Anonymous dads and curious children

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: Anonymous dads.

Some children who don’t know who their fathers are are enlisting the help of DNA testing to track them down.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Tens of thousands of children conceived by donors are grown up now and wondering who their fathers are.  

WORLD correspondent Mary Jackson researched this for the latest cover story in the magazine.

Mary, what did you find motivates people to look for their biological dads?

MARY JACKSON, REPORTER: The people I talked to who are donor-conceived were motivated by a desire to know the other half of their heritage. In some cases it wasn’t even that they had an unhealthy upbringing or were searching for a missing father figure, they just simply were curious about who this other person is that carries half their DNA. They wanted a better sense of who they are and where they came from.

One study I cite in my story found that two-thirds of adult donor offspring concurred with the statement “My sperm donor is half of who I am.” Others I talked to were kept in the dark about their origins and when they found out that they were donor-conceived, they felt disillusioned, angry, commodified and these emotions fueled their search for their father.

REICHARD: I presume some of them would want to know for health reasons as well. Mary, what are these adult children of donor sperm saying about this?

JACKSON: I think mostly they want their story to be heard. They are becoming more vocal and they want people to understand what they experience. I think many of them would like to ban anonymity and facilitate more regulation in the fertility industry. Some would be happy to see third-party reproduction abolished altogether, but most simply want more protections and more consideration of their side of the story.

REICHARD: And what are the downsides versus upsides to finding out parentage in this industry?

JACKSON: Well, the downside that I write about in my story is that many donor-conceived people are rejected by their sperm donor fathers. They’re also faced with harsh realities like finding out that they have dozens if not hundreds of siblings. The upside is that they often do find family members that they connect with and form relationships with and they gain a better sense of who they are and where they came from.

REICHARD: Mary, what surprised you most during your research?

JACKSON: I think I was most surprised that we have this completely unchecked and booming fertility industry and very few people think about the generational consequences. I’ve written about third-party reproduction in the past for WORLD, and I’ve always wanted to explore what it’s like for the children born and raised in these arrangements.

REICHARD: It seems like oftentimes the perspective of the child in these transactions is ignored. What are some statistics that underscore the extent of this practice, of donor egg/sperm?

JACKSON: Well, we’re not entirely sure how many children are born using third-party reproduction because the law does not require fertility clinics to maintain those numbers. But one study I cite in my story estimated that 30,000 to 60,000 children were born in 2010 using sperm donation. I think that is a very small number considering that the majority of these births are not reported by women. We do know that the U.S. is the largest exporter of sperm in the world and there’s an increasing demand for babies from single women, infertile, and gay couples. I also cite in my story that the global sperm bank business is expected to reach five billion by 2025.

REICHARD: WORLD Magazine correspondent Mary Jackson. Thanks for this story, Mary!

JACKSON: You’re welcome, Mary.

(Photo: Gary Fong/Genesis; DNA strand: Bluebay2014/iStock) Amanda Serenyi’s father turned out not to be her father; she was donor-conceived. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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