By admin on October 21, 2021

Cortney at the Idaho Center for Reproductive Medicine has helped to facilitate the posting of 155 offspring, 111 half-sibling connections, and 181 egg donor-offspring connections from her clinic on the Donor Sibling Registry. These are donors and parents that are connecting right from pregnancy/birth. This is a win-win-win-win for the donors, parents, donor-conceived kids, and the clinic.

I recently explained to her the resistance I heard from egg clinics and sperm banks at the ASRM meeting this week when introducing the idea of connecting parents and donors right from pregnancy or birth, in spite of the fact that we have been successfully doing this with dozens of egg clinics and agencies for many years.

The insistence by so many in the reproductive medicine industry, including many egg clinics/agencies and all the sperm banks that this type of early contact between donors and parents just can’t work only indicates their resistance to acknowledging that most parents and donors would be on board with openness if properly counseled and educated about it.

Cortney very candidly explains her thinking and experience with facilitating these connections:

I’m really proud of how many we’ve facilitated with regard to contact in such a short amount of time – 181 in contact within 4 years is pretty remarkable considering we’d been 100% anonymous before.

I really don’t understand why contact is THE WORST THING THAT COULD EVER HAPPEN IN THE HISTORY OF EVER. I could literally think of a hundred things that would be worse.
It’s like a freight train – it’s coming, either way, so you either get on and ride, or you get run over. I’d rather know a knock is coming (and I’d be curious about it as a donor, and I’d want to knock as a parent) than be blindsided by it.

Our donors really were the driving force on this – it had always been explained to me that they were ADAMANTLY AGAINST IT…. So I started asking if they wanted to know – and it was they who told me TELL ME EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING! Photos and meetings and friendships … seriously – why is this the worst thing that could happen!?

I do think that people are overcomplicating it – they trump it up into something in their heads that’s uncomfortable.  In the beginning it can be as you learn each other, but I try to stick close to my donors and parents as they navigate it – they’re comfortable with me, so I try to make sure I’m doing what I can to make them comfortable together (if they want me there in the beginning).  My LITERAL WORDS to my donors and intended parents are this: “Typically most intended parents first fear is that the donor will want to take the child from them if they have contact."  I explain to them that your biggest fear as a donor of the intended parents or children is that they’ll either MAKE you take that child, or that they’ll want to move in next door and sing kumbaya and act like you’re this big happy family…..  and then I say this, "you can see that both of these fears are because this is unknown and it’s a relationship you’ve never navigated.  They don’t want you to take that child any more than you want to take that child, and they no more want to move in next door than you want to move in next door to them."
Once that shroud is ripped into shreds on the fear of, “What is it they want from me?” it becomes something entirely different.  It takes that complication away – the expectation they put in their own head, I guess.
I’ve had at least 1 donor be found by 2 families through Ancestry testing – she was from the era when anonymity was promised (the children are both about 16 – long before I was a coordinator here).  She sat with me and cried because she was scared and overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do – here was her family (who knew she donated) with open arms saying let’s welcome these guys in as family, and here she was saying I don’t know how I feel about this, and this is mine, not theirs.
Fast forward a few months and it's as though they were always in each other's lives.  They spend Halloween together (this family has a very time-honored tradition of a Halloween party that to be invited to is A VERY BIG DEAL), SING TOGETHER (donor and offspring), talk, etc.
I just wish I could show so many who worry what that fast forward looks like.

By admin on October 21, 2021

We can all educate ourselves about the importance of terminology when dealing with sensitive family groups and communities, including in the world where sperm and eggs are sold and bought.  But it's tricky.

For starters....the person who sold their sperm or eggs never actually “donated” anything. A donor-conceived child didn't have anything “donated” to them, so really, they do not have a donor.

Terminology can be a real hot button as it indicates the way that we define our relationships.  

It's an important factor in communication as it gives context to the content of our conversations. That's why we always recommend using accurate terminology for donor families. Usually, we call the person who sold their sperm or eggs the donor.  This person is actually the biological mother, biological father, or biological parent, as they contributed around 50% of the DNA to create the child. The word parent can be used as both a noun and a verb, and while donors are the biological parents (noun) of a donor-conceived child, they are not parents (verb), as they do not actually raise or actively parent the child.

Many parents view the gamete sellers as merely contributing a "piece of genetic material" or "a donated cell", but to the donor-conceived person, it's oftentimes so much more than that. It's one-half of their identity: their ancestry, their family medical history, and their very close genetic relatives.  Donor/biological parent is a good way to clarify which type of biological parent you're referencing, not the one who raised you, but the one who gave you half of their DNA via the sperm or egg donation process. They are the people that sold their gametes to a facility, who in turn sold them to the parents.

Here is how 1,683 surveyed sperm donor-conceived people refer to/describe the "donor".  42.58% of the DCP who had LGBTQ parents included the words father or dad while 66.83% of DCP with heterosexual parents used those words to describe the person from whom they received 50% of their DNA.

                                 Donor-conceived people with LGBTQ parents:                                                                                       Donor-conceived people with heterosexual parents:

Only 22% of 1700 surveyed sperm donor recipients (the mothers) used the words father or dad when describing the person who contributed 50% of their child's DNA.

Other terminology hot spots are the words we use for donor-conceived people: like offspring, or donor babies for very young children.
Others created with the same donor are called half-siblings, donor siblings, siblings, or even diblings (although that term is not favored by many adult donor-conceived people).
For the person that sold their gametes, they might have children that they are raising, but also children created from their gametes who might be their donor children or offspring.

Some donor-conceived people feel very strongly about not using some of these terms, while others are fine with it. It all comes down to how you personally define family.
I find that no matter which term you use, you're probably offending someone.  

I guess we're all still working it out.

By admin on September 15, 2021
There's a well-documented phenomenon in psychology called the "backfire effect."  It’s the tendency of some people to resist accepting evidence that conflicts with their beliefs. The effect is demonstrated when people presented with conflicting data and information become even more convinced of their original beliefs rather than questioning them. This helps to explain why gamete brokers often struggle with changing their minds in light of new evidence presented to them about donor families.

Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do this instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens those misconceptions instead. Over time, the backfire effect makes you less skeptical of those things that allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper. So, the more people are confronted with facts at odds with their opinions, the stronger they cling to those opinions.

This phenomenon is what I come up against all the time when dialoguing with people in the reproductive medicine industry.  All too often the Donor Sibling Registry’s decades of anecdotal data from more than 75,000 people, and research studies with 26 published papers in peer-reviewed academic journals are dismissed, negated, or challenged. Instead of listening, the evidence is ignored or explained as somehow biased or wrong. I get it.

If the industry acknowledged the new information and data, they would then need to honestly address their own policies and make changes that would negatively affect their businesses in a financial manner:

1. Keeping and updating records costs money.  Reporting births is voluntary, so sperm banks do not have accurate records of the children born from any one donor and they lose track of donors. One mom says,  "If the sperm bank [CCB] can't find the donor 3 years down the road when my sons were speech delayed or 6 years down the road when my son had cancer, why do they claim they can find him after 18 years??”
2. Keeping promises of updating and sharing medical information is costly and might also result in costly lawsuits. 
3. Keeping promises of limits on numbers of offspring would be costly as selling fewer vials of a single donor would also affect their net profit.
4. Properly educating and counseling all prospective parents and donors would also be costly. Also, if donors knew that they could end up with 100-200 kids, many would never donate.

This is the false narrative and only argument that comes my way from the industry (eg., from the American Society of Reproduction's spokesperson Sean Tipton and from the sperm banks) when proposing some oversight or regulation: 

Any oversight or regulation of the gamete donation industry will threaten the “reproductive rights” of parents. Parents are told, If there is regulation or oversight in our industry, you won’t be able to have the baby you so desperately desire!  In reality, the oversight and accountability that we propose is not about challenging anyone's "reproductive rights".  This is a different conversation about running a more ethical and responsible gamete selling industry by mandating accurate record-keeping to know which families have children from any one donor, keeping accurate records on all medical issues reported, mandating comprehensive medical and genetic testing of donors, mandating the updating and sharing of medical information amongst families and donors, limiting the number of kids born to any single donor, and listening to the experiences and recommendations of donor-conceived people.

Many in the industry know that the information I present is accurate as they too hear from the families, but consciously choose to ignore or dispute it. But, I have talked with some people in the industry who are so invested in "helping families" that it's hard or even impossible for them to consider that their policies might actually be hurting people. I get it. 

But the only ethical and responsible way forward for the industry that is helping to create human life is by honestly listening to and considering the parents', donors', and most importantly the donor-conceived peoples' experiences in the years and the decades after the gametes are sold and purchased when setting policy.