Colorado is first state to pass law regarding rights of donor-conceived persons

In 2022, Colorado passed a first-of-its-kind law establishing limited “protections” for donor-conceived persons — measures that the average person likely believes already exist in the fertility industry, but do not.

Requirements of the law include that sperm or egg donors agree to the release of their identity and medical information to donor-conceived persons on or after their 18th birthday, that sperm and/or egg donor banks “request” updated medical information from donors every three years, and provide written education to donors and recipients about the impacts on children conceived in this way.

Additionally, once 25 different families have received a donor’s sperm or eggs, regardless of how many children are conceived within that family using the sperm or eggs, “the [donor] bank shall not match or provide gametes from a donor to additional families.”

Colorado donor banks will also be required to pursue and maintain licensure from the state board of health, as is routinely required for healthcare facilities across the country.

A staggering lack of accountability

That a law like Colorado’s does not already exist in every state speaks volumes about the lack of regulation and accountability from an industry that proffers the promise of a person for pay, without regard to the physical or emotional wellbeing of children so created.

As the Donor Deceived website founded to fight fertility fraud asks, “Why does a person created through donor conception have no legal right to their own donor information? Why aren’t there federal regulations requiring clinics/doctors to properly maintaining (sic) and provide donor information?” 

Wendy Kramer, founder of Donor Sibling Registry, conceived a son with donor sperm and is now an outspoken advocate of the need for laws like the Colorado one. She previously told Buzzfeed, “I think for so many of us when we had to use a donor in order to have a child we all thought, ‘Oh, it’s the medical industry. These are medical professionals, so there’s going to be the same ethics and morals and responsibilities and record-keeping.’”

But as Kramer learned the hard way, “These are sperm-sellers, and that’s very different, and their ethics and responsibilities are very different.” 

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Troubling revelations

Live Action News has previously documented the troubling revelations some donor-conceived children have unexpectedly received about their biological fathers’ medical history, and others’ inability to access medical information about their donor parent altogether — a problem the Colorado law will ameliorate for children conceived within its borders once they turn 18. Other donor-conceived children have devastatingly learned that the men they thought were their fathers weren’t even related to them at all

Disturbingly, stories have also emerged across the nation and the world of fertility doctors who unethically impregnated female patients without their consent, and sometimes the number of an individual donor’s offspring reaches into the hundreds. But as Devorah Goldman observed in an essay for Public Discourse, “this kind of fraud is primarily viewed as an offense against the women who are impregnated with sperm from the wrong man… For the children involved, however, there is little legal recourse or consideration.” (emphasis added)

Goldman is right that children conceived via sperm or egg donation have historically been absent from conversations about the ethics and implications of commodifying the process of conception. But increasingly, donor-conceived children are speaking up for themselves and offering powerful testimony about their experiences. 

A somber 2019 photo essay for the New York Times by a 20-year-old donor-conceived man named Eli Baden-Lasar put a face — 31 of them, to be exact — on the experience of children so generated. Commenting on his reaction to the knowledge that he had dozens of half-siblings scattered across the country (1 of the 32 did not participate in the photo essay), he said, “I felt both curious and anxious about these people and what they exactly meant to me. The sheer quantity of them gave me a feeling of having been mass-produced.”

One of his half-siblings shared vulnerably, “I learned that there are so many of them it’s hard to feel included. I’m an only child and was expecting a sibling relationship, not just like, ‘Hey, cool, we have the same blood, whatever.’’ I told myself that it wasn’t a big deal that I had siblings, just to numb the pain.” 

And what does one call a fellow human conceived from the same donor’s sperm? Baden-Lasar spoke to the complexities of this struggle: “I’m always hesitant to call anybody a brother or sister. But many of the other siblings use that language very loosely. I don’t, probably because I already have a sister, and she will always be most important to me.”

No longer ignoring their voices

Groups like the newly-founded U.S. Donor Conceived Council, helmed by individuals who were themselves conceived through anonymous egg or sperm donation, are striving to make Colorado’s legislation the law of the land. The USDCC celebrated “the first act in the United States focused on protecting the rights of people conceived using sperm, eggs, or embryos provided by unknown third parties.”

USDCC president and CEO Erin Jackson stated, “More than a million people in the United States have been created via sperm and egg donation with little consideration to their future needs or interests, including learning the identity of the person who contributed half of their DNA and having access to accurate medical information. With the passage of this bill, the industry can no longer ignore our voices.”

The law goes into effect July 1, 2024, and applies to children conceived on or after January 1, 2025.

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