Delivery Man is a newly-released comedy that stars Vince Vaughn as a sperm donor who finds out he fathered 533 children. The film ends fairly happily (according to Wikipedia). But anti-sperm-donation activists are protesting the film, claiming that it turns "fatherlessness" into a joke. Alana Newman, a self-described donor-conceived woman, has been passing out anti-sperm-donation flyers at Delivery Man screenings during the past week.
Newman is a writer for the Institute for American Values, which works to "strengthen the institution of marriage and fight fatherlessness." She's written a biblically-themed screenplay about sperm donation, and her blog about sperm donation and fatherlessness gets shared around the Christian Facebook scene. Her flyer reads:
I was conceived using an anonymous sperm donor. Not having my father in my life has been extremely painful. The desire to know him grows every day. And I'm not alone, there are countless numbers of people who have been removed from their fathers and sold for money through the "technology" of Third Party Reproduction. To donate your sperm is a euphemism for selling your unborn children.
Newman, like many commentators opposed to sperm donation, is not explicitly anti-gay. She's just really pro-dad. "We know that 80% of rapists come from fatherless homes and most likely act out of displaced anger," she says, for example. An undercurrent in the anti-sperm-donation movement is fear of children being raised in nontraditional homes, because sperm donation lets lesbian couples (not to mention single women) have children. The Family Research Council and some other groups that protest the practice don't like that. Hence, the hand-wringing over "fatherlessness."
Fr. Andrew Dickinson, a Catholic priest in South Dakota, says Delivery Man points out the "serious moral problems [with] our view of life." Catholic blogger Dr. Gregory Popcak, like Newman, sees the film as an opportunity for change:
"This is a golden opportunity, serendipitously served up by Hollywood, to educate the public about why Catholics have it right when we talk about the immorality of donor-conception."
Last year, Christian writer Jennifer Lahl premiered her sperm donation documentary, Anonymous Father's Day. At the time, FRC's senior fellow for life sciences David Prentice remarked,
"There is a significant ethical problem [with sperm donation] — in terms of anonymous gamete donations — in terms of family structure. We have a perspective that all human life should be treated with dignity. The kids should be conceived in love because there’s a desire for them."
Of course, one could argue that women who use sperm donors are conceiving their children in love. What Prentice really means is that kids should be conceived in a heterosexual marriage.
Anti-sperm donation activists often don't explicitly condemn gay couples. (In fact, the Institute for American Values recently changed its stance on gay marriage.) But activists make it clear that children should only be conceived naturally, within in the confines of a heterosexual, two-parent home. The demand that children be raised in this way is necessarily anti-gay. By attributing rape and violence to fatherlessness, anti-sperm donation activists assert that lesbian couples shouldn't, and don't deserve to, have children.
When The Kids Are Alright, a critically-acclaimed drama about a lesbian couple and their children, came out in 2010, Townhall columnist Michael Brown took the opportunity to point out what's wrong with gay people having kids.
He noted that a positive review of the film didn't suggest "for a moment that there was anything controversial about two lesbians deciding to have kids through (anonymous) artificial insemination, thereby choosing to deprive children of a father." He continues,
But what’s the big deal? Everybody’s doing it these days, right? Just ask Elton John and his partner, who decided to bring a little boy into the world at the expense of him being raised by his biological mom. After all, what’s the big deal about having a mom and a dad?
He then cites Newman's "Anonymous Us" project, which documents the stories of children conceived through sperm donation.
As Rene Almeling notes in The New York Times this week, the practice of sperm donation donation isn't perfect. Many argue that the industry could be better regulated. But Newman and the Family Research Council don't want to see better regulation — they want the practice to be stopped all together.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.