What is it like to be a child conceived using the sperm of a man whom the law says has no obligations to you at all, that you don't even have a right to know his name?
As many as 1 percent of all children born in America are created by reproductive technology, and yet few people have bothered to ask that question.
Until now. Thanks to an extraordinary new report just released by the Institute for American Values, "My Daddy's Name Is Donor," we can now begin to look for answers. The groundbreaking study by Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval Glenn and Karen Clark looks at almost 500 young adults created by donor insemination.
Forty-five percent of these young adults conceived by donor insemination agree, "The circumstances of my conception bother me." Almost half report that they think about their donor conception a few times a week or more. Forty-five percent agree, "It bothers me that money was exchanged in order to conceive me."
Nearly half of donor offspring (compared to about a fifth of adopted adults) agree, "When I see friends with their biological fathers and mothers, it makes me feel sad." Similarly, 53 percent (compared to 29 percent of adoptees) agree, "It hurts when I hear other people talk about their genealogical background."
Donor offspring were three times as likely as adopted young adults and seven times more likely than adults born to biological parents to agree, "I feel confused about who is a member of my family and who is not." Nearly half of donor offspring were afraid they might unknowlingly commit incest.
Yet the majority of these young adults support donor insemination, provided it is not anonymous. Indeed, a startling 20 percent of the donor-conceived had become donors themselves, perhaps in part to establish a connection with the phantom non-parent.
There are worse things, clearly. But just as clearly, children conceived by reproductive technologies are struggling with the meaning of their origins, and they are struggling largely alone.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.