When I first heard about this lesbian couple suing a sperm bank over a mistake in the donor sperm used to impregnate one of them, all sorts of ethical and logistical complications came to mind. But mostly, my sense of sarcasm went into overdrive.
Some of my imaginary complications are included in Julie Bindel’s article from The Guardian (below). This is one controversy, however, that has a clear and distinct division between the sides. Commenters are either outraged by the concept of babies as merchandise, or sympathetic with the couple who didn’t get what they paid for: a white baby.
Instead of suing for “damages” why don’t they just return the flawed merchandise before the end of its warranty period, and order another one? How difficult is that? Or, they could re-gift it to someone who doesn’t have one of those half white/half black models.
They kept the baby, and seem to be raising her just fine. In pictures the mother and little girl look so happy. How can this woman want money to punish the source of this beautiful little wonder? It’s like saying she’s flawed, we’ll have to settle for THIS:
You can’t have a refund and the property, too!
The designer baby trend has been laid bare with the case of a lesbian couple who are suing a sperm bank after one of them became pregnant with sperm donated by an African American instead of the white donor they had chosen. The birth mother, Jennifer Cramblett, was five months pregnant in 2012 when she and her partner learned that the Midwest Sperm Bank near Chicago had selected the wrong donor. Cramblett said she decided to sue to prevent the sperm bank from making the same mistake again, and is apparently seeking a minimum of $50,000 (£30,000) in damages.
I understand concerns about mixed-race babies being raised by white parents in white neighbourhoods. Suffering racism at school or in the streets and having to go home to a white family that cannot properly understand or offer informed support can make it significantly worse. But those that make use of commercial services in order to reproduce should be prepared to move house if something unexpected arises. After all, a child can be born with a disability that requires care that is unavailable locally.
I know white people who have adopted black children. They tend to ensure that the children have black peers and elders to contribute to their upbringing. At least one of these couples, when told a black child would be placed with them, quite seriously considered whether they would be doing right by the child. This is a million miles away in terms of attitude and actions from the Cramblett case.
I can only wonder what the damages, if the case is successful, will be used for. Relocation to an area more ethnically diverse, perhaps? The reality is that house prices in white areas in the US are generally more expensive than those in mixed areas, so I am unsure what the money is needed for. Hurt feelings? Whichever way this issue is approached, it smacks of racism.
With the designer “gayby” boom looking set to expand even further, there are some important questions to ask about the ethics of commercialised reproduction. In London alone there are a number of clinics offering sperm for sale; brokers that arrange wombs-to-rent, often in countries where women are desperately poor and sometimes coerced into being surrogates; and egg donation that can cause significant pain and health risks to the donors. There is also the “mix and match” temptation that comes with choosing eggs and sperm from a catalogue. There is even an introduction agency for those who wish to meet the sperm while it is encased in a body.
In the 1970s and 80s, before commercialisation, lesbians who wanted a baby of their own would often ask male friends to donate sperm, but – like anything where money can be made – the product began to be sold. I recall more than one white lesbian couple opting for sperm from a black or Asian donor because they thought mixed-race babies more attractive than white ones. I have interviewed gay men, who opted for IVF with an egg donor, who flicked through catalogues of Ivy league, blonde, posh young women trying to decide what type of nose they would prefer their baby to have. This smacks of eugenics to me.
So one of my ideas for ensuring that the baby more closely resembles his/her lesbian parents is to have one of the women impregnated by her lover’s brother, uncle, cousin or dad. Maybe even the old fashioned way, via heterosexual intercourse. But that would be weird.
by T.M. Burroughs
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