not fatherless by choice

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 18, 2006

In a remarkable op-ed appearing in the Washington Post, a young woman named Katrina Clark explains what it's like to know that you are the child of an anonymous sperm donor.

It's not fun. The essay could be Exhibit A in any argument about the morality of artificially assisted human reproduction. The child of a loveless, sterile union between gametes speaks with authority when she reminds us that nobody asked for her opinion on the circumstances of her birth. Her mother (whom she still admires) got the baby she wanted. But the baby didn't get a father she could know.

Through childhood and into adolescence, the absence ate at her:

As a coping mechanism, I used to think that he was dead. That made it easier.

Eventually she dedicated her time to research, and with a lot of persistence and good fortune, located the man who donated the sperm. Now they chat by email. It's an odd, distant, but friendly relationship.

If I can't be too attached to him as my father, I'll still always be attached to the feeling I now have of having a father.

Clark observes that her mother won plaudits and support from her friends for her brave decision to become a single mother, while her biological father walked away from the sperm bank with an untroubled mind.

As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?

Eighteen years later, the child is still paying the cost.

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  • Posted by: - Dec. 26, 2006 11:10 PM ET USA

    WISCatholic: Yes, Joseph was (is?) Jesus' father for all legal purposes and for all purposes of the Holy Family's life together, This so much so that after twelve years Mary could say reflexively, "Your father and I have sought you sorrowing." Still, I think it interesting that with all biological options open for "becoming flesh," including no human parents at all, the Word chose only a married biological mother. Why?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 22, 2006 7:30 PM ET USA

    Deacon Bart, agree completely. Mary was not an 'unwed mother' as so many try to tell us today. Granny, I cannot agree about birthparents 'not wanting' their children. We are in reunion with my oldest's parents, who sacrificed their OWN happiness by doing what they believed to be the best for their daughter. She was VERY wanted by her bmother, who held her at every feeding time in the hospital, and terminated her parental rights on her 20th bday. Her bdad cried as he held her and said goodbye.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 22, 2006 7:22 PM ET USA

    Bill, Add no fault divorce, propagated by those who said that children will be ok as long as the adults are 'happy'. Then read Elizabeth Marquardt's book Between Two Worlds. Children are always the forgotten ones, and they are used, hurt, and expected to adjust to the selfish whims of adults. JohnB, I am not understanding your post. God chose a betrothed Virgin for His Son. Jesus was not only the Son of the Father, he was also the son of Joseph by betrothal to Mary. Jesus was not F(f)atherless.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 21, 2006 9:06 PM ET USA

    Ah, more fine workmanship of Socialism! Ever ready to pursue "clients" for their systems, in this instance welfare cases, they invented single parenthood in a syringe. How very clever! Now we have the 2nd generation newly minted adult already hinting at her emotional instability. Where do you suppose this feminist train wreck will be in 20 years? Has anyone ever looked in their phonebook and noticed how many social services your city provides for messed-up individuals?

  • Posted by: Deacon Bart - Dec. 21, 2006 10:23 AM ET USA

    JohnB,Thank you for clarifing.You are right,we do belong to God;He entrusts us to our parents(biological or adoptive) for guidance and teaching never ownership.It is my role as father to mirror God's love&faithfulness for His people-Eph 5:24-26.Studies show people see God as they see their father.I had a loving father&I know a loving God.Satan hates fathers almost as much as women in general because they mirror truth and he is a "liar, the father of lies, and a murderer from the beginning".

  • Posted by: - Dec. 19, 2006 6:28 PM ET USA

    How clever of this girl to find an anonymous sperm donor. Sounds too easy. Adopted children looking for biological parents have a more difficult time. Either way, the child suffers, knowing that at some time when they had no control over their life, parents who should have wanted them, didn't. The selfishness of playing around with the conjugal act and not wanting the God-designed fruits is left for others to pick up the pieces. Pity them, pardon them, pray for them, and Peace for their children

  • Posted by: - Dec. 19, 2006 2:38 PM ET USA

    Thanks to Deacon Bart and Poor Soul for their replies. My point, Deacon, is that I owe my entire existence, body and soul, to God: soul immediately, body through parents. I, all of me, belong only to God, infinite, creative, protective Love, not to either or both of my parents, nor even to myself. This fact, if remembered, can ease Katrina's pain or the pain of anyone abandoned. Right you are, Poor Soul. That may be why, when commanding honor for parents, God puts father first.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 19, 2006 1:10 PM ET USA

    I suppose Angie and Brad believe they are modeling the finest social justice motives; taking in those poor unfortunates from the underpriviledged sub-world; being unselfish enough to restrict their own reproduction to one issue. But they weren't the first. Remember Woody and Mia? Um, and what ever became of that sorry experiment in growing a domestic UN? It is still vanity. God decides all issues of parenthood. Don't believe it? See what happens when Man takes the reins.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 19, 2006 12:15 PM ET USA

    "Yet in becoming flesh CHOOSES only a biological mother?" - ??????? I'd say, "Yet God, creater of the visible and invisible, in becoming Incarnate, saw to it that a father and male role model was still in place - namely St. Joseph." One does not need to look any further than the Holy Family for a model of the "nuclear" family.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Dec. 19, 2006 11:56 AM ET USA

    Thanks, Diogenes, for alerting us to this op-ed. More costs: Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt on "20/20" TV show: Neither wants to marry. They "love" each other, live together & have a child together. Brad: "We'll marry when gays can marry." They're adopting children now. Angelina states: "We have an African, an Asian & one of our own, so the next child we adopt, well, we'll have to decide which country we want one from." No need to be a mom or dad. They "shop" for children. Nannies raise the kids.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 19, 2006 11:14 AM ET USA

    A child is a gift, not a right. If God ordains it you shall have a child. Both will share in the gift. Because the two have become one, the two share the pain and the gift. There are many parentless children waiting for childless parents. It is the ultimate vanity and narcissism to insist on reproducing oneself - only grief and disappointment follow such an empty motive.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 19, 2006 11:01 AM ET USA

    When we discovered I was barren it was the early days of the brave new tech. Why shouldn't we use the wonderful new methods to propagate at least one of our genes? Yes, too bad one of us would be left out of the plan, but at least one could be reproduced! Is it fair that both suffer the pain? I almost fell for it. Thank God we were in a place that, by law, forbade in vitro, surrogacy, and anything that excluded one of the spouses. And a priest showed me the wisdom of the Catholic Church.

  • Posted by: Deacon Bart - Dec. 19, 2006 10:36 AM ET USA

    JohnB, not sure of your point.Jesus learned to be a Man from His foster father.Nothing in the manner of His conception can be used to indicate it is OK to deliberately choose to have a child outside of marriage.Mary was not "unmarried";Scripture calls Mary Joseph's wife.Betrothal was a non-consumated marriage;not merely engagement.God's plan is a father and mother,not sperm and egg donors, and I doubt man will ever improve on the orginal order that God found "good" in Genesis.

  • Posted by: Sidonius - Dec. 19, 2006 8:51 AM ET USA

    To follow up on Bill's point, too many in our culture see having a child as a right possessed by each adult. There is no notion that children are not rights of the adult but gifts to those to whom they are given, gifts that come with awesome responsibilities. The word "victim" is overused, but Ms. Clark is a victim of the selfishness of the "me" generation.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 19, 2006 7:50 AM ET USA

    I am reminded of this exchange: "Your father and I have sought you sorrowing" "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" Let's join that mother in pondering this exchange in her heart. Who is that Child's Father? Who alone is both Father and Mother to me, and so insists that I honor my father AND mother? Yet in becoming flesh CHOOSES only a biological mother?

  • Posted by: Patricius - Dec. 19, 2006 12:19 AM ET USA

    Is this story real or is it a Mike Barnicle piece...a work of historical fiction based on conversations. The reason I bring it up is that it is powerful in its own right for the very reasons mentioned above. But if it is at all false, woe to us who hold these views because instead of indicting the writer, they will hold us to blame. But on the other side, we had ads in the college papers for platelettes, sperm and plasma...and for this very reason I could not "donate"

  • Posted by: - Dec. 18, 2006 9:15 PM ET USA

    In the same Sunday edition of the Post, on the front page, was an article focusing on single dads. Of course, the article never goes so far as to say that the dads and moms should get married and live as a family. But it does point out the emasculating effect on men that the current trends have.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Dec. 18, 2006 8:18 PM ET USA

    A preeminent Catholic moral theologian had a great apologetic for such as this. Regarding in-vitro fertilization he said sarcastically: "how romantic"

  • Posted by: rpp - Dec. 18, 2006 8:15 PM ET USA

    This is as much an indictment of singe parenthood as it is gay adoption and parenthood. Would it really be any different if the child said "I never knew I had a mother."?

  • Posted by: bill129 - Dec. 18, 2006 6:35 PM ET USA

    One of the key points here is how children are domininated by the desires of adults. In addition to sperm donor children, there are gay adoptions, same-sex marriage, marriage alternatives, etc. Even marriage itself is increasingly seen as being all about a relationship for adults that has no connection to children or parenting obligations. Who will defend the children? They can't vote. They can't organize. They aren't able to make political donations.

  • Posted by: dad2dlj - Dec. 18, 2006 4:34 PM ET USA

    Remarkable not only for the lucidity of thought, but for the fact that the Washington Post printed it. Hardly in line with its typically amoral "anything goes so long as it's right to me" editorial views. While the young lady refers to her mother as her hero for her selflessness in raising her, she unflinchingly points to her mother's selfishness in conceiving her without having a family to offer her or even the material necessities (note the foodstamps). Prayers are needed for both.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 18, 2006 1:46 PM ET USA

    To the child, "donor conception" and "result of rape" are the same. Of course, the child has a better chance of reaching birth in the former case.