Colorado House Bill 22-1153, the mis-named Family Affirmation Act, seeks to make parentage easier for adults employing assisted reproductive technologies. But in the process, it violates the universally-acknowledged children’s right to be known and loved by both genetic parents. While it is sometimes impossible to be raised by both biological parents, those situations are tragic for children and shouldn’t be intentionally replicated through reproductive technologies, or incentivized by state law.

Commodification

The Family Affirmation Act treats children as products which can be designed, purchased, and delivered to adults who can afford them. This impacts a child’s self-image and familial relationships. The largest study of children created via sperm donation found that nearly half agreed with the statement: “It bothers me that money was exchanged in order to conceive me.” Contrary to the notion that being desperately “wanted” would ensure these children safe and loved, many feel they were purchased and objectified: 

I’m the child of a stranger, who altruistically sold me, his biological daughter, to a family he would never meet…How can anyone sell a person?…The process commodifies real human beings…I was born as the result of a profit-driven medical clinic selling parental rights without regard for what is best for the end product, the child produced.”

Safety

Statistically, children raised by their married biological mothers and fathers are most likely to be safe and loved. This bill not only transfers parentage to unrelated adults who “presume” to parent a child, but it goes against adoption best-practice by eliminating the child-centric requirements of background checks, references, and home studies. This is risky for kids.

Biological Identity

This bill permits adults to sever a child’s relationship with his or her birth mother and often awards children to unrelated, unvetted biological strangers via the use of “donor” egg and/or sperm. Even if they aren’t neglected or abused, children tend to feel less connected to unrelated adults. Over 80% of donor-conceived children desire to know the identity of their biological mothers and/or fathers, and donor children disproportionately struggle with questions about their identity, depression, delinquency, and substance abuse:

When I hit school I started to realize through observing other children and their loving bonds with their fathers that I was missing out on something special. I was lied to throughout school; I was told I didn’t have a father… it was very difficult for me to affirm a stable identity. And my behavioral and emotional stability suffered greatly because of it…”  

Adoption vs. Reproductive Technologies 

This bill seeks to streamline the “adoption” process for those using reproductive technologies, but creating children through reproductive technologies is not the same as adoption. While adoption and donor-conception both involve parental loss, the former honors children’s rights while the latter violates them.

Adoption- seeks to mend a wound.  Third-party reproduction- inflicts a wound.

Adoption should take place only when every option of keeping the child with his or her birth family- the best case scenario except in circumstances of abuse, neglect, or abandonment- has been exhausted. Adoptive parents are not responsible for the child’s wound, but are seeking to remedy the wound. Adoption says, “Let me help.”

Donor-conception, on the other hand, creates a wound. The adults intentionally produce children with the express intent of raising them without one (or both) biological parent. The adults who are raising them are responsible for their loss. Third-party reproduction says, “Let me have.”

Adoption- the child is the client. Third-party reproduction- the adult is the client.

When adoption is done right, not every adult has a child placed with them, but every child is placed with loving parents. Because granting guardianship of a child to a biological stranger is risky, adoptive parents rightly undergo screenings, background checks, physical/mental evaluations, and training prior to placement. They also receive post-adoption supervision. In adoption, the adults sacrifice for the child.

With third-party reproduction, the adults are the clients. The fertility industry operates under the mistaken notion that adults have a right to a child, even if the adults are single or in a non-procreative relationship, have a criminal record, or are physically/mentally unfit to be parents. In third-party reproduction, the child sacrifices for the adult.

Adoption- adult supports child. Third-party reproduction- child supports adult.

In both adoption and third-party reproduction, children need to be supported through their loss. In an adoptive home, the child is freer to grieve the loss of their biological parents because they know that their adoptive parents are not responsible for their missing parents.  

In contrast, donor-conceived children are living with the adult responsible for the loss of one/both parents. Thus, many feel pressured to support their parents’ feelings, even if it means suppressing their own. Likely due to this parent/child dynamic, adoptees have better psychological outcomes than their donor-conceived peers. 

Adoption is sometimes necessary.  Third-party reproduction never is.

In a perfect world, no child would need to be adopted. However, in this imperfect world, we know that there are times when adoption is not only optional, but critical. Reproductive technologies are never necessary, and, as a just society cares for orphans, it doesn’t create them.

Any process that intentionally separates a child from their mother and/or father is an injustice. And this brand of injustice sets children up for a lifetime of loss and struggle. Very simply, House Bill 22-1153 puts Colorado’s stamp of approval on the commodification of children, placing children in risky homes, and endorses mother- and father-loss. Colorado should be caring for orphans, not creating them. 

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