A white lesbian couple is suing a sperm bank for a second time because it gave them sperm from a black donor instead of a white one as they requested. Jennifer Cramblett filed the lawsuit last week against Midwest Sperm Bank LLC, which she blames for “an unplanned transracial parent-child relationship” that she says has caused her to move to a “place that is more racially and culturally diverse.”
The complaint says she gave birth to a “beautiful, obviously mixed race, baby” girl in 2012 after she learned several months beforehand that the sperm was from a black donor. Claiming negligence, misconduct, and breach of contract, she is seeking $150,000 plus punitive damages and attorney fees.
According to the complaint, Cramblett “is now facing numerous challenges and external pressures associated with an unplanned transracial parent-child relationship for which she was not, and is not, prepared.”
In an earlier “wrongful birth” lawsuit filed in an Illinois court, which the judge dismissed, Cramblett said that although she and her partner love the little girl, she is concerned about bringing her up in a white “often unconsciously insensitive” family.
Cramblett said she and her partner wanted a donor with “genetic traits similar to both of them” and picked one after reviewing his history. She said her family is already uncomfortable that she is a lesbian, and that she doesn’t want her daughter to feel stigmatized due to the circumstances of her birth.
Depriving a Child of a Father Is Cruel
What Cramblett and others who favor sperm donations fail to miss is that the issue is not stigmatization but the fact that two people have purposely chosen to bring a child into this world without her ever knowing her father. Self-knowledge is necessary to becoming a healthy human being, and part of that self-knowledge is knowing who your parents are and where you come from.
When a woman—whether she’s single, in a lesbian relationship, or married to a man who is infertile—decides to buy sperm to create a child, she is intentionally stealing part of that child’s identity and depriving her of a fundamental relationship necessary for her development.
This is a point I explained my post “The Harry Potter Generation,” where I make the case that children do indeed need fathers, as is evidenced by studies on the subject, including one by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services significantly titled, “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.”
Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes. . . . Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood. Infants who receive high levels of affection from their fathers (e.g., babies whose fathers respond quickly to their cries and who play together) are more securely attached; that is, they can explore their environment comfortably when a parent is nearby and can readily accept comfort from their parent after a brief separation. A number of studies suggest they also are more sociable and popular with other children throughout early childhood.
One study of school-aged children found that children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior. This same study found that boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems and that girls had stronger self esteem. In addition, numerous studies have found that children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior.
“In short,” the study concluded, “fathers have a powerful and positive impact upon the development and health of children.”
I Am Your Father—And It Matters
In “The Harry Potter Generation,” I also quote J. David Velleman, who wrote an insightful philosophical paper, “Family History,” in which he argues that biological connections importantly influence meaning in life:
When people deny the importance of biological ties, I wonder how they can read world literature with any comprehension. How do they make any sense of Telemachus, who goes in search of a father he cannot remember? What do they think is the dramatic engine of the Oedipus story? When the adoptive grandson of Pharaoh says, ‘I have been a stranger in a strange land,’ do they take him to be speaking merely as an Egyptian in the land of Midian? How can they even understand the colloquy between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker? Surely, the revelation ‘I am your father’ should strike them as a bit of dramatic stupidity—a remark to be answered ‘So, what?’
As I wrote then, this the kind of response you get from shallow materialists who see children as isolated biological units who are “okay” as long as someone reads to them and provides them with a stable income. “I am your father” has no meaning.
But it does have meaning. Deep meaning. Seeing ourselves in the context of our family informs us of ourselves, and that information can never come from any other source. Never. No matter how much affection might be shown.
‘When adoptees go in search of their biological parents and siblings, there is a literal sense in which they are searching for themselves,’ Velleman says. ‘They are searching for the closest thing to a mirror in which to catch an external and candid view of what they are like in more than mere appearance. Not knowing any biological relatives must be like wandering in a world without reflective surfaces, permanently self-blind.’
‘Children denied of knowledge of only one biological parent are not entirely cut off from this view of themselves, but they are cut off from one half of it,’ he continues. ‘Their estrangement even from one parent . . . must still be a deprivation, because it estranges them from people who would be familiar without any prior acquaintance, people with whom they would enjoy that natural familiarity which would be so revealing about themselves.’
The irony of the Cramblett case with the sperm mix-up is that these women are more concerned about the racial distinction and less concerned about the fact that this girl has no father in her life. She will never know him. She will never look into his eyes and see reflections of her own. She will never feel his strong arms around her and know the love of the man who is part of her very being.
Depriving a Child of a Father Is Child Neglect
If you think this is not important, just go read the stories of donor kids on the website AnonymousUs.org, where children born of sperm donations tell their heartbreaking stories. Here is just one of the many that gives us a look into the world of a child purposely deprived of a parent:
I am a sixteen year old girl born to a single mother by choice who used an anonymous sperm donor. Altogether I have had a rather good upbringing but on a daily basis I wonder about and search for my biological father. People who are not donor conceived will never truly under stand the struggles we go through.
I have a boyfriend and it hurts me that I don’t feel protected. I never got to introduce my boyfriend to my father and have my father act protective. I won’t have a father to walk me down the aisle. I never had a father to get me into sports or help me with my homework or even just to talk to. I crave the attention of a man who truly loves me but not at all in a sexual way. I want to tell him of my achievements and straight A+ GPA and feel his pride.
These things don’t even begin to describe the things I constantly struggle with. I stare in the mirror for hours sometimes wondering what features I got from him because I don’t look like my mother at all. I wonder what characteristics I got from him. I want to tell him about my main interests because based on paperwork I have learned he shares them. I want to be able to have a face in my head to know simply who the people are that created me. I want to know my biological surname. I want to know my biological grandparents. I want to hug my father more than anything and I want him to know I specifically exist, and I am real, and every human has a father and a mother and I deserve to know both. We all deserve to know where we come from and who we are. I will always feel incomplete. I will never stop searching. I must know before my life is over. Whether you will hate me for it or not, it really is not as much of a search for you as it is a search for me. I just want to feel content. I need to know.
These are the realities women don’t think about when they decide to order sperm from a bank to create a new person. This intentional deprivation of a child’s most basic relationship amounts to nothing short of child neglect, as a mother denies a child one of the most basic relationships needed to develop into a healthy adult.
Deliberately Hurting a Child Is the Problem Here
This point of “intentionality” is what sets sperm donation apart from adoption. While adopted children struggle with similar issues as donor kids, adoption is typically born of difficult, non-ideal circumstances. Adoptive parents are loving people who are doing their best to raise a child in a difficult circumstance, loving them and caring for them as if they are their own. Many adoptions are also open, so children can have contact with their birth parents.
Donor kids are in a different situation because their mother purposely deprived them of a father. While the desire to have a child is understandable, to get pregnant to fulfill one’s own desires without considering the needs of the child is something women who choose the donor route don’t seem to consider.
Additionally, it’s one thing when a child loses a parent to tragedy or a parent abandons a child for some reason, but even in the latter parents are held accountable. Fathers who leave their children without caring for them are dead-beats who are still considered responsible for them under the law and reviled by society.
Yet somehow it’s perfectly fine for a woman to buy sperm and create a baby who will never know his or her other parent. The words of the girl who penned the testimony above should haunt everyone thinking of denying children their father (or mother, in the case of surrogacy): “We all deserve to know where we come from and who we are.”
If we don’t know where we come from, we will, as the writer said, “always feel incomplete.” So, while this couple might be distressed over the fact that their child is mixed race, what they should really be upset about is that this beautiful little girl will never know her father, and as a result, will never fully know herself.