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IVF, surrogacy, sperm donation, feminism

(134 Posts)
loopdeloo Sun 26-Nov-17 17:16:49

Firstly, I should say that I have just had a second round of unsuccessful IVF and it looks like this is not going to work out for me and DH, so I am having a lot of emotional and confusing thoughts and I really hope people can bear that in mind if I say something offensive on what is a hugely sensitive topic and please forgive me if I get this wrong.

Because of our situation, we are now being talked to about egg donation (i.e. attempting IVF with another woman's eggs and my DH's sperm). I don't want to do this because it doesn't feel right for me personally for a number of reasons, one of which is it just feels too "Handmaid's" and that I would be a vessel to provide my DH with his own genetic offspring. He completely gets this, and the other reasons that resonate for both of us, and we are looking at adoption instead.

I have two sets of lesbian friends who have children through sperm donation from someone they knew. In one family, the father is involved, in the other he is not, although he is not being kept "anonymous". This has never seemed to be much of a problem to me. I also have one set of gay male friends who have adopted 2 children in the UK and they are wonderful parents and although it has been hard, their experience has really helped DH and I look at adoption positively.

And yet now I have a couple of male gay friends who have decided to go to the US to have a surrogate mother - who will be anonymous to the child - and it is making me feel deeply uncomfortable. The total cost is going to be near on $100k and they are spending time browsing through brochures of women's profiles. As I type, I'm not sure why the cost is relevant and yet it seems to be so I'm going to leave it in the post. This seems even more 'handmaid's' and I can't quite get my head round it.

Is this just a purely irrational and emotional reaction due to my personal struggle with infertility, or is there a feminist issue here? I am aware that I'm all over the shop emotionally at the moment and that there is the potential for great hypocrisy here and I'm genuinely interested in your thoughts and not looking for agreement or sympathy.

vaginafetishist Sun 26-Nov-17 18:59:06

I think you are right to feel uncomfortable about this, I object to surrogacy on feminist grounds and I am a lesbian who had children using an anonymous sperm donor.

QuentinSummers Sun 26-Nov-17 19:04:10

I think surrogacy is very different to egg donation.
Pregnancy is hugely risky to women and has the potential for rich couples to exploit poorer women. I see surrogacy as more like selling organs. Questionable unless you can be sure the woman is in no way coerced e.g. no financial incentive.

Julie Bindel has written about it

Egg donation I see as less problematic as it's often a way for women to reduce the costs of their own fertility treatment and they are going through the egg harvesting process anyway. If I wasn't too old I would donate my own eggs to help women in your situation.

But it sounds like you have your own good reasons why ED won't work for you.

This is just me rambling but may be useful

newtlover Sun 26-Nov-17 19:09:12

yes I think you are right to be uncomfortable
sperm donation is wayyy less difficult and costly for the man than egg donation. Surrogacy I feel very uncomfortable with, it smacks of entitlement and being able to buy a child.
Adoption is far from an easy option as you will see if you look at the adoption boards here.
However, I CAN imagine someone donating eggs as an act of altruism, just as people give blood (I realise there's more to it than giving blood). And I can also imagine that carrying a pregnancy to term would be an important goal and means of becoming a parent, so I think it's worth considering.

loopdeloo Sun 26-Nov-17 19:57:20

Thank you for your replies. I have friends (well I guess friends of close friends but with whom I've socialised quite a bit and are lovely) who were rejected as adoptive parents and I don't know why and haven't pried because it must have been incredibly painful for them. I have asked our closest mutual friend once but I can tell he genuinely doesn't know and is closest to the husband and they've talked about it being shit but not the reasons why. So we are prepared for the fact that even getting accepted to be adoptive parents, let alone having an adoption that works, is not guaranteed and is going to be a ver difficult process no matter what.

I suppose what's troubling me the most is my instinctive reaction to two men sitting there browsing through brochures of women to be their surrogates, when it didn't bother me at all when my lesbian friends were thinking of doing the same for sperm donors (although in the end they found someone they knew who was willing to donate). They are going to the US to do this and I don't know the situation there, and whether it is poor women who will do this for them in return for cash or what. They did seriously consider altruistic donation in the UK but they went to some meet ups and said it was ridiculous - so few women and so many hopeful couples (both heterosexual and gay).

This takes the discussion beyond a feminist one and towards the ethics of ED, but - beyond not wanting to be a vessel for my husband's biological child and feeling like a third party in the family - I just feel that if we can give a home to a child who could really benefit from one, I think going through the process of trying to artificially create a life (with only a 30% success rate anyway) doesn't sit right with me. I don't judge other women who've taken a different stance on this at all. Genuinely. And that's why I find it so troubling - that my male gay friends doing this is causing me such an issue when I guess they deserve to have a baby as much as anyone else.

QuentinSummers Sun 26-Nov-17 20:40:03

I don't think anyone deserves to have a baby. I think many women are lucky enough to be able to have a baby without medical intervention. I think for women with fertility difficulties like yourself then you have to become comfortable with your own ethical line. Surrogacy is that for me and although I'm sympathetic to gay men, they are men and should accept that and not feel their desire for a child entitled them to the use of a woman's body to gestate said child.
Adoption is a much more ethical way forward for them.
flowers for you. Hope it all works out for you x

QuentinSummers Sun 26-Nov-17 20:45:02

Oh, also if you did go ED you aren't a third party in the relationship. That baby would be grown by your body, they wouldn't be there if not for you.
Did you know some if the foetal cells cross the placenta and grow into the tissue in the mother? So even though the egg material isn't yours, you would end up sharing genes with your child because of this. They would be part of you

QuentinSummers Sun 26-Nov-17 20:46:00

BrandNewHouse Sun 26-Nov-17 20:54:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

JamesBlonde1 Sun 26-Nov-17 21:02:14

I agree with you OP. It’s even difficult to explain. More an instinct of discomfort.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sun 26-Nov-17 21:06:17

I am uncomfortable with surrogacy for any combination of would be parents. I don't see a lesbian couple using a surrogate as any less unacceptable than a male homosexual couple or a heterosexual couple.

loopdeloo Sun 26-Nov-17 21:32:01

Lass - I see where you are coming from and I am thinking about the fact that when my lesbian friends decided their path it was years before I started trying to have children and had no insight into infertility and all the ethical questions it chucks at you on top of all the uncertainty, pain and other crap it chucks at you.

loopdeloo Sun 26-Nov-17 21:36:18

Thank you Quentin, BrandNew House and JamesBlonde - it's a painful topic but I truly appreciate your thoughts on this, both from a feminist perspective and a supportive/practical one.

Thank you.

SylviaPoe Sun 26-Nov-17 21:47:52

I see commercial surrogacy as similar to buying organs.

Nobody should have the misery of serious illness or death due to diseased organs, but it doesn’t give them the right to buy organs.

wherethewildthingis Sun 26-Nov-17 21:49:20

I feel very uncomfortable about surrogacy for the same reasons given above. Adoption isn't, however, straightforwardly more ethical in my view. Most adoptions these days are forced, and there are many structural factors - poverty, sexism, racism, the education system, benefits system, lack of housing etc etc - which make it much more difficult for a parent to successfully care for a child. It's not as simple as children who need good homes unfortunately, it's a lot more complicated than that.

ElizabethG81 Sun 26-Nov-17 21:53:42

My thoughts about surrogacy are all over the place. In some respects I think it's great, but in certain circumstances it makes me feel queasy (e.g. Kim Kardashian, who clearly just does not want to go through another pregnancy herself). I'm probably more against it than for it overall, as in most circumstances it seems to involve a poorer woman being used to carry a richer person's baby.

With regard to donation, I have both donated eggs and received donor sperm. In my particular circumstances it felt comfortable and altruistic. I chose a sperm donor who had (what I considered to be) good reasons for donating, and I feel that my reasons were also positive and not at all coerced. Yet there are certainly circumstances that are not ideal (e.g. many of the sperm donor profiles I read had clearly done it for the money and had no thoughts about the potential children).

Adoption is a really, really difficult path to go down. Not just the process itself, but the aftermath, particularly nowadays as the children who are available for adoption in the UK have invariably had some very difficult early experiences. It's not the easy option ("why don't you just adopt?") and for this reason I find it hard to judge anyone who knows it's not for them and goes to what may seem like extremes to others to create their family.

QuarksandLeptons Sun 26-Nov-17 21:53:56

Hi OP,
You sound very together and calm. I’m sure it’s been a tough time. flowers
I share your sentiments about the various options and like the previous poster, I think using a donated egg is worth doing so you and your partner can have a child.
Adoption of course is also such an amazing thing to do. I think if you really want to adopt you could, despite your friend’s experience. I think it’s just a long and difficult, very bureaucratic process. But so worthwhile. We have friends who have adopted 2 children and they are a really happy family.

I think egg donation is wildly different to surrogacy. Yes, egg donation involves another woman going through a difficult process in order to have the eggs taken but I was under the assumption that these were additional eggs from other women doing IVF, so no woman is being coerced or exploited.

You would then do the really difficult job of pregnancy. You would nourish and grow the baby and both you and the baby end up with cells from each other inside you.

With surrogacy, until recently I was under the impression that altruistic surrogacy that we have in the UK was ethical but when I read more about the process and thought about the baby, I changed my view.

A baby is developed inside its mother and they live as a symbiotic pair after the birth too. The only thing a baby wants when it comes out of the womb is it’s mother and to breast feed from their mother. To deny a baby contact with its mother is wrong both emotionally and nutritionally.

Good article about it here:

I also have issues with using another woman’s body to gestate a child, even if this is altruistic. Pregnancy is such a huge, potentially life threatening thing to go through and not something to be done on demand and commodified. Like you mentioned, in non altruistic circumstances, I don’t think there’s any way of seeing it other than exploitative. No woman would go through pregnancy & birth for money unless they had very limited options.

I read a harrowing account of a surrogate mother in America who nearly died during the pregnancy and discovered that the she’d been duped with the contract she had signed. I can’t find the link at the moment but will post it if I find it.

I don’t think having a baby is a right and I think there should be limits to how far science facilitates people having babies. That line in my opinion is surrogacy.

MrsTerryPratchett Sun 26-Nov-17 21:54:10

They did seriously consider altruistic donation in the UK but they went to some meet ups and said it was ridiculous - so few women and so many hopeful couples

And there's a reason for that. Which means the brochures full of women and the 100K price tag probably mean some poor, possibly desperate, woman is doing something life-threatening for them with her womb. That sits very badly with me.

Nyx1 Sun 26-Nov-17 21:57:37

OP "ust feel that if we can give a home to a child who could really benefit from one, I think going through the process of trying to artificially create a life (with only a 30% success rate anyway) doesn't sit right with me"

This! Yay for adopting! Apologies for simplistic reply.

MillicentFawcett Sun 26-Nov-17 22:19:28

I feel very uncomfortable about Spanish/Greek/Eastern European egg donors. Women in the UK donate eggs for altruistic reasons. I’m not sure they do in other countries where donation laws are less stringent. Plus there are massive issues around anonymity and associated secrecy.

I think paid for surrogacy should be illegal unless it’s entirely altruistic.

Both egg donation and surrogacy exploit women in poverty

loopdeloo Sun 26-Nov-17 22:27:50

Millicent, you've expressed some of my other reasons for feeling wary of ED, not least deliberately creating a life where genetic parents are going to be anonymous. Again, please let me stress that I entirely understand why people do this and it's not a judgement and is just about my personal gut reaction at this stage of a long and difficult process. I'm early stage grief and may well do a total 180, who knows.

I do have a friend going through the same thing who is 6 months further down the line than me. She has been heavily sold (by an NHS consultant) to go to a clinic in Cyprus for 20k and my doctor is currently directing me to Spain. I think they do have a referral deal to be honest but - aside from that - the donations are anonymous to cut back on the donating woman's cost of IVF. So it's still a bit "transactional" and you don't really know for sure if the woman truly wanted to donate her eggs or was just so desperate to have affordable IVF herself that she consented, and closed her mind to the fact she might have a biological child in the world that she would never know about. Argh. Maybe I'm going down the rabbit hole here.

MillicentFawcett Sun 26-Nov-17 22:35:05

It’s very hard and I totally understand why women do it but the ethical issues are there. And I don’t think it’s fair on potential children not to think them through before even going down this road.

ElizabethG81 Sun 26-Nov-17 22:39:19

My main reason for choosing a UK donor was the fact that it can't be anonymous and the child has the right to have their details when they reach 18. I'd have struggled to use an anonymous donor.

fatberg Sun 26-Nov-17 22:42:52

Most adoptions these days are forced, and there are many structural factors - poverty, sexism, racism, the education system, benefits system, lack of housing etc etc - which make it much more difficult for a parent to successfully care for a child. It's not as simple as children who need good homes unfortunately, it's a lot more complicated than that.

This is all true.

However, none of these things can be fixed in a time frame that works for real, existing, living, breathing children who deserve a chance at normal(ish) family life.

MakChoon Sun 26-Nov-17 23:12:51

I have a family member who was conceived via egg donation - the donor was a family member by marriage.

The child is now in her 20s and as far as I'm aware doesn't know that her mum isn't her biological mum (and that another relative is).

I think the plan is to tell her at some point and when that happens I have no idea how it then will affect her and the rest of the family. There are so many aspects for her to deal with, e.g. discovering that her (half) siblings, nieces and nephews aren't related by blood and that she has other family members who are actually her siblings.

I'm sure many parents of children conceived in this way don't leave it this long to tell the child, however regardless of the timing it seems like a huge thing to bring a child into the world knowing that they're going to have something of this enormity to deal with at some point.

So on this basis alone, it's not something that I'd personally do, however I do completely understand why other people choose differently.

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