Anonymous Sperm Donation
Scrapbook Can Tell 'Story of Birth'
Sperm banks supply sperm directly to women clients or through
intermediaries such as fertility clinics or physician private practices.
Although there is little regulation of sperm banks, the sperm banks contacted
by WebMD were uniformly in favor of informing the child about the circumstances
of their birth.
Sharon Mills of San Francisco-based Pacific Reproductive
Services says her company counsels clients to tell their offspring "the
story of how they were born."
A good way to do this, she says, is to "have a scrapbook
that tells the story. The scrapbook can include pictures of the clinic where
the insemination took place, pictures of the pregnant woman, and so on. Every
year on their child's birthday the parents can take out the scrapbook and add
new birthday pictures while once again reviewing the story."
By using this approach, Mills says, the birth story is so often
repeated that it becomes "boring and therefore accepted by the
Cordray says that Mills' suggestion is a good one because the
most important issue is honesty. Knowing about your origin, he says, "is a
civil rights issue."
In this respect, Cordray says that children of donor
insemination, or DI children, are very much like adoptees, who have similar
concerns about biologic origins.
A separate, and equally difficult issue is donor identity.
Should donors be anonymous or identified? Who should know this information? The
mother? The child?
Pictures and Videos Attempt to Fill in Blanks
David Towles, director of public relations at Xytex, a sperm
bank headquartered in Augusta, Ga., says his company is exploring a whole range
of approaches to donor identity.
"In June 1994 we began providing pictures of the donors if
the donors agreed," he says. Currently he says his company has
head-and-shoulder pictures of about half of the 100 donors in its
More recently, Towles says, the company began producing videos
of the donors. The videos are filmed in the Zytex offices and then
"wherever the donor feels comfortable, perhaps doing some activity he likes
such as fishing."
Donors are asked if they are willing to provide this type of
information to the mothers and that preference is noted in the catalogue.
"Close to 20 donors have agreed to the release of this information," he
Towles says the company is also investigating ways to arrange
for contact such as an exchange of letters between mothers and donors or
between donors and adult offspring.
While Towles says his company is interested in finding new ways
to make donor insemination "open," like open adoptions in which
adoptive parents know the identities of biological parents, Nancy Pihera,
director of Lavista Reproductive Services in Atlanta, points out that there can
be legal pitfalls surrounding donor identity. For example, in some states a
donor whose identity becomes known could be liable for financial support, she