Sperm donation is becoming more common due to increasing male infertility, more women choosing to be single parents, and lesbian couples taking advantage of more favorable laws. About ½ million women in the United States have used donor insemination to conceive children.
At this point, women have a choice: go to a sperm bank or ask a friend. In recent years, the later seems to be a more popular solution. There are many reasons why women choose to work with a known or “directed” donor instead of going to the sperm bank. They want to know their donor — personality, morals, looks, intelligence that can’t be measured or written on an application. It’s common to hear they want the donor to be a male figure in the child’s life. As one woman said: “It’s not that I didn’t care if they wound up smart and successful, but I also wanted to be able to share with them sweet stories about their father’s childhood and offer wisdom from their grandparents’ lives.” (Calling him a “father” is a legal issue you should discuss with your lawyer!) Another reason for working with a known donor is people have less trust in the sperm banking system. In one well-publicized case with a large sperm bank, the recipients found out their donor wasn’t the genius who spoke four languages, but a college dropout with a criminal record and serious genetic mental issues. There’s not as much sperm bank regulation as one would assume. In addition, due to Covid and other factors, there are fewer sperm donors in the US – therefore, there’s less choice but more recipients from the same donor. Despite ASRM recommendations, there’s no legal limit in the US on the number of times a man can donate. So, there’s also a concern about genetic siblings and consanguinity.
If a woman is lucky enough to have a friend willing and able to donate, she will be able to specifically define her and the donor’s intentions regarding number of children, future contact, sharing of information, etc. This can be done through the therapist’s office as well as in their donation contract. The contract between the donor and recipient should be done prior to the collection of semen for insemination by the clinic. In addition to declaring intentions of future contact, the contract should also state the clear relationship of the donor as family friend and not a parent. The law reflects this issue: California Family Law Code Section 7613 (b) (1) states the donor of semen provided to a licensed physician and surgeon or to a licensed sperm bank for use in assisted reproduction by a woman other than the donor’s spouse is treated in law as if the donor is not the natural parent of a child thereby conceived, unless otherwise agreed to in a writing signed by the donor and the woman prior to the conception of the child. Actions contrary to the contract can undo legal status so it’s important to understand the big picture in the future.