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Washington Examiner


Just What Are "Choice Mothers" Settling For?

August 18, 2010

By Kay S. Hymowitz

In case you’ve been busy worrying about the economy, immigration, or a resurgent Taliban, let me draw your attention to Jennifer Aniston.

Promoting her new movie, The Switch, about a single, fortysomething woman who decides to have a baby with the help of a sperm donor, Aniston had this to say at a press conference: “Women …know that they don’t have to settle with a man just to have that child…Times have changed, and what is amazing is that we do have so many options these days.’” On his show, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly responded by calling Aniston “destructive to our society.”

Aniston hit back: “For those who’ve not yet found their [Prince Charming such as] Bill O’Reilly, I’m just glad science has provided a few other options.” The rest is P.R. history.

By “amazing” options, Aniston, who happens also to be a fortysomething single woman, was referring to sperm donation, an increasingly popular way to create fatherless families. O’Reilly’s charge to the contrary, most single women who have a baby through donor sperm struggle for years to find husbands so they could raise their children with fathers before finally concluding they had no choice but to go it alone.

Given the ranks of can’t-commit child men out there, you have to have some sympathy for their plight.

But choice mothers, as the older, more educated donor moms often call themselves, use a language of empowerment that lends some weight to O’Reilly’s accusation. Aniston herself is guilty of trivializing men’s role in children’ lives when she says that women “don’t have to settle with a man just to have a child.”

Notice the belittling words “settle” and “just.” The very term “choice mothers” frames artificial insemination as a matter of women’s reproductive rights; only the woman’s decision-making carries moral weight, fathers be damned. Similarly, advocates often cite the benefits of freedom from “donor interference” that comes with single motherhood.

Adding to the implicit father-bashing is anonymous sperm donation. Some choice mothers go to male friends to get the necessary reproductive material.

But most buy their sperm and eggs from banks committed to protecting the identity of the donors — or to be more precise, the sellers. Children grow up knowing the identity of neither their biological fathers nor, since the same sperm donor can produce a dozen or more children, their half-siblings.

To believe the title of another movie released this summer about sperm donor families, The Kids are Alright, this anonymity is nothing to worry about; the kids are better off not knowing. But if it’s true that people don’t care about the identity of the man whose DNA constitutes half of their genetic make-up, we should be ready to substitute the wisdom of Jennifer Aniston for storytellers ranging from Homer, James Joyce, and the writers at Marvel comics.

Ironically, choice mothers themselves are enacting the power of biological rootedness when they insist on bearing their own children rather than adopting an already motherless and fatherless child.

Up until now, no one has bothered to find out what children might think about the laissez-faire approach to fathers. But a first-of-its kind report from the Commission on Parenthood’s Future, “My Daddy’s Name is Donor,” compares a large sample of donor-conceived young adults with a group who grew up with their biological parents.

The report adds up to a troubling picture of adult entitlement and child confusion. While choice mothers have their way, their kids are more likely to suffer malaise about their identity, as well as to abuse drugs and alcohol and to have run-ins with the police.

Meanwhile, donor children are speaking up on websites like A Tangled Web and Child of a Stranger. In Canada, a class-action law suit against the anonymity policy of sperm banks is winding its way through the courts. The legal struggle is reminiscent of similar efforts by adopted children to open up the records of those agencies.

If the donor kids are successful, will their efforts also open up a more serious discussion about fathers? Not if Jennifer Aniston has anything to say about it.

Original Source:



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