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Policy & Politics
Prohibiting Anonymous Sperm Donation and the Child Welfare Error

Should anonymous sperm “donation”—a misnomer, since sperm is usually purchased—be permitted? A number of countries have answered no. The arguments offered in favor of these measures focus on one major consideration: child welfare. The claim is that donor-conceived children are harmed when they are deprived of access to the identity of one of their genetic parents. Interestingly, opponents of these measures have battled on the same playing field, disputing the empirical evidence underlying the claim of harm to children.

In relying on this foundation, both sides are making an error. These child welfare arguments are part of a larger error in using what I call “best interests of the resulting child” reasoning as justifications to support governmental interventions that aim to alter when, whether, or with whom individuals reproduce.

Should anonymous sperm “donation”—a misnomer, since sperm is usually purchased—be permitted? A number of countries have answered no. The arguments offered in favor of these measures focus on one major consideration: child welfare. The claim is that donor-conceived children are harmed when they are deprived of access to the identity of one of their genetic parents. Interestingly, opponents of these measures have battled on the same playing field, disputing the empirical evidence underlying the claim of harm to children.

In relying on this foundation, both sides are making an error. These child welfare arguments are part of a larger error in using what I call “best interests of the resulting child” reasoning as justifications to support governmental interventions that aim to alter when, whether, or with whom individuals reproduce.

I. Glenn Cohen, "Prohibiting Anonymous Sperm Donation and the Child Welfare Error," Hastings Center Report 41, no. 5 (2011): 13–14.