Another Sperm Donation Goes Wrong

by Christopher White, Ramsey Institute Project Director on October 7, 2014

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Much media attention has been devoted to the case of Jennifer Cramblett—the white Midwestern mother who is suing her sperm bank for providing her with the sperm of a black man, resulting in the birth of her biracial daughter, Payton.

Following the debate over the case, there’s been no shortage of opinions: some believe that Cramblett is racist and she has no valid case at all. Others believe that as a paying customer, she should have received the product she was promised. And a few (though only a few!) commentators have expressed sympathy for her daughter and wondered what she might think of all of this when she gets older.

In an article at The Daily Beast, columnist Keli Goff directs her complaints at the legal system in the United States that lacks regulation for the buying and selling of gametes. She writes:

Whether we like it or not, under the law, Cramblett ordered a “product.” The distributor of the “product” goofed. Anti-discrimination laws are not applicable here, and Cramblett has a right to order “products” to her specification even if you and I consider her specifications silly or bigoted.

But what her case highlights is the lack of regulation of an industry that has life and death implications and is not regulated accordingly. If there is a silver lining in Cramblett’s case, it may be that Americans finally become outraged about the lack of regulation of the sperm donation industry, and start pushing legislators to do something about it.

Goff’s recommendations are similar to recommendation’s we’ve been making for some time here at the CBC, including limiting the number of time a man can sell his sperm, advocating for full medical histories, and allowing donor conceived children access to such records.

Of course, we’ve also advocated that the commercialization aspect be removed from the practice, so that if we are going to have these technologies at all, they serve the interest and needs of the children conceived from them above anyone else.

And that’s a serious if. The donor-conceived adults featured in our documentary Anonymous Father’s Day are critical of the entire enterprise. As Barry reminds us in the film, it’s quite possible to be grateful for your life, but question aspects of your conception.

The case of Jennifer Cramblett and her daughter have already raised serious questions for much of the world. And based on our experience in the realm of third party reproduction, it’s quite likely that Payton’s answer will be that it’s best to ban the practice altogether. Will our legislators finally listen?

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