Good Reading: The Rights of Children: Biology Matters

There is an interesting article on the Public Discourse regarding anonymous gamete donation and the rights of children to know their biological parents. Here are some of the highlights:

Now that many children conceived with the help of donor sperm or eggs have reached adulthood, many of these donor-conceived adults have claimed a right to know their biological parents. This phenomenon has led a number of European countries to outlaw gamete donation. Even in places where anonymous donation remains legal, such as the United States, there is a growing trend toward the use of non-anonymous donors. This shift away from the use of anonymous gamete donors parallels the shift toward greater openness in adoption, and it marks an increasing recognition that knowledge of one’s biological origins and contact with one’s biological parents when possible are important for human well-being.

This recognition points to a more fundamental critique of donor conception. Indeed, the basic premise of arguments against anonymous gamete donation—the recognition that children have a fundamental interest in knowing their biological parents—implies that conceiving children with donor gametes is always morally problematic, even when the donor is not anonymous, because it always involves conceiving children with the intention of depriving them of a parental relationship with (at least) one of their progenitors. Thus, it is different from the usual case of adoption, in which a child already exists; putting a child up for adoption is an attempt to give that child the best possible care in non-ideal circumstances.

After further explaining her premise, the author provides the following scenario to illustrate her point:

Amanda and Arnold are in desperate need of money. Amanda learns of a local fertility clinic that is offering generous compensation for participation in a study on the effectiveness of fertility treatments. Amanda and Arnold decide to participate in the study, foreseeing that Amanda will most likely become pregnant as a result. If conception does occur, they plan to give the child up for adoption as soon as he or she is born, because their financial situation would make it impossible for them to care for the child adequately.

This case seems to be the exact moral equivalent of what egg and sperm donors do. Just like Amanda and Arnold, donors knowingly perform actions that will most likely lead to their becoming biological parents, while having no intention of raising their offspring themselves. If we think that Amanda and Arnold’s actions are wrong, we should also think that the actions of gamete donors are wrong, and for precisely the same reason: a child has a prima facie right to be raised by his biological parents, based on the absolute right to be loved by his biological parents.

The entire article is worth your time and can be found at here at the Public Discourse.


Melissa Moschella, “The Rights of Children: Biology Matters,” The Public Discourse, February 20, 2014.