First Things: The New Focus on Children’s Rights
What do donor conception, surrogacy, divorce, and adoption have in common? According to the newly-founded International Children’s Rights Institute (ICRI), they are all practices which violate the rights of children to be born free, to be raised by his or her biological parents wherever possible, and to have a knowledge of the heritage of his or her biological parents. Dubbed “Bonds that Matter” for its focus on these beginning-of-life issues, the ICRI’s inaugural conference gathered scholars, activists, and students from around the country to Simi Valley, California last Friday to discuss the various ways in which these four practices violate children’s rights.
First to speak was Alana Newman, founder of Anonymous Us and speaker on behalf of the many donor-conceived children and adults who, like herself, believe that their lives have been permanently affected for the worse by having been cut off from at least one biological parent. Beginning with her own personal testimony, Newman recounted the behavioral problems that she experienced after realizing that her biological father was paid for his promise to stay out of her life. Newman pointed out that not only do many donor-conceived adults suffer from feelings of worthlessness, grief, and shame, but all of them have no information about half, or all, of their genetic background.
Donor conception can create societal problems, explained Newman. For example, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine recommends (note: These numbers are not based on law, the reality could be much worse) a limit of twenty-five children per donor per population of 800,000. If you do the math, this means that within New York City, one person could have 258 offspring, so the son of such a donor could easily have over a hundred sisters in the same area. The result is that people may unknowingly engage in incest and have consanguineous children, the first of which is prohibited in all fifty states and the second of which may produce unhealthy children.
It happens. Saw an episode of Paternity Court last month where a married couple had to subject themselves to DNA testing to make sure they weren’t related. They weren’t, thankfully.