Is it moral for a woman to conceive a child from an anonymous sperm donor?

I am opposed to any policy or program that increases the odds that a child will not have a relationship with their biological father as they grow up. This would include anything that makes it easier for parents to divorce or that facilitates single motherhood. Consequently, I oppose premarital sex, abortion, sex education in schools, no-fault divorce, and giving legal recognition to cohabitation or same-sex marriage. I want children to be able to have their biological father and biological mother close at hand, and to be able to rely on them and know them, so that they don’t feel alone and lost in the world. Although I am willing to permit other arrangements, I think society should celebrate traditional marriage – for the sake of the children.

Well, consider one challenge to this ideal situation where a child grows up with a mother and a father: conception via anonymous sperm donor.

Here’s a video that shows how children are hurt when they are denied a relationship with their biological father: (H/T Stacy McCain)

Robert Stacy McCain writes this:

The practice of anonymous sperm donors, and children fathered by them, is certainly legal and has a market. That would lead one to conclude that it is ethical, rather than unethical. In other words I’d say ethical means ‘not illegal’.

But is it moral? […]That is, does anyone think that the Almighty is pleased, and/or glorified by people thumbing their noses at the clear, simple, obvious, form-follows-function beauty of:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Gen 2:24

There is vast capacity to use modern technology to tinker about with the natural order of things. I’d like to fall short of a sweeping judgement here, in the space of a blog post. It’s possible that there may exist a really good case for why using an anonymous sperm donor is not immoral. But it seems that protecting the father’s (or the mother’s in the case of an egg donor) privacy at the expense of dropping a sizable existential dilemma on the offspring is immoral. That is, the biological parents (i.e. DNA providers) are doing to the child emotionally what the government is doing economically: casting debts upon them without any sort of dialogue. A variation on taxation without representation, if you will. Progressivism seems to be about finding the least vocal victim.

I don’t think that it’s enough for the child to just know who their biological father is, or to just see a picture of their biological father. I think it’s important that we promote the best situation for children, where each child has a real relationship with their biological father. And we can do that, if we are serious, in several ways.

Promoting marriage

Here are few wild, shoot-from-the-hip ideas to help children to have access to their fathers:

  1. We can research how fatherlessness affects children
  2. We can research what decisions are likely to lead to stable marriage, e.g. – regular church attendance and chastity
  3. We can repeal laws that are hostile to lasting marriage, e.g. – no-fault divorce
  4. We can enact laws that are hostile to divorce, e.g. – shared custody laws
  5. We can stop paying unmarried women to have babies
  6. We can give tax deductions to married couples who have babies
  7. We can give tax deductions to couples planning on marrying if they undergo marital counseling from a program of their own choosing
  8. We can give tax deductions to married couples whose children earn incomes, e.g. – the parents get a tax deduction for 1% of income earned by each child for life
  9. We can give tax deductions to married couples whose children don’t collect government assistance, e.g. – the parents get a 1% tax deduction on their household income for every child who doesn’t collect government welfare during the year
  10. We ban IVF for women who have not been married for at least 5 years
  11. We ban all taxpayer funding of IVF treatments
  12. We ban ban all private insurance coverage for IVF treatments

And so on, like that. This communicates to women that it is not OK to have a baby with an anonymous sperm donor. It communicates that we as a society want fathers to be around their children. It communicates that cohabitation is not the same thing as marriage. It communicates that marriages are for life. We need to get tough if we want children to be spared from the harm of not knowing their biological fathers.

7 thoughts on “Is it moral for a woman to conceive a child from an anonymous sperm donor?”

  1. I remember debating professional narcissists about abortion and they would tell me that a “fetus” born into poverty didn’t deserve such a thing – it would be better to abort “it” than force it to live a substandard life. Besides, they’d lecture – it isn’t about YOU (cause they think people only have kids to resolve some Freudian hang-up they have).

    What can be more narcissistic about having a child from a nameless test tube of donated sperm?

    It’s hard to be optimistic about the future sometimes…


  2. I was discussing the consequences of the perfect storm of no fault divorce, that in divorce the mother is almost always assumed to get full custody of the children and that the husband is almost always the one to pay childcare and sometimes alimony with my husband the other day. (A set of issues, by the way, that my husband has never really put much thought into, and I have always been far more “fired up” about than he).

    Anyway, we got into quite a discussion about the wisdom of shared custody laws. He felt pretty strongly that what was best for the children (in the already not good situation where a divorce is going to happen) was that there should be a single guardian–that it provides the best position of stability in an already unfortunate situation–that anything else, especially if there is any kind of hostility between the parents, was far more likely to drag the children through endless turmoil and instability. And he believed that the parent that should be that sole guardian should be whoever had been the primary care-giver until that point (so, typically the mother).

    I don’t think that can be the end of the discussion, but I did think he had a good point.


    1. Francine, it’s proven to act as a deterrent to no-fault divorces. That’s why pro-marriage guys like me push it. See, here’s the plan. I want to make marriage impossible to get out of. Although that makes it harder for people to get into, I think it was cause people to be more careful about evaluating spouses more carefully. I would pile on the financial incentives to marry as well, and especially give the parents benefits for children who stay away from crime and welfare, and even more for those who graduate and earn income. I would not be opposed to giving parents a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on all income earned by each of their children up to age 18. And I would abolish all laws preventing children from working, and abolish minimum wage laws.


  3. Wow, that video is quite something. Another issue here is that one man can be sperm donor for hundreds, even thousands, of children. When those children grow up and want to get married, if their prospective spouse is also conceived by IVF via anonymous sperm donation, they need to do genetic tests to ensure that they don’t end up marrying their siblings! It’s so sci-fi but it’s a real issue in our crazy world. Totally unfair on the children.


  4. Kudos, wk, for this article. Some really good points on a topic that is often tabboo in many ways…just don’t question liberal orthodoxy and all that.
    It’s so clear, with the video as an example, of how morally irresponsible it is to deprive children of their most basic information. Along with the no-fault divorce endemic, marriage revisionism and the prevalency of abortion-on-demand, it just comes to show that this is the age of the consenting adult. Who cares about moral responsibilities to children??


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