Choosing to Parent by Adoption and Donor Insemination: The Differences
By Linda Kingston
This is my opinion about the differences in becoming a parent through adoption vs. sperm donor conception. The primary differences are legal issues, social acceptance, the amount of control the parents have, and the intention of the parents. There are many variables in adoption and each story is different, so some of these issues do not apply to all adoptions.
I have long been a supporter of family planning services. Long before I chose to adopt a child, I donated money to international family planning organizations. Now I volunteer for a family planning agency and continue to donate money.
My husband and I have two children who are biological sisters. They were adopted from Guatemala at ages 6 months and 8 months. We have an open adoption with their birthmother Anna and her extended family.
Here are the primary differences:
1) Control and intention
Adoption is about making the best of a difficult situation, and is never a first choice when practiced legally and ethically. In an ideal world, only married couples would conceive children who are planned and wanted. Conception under these conditions is the best way to ensure a child will not be placed for adoption. Anna tried her best to conceive her children under ideal circumstances, but due to lack of resources and education it didn’t happen. I also tried my best to prevent the adoption by donating money to international family planning organizations.
In an ideal world, adoption wouldn’t exist. I would be sad that I could not adopt a child, but also happy that all children could be cared for by their biological family. Back to reality; it isn’t a perfect world, and that is why adoption exists.
Despite my best efforts, Anna had an unplanned pregnancy. I did the best I could to prevent it. My decision to adopt and Anna’s decision to place a child for adoption were two separate events. Anna placed her children for adoption because of her difficult life circumstances, and not because I wanted to be a parent.
Legal and ethical adoption starts with the needs of a child, but DI starts with the desires of adults. Is it fair for the parents raising the child to expect the donor to make sacrifices so they can have the privilege of being a parent? Is it fair for a man to donate sperm even though this decision could be painful for the child? Is it fair for parents to ask their children to sacrifice by bringing them into the world under complex and painful circumstances? My answer to these questions is “No”.
2) Cultural acceptance
Adoption is viewed much more positively in our society than conception by sperm donor. This can affect the way a child accepts himself. Advice columnist Dr. Laura Schlessinger said “There is no pride in being conceived by a man who ejaculates into a cup.”
3) Legal issues.
In the USA, all children accept those conceived by sperm donor or other 3rd party reproduction have the legal right to two parents. For children conceived the old-fashioned way, the biological father is required to support the child whether he likes it or not. This is because the needs of the child are more important than the adult’s. However, with sperm donation the decision to deny the child a legal biological father is made even before the child is conceived.
I realize that many single women and lesbian couples who conceive by DI are financially stable and mature people, and they often don’t need financial help from a Dad. However, that is irrelevant. Children conceived by DI deserve the same rights as children conceived the old-fashioned way.
There are adoption laws to protect children and their biological parents from unethical practices, although like any laws they don’t always work. At least the laws exist and society recognizes that children and their biological parents have human and legal rights. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for donor insemination. Parents who conceive a child by DI make a deliberate choice to deny a child their rights.
Sperm donors are paid. Money influences his decision to donate. This is a decision that might cause him and his family pain, but there are no laws requiring donors to receive counseling. In adoption it is illegal to make payments to birthparents for unnecessary expenses because it might influence their decision. The laws don’t always work, but at least the laws exist. In DI, there are no laws to protect the donor from the influence of money.
For parents who chose to conceive a child by DI, there is no law requiring counseling to be sure they understand this very complex and potentially painful way of becoming a parent. That isn’t fair to the parent or the child. In adoption, the parents are required to learn about adoption through counseling, classes, home studies, and reading.
Adoption is not perfect, but it is a better choice than conceiving a child by DI.