The latest season of “The Bachelorette” has kicked off, and while the show is known for its drama, one suitor in particular is shocking viewers with news of his own. “The Bachelorette” is a spin-off of the ABC show “The Bachelor” and features 25 men vying for the heart of the lead, Hannah Brown. But will she be impressed by the background of this particular man? At the tender age of 25, when many men are just beginning to think about children, he has 114 of them — created when he donated his sperm — and this man certainly isn’t trying to keep that information a secret from the “Bachelorette” audience.
Matteo is a graduate of Georgia Tech with a degree in mechanical engineering. But according to his bio on “The Bachelorette” website, Matteo also decided to sell his sperm. According to the Phoenix Sperm Bank, healthy men can make $1,000 a month, at $70 per donation with about 14 donations per month. But sperm donation, along with egg donation, raises some serious ethical questions.
There are at least 114 human beings in the world who are biologically Matteo’s children, and therefore are biologically related to each other and don’t know it. They also may have cousins and other family members, some of whom they may live fairly close to. And that means this season’s “Bachelorette,” Hannah, may need to consider if she’s willing to suddenly take on the possibility of 114 biological children to come knocking on their door one day. But “Bachelorette” concerns aside, this kind of irresponsible sperm donation raises numerous concerns.
How might sperm donation affect the receiving family?
The truth that no one in the fertility industry seems to be telling couples is that using a sperm donor can cause a great deal of tension between a couple, especially if the sperm donor is a friend or family member. For a man to know that his wife has a biological child with his brother through sperm donation can cause heartbreak. And while some pass it off as that man being a “Neanderthal,” it isn’t that simple. Creating a child with your spouse is part of the marriage relationship. You don’t go into a marriage thinking it would be great if your wife got pregnant by another man. And essentially, with sperm donation, that is what is happening. One woman, whose husband donated sperm to his brother and sister-in-law, said things began to fall apart with the family after the child was born. Her husband began to realize that this had “wrecked my family.” As for the recipient brother and his wife, things were a mess.
“Why was nobody saying, ‘This is a big deal, and it’s going to test the limits of your relationship’?” said the wife. “No doctor working at the cryogenic bank, nobody – nobody said, ‘Hey. Sit down. Think about the relationship and what’s gonna happen.'”
Wendy Kramer, co-founder and director of the Donor Sibling Registry, says that using a sperm donor can make a parent “Feel uncomfortable when friends talk easily about how much their children look like them.” Keeping this secret can “warp family life,” she explained.
Children deserve to know about their genetic makeup.
The majority of married straight couples who use donor eggs or sperm don’t tell their children about it. But with the popularity of DNA testing, many children are finding out the truth when they get results back from online genetics sites.
The reason parents don’t tell their children the truth includes not wanting to disrupt their “normal childhood,” and not wanting to tell other family members and friends. They fear that their children will become angry. They also fear that they won’t be able to answer their children’s questions about their ancestry, so they don’t bother to tell them anything.
For Courtney McKinney, every time a doctor asks about her medical history, or someone asks about her parents, or she wonders what pieces of her come from an unknown man who donated sperm, she feels a “lack of consideration.” She tried in vain for years to find out something about her biological father, but he hadn’t told his wife about donating sperm so even those who knew who had donated would not give McKinney information.
But these children deserve to know where they came from and who their siblings are. Not only do they deserve to know what their health risks are, not knowing puts them at risk of coming into contact with siblings and beginning intimate relationships. One couple had already been married with three children when the husband learned they came from the same sperm donor. He didn’t know how to tell his wife. “I can’t help but think ‘This is my sister’ every time I look at her now,” he told advice columnist Dear Prudence.
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine has a recommended limit of 25 births per donor within a population of 800,000, in order to lower the risk of accidental incestuous relations. Matteo alone has 114 biological children.
According to McKinney, the Donor Siblings Registry has submitted a petition to the FDA asking for heavier restrictions on the donor industry, including providing mandatory updates and keeping a record of the number of births. They also want to ban anonymous donors. In Britain, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia, fertility clinics are licensed by the government and donors can’t be anonymous.
Donor-conceived children feel like a product.
Children don’t benefit from knowing that their lives were essentially purchased.
“I feel like a custom ordered product, bound by a contract I didn’t sign, with half of my biological history stolen from me,” wrote Zave, a donor-conceived person. “I have a donor-father who openly admits to just ‘donating’ for the money and satisfaction of having offspring that he never had to care about. And the world remains barely aware of the pain many of us… go through.”
He said there are very few laws to protect children who are donor conceived, and people are unaccepting of the negative emotions they often feel.
“In adoption law, the child’s well-being is a primary consideration throughout the adoption process,” explained McKinney. “But the children who result from anonymous sperm donation aren’t even a legal afterthought. From the point of donation to the point of birth and beyond, the rights of parents and donors trump those of the children they created. There certainly are no home visits or background checks… All that’s required to buy sperm or eggs is an ability to pay.”
She added, “The ‘products’ this industry creates are humans, and the laws that govern it should reflect that.”
While Matteo seems proud to have helped create 114 children “for all types of families,” with “The Bachelorette” promoting it as nothing more than an interesting tidbit for fans, he may someday be shocked to learn that these children might want something from him. Some will want health history information, some will want just his name, and some will want to establish a connection – seeking emotion on some level from the man who helped create them, the man who makes up half of who they are. Is Matteo willing to step up and be that man for his 114 children?
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