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Sperm donors - it's a mother's right to discriminate

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    Sperm donors - it's a mother's right to discriminate - 20-Mar-2006
    Of all the human rights issues to galvanise mankind, the inalienable right of gay men to be sperm donors would be near the bottom of my list of priorities.

    So why the big fuss last week when an academic said women should be told a gay gene might be passed on to a child? Yes, it followed an initial argument over whether gay men were being discriminated against as potential donors, but wasn't it a reasonable issue to discuss?

    I don't like the language we use to confuse the issue of artificial insemination. The recipients referred to in this row are women. The donors are men who don't like having sex with women. The babies that may result - with medical intervention - are designed to have no fathers in the usual sense, because their fathers are merely donors and strangers to their mothers. But the recipients are expected to carry them through a pregnancy, give birth to them, and have them for their entire lives. That surely makes it plain enough whose rights ought to have priority.

    Canterbury University associate professor of genetics Frank Sin was rational under attack, which is more than can be said for the gays who were offended by him. Sin didn't say gay children were bound to result from such an arrangement. He said it's believed there is a genetic component in homosexuality, which scientists apparently don't dispute.

    Gay people who insist that they are born that way are basically insisting on the same thing, because genes - and our environment - make us what we are. But in this case, they didn't want to hear it.

    So, is the issue really that women might choose to reject sperm from gay men in case they produce a gay child? What if it is? Should the reverse be true - that women should be forced to have children to gay men unknowingly, whether they'd be happy about it or not?

    Women reject potential fathers for a huge variety of reasons -personality, intelligence, big ears, even race. Should they not be allowed to discriminate in the most intimate thing they will ever do? Must they be judged for who they choose to conceive with, and have to make excuses for their choice? And is this a position only women who need fertility treatment should be made to undergo, since nobody questions women who conceive by the usual means? Gay men who protest are showing a lack of understanding of what is involved in bearing a child. They are not women, and despite all the novel experiments we conduct into reproduction, it still revolves around a woman who is prepared to dedicate 40 weeks of her life to having a child develop inside her body.

    There is discomfort involved, bodily changes, often sickness, and sometimes scary complications. It is an emotional experience unlike any other, ending in birth, which is in itself a huge experience on many levels.

    Information should never be withheld from a woman who volunteers for this, and has to choose an unknown donor for whatever reason. She should be able to find out anything she needs to know about the father of her child, even if he withholds his name. She should know if there are any physical or medical problems in his gene pool, and she should know if he is gay. It may affect how she feels about the pregnancy one way or another, and it's her right to have those feelings. Women are not obliged to have children to gay men, any more than they are to have them to men they don't like.

    Why are we even arguing about this? Gay people have all the civil rights available to heterosexuals, and by their own preference they don't procreate anyway. It's hardly as central to their lives as it is to a woman with fertility problems.

    Gay Association of Professionals spokesman Allan-John Marsh, however, said Sin's view that prospective mothers should be advised of a gay gene was insulting and pathetic. It implied, he said, that there was something inferior about being gay. Meanwhile, Fertility Associates Wellington medical director John Hutton said that in the absence of conclusive evidence it would be irresponsible to tell prospective mothers that sexual orientation could be passed on.

    So what does this mean? That these women should not know about what is generally agreed to be a genetic certainty, though it may be ringed about with questions? What other genetic information about donors is being withheld on the basis of ethical superiority?

    Women should beware of men, whoever they are, making decisions for them. It seldom turns out to be for the best
    Ref: - Sunday Star Times

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