Anonymous Sperm Donation
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
Nonetheless, Pihera, a health educator who founded the company
10 years ago, says that she counsels clients to tell children as soon as
possible about the circumstances of their birth. Additionally, she urges
parents to share the information on donor background that she provides. That
information, "doesn't answer a whole lot of big, deep questions, but it
does include things like favorite food, favorite color, shoe size, and so
In California, law protects donors, says Mills. The California
law clearly states that "if a man provides sperm to a licensed medical
facility then in law that man is not the natural father of the child and has no
legal rights or responsibilities in regard to the child."