QUESTION: Should Gays And Lesbians Be Able To Make Babies Without FDA Approval?

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An interesting case has come before the U.S. District Court in Northern California: An Oakland woman and her partner want to conceive a child and have a male friend willing to donate, but the FDA requires sperm donors to undergo testing to verify their health—and the plaintiff believes that’s costly, time-consuming and unnecessary.

Turkey-baster-inseminations and similarly informal procedures aren’t uncommon in Norther California, but they are technically illegal: A sperm donor is required to have his blood and urine tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C,  syphilis and other illnesses within a week of donating.

Working with Cause of Action, a government accountability group, this would-be mom is suing the FDA.

Those rules, argues Cause of Action in the lawsuit filed last week, are “costly and burdensome” and “unconstitutional to the extent that they operate to regulate noncommercial, sexually intimate

QUESTION: Should Gays And Lesbians Be Able To Make Babies Without FDA Approval?

choices and activity.”

“If there are donors like this who are not charging as a service, and not serving as a business, the FDA should not be intervening,” said Amber Abbasi, the group’s chief counsel for regulatory affairs.

Of course it’s not just lesbians with a stake: Anyone looking to forgo the medical establishment, from male couples who want to inseminate a female friend to altruistic donors like Trent Arsenault, is flouting the FDA rules.

Should they be allowed to? Obviously anyone making a baby the old-fashioned way doesn’t have to submit to testing and doctor’s visits, and the risk of transmitting something are just as great, if not greater.

But we can just imagine the legal nightmare that would erupt if someone discovered a “friend” passed along more than his genetic material. Especially when a STI could affect the health of the baby.

According to the story in the SFGate, a physical exam and blood work costs about $800—and that’s each time a man donates sperm.

Is that a small price to pay for a little piece of mind, or is it the principle of the thing? Should the FDA keep its mitts out of something noncommercial between two private parties?

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  • Max

    “Gays and Lesbians” have been doing this for centuries and yet many G&L people are completely heterophobic and call straight people “breeders” despite the fact that a lot of LGBT people have reproduced.

  • Kurt

    If you can’t afford $800, you can’t afford raising a child.

    Anyway, the responsible thing to do would be to adopt a child that needs a home.

  • Chad

    @Kurt: you forget, a lot of states don’t allow gays to adopt.

  • Martin

    “Should they be allowed to? Obviously anyone making a baby the old-fashioned way doesn’t have to submit to testing and doctor’s visits, and the risk of transmitting something are just as great, if not greater.”

    Most people who “plan to make a baby” are in a tolerably stable, tolerably monogamous relationship. Monogamy is more widespread in hetero world for various reasons. These people know each other quite well and so the risk is often very small.

    On the other hand if people can find a local donor committed to help raise the child that will be very valuable for that child. Children ask where they come from and anonymity for donors means never knowing. Also a child needs input from both parents. I have two children with a woman and we give very different things. A man can never be a substitute for a real mother, conversely no woman can be a real father. I give my kids fantasy stuff, we shoot bow and arrow and play computer games. Women just dont do those things.

    So parents of both sexes are always preferable for the child. I think same sex couples should consider their options and not automatically opt for a solution without the opposite sex. If there are no other options then of course it cant be helped

  • joe

    martin sounds like a troll

  • JT

    Question is not whether or not they should be allowed to, but why the government even has an opinion on the subject. Turkey baster is inherently safer than intercourse, and THAT is rightly beyond regulation, so…

  • NormalAdjacent

    If you are going to bake a kid, you should get tested to see if either parent is a carrier for Tay-Sachs, Sickle Cell Anemia, etc anyway. I assume that the other tests: HIV, Hep B/C would be part of that standard battery of tests.

    I agree with Kurt. Unfortunately, It’s sometimes faster, easier and possibly even cheaper to have a biological child than adopt a kid from the foster care system. That’s what people should be pissed off about.

  • LaTeesha

    @Kurt: What a silly idea. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a biological child. It takes a special person to adopt a child. If you aren’t cut out for adoption then you shouldn’t do it.

  • LaTeesha

    @NormalAdjacent: I couldn’t disagree more. Children adopted from foster care often have a host of issues that require a very special person who is cut out to be the parent that child desperately needs. Not everyone is cut out for the demands of parenting a former foster child. Folks not suited for it shouldn’t do it. It’s unfair to the foster child.

  • Ron Wallen

    As much as I’d like to tell the “authorities” where to shove their intrusion on a private matter between two consenting adults, this question happens to be between 2 consenting adults and the hoped for resultant child, who through no fault of his or hers could be saddled with a debilitating disease for the entirety of his/her life.
    AND, I agree with the contributor who mentioned that $800+/- is a small price to pay for starting the resultant child on the right path to health.

  • NormalAdjacent

    @LaTeesha: I agree with you somewhat, but if the system wasn’t so bogged down with red tape, overworked staff and bureaucracy, some of these kids wouldn’t just languish as wards of the state. Many of the issues these kids have is because of this. If matching kids and parents could be made easier (while still making sure the kids are safe), prospective parents wouldn’t just go overseas to adopt because it’s easier.

    What’s the alternative? They age out of the system and are sent out into the world with a little cash and a “Good Luck.” I now there are a lot of hard working people trying to help after that, but the success rate isn’t good.

    We’re kind of going off topic though. Sorry all for hijacking the thread.

  • Martin

    @joe: Yeah i guess… But it is true anyway. People have children for their own sake. Its an egoistic decision. But when you have them you owe it to them to give them the best life possible while you are guarding their interests. And the tough truth is that it matters to know who your father or mother is. People never stop asking. Its an ethical dilemma of surrogacy and sperm donation. I think people owe it to their prospective children to think these things through. And instead of having singles or same sex couples producing father or motherless children, i think known local donors are preferable.

    Of course you can gloss it over and call me a troll and not deal with it if you like. But then you become the unethical monster gay people are accused of being.

  • ChrisSF

    A turkey baster filled with cum is somehow safer than intercourse? No it’s not, especially if the man who gave the sperm is HIV+ or has an STD.

  • Basch

    I don’t really see what the big deal is. Ok, so you’re taking tests to make sure that what you’re getting isn’t going to lead to an unhealthy child…where’s the harm in that??? And like someone else said, if you can’t afford these tests, then you can’t afford raising a child in the first place.

  • Carlos

    I agree Kurt, if you can’t afford these tests you shouldn’t be having a kid or consider adopting a kid.

  • LaTeesha

    @NormalAdjacent: Some people want a baby, not a 6 year old. There’s nothing wrong with desiring an infant. Adoption is a solution for childlessness. It’s not a solution for infertility.

  • LaTeesha

    @NormalAdjacent: @NormalAdjacent: Many of these kids face hardships because of their family life prior to entering foster care. Yes, the red tape makes it worse but the abuse & neglect the kids endured with their biological family is usually the root cause.

  • LaTeesha

    @Martin: What study proves your “tough truth” theory? Is it good to have bio info available? Sure. Is it damaging if you don’t? I’d like to see a study before I just accept that theory.

  • Randall Reynolds

    Gays and Lesbians have been making babies without FDA approval since the dawn of our species.

  • Martin

    @Randall Reynolds: absolutely and they should!

    @LaTeesha: Study? Adoptive children travel to meet their parents or if impossible their parents culture. There are facebook groups with donor children trying to find half-siblings who may have their sperm donors number so they can send a message asking to meet him. I saw a program about some young people like that. They just couldnt take no for an answer.
    Not everything can be demonstrated by statistics, sometimes anthropological or qualitative investigations yield information too. Children raised in same sex families do well in studies, thank god. They live good lives, but an awful lot depends on which parameters the studies measure, which questions they ask. Do they ask how important it is to know the missing parent?
    Life is more than just socioeconomic variables

  • Scott

    Personal responsibility. I would eliminate the laws regulating private (free) contributions if the receiver understood that there would be no legal recourse against the donor if the mother’s or baby’s health were affected. In other words, make sure you know where your donor’s been and with whom. That’s no different than if two people were going to have intercourse. If money is involved then the laws apply. Better you should use a sperm bank. If you know someone you want to donate then go to the sperm bank together and earmark the donation “for XXX’s use only” and pay the fees. Who pays is up to the donor and receiver. Then the sperm bank can be sued if something bad happens.

  • LaTeesha

    @Martin: The anecdotal evidence you cite simply isn’t sufficient to support your theory. And, when it comes to child welfare, we should be basing decisions on documented, scientific evidence, not someone’s opinion.

  • Martin

    @LaTeesha: ah, so real peoples feelings are anecdotal evidence to you, just because it hasnt been counted and published in a peer reviewed scientific magazine…
    Many things dont exist then…

    You mention child welfare, but its not the childs welfare we are protecting by excluding them from knowing the donors identity. Its the donor and the parents who chose the donor. Some people never know they were donor children, they live lives in blissful ignorance but in same-sex families theres no way of knowing that the child will not have a deep need to know its missing biological parent.
    Look all around you, search the internet. People do genealogy, adoptive children speculate about their real parents, there are reality tv-programs about searches for missing children or parents. The “anecdotal evidence” is all around us.

    Im sorry to be a pain, but someone should mention this.

  • UsualPlayers

    @Martin: “so real peoples feelings are anecdotal evidence to you, just because it hasnt been counted and published in a peer reviewed scientific magazine…”

    Uh … that’s kinda the definition of “anecdotal evidence.”

  • LaTeesha

    @Martin: You still haven’t shown any proof that children are harmed by not knowing their biological origins. All you’ve done is cite anecdotal evidence that some people want to know their biological origins.

  • Martin

    @LaTeesha: If they are very sorry and cry and feel an emptiness inside are they harmed enough for you then?

    You dont understand that things can exist even if they are not counted or “proven”.. You cant “prove feeling” yet it exists. You dont like this subject brought up, and then you say its “unproven” and therefore doesnt exist.

    @UsualPlayers: For some things there are no statistical “proof” but to write them of as anecdotal and consequently without importance is wrong. There are no reliable proof of “gayness” only “anecdotal evidence” based on peoples expression of feeling

  • brian

    the man, or any ‘donor’ in this situation, depending on state-ish. is/should be protected because they are not ‘donating’ in terms that are regulateable (i.e. a business). what any two (or more) consenting individuals do in the privacy of their home is sacrosanct in regards to sex and thereby reproduction. some places try to regulate it by putting stuff on the books and while they individually have not been tested, per se, the statements made by scotus are fairly definitively clear. if the couple and friend are doing it via a hospital or some such service, then that is a different thing entirely. the hospital/agency is bound by public health regulations that prevent them from accepting potentially problem ‘stuff’ (of whatever variety). so while i agree we as gay people do not need ‘fda regulation in our reproduction’ any more than straights do. not every straight couple has children ‘the old fashioned’ way.

    i personally have no problem with the person donating getting tested for all of the above issues(as should the prospective parent). they themselves need to know more than the people they are trying to assist. on top of that, things can get complicated when people do this and biology can trump other issues in legal proceeding arising from these situations-especially once the word ‘gay’ is mentioned. so to answer the question, no we as people dont need fda regulation of our reproduction and sex lives any more than our straight counterparts..and frankly there are people who should not breed..for entirely medical reasons.

  • John R in SIA

    It seems a bit irresponsible to donate sperm to anyone (for the purposes of impregnation) and not bother getting tested for any possible illnesses that the donor might be carrying. I agree with the principle that the FDA does not have any business regulating much of anything with respect to anyone’s private, physical relationships. I’m torn by this situation, because I would like to think that a responsible donor, someone who wanted to be certain they were not passing-on a disease or illness that could harm either the would-be mother and/or the child would insist on undergoing whatever tests were deemed necessary to ensure the donor’s health. Unfortunately, the fact that an organization like the FDA feels it necessary to become involved in this arena of intimate personal relationships tells us that there have been donors who have not been tested, and have, in-turn, passed-on a disease or illness. All things being equal, if this situation were only between adults, where only those individuals would “pay the price” for their behavior, then I would wholeheartedly say, “Stay out of their bedrooms and their private lives!” But it’s not. At least not potentially, in the ideal situation where a child is created as the result of a sperm donors ‘donation.’ It seems that the best avenue to take would be to require such tests if the donor and/or the couple involved were intending to use facilities which charge for services provided. In situations where an arrangement is made, and any process/procedure is done privately, the FDA has no place.

  • Hyhybt

    @Martin: That they want to know doesn’t mean knowing will benefit them. It might, or it might be just the opposite. Or it might just be idle curiosity satisfied and they move on the same as before.

    But words mean what they mean. “Anecdotal” means based on personal accounts.

  • john shepard

    @ChrisSF: chris, you are incorrect, as least when it comes to the transmission of HIV. HIV cannot survive exposure to air (oxygen). So a ‘turkeybaster filled w/ cum’ IS in-fact safer than intercourse when it comes to the transmission of HIV. please read up.

  • Hyhybt

    @john shepard: Not by much, unless either you leave it out long enough that the sperm would probably die too or else you spread it microscopically thin. Air only touches the surface.

Comments are closed.