Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pratten v. British Columbia

Olivia Pratten (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
Yesterday and today Olivia and her team are once again back in court battling the province of British Columbia and the College of Physicians in the B.C. Court of Appeals in Vancouver.  Here's a link to the BC Supreme Court case ruling.

A fantastic video featuring Olivia, discussing the case and the issues.  Please watch this video, she discusses so eloquently why she is doing this, what's in it for her, and she takes on some of the most common misconceptions about this case!!

Also, a radio interview featuring me that aired live yesterday on The Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 in Vancouver.  Listen to or download the podcast, here (lead for Tuesday Feb 14th - go to minute 12:26/6:41 to begin my segment).

8:45 –9:00 DONOR OFFSPRING WANT THEIR RIGHTS RESPECTED Should a child conceived by a donor sperm or egg have the right to know about their biological parentage? That question is being looked at once again in the BC Court of Appeal. It’s hearing an appeal of a ruling last year that declared the province’s Adoption Act unconstitutional because it didn’t give people born of donated sperm or eggs the same rights as people who were adopted. Lindsay Greenawalt is a donor conceived adult and she has identified her donor father, though she hasn’t reached out to him yet. Why is it important for her to know this part of her history? And what does she think about the donor’s right to privacy?

Sperm donor children have the right to know their identity
Barbara Kay
National Post
February 14, 2012

Olivia Pratten and Shelley Deacon are the issue of anonymous sperm donors. Both have been seeking information about their hidden bio-history for years. Last year the B.C. Supreme Court granted the women access to their bio-files, and in the process, struck down as unconstitutional provisions of the Adoption Act. The government was given six months to amend the act, and now the government is in court seeking to overturn that ruling.

The government’s main argument is that when Ms. Pratten and Ms. Deacon were conceived, all such procedures were done on an anonymous basis for everyone. But should they have been? And if they shouldn’t have been, why should these young women – and all the other donor children they represent – go through life suffering the torment of knowing only half their genetic identity?

Sperm donation has been with us for a long time. The oldest recorded case in the U.S. took place in 1884. Originally it was meant to help married couples whose infertility was linked to the husband’s low sperm count. There was shame attached to it. In those cases the children usually weren’t informed. But now sperm donorship is probably more widely used by single women with ticking biological clocks, and for lesbian couples, than for married couples. There is no longer any moral stigma attached to it at all.

Just last week, on the popular TV musical sitcom series Glee, a show overtly didactic in educating its viewership on such politically correct subjects as total acceptance for gays, the disabled and the obese, Sue Sylvester, the series’ hilariously acerbic cheerleader coach, announced that she intends to become impregnated by a sperm donor. Her assistant approvingly observes that this is something Sue needs, implying that a child is nothing more than a kind of therapeutic accessory to adult lives.

For another example of liberal attitudes, in the recent movie, The Kids are All Right, a lesbian couple has raised two children from the same sperm donor father. As teenagers, the kids set out to discover their bio-father’s identity. They find him. There is some tension between the women and the kids. Hijinks ensue. In the end the father is amiably ejected from their lives. The message is that once the kids’ curiosity has been satisfied, and civility established all around, life will go on without the father in their lives pretty much as before, if not better.

Are the scenarios posited in sitcoms and movies written by liberals realistic, or are they the wishful thinking produced by commitment to progressive social theories?

In stories posted on, an online story collective founded by a donor child, the picture does not sound quite so rosy.

There is great anguish amongst many donor children about the missing part of their identity.
And research backs up the importance for children of knowing their full biological identity. A few years ago The Commission on Parenthood’s Future released a report: My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived through Sperm Donation. The study belies the politically correct notion that how children are conceived is irrelevant, and that love is all they need.

According to lead researcher Elizabeth Marquardt, two thirds of sperm donor kids agree that “My sperm donor is half of who I am”; half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception; nearly half fear having sexual relations with a possible unknown sibling (some sperm donors have a hundred offspring; unwitting half siblings in England have married); about half have ethical reservations about the propriety of the system.

We hear a great deal about the principle of “the best interests of the child” when parents can’t agree on custody. The “best interests” should always be consulted when courts consider issues involving children’s rights. And it is in the best interests of a child to know his or her biological father’s genetic history.

Sperm donation is not like adoption. Adoption is a well-regulated, non- profit service with service to the needs of a living child as its mandate. Sperm donation is an unregulated marketplace, with service to the wishes of an adult clientele as its raison d’ĂȘtre. Is a sperm donor’s genetic anonymity more important than his biological issue’s knowledge of her own physical identity?

Donor children are not asking for money from their biological fathers; they are not asking for an intimate relationship; they are not seeking to punish their mothers. They simply want to know who they are. And so the court must consider this question asked by a donor child: “If my life is for other people’s purposes, and not my own, then what is the purpose of my life?” They should conclude that it was wrong in the past to deny children the right to their biological history, and children today should not suffer for that mistake.

Sperm donor identity case heads back to court with B.C. government appeal
The Canadian Press
February 14, 2012

VANCOUVER - A woman who scored a major victory last year against laws to protect sperm donors' anonymity is heading to the Appeal Court of British Columbia today to fight the government's stance against the case.

Olivia Pratten will be attending the two-day appeal of the ruling as the Attorney General's Ministry attempts to overturn the judge's order giving the province 15 months to amend current laws.

"I'm disappointed that I'm back in court and that they've appealed it," Pratten said of last May's decision by a B.C. Supreme court judge who deemed the Adoption Act, which covers donor conception, unconstitutional.

Judge Elaine Adair also granted a permanent injunction against the destruction of donor records, saying offspring conceived through donated eggs or sperm have a psychological need to know their genetic background in the same way adopted children do.

Pratten, a Toronto journalist, was born in 1982 through donated sperm because her parents were unable to conceive on their own.

She spent a decade trying to learn her biological father's identity, only to discover that records containing that information had been destroyed by her mother's fertility specialist.

In 2008, Pratten launched a lawsuit against the B.C. government and the provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, saying she and others like her should have access to information about their biological parents.
[read more]

B.C. seeks to overturn anonymous sperm donor ruling
Keith Fraser
The Province
February 14, 2012

The B.C. government was in court Tuesday seeking to overturn a ruling that paves the way for people born through anonymous sperm donors to find out information about their parents.

Two such people born in B.C. — Olivia Pratten and Shelley Deacon — filed affidavits arguing that their rights were violated because they couldn’t get access to the information.

In May last year, B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Elaine Adair struck down as unconstitutional provisions of the Adoption Act.

The judge noted that the law allows adopted children to access information about their birth parents but not those conceived through sperm donors.

Adair suspended her ruling for six months to give the government a chance to amend the Adoption Act.

But instead of passing a new law, the government appealed the ruling.
[read more]

Friday, February 10, 2012

Anonymous Father's Day: A Must See

On Sunday, January 29th at 7pm, several dozen donor-conceived adults, loved ones, journalists, students, adoptees, and even a former donor, packed the modest quarters of the SoHo Digital Arts Gallery in New York City, mingling together for an evening of stories, education, and awareness on the infertility industry's dirty little secret...that babies conceived through anonymous sperm donors grow up, and many are angry, very angry, that their biological father is as much of a mystery to them as the whereabouts of Amelia Earhart.  And they are going to astounding lengths to locate their biological fathers and change a system meant to protect the financial interests of a multi-billion dollar industry at the expense of everyone involved - the donors, the parents, and of course, the offspring.

After hors d'oeuvres, wine and mingling with some of the cast and crew, attendees made their way downstairs to the showing, with nearly every seat filled and several guests standing in the back of the room.

Anonymous Father's Day was produced by Jennifer Lahl and Matthew Eppinette.  According to Lahl, rather than marching on Capital Hill, the best way to make the point and to instigate change was to let the offspring speak for themselves, let their stories speak for themselves.

The film features the narrative interviews of three donor-conceived adults:

It also features interviews with several pundits in the donor conception world:

  • Elizabeth Marquardt, Director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute of American Values (Family Scholars) and the leading author of the breakthrough study My Daddy's Name Is Donor.
  • Diane Allen, Canadian mother of a son conceived through IVF and founder of the Infertility Network.

There were also cameo appearances from several other donor-conceived adults:

  • Olivia Pratten, Canadian journalist, and plaintiff in the current lawsuit which halted the destruction of medical records related to donor conception and is attempting to dissolve anonymous gamete donations in British Columbia [Pratten vs British Columbia (A.G) and College of Physicians will be heard in the BC Court of Appeals in Vancouver on February 14-15] .
  • Kathleen LaBounty, a Houston native who sent over 600 letters to Baylor College of Medicine grads and went through 16 DNA tests with former donors trying to identify her biological father, she blogs her story at Child of a Stranger.
  • Damian Adams, Australian donor-conceived adult and author of the blog Donated Generation.
  • And me!!  Yes, Cryokid and I had four appearances and mentions in the film....including one notable story relayed by Alana S, regarding a very nasty comment posted here on this blog several months ago.

Alana, Lindsay, Olivia, Jennifer, Karen, Stephanie, Kathleen
Overall I felt the film was fantastic, and I feel that anyone contemplating donating sperm (or eggs) or using a donor should watch this film and understand how WRONG anonymity is, for everyone involved.

I think that potential donors need to understand not only what they are doing and "man-up" to their responsibilities or at least being known to the children they create and provide updated medical history to their offspring, but also the much needed sense of identity that many donor-conceived adults find missing.

But more as in inference, the fact that these potential donors need to understand that their abilities in the future to remain anonymous are dwindling by the minute.  As DNA databases like FTDNA and 23andMe grow and connect genetic relatives, as social networking sites like Facebook provide more and more personal information...the actual concept of anonymity is quickly diminishing.  Sometimes all it takes is a donor profile with some non-identifying information and some ingenuity and research skills.

My only concern with the film, and it is only because I already have heard the concerns/complaints, is that the stories were all very one-sided.  Nearly every interview came to the same conclusion.  That anonymity is unethical, inhumane, and inherently wrong and must be ended.  And while I agree with this statement wholeheartedly, I also see this as a point that can be used against those of us who are trying to legislate against this practice.

Yet, many nay-sayers will claim that everyone involved in the film is opposed to entire practice of donor conception.  But even in the film Alana S states that she thinks that the ideal system is one like Sweden, where there is a central registry and all donor-conceived children can make contact with their biological father when they come of age if they wish, and they can also make contact with all of their half-siblings.  There is also a strict limit on the number of children any donor can create, and medical histories must be routinely updated even after they finish their donating.

This was a philosophy that was echoed after the premier, during a Q&A session featuring myself, Alana, Stephanie, Kathleen, and Olivia.  When asked if we were given a magic wand and could make the system however we wanted, every single one of us had the same answer.

Our idealistic wish would be that sperm and egg donation would be eliminated entirely.  But we all acknowledged that this is never going to happen.

So our realistic wish would be change that will make the system more child-centric and foster positive development, identities, and health for children and adults created through assisted reproductive technologies.  We were all pretty much in agreement that a system like Sweden has in place would be the most beneficial in addressing the concerns related to identity, health, and family.

Dinner Reception with cast and crew at The Smith
And while I didn't want to get into this during my review post, I will update soon on the entire AFD premier weekend's festivities and get-togethers in the city!!