ABC News is reporting that women who are desperate to get pregnant, but can't afford the high cost of sperm banks are turning to websites that offer lists of hundreds of men who are willing to donate their sperm.
“It’s a weird blend of Facebook, Match.com and a traditional sperm bank,” said Tony Dokoupil, a reporter who spent months investigating the subject for a Newsweek cover story. “You get all [the] medical information, about the health and fitness of this person you might procreate with.”
The bizarre process begins when a woman finds a "match" on line - someone who is similar in looks or background, or who has a high IQ or is a super athlete, etc. Contact is made and the two arrange to meet in a public place, such as a coffee house or a hotel where the sperm is "collected" and given to the woman. The woman then inseminates herself, usually with a syringe purchased at a local drugstore.
“Having a child is a big deal, and there’s a lot of people out there saying, ‘I don’t want to have a child with somebody that I haven’t talked to, that I can’t meet face to face,’” said Beth Gardner, who founded the Free Sperm Donor Registry website.
She went on to say that these exchanges often involve written agreements and a report on the health status of the donor.
“Make sure that everybody is writing down and putting their name on what it is that they’re agreeing to do,” Gardner told ABC. “We also highly encourage – can’t even say how much we encourage – STD testing.”
The many pitfalls in this process are not hard to imagine. Because this "market" is not regulated or overseen by the Food and Drug Administration, women receive sperm from men who self-report their own health status rather than through screening by a professional. A woman can ask a donor to sign an agreement relinquishing parental rights, but these may not be legally binding. Last but not least, is the danger of encountering men of dubious reputation who are offering to sire children for all the wrong reasons.
"Out there online, not everything is as it represents itself to be,” said Dr. Jessica Brown, a fertility specialist who has been in the business for almost 20 years.
It’s important to “weed out men who may be doing this for bizarre reasons who may have some type of psychiatric illness or personality disorder,” she told ABC.
There are other dangers associated with this practice, especially for the children. As the Church teaches, a child is the "supreme gift" of marriage and a living testimony of the mutual self-giving of his parents. It is not a commodity to be bought and sold, which undermines its inherent dignity.
The heartbreak of infertility and desperate search for a cure can also lead parents to unwittingly begin to think they have a "right" to a child - an attitude that is not healthy for the child.
"Marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation," we read in Donum Vitae. "A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child's dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership . . . For this reason, the child has the right . . . to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception."
For all of these reasons, the Church considers artificial insemination to be illicit. "Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' right to become a father and a mother only through each other" (Catechism No. 2376).
© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace® http://www.womenofgrace.com
Click here to watch a segment from ABC's Good Morning America in which a woman buys sperm online, meets the donor, and artificially inseminates herself.
Click here for Guidelines for Catholics on the Evaluation and Treatment of Infertility from the Pope Paul VI Institute.