Well apparently whilst I was having a lovely day with my grand-daughter, Woman’s Hour did find someone with more controversial views for their item on changing birth certificates to include the fact of donor conception, and ran the item yesterday. I ‘listened again’ this morning to Jennie Murray chairing a debate with Julia Feast from British Association for Adoption and Fostering, Shirley Brailey, a donor conceived adult well known to DC Network and Professor Alison Murdoch from the Newcastle Centre for Life fertility clinic. Shirley was very clear that finding twelve half-siblings and knowing who her donor was (he is now dead) has been very important in making her feel that a hole has been filled in her life. She had learned of her origins in 1961 age 12 and although she was told not to let her father know that she knew, she did so in a furious row about a year later. The look on her father’s face told her she had crossed a boundary into an area he had assumed he would never have to deal with. There was enormous stigma about donor conception at this time and for many years after. Shirley, however, has been a teacher all her life and has been delighted to come across children in more recent years whose parents have been open with them about their origins and for whom donor conception holds no shame.
Professor Murdoch felt that many parents did not ‘tell’ because they were afraid that the man’s father (in case of sperm donation) would reject the child as ‘not being part of the family’. All agreed that openness and education of parents towards this end was the right way forward and DCN’s materials were mentioned as helpful.
As I wrote in my post on November 14th, Julia Feast put the case for access to information about non-biological parentage to be made available via one of two birth certificates that would be given to all babies, no matter how conceived. Alison Murdoch said that if the fact of donor conception were to appear on the face of the birth certificate, which is a public document, then she thought donor conception would go underground, with more and more people recruiting private donors and inseminating at home. I think this would be true for a small percentage of the population. Julia strongly contested Alison Murdoch’s statements regarding donor numbers having dropped since the ending of anonymity (they haven’t). Professor Murdoch may not be able to recruit donors at her clinic, but has she tried changing tactics and practices like successful clinics in London and Manchester. Newcastle men can’t be that different. Shirley also beautifully countered AM’s old chestnut about why donor conceived children should be considered a special case when a (disputed) percentage of the population are not genetically related to the man who behaves as their father.
All in all a good discussion…even without me! Have a listen yourself on