that, I was one of those people who spent their life savings on fertility treatments, trying to get my ex-wife pregnant, to no avail. She was infertile, but I wasn’t. We felt that by donating, I could help couples going through what we went through, plus pay for groceries for the week.

Each time I gave a sample, I was aware, Wow, there could be a child produced from this. And I told the sperm bank I was open to having contact with any of them after they turned 18. I had this vision of being in my fifties and having these teenagers showing up at my door, looking similar to me, and saying, “Hi, Dad. Want to go for coffee?”

Several years after my divorce, I found the Donor Sibling Registry, a Web site where donor offspring can find their half siblings and, sometimes, their donors. Rachael, one of the moms, had listed her two kids, Aaron and Leah, under my donor number. When I saw their names and their ages—6 and 3 at the time—I got very weepy. Oh my God, these were my kids!

Within hours, we were talking on the phone. Rachael asked, “Is it okay if they call you Dad? Would you prefer they call you Donor?” I was fine with Dad, and that’s what they called me when Rachael brought them out to see me from Massachusetts. Today I have relationships with four of my children. My son in Southern California knows I’m his father, but he calls me Mike. More recently, I met Precious, my daughter in Hawaii. She never asked; she just called me Dad.

I assumed 99 percent of people who bought donor sperm would be infertile couples and that the kids would already have fathers. I didn’t anticipate so many single moms. Of my known kids, none of them has a dad. Most of them don’t have living grandfathers or uncles or any men in their lives, really.

A lot of men out there get married, have children, raise them for a year, and then take off. They are still very much these kids’ fathers, even if another man moves in and takes over. The biological father could be a deadbeat dad, but he’s still a dad. He could be an awful dad, but he’s still a dad. Now I’m a donor dad, or an absentee dad. But for these kids, even though I don’t live with them, or even near most of them, and I don’t pick them up from school or help them with their homework, I’m the only dad they know. And the mothers…until now, they had been complete strangers to me. But I haven’t been a complete stranger to them. They chose me. Granted, all I was to them was a donor profile and a tape recording, but that alone creates a persona in their minds. They carried their…my…our children, and of course they are madly in love with them, so the donor becomes a part of all that intense emotion. I think some of the moms have some issues, not with me, but with one another. I don’t want to say there is a tug-of-war over my time, because no one has been demanding. But there is definitely tension.

All of our names are now off the Donor Sibling Registry. The moms and I need to take a breather to figure out how I can accommodate the kids I know of, because there’s always the chance that another one might turn up. That doesn’t mean that the kids I don’t know yet aren’t entitled to meet their father, but I don’t necessarily want 50 kids in my life either. I’m eventually going to have so many little families that I won’t be able to afford to spend airfare and a week off to visit every one of them. It might have to be one or two kids a year, one or two kids the next year, and then, depending on how many I have, come back around. At this point it’s hard to know what’s fair.

I was really burned by my first marriage, and I thought I’d never have a family—I thought I’d missed my chance. Now I have all these kids to add meaning and purpose to my life. I can’t see them or talk to them over the phone without smiling or busting out laughing.

What I miss is waking up with them on Christmas and watching them opening their presents and believing in Santa Claus. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch one of them on Christmas who still believes in Santa, but maybe not. I also realize that some guy could come in and marry one of these women, and I could be squeezed out. I would miss them, but my primary concern is for my children’s happiness. If some great guy comes in and it’s good for them, then I am happy for them. I absolutely love it when my kids come to stay with me. But I’m also okay when they leave.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Hats off to you, Mr Donohue (Donor Hero of the Month)

Modern Love: I Made Him What He Is, but Who Is He?

By Thomas Anthony Donohue, family therapist, West Roxbury, Mass.

New York Times. July 29, 2007

Last December I got a call from a health and fertility clinic in Cambridge, Mass., asking if I would be willing to respond to a male teenager inquiring about his sperm donor. I donated there in the late 80s, and it seemed any children I had helped create were just now becoming of legal age to contact me if I would allow it.

At 50, I have never married, never raised any children. And about a month before the call, I had reached a point where I was feeling anxious and socially disconnected, no longer relaxed with my friends and sensing there had to be something more meaningful in my life. Perhaps this predisposed me to say yes, the boy could call me, and shortly thereafter I received the following message on my answering machine: “Hello, Anthony. I know this may come as ... a surprise. But I knew you might be waiting for it. But uh ... I, uh ... guess you’re my ... sperm donor.” He then gave me his name and cellphone number, and closed by saying: “Thank you. I hope you call back. Bye.”

Thinking about such an encounter has always provoked anxiety and excitement in me. I’ve been anxious about the potential awkwardness of a meeting and worried about possible financial liabilities that could come out of this largely uncharted legal territory. But I’ve also felt excited, after years of wonder, about one day actually meeting a person who emerged from this process.

I called him back, leaving a message of my own. I half-wondered if he heard me leaving the message but didn’t pick up because he first wanted to get a sense of my voice, my attitude and my openness to meeting him.

Finally, a day or so later, we spoke. “Hi,” I said. “This is Anthony. The guy who was your sperm donor. Strange, isn’t it?” “Thanks for calling back.” “I’m happy you called,” I said. “You’re very brave.” “Maybe, like, you’d want to meet?” he asked. He mentioned a restaurant in Harvard Square, and we agreed to a late breakfast in a few days.

I felt a little paranoid on my way to meet him, not knowing what to expect. We didn’t tell each other what we look like, and I was still idly wondering if there might be a camera to take photos of me to account for some potential child support. Of course, he also could just have been a child wanting to meet his biological father.

Outside the restaurant, I passed a tall teenager leaning against a pole. I thought I should say his name to see if it was him, but part of me needed to procrastinate a minute longer, to catch my breath and get some perspective. Inside I looked around purposefully, but no one made eye contact; everyone seemed to be busy with someone else.

Back outside, I approached the teenager and said his name. “Yes?” he replied. “Anthony,” I said. “Hi.” I reached out for him, thinking I should embrace my child, and we hugged. Struck by his height (I’m only 5-foot-8), I asked him how tall he is. “Six-three,” he said. With his scraggly beard and dark features, he looked somewhat Russian-Jewish, but I could also see some of me in him, a dab of Irish in his light, reddish complexion. I had the same scraggly beard at his age -- now a goatee.

The only table was by the door, amid the noise and bustle. A young waitress with a soft-spoken accent (Portuguese, I think) briskly delivered us cups of coffee. Getting right into it, he said, “Can I ask you some questions?” “Absolutely.” “Do you know many lesbian couples?” he asked, and then: “What made you donate?”

“People wanted children,” I said. “I was available at the time.” I took a sip, then elaborated, since he seemed to want more. “An ex-girlfriend called and said a nurse friend of hers was looking for a donor for her clinic. I thought about it and even went to a counselor. She told me to go for it and to think of it as sharing light.”

The waitress approached for our order. I asked for a vegetable omelet with dark rye. He ordered pancakes with strawberries and cream. Typical kid food, I thought. After the waitress left, he asked, “Are there any medical issues in your family?” “None that stick out. Except for a little accident proneness on my part.”

I told him about my more glamorous accidents from when I was closer to his age, bumps and broken bones from parachuting and hang gliding. What I didn’t bring up was an accident I’d had just before I started donating sperm; I’d been painting a house with a friend when a platform collapsed, crushing my right leg. It took a few years to learn to walk again, and during this time I donated sperm because I needed extra income. Not that it was very much: $40 a visit. I donated probably 30 to 40 times over a couple of years.

As soon as we left the restaurant, his cellphone rang: it was his mother, asking where he was. He answered by saying he would be home in an hour. After he hung up, I asked, “Did you tell your mothers we were meeting?” He shook his head no. “Just wanted to do it.”

Walking from the restaurant, I wished I was taller and had a surer walk. He seemed so athletic, and I wanted to be on an equal footing with him, maybe portray an image of a person who would have kept up with him as he was growing into a teenager.

“Let’s go this way,” I suggested, pointing toward Boston. But when I realized we had no particular destination, I started feeling uncomfortable. “Is there anywhere you want to go?” I asked. “No,” he said.

I thought in our first walk together that I, as his biological father, should know where to go, and as we walked I kept hoping for some intuitive clue as to which direction would be the right one. It was hard to be an instant father. I kept thinking I should be acting in a way he would approve, a way that showed me to be a capable and confident father, even though I had never been one.

Our time together was good but bewildering and emotionally taxing; my right leg was even starting to ache. So by the time we circled back around and reached his bike, I was relieved that it was over.

“Would you like to meet again?” I asked him. “It’s been great.” “Yeah. Could we do something together next time? An activity?” “Sure,” I said. “Like what?” “I don’t know. I’m open.” “What about a movie?” I said, disappointed in my lack of imagination. “Which one?” My mind was blank. Shouldn’t a proper father have a time sheet and listing of the various films available? “I’ll call you,” I finally said. As he biked off, I felt tired and confused. I walked past the Harvard Coop and saw a book in the window titled, “Take a Nap! Change Your Life.” When I got to my car, that’s exactly what I did.

We brought photos to our second meeting. As a young child, he definitely looked more like someone from my family line. For the past 17 years I’ve at times dwelled on these possible children of mine: who they were, and where, and how many, especially given that the nurse at the donation center said my recipients showed positive inseminations. I felt a sense of relief that I had finally met one of my offspring.

My latest connection with him came in January, before he went back to college in California. We met outside one of the oldest chapels in Cambridge, Christ Church. As he locked up his bike, I noticed for the first time the address, Zero Garden Street, which I thought was oddly appropriate. I was more aware than ever that I hadn’t raised him as my son and that he hadn’t had me as his father. At zero we could at least adjust our social expectations to this lack of history.

We decided to go bowling -- his idea -- and on the way into the alley, I took out my wallet and gave him $40, which is all the cash I had on me. He was embarrassed by my clumsy attempt at a gift, but he accepted it on my insistence. I don’t know why I thought to give him some money that day, especially in such an awkward and insufficient way, but a couple of days later, while sharing the story of my meeting with a friend, I remembered that $40 is what I was paid each visit to the sperm bank. I already felt sheepish that my gesture had seemed a bit too transactional, rushed, inept and definitely cheap. Part of me, perhaps, wanted to get business out of the way. Give back what I was paid, for my part in him. Start fresh. But $40? What must he have thought? I hope to find out when he returns in the summer. If he wants to meet again, that is. Making contact seemed like a big step for him and maybe all he wants for now, to calm his curiosity.

But it was good for my curiosity, too, and for me in general at this point in my life. Later I called the donation center to approve any future contact from other children. A little more than a week after placing that call, I came home to the voice of a nervous-sounding girl on my answering machine, who introduced herself and then said: “Uh, calling you, and, uh, looking forward to talking to you about being my donor, and I guess ... I’ll try again later. “Bye.”

Monday, August 06, 2007


Extract from the Parliamentary Committee's Report

Ethical issues surrounding fertility

A major ethical issue raised in the draft Bill is whether children born as a result of donor conception should have the right to know they are donor conceived. The Committee argue that, as the State has a direct involvement in assisted conception, it has a moral duty not to be party to a deliberate deception about the person's genetic history. The direct involvement of the State makes the situation of children conceived via sperm, egg or embryo donation different from those conceived naturally who may also not know their true genetic parentage.

The Committee say they recognise the force of the argument that the fact of donor conception should be registered on the person's birth certificate. This gives the parent the incentive to inform their child but allows them to do this at the time and in the manner of their own choosing. It also goes some way to address the value of knowledge of genetic history for medical purposes. The Committee call on the Government to give this further consideration as a matter of urgency.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Another nail in the coffin of donor conception...

It probably doesn't get much better than this. But, who knows? International sanctions should come next.

August 1, 2007

Birth certificates ‘should tell donor children who their real parents are’

The birth certificates of children born from donated eggs and sperm would be marked with details of the way they were conceived, under proposals advanced yesterday by MPs and peers.

A legal requirement to register such births openly is the only way of ensuring that children conceived from donors have the right to learn of their biological origins, a parliamentary committee that is scrutinising fertility reforms said.

The joint Commons and Lords panel said that it recognised “the force of the argument” for including this information on birth certificates, and urged ministers “to give this consideration as a matter of urgency” for legislation that will be included in the Queen’s Speech.

It stopped short of backing a legal obligation on parents to tell their children if they are donor-conceived, which it decided would be unenforceable.

The suggestion raises significant privacy issues as birth certificates are public documents. Anybody would thus be able to find out whether any individual had been conceived from donated eggs or sperm.

The committee, however, said that it saw no other way of guaranteeing the right to know. Although people can consult a register when they turn 18 to find out whether they are donor-conceived, and those conceived after April 2005 will be allowed to trace their biological parents, many never think to do so as they never suspect their origins.

Phil Willis, the Liberal Democrat MP who chaired the joint committee on the draft Human Tissues and Embryos Bill, said: “We were very strongly of the view that the State should not be complicit in what in fact would be a lie regarding the origins of where a child actually came from. The principle is that we believe children have a right to know.”

The committee, which was established by ministers to examine draft reforms to Britain’s 17-year-old fertility laws before they are presented in the Queen’s Speech, also objected strongly to several of its central elements.

It urged the Government to drop its plan to merge the fertility treatment and human tissue watchdogs, as disclosed by The Times last week. The half of the draft Bill that creates the replacement Regulatory Authority for Tissues and Embryos (Rate) should be ripped up altogether, it said.

“We are proposing very considerable changes to the Bill that undermine its architecture,” Mr Willis said.

The report was also critical of the Government’s plans to ban hybrid embryos made by fertilising an animal egg with human sperm or vice versa.

It also questioned plans about whether a doctor should take into account a child’s need for a father before providing IVF. The Government wanted to remove the requirement, but the committee want it retained with language that makes clear that it relates to the ideal of two parents.

Other recommendations included a parliamentary bioethics committee and reform of the Human Tissue Act.


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