Friday, October 14, 2005

Single Moms and Gay IVF Donors.

Over dinner and drinks this evening, a very good friend of mine talked about a dilemma he was facing. A woman whom he has known for a long time has asked him to be a sperm donor in her attempt to conceive a child. The woman is 38 and knows that her window is closing. My male friend is tall, handsome, devastatingly intelligent, and gay. In an abstract sense, he would be an ideal sperm donor.

Yet he is also surpassingly moral: in other words, he feels, excruciatingly, the finer ends of his own responsibility. In my conversation with him this evening, he was already talking about the potential offspring with this woman as "his" child. He is keenly aware that if he were to participate in this plan, he could be contributing half his genes to a person who could live another 80 years. Since he knows very well the woman who has requested his sperm, he also knows that he won't simply be an anonymous donor for the child.

Because he's poor and intelligent, and because the woman is a smart lawyer, a very clear contract about responsibilities and rights will be drawn up before anything goes forward. And yet we all know, those of us who know this chappie, that he will feel more responsible than the law will ever require him to. He is already talking about this potential child (whom he's already gendered female, in his mind) as his.

I know that this way of talking is a heuristic device, a way of thinking through responsibility, but I can't take it simply as such: there is a brute, hormonal urge in most of us to see our genes propogated. And we want to be in control of our little half-clones' development.

I've thought about selling my reproductive matter, but I've always balked: while the medical inconvenience seemed nasty, the potential for remorseful second thoughts seemed, for me, nastier. The idea of providing reproductive matter to a good friend seems even more slippery, in the sense of difficult to chose between interfering and abnegating responsibility. It wouldn't simply be a question of money or of good will--so what would the donor be looking for? What role would he have? I have to say that the willingness of my friend to think through these moral questions and to think about how they might express themselves in a legal contract speaks volumes about his suitability to enter into such a voluntary arrangement.

For some reasons to consider this conversation as political, try Ann Althouse, or this related post at Obisdian Wings. Be sure to check out the comments at both sites.


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