TangledWebs UK

A group challenging donor-conception practices in the UK and internationally

"No one has a right to a father"

Often we hear the argument that "Naturally-conceived children do not have the right to know the identity of their genetic father and it makes no sense to accord this right to donor-conceived children."

Firstly, naturally-conceived people don't have a right in law to the identity of their father, but they have the practical right: they can ask their mother! Revoking anonymity for sperm donors puts donor conceived people on the same footing as adopted people. (Although adoptees got retrospective rights, which is a benefit that donor-conceived people have not yet been granted)

"But you wouldn't be here otherwise"

If the second world war had never happened, my grandparents might never have met, and I would never have been born. Nonetheless, I think the second world war was wrong, and I am not glad it happened!

"Donor conception is just adoption"

Donor conception is adoption to the extent that the husband or partner of the woman who has donor insemination should be regarded as the "adoptive father" of the created child, and not simply the "father". If he is named as the father on the birth certificate, then that document is fraudulent.

Donor conception is not just adoption, and the claim that "donor conception is OK because adoption is OK" is flawed on two counts.

Firstly, adoption takes the child away from its parents after the fact of that child's existence. The child has been born, and it is deemed necessary that in the best interests of the existing child it should be given to adopters.

Donor-conception is a pre-conception conspiracy by the three parties: clinic, recipient mother and "sperm donor" to deliberately create a child and put it in a position where it cannot have a normal, meaningful relationship with its father. It is certainly in no-one's best interests to deliberately create them in the full knowledge that they cannot have a normal, meaningful relationship with their father.

Secondly, the practice of adoption across the world is deeply flawed. Huge number of adoptees have suffered greatly at the hands of the practice that has removed them from their parents, often with no means of redress. For more information see the following links:

"You should just feel happy to be alive"

Supporters of donor conception (i.e. those in denial about its negative effects) often try to silence donor conceived people with the argument "you should just feel happy to be alive", or "you wouldn't be here without donor conception, so you should be pleased that it exists".

Donor conceived people are in the best position to judge the rights and wrongs of donor conception. No-one ought to feel a compulsion "to be happy" when the circumstances of their life indicate they should be full of sadness.

No-one ought to feel "grateful for their lives" as if they owe their existence to some people and some process, and hence cannot criticise those people and that process.

"We need donor-conception to ease the pain of infertile couples"

It is ethically unjustifiable to create a human being to be a "pain-killer" for somebody else's distress. This is doubly true when the pain you are trying to solve (desperation that one may never have child) is created and compounded in the person you create as a result (desperation that one may never know and have a meaningful relationship with one's father).

No matter how much good donor-conception can do for parents (and the good it does for parents is overstated, see the Stories page), it is outweighed by the negative consequences for somebody who had no choice in the matter.

"Donating sperm is just like donating blood"

Damien writes:

I have heard numerous donors (both egg and sperm) equate it to donating blood. I find this quite disturbing in that a human life, a person who carries this person's blood and genes into the next generation can just be "donated" away. Providing eggs and sperm is so dissimilar to donating blood that these donors must have a need to convince themselves of this argument so that they can reconcile the concept that a child who is no different from any of their other children from a biological origin perspective can be given away without another thought. It is also quite demeaning that we as human beings are subject to the conceptualisation of being equated to consumable body parts such as blood.

I also feel like these donations are being viewed as a charitable cause. We are not a charitable donation that can just be given away to some "needy" person/couple, like the taxable monetary gift that many people make that also makes them feel good about themselves as caring human beings. There are strings attached and when these strings get severed (the biological connections), we don't function psychologically as well anymore.

A donation is a gift, it is a giving away. We have been given away by one or more of our biological parents. To be not wanted by ones' flesh and blood, our kin, and given away is painful. I'm scarred.


"Donor-conceived children are special, chosen and desperately wanted"

"Special" is a euphemism. It means "the result of a cold, emotionless, technical procedure. Formed from two individuals who have never met, let alone experienced any emotions towards each other."

On being chosen, David Velleman writes that

This sort of talk is both misleading and misguided: misleading, because it is meant to be misunderstood as saying that the children were wanted personally, for themselves; misguided, because having been chosen by their parents is the very last thing that children want. Choosers can always change their minds. What children want are parents who are stuck with them and with whom they are stuck, bound by a tie that is non-elective and indissoluble.

Why should a person feel happy that he or she is "desperately wanted". Certainly all people want to feel wanted and appreciated, but should someone feel more happy for having been more wanted?

No! Of course not! Being more wanted places more pressure on an individual to conform to what they were wanted for: to be a happy, placated baby bringing joy to the parents' lives. Looking after their parents interests is not a burden that should be placed on a human child.

In fact, as David Velleman has insightfully noted, no donor-conceived person was ever wanted! What was wanted was any baby! It didn't matter who or what that baby was as an individual. It didn't matter who the person was that the unknown half of the baby came from. What was wanted was any baby -- a random selection! No donor-conceived person was wanted for themselves!

"Plenty of non DC families keep the true parentage secret"

Claims have been made that paternal discrepancy (i.e. someone being misled about the identity of their father) rates in the UK are 10% or 25%.

This is wrong. Paternal discrepancy is actually rare. From the paper "Measuring paternal discrepancy and its public health consequences":

For studies based on populations chosen for reasons other than disputed paternity median PD [paternal discrepancy] is 3.7%. While this is not a measure of population prevalence it does suggest the widely used (but unsubstantiated) figure of 10% PD may be an overestimate for most populations.

"The real father is the man who changes the nappies"

Of course this argument is not supposed to be taken literally. What the proponents mean is that "it's fatherly actions which make a person a father".

Doubtlessly a father should perform fatherly actions, but can someone become a father, just by performing some actions towards a child?

If we can ask the question, "what makes somebody a father" we can just as well ask the question "what makes somebody a son". They're the same question! If you claim that a man's behaviour towards a child can make that man the child's father then you are claiming that a man can force a child to be his son simply by performing certain actions.

No actions of care from a man to a child is sufficient to make that man a father. The father is the man who is best placed to understand the child because that child is half of him. This man is the actual father. The biological father. The genetic father. The "real" father is the real father!

Other organizations

Some groups exist to promote donor-conception. This is misguided and unethical. Here are our rebuttals to some of their arguments.