(Image Source: Doyle Dane Bernbach)
In 2019, New Zealand opened the world’s first “HIV Positive” sperm bank in an attempt to reduce the stigma around HIV positive men. Two years later, a handful of babies have been created from HIV positive sperm donors. The sperm bank, “Sperm Positive,” set out to prove that with treatment, HIV is non-transmissible to offspring.
While efforts to destigmatize HIV are noble, using children to prove your point is not only immoral but a violation of children’s rights. Children are not only being treated as science projects, but intentionally made fatherless in the process, cut off from genealogical identity and often paternal love.
While claiming that HIV positive men can’t spread the illness to their offspring due to their medication treatments making the viral levels undetectable, Sperm Positive can’t guarantee that these children will be born HIV negative. There have been eight children born through the clinic only because the donors and staff have purposely chosen to gamble on the health of these children. The only proven effective treatment for HIV positive sperm is sperm washing, which Sperm Positive does not admit to utilizing as part of their treatment process.
Sperm washing is the process in which sperm are separated from semen in order to isolate healthy sperm from unhealthy, infected sperm. While this treatment is proven effective, it is still not a risk-free method, as the HIV virus can still be present in the washed sample if below the detection level. Sperm washing can also be problematic if used in conjunction with the IVF process, as it often is, since IVF is not a children’s rights affirming practice.
However, if the procedure takes place as part of fertility treatment between husbands and wives through Intrauterine Insemination, children are not intentionally being denied their right to life or to their mothers and fathers as the natural process of reproduction occurs through this method. Sperm Positive, however, is not a fertility treatment center, but a sperm donation center, meaning that children will always be denied their right to their biological fathers and always be treated as experiments to validate the desires of adults.
There exists a natural, fundamental right for children to be loved and known by their biological mothers and fathers, the only two human beings responsible for their existence, the only parents from which they inherit their unique genealogical identities. Not only is being raised by one’s biological mother and father a component for establishing a child’s identity, but the dual-gender influence present in the mother/father partnership is an essential component for the development of well-rounded children. The unique benefits mothers and fathers provide for their children range from learning emotional regulation through motherly interaction, and learning the value of risk taking, which is inherent in the fatherly form of attachment.
We also know that children who are raised by their married biological mothers and fathers are statistically more likely to be safe and loved. While there are exceptional step-parents in the world, statistically, children with step-fathers fare about as well as children raised by single mothers. Which is to say, poorer than their counterparts raised in intact homes. Worse still, unrelated cohabiting adults, especially men, are statistically the most dangerous person in a child’s life.
As stated by children conceived by sperm donors and raised by heterosexual parents, we know biology matters:
I’ve gone through many difficult things in my life, but nothing can prepare you for rejection from your father. Even though I have a dad who raised me and loves me, I absolutely need both of them. The grief that I experience is very real.
…I never would have imagined that my father was not the biological male who contributed to my existence…I went from looking at my appearance without second thought, to looking at a stranger…I feel sad, alone, confused, and lost at times, while other times I feel nothing at all…I don’t like that I am suddenly grieving a person that I do not know or care to ever know. More importantly, I feel as though I am grieving myself….I am uncomfortable knowing that this person exists out there…I am equally uncomfortable knowing that this person out there knows that he might have genetic offspring in the world that he will never get to meet. I feel weirdly betrayed by this person. It makes me sick to admit that.
Children crave, are made for, and long for both maternal and paternal love, and daily, ongoing connectivity and interaction with their biological parents. Fathers (and mothers) are essential to the healthy, well-rounded development of children. When children are denied their fathers, they miss out on important, primal, developmental influences that mothers simply can’t fulfill. Children with higher levels of father involvement have higher levels of confidence, sociability, self-control, are less likely to act out in school, less likely to experience poverty, and are less likely to participate in risky behaviors in adolescence such as crime and drug and alcohol abuse, Fatherless children are more likely to struggle with mental health disorders like anxiety, suicide, and depression. The absence of fathers hinders development, beginning at infancy, and the psychological harm of father absence continues throughout adulthood.
As children raised without a father in their home attest, being starved of a father‘s love is confusing and painful:
My Moms always made a good image. Smile everybody and pertend to be happy…But I didnt feel happy every time I came home from a friends house and saw how diffrent it was in their homes. My best friends dad was the greatest guy he was funny and nice and always taking us places. He listened to us…I wanted a Daddy like my friend had…One day my friends mom asks me are you a Daddys Girl? It means you are the kind of girl who realy loves her Daddy and is real close to him. Well I went home and cried becuz I dont have that and never will know what thats like.
All my moms want is to have a baby, and have a biological family like everyone else. So I always thought what a terrible bitch (yes bitch) I am to destroy their happiness too, because I wished I just had a dad in my life and not a donor fake uncle. You have no idea how lonely and guilty I feel about this, but maybe you do? I feel like a bad child, especially when I look on TV and I see the good kids of gay parents say they have the perfect family and they don’t need a mom or dad, but you’re all like ‘but I want a dad…sometimes?’
Children’s right to their biological mothers and fathers should always come before the desires of adults. While providing a unique opportunity through the discovery that HIV positive parents can avoid passing HIV onto their children, the manner in which Sperm Positive promotes this discovery is a children’s rights violation. These practices continue to turn children into commodities to be copied and pasted into any familial structure by purposely denying them their fathers and severing their biological connections. This is an injustice.