One of my favorite lines in the Coen brothers’ Miller’s Crossing is when Jon Polito tells Albert Finney:
“I’m talkin’ about friendship. I’m talkin’ about character. I’m talkin’ about – Hell, Leo, I ain’t embarrassed to use the word – I’m talkin’ about ethics.”
Now this conversation digresses into a shady defense of betting and thrown fights, but it’s still a great line, and it’s been running through my head lately because ethics have been running through my head.
In particular, the ethics of the culture of egg donation.
Until recently, one of my main arguments against why I didn’t want to use an egg donor (aside from the fact that I just didn’t want to) was that I found it not that different from adoption, and I struggled with how the culture of egg donation dismissed one of the key lessons from the adoption world – one that changed it from sordid to inspiring.
I think it’s useful to look at the history of adoption to get what I mean: way back when, the process began by smuggling loose girls into homes for 9 months until barren wives removed the pooping evidence of shame and falsely claimed the babies as their own, never telling the children about their origin. The result was that girls were forever disgraced, women lived in fear of being outed, and children were deceived throughout their lives.
Since then, the adoption community has worked hard to bring dignity to all parties’ experiences. What that means in terms of child-rearing is that 99% of all adopted children are told they’re adopted before age 5. Also 2/3 of all adoptions are open or semi-open, so that birthparents are known to the family, and children can potentially meet them. Kids are raised without deception, and if they turn out to be Emo navel gazers, they can go to the source to get their questions answered about their genetics and heritage. No lies. No secrets. Just ethics.
The egg donor world doesn’t do that. About 80% of egg donors are anonymous (from what I’ve seen), and less than 25% of parents tell their kids that they’re the product of egg donation (according to my clinic’s therapist). And all I can think of when I see this is, What?
I know that it’s a personal choice, but shit, dude, seems like kind of a bad choice to me. I mean, haven’t we learned anything from the adoption world? The doctors seem to perpetuate anonymity (easier for them?), which then makes the the donors want to remain anonymous (denial about the gravity of what they’re doing?), and couples are left with little choice but to build their families on secrecy.
So how is this affecting me? In my clinic’s pool, there are 60 donors in the pool, and my criteria narrow it from there. In the end, I’m left with 1 donor. One. There’s one donor that I like at my clinic, and she wants to remain completely anonymous.
Now what do I tell my kid when he says, “I’m talkin’ about friendship. I’m talkin’ about character. I’m talkin’ about – Hell, Mom, I ain’t embarrassed to use the word – I’m talkin’ about ethics?”