Cue the Mommy Bloggers*

06.01.2010, 4:54 PM

*Edit from EM on 6/3/10 — In retrospect I wish I hadn’t given this post such a snarky title… more on that, here.

From “Strollerderby” which describes itself as “the mother of all parenting blogs.”

The author’s blog post is pasted below. Here’s my response:

See Table 1 in the report for all the questions we asked. You’ll see there’s lots of room in the questions for positive as well as negative stories to be told by donor offspring. (What is more rare about our study is that we actually allowed for donor offspring to be able to say negative things about their experience or donor conception itself. I challenge you to find another study more balanced than ours, in terms of the range of experience we allowed donor offspring to express.)

Also, it’s a little funny that the author of the post seems to think we didn’t know what was in our own study. Ma’am, I lived with these findings for two years before publication. I know what a complex story they tell — and you do too, precisely because you’ve read the report.

Finally, to learn more about my friend David Blankenhorn on gay marriage, start here or here.

“New Study Finds Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation are 20 Times More Likely to Donate Sperm”

That headline is most emphatically not the way the Commission on Parenthood’s Future promoted their recent report on a study of adults conceived through sperm donation. It’s not the angle that Ross Douthat focused on in his op-ed for the New York Times yesterday, either. Slant is everything, and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, which released the “groundbreaking report ‘My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation,’” chose to highlight the more negative findings. Adults conceived through sperm donation are more likely to fear having sexual relations with someone to whom they are unknowingly related, and about half are “disturbed” that money was involved in their conception. They “struggle with the implications of their conception.”

Those are the findings that support the agenda of the organization, headed by gay marriage opponent David Blankenhorn, which is perhaps best described as applying offering intellectual support for the superiority of traditional family values. Assisted reproductive technologies aren’t high on their list. But–as is nearly always true–the survey was designed to create the responses the researchers wished to highlight. And reading the actual study presents a far more balanced picture than a quick gulp of the sound-bites.

The Institute for American Values supports, among other things, a more regulated environment for donor-assisted reproductive technologies (not necessarily a bad thing). As a result, it doesn’t ask respondents to agree or disagree with statements like “I’m glad I was born to the parents I have.” It offers, instead, “I feel confused about who is a member of my family, and who is not.” It invites respondents to offer their insecurities about their origins, and they do. The result offers even more to think about for those considering how, and if, the way we use reproductive technologies should change.

But even a study with an agenda isn’t by any means the slam dunk for regulation and limitation that it’s presented as. Only one percent or fewer of adopted or biologically conceived adults said they’d donated sperm, eggs or been a surrogate mother. A full 20 percent of those conceived through sperm donation said they had, and over 50% said they’d consider it. The implication is clear: an unusual conception may encourage people to think longer, and harder, about questions of identity, biology and family that many of us are able to dismiss. But even though the lives that spring from sperm donation may be highly examined, a large number of the people living those lives seem to willing to give others the same opportunity.

One more point: I think the fact that 20 percent of donor offspring, compared to 0 percent of adopted and 1 percent of raised-by-biological, have donated their own sperm/eggs/been a surrogate is a stunning finding coming out of our report. And, in fact, it’s in the press release. And in the 15 Major Findings summary. And Ross Douthat happened to note it, too, when he had only 700 words to devote to our study. I’m not exactly hiding that finding. Although you and I seem to have different views on what it might mean. Glad you’ve shared yours. (To find a different point of view, read Alana S’s story of being conceived by anonymous sperm donation and donating her own eggs. )


2 Responses to “Cue the Mommy Bloggers*”

  1. You are right that there is more to be said about your very complex (and fascinating) study. I hope that researcher and writers will continue to say it. I think you took my post more negatively than it was meant. I was frustrated by the shorter press release, which we received, and the simplistic response it recieved in some places. I wanted to draw our readers attention to the fact that if you really read this study–as is true of most research–you’ll see that a far more complex picture lies beneath the headlines.
    I suppose it should be clear that I have an agenda, too–and it actually has nothing to do with reproductive technologies. My goal is for every reader who spots the words “studies show” to respond by asking: what studies? Conducted by who, and where, and why? Who funded the study? What more can we learn? I am suspicious of the knee jerk reaction to the headlines, which tends to be “does this effect me, and should I change or justify my behavior?”
    Your organization, and your study, comes from a particular viewpoint and with a particular goal: increased scrutiny over or regulation of reproductive technologies. I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I need more research and information before I draw a conclusion. But I do think that any media coverage of your report should reflect its complexity and its origins. (and I am aware of your colleague’s well-considered objections to gay marriage, and the fact that he’s regarded as one of its most respected opponents–and, too, that he supports gay adoption. I don’t think I said anything that would suggest otherwise.)
    Nice title, by the way. If I was as dismissive of your work–which I actually appreciated and respected–as you were of mine, my apologies.

  2. [...] At this post (which I titled “Cue the Mommy Bloggers” — more on that in a moment), the author of the post at Strollerderby, which I was responding to, writes this comment, below: You are right that there is more to be said about your very complex (and fascinating) study. I hope that researcher and writers will continue to say it. I think you took my post more negatively than it was meant. I was frustrated by the shorter press release, which we received, and the simplistic response it recieved in some places. I wanted to draw our readers attention to the fact that if you really read this study–as is true of most research–you’ll see that a far more complex picture lies beneath the headlines. I suppose it should be clear that I have an agenda, too–and it actually has nothing to do with reproductive technologies. My goal is for every reader who spots the words “studies show” to respond by asking: what studies? Conducted by who, and where, and why? Who funded the study? What more can we learn? I am suspicious of the knee jerk reaction to the headlines, which tends to be “does this effect me, and should I change or justify my behavior?” Your organization, and your study, comes from a particular viewpoint and with a particular goal: increased scrutiny over or regulation of reproductive technologies. I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I need more research and information before I draw a conclusion. But I do think that any media coverage of your report should reflect its complexity and its origins. (and I am aware of your colleague’s well-considered objections to gay marriage, and the fact that he’s regarded as one of its most respected opponents–and, too, that he supports gay adoption. I don’t think I said anything that would suggest otherwise.) Nice title, by the way. If I was as dismissive of your work–which I actually appreciated and respected–as you were of mine, my apologies. [...]