Donor conception

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Donor conception is the act of conceiving a child via any combination of sperm donation, egg donation, or mitochondrion donation, usually from two people but rarely from three in the case of mitochondria.[1] In the case of embryo donation, the conceiving parents are a couple.

Donor-conceived people may never learn of their true birth origins, especially in the case of straight parents keeping their children's conception method a secret. However, many can get information through DNA testing. Donor conceived people may have many biological half-siblings (sometimes called "diblings") as a result of the same person's donations.

With the significant increase in the numbers of donor-conceived individuals, many have questioned the ethics surrounding the technologies and human decisions surrounding donor conception, and there has been plenty of controversy.

For most sperm or egg recipients, the choice between anonymous sperm or egg donor and a non-anonymous one is generally not of major importance. For some donor-conceived children, on the other hand, it may be psychologically burdensome not having the possibility of contacting or knowing almost nothing about the donor.[2] Thus far, studies have found that a significant number of donor-conceived children want information about their donor.[3][4]

Conservative exploitation in the US[edit]

Some conservatives, especially of the Catholic variety, oppose any kind of assisted reproductive technology and have found common ground with some donor-conceived persons for greater regulation of the fertility industry. In the US, such propositions have so far mostly been found among Republican politicians. Some donor-conceived persons, like Alana S. Newman[5] and, to an even greater extent, Katy Faust,[6] have been known for their strong conservative views, including homophobia[7] and misogyny.[8]

However, donor-conceived people that oppose donor anonymity and/or search for their biological origins aren't necessarily conservative nor right-wing, or even centrist (some may even be radical tumblrists[9]). They see the issues of gay marriage and abortion as being completely unrelated, and don't want to be lumped with the wingnuts (in fact, those born from straight parents know firsthand that many arguments against gay marriage are stupid). Only a minority of them oppose all kinds of assisted reproductive technology.

Furthermore, the main US organization that assists donor-conceived persons, the Donor Sibling Registry,[10] is politically neutral and even values family diversity.[11] Also, searches for one's biological origins have seen rather positive media coverage among center-left media outlets.

There are many hypocritical conservative families that use anonymous sperm donation and keep it a secret from their own children.[citation needed]

In other countries[edit]

In some other countries, especially in Europe, the situation is very different, as sperm donation is often reserved for straight couples while still being traditionally anonymous.

In fact, one of the first countries to do away with donor anonymity was notedly liberal Sweden, as did the Netherlands several years later.[12]

At the Council of Europe, it was a Green Belgian transgender MEP that proposed to waive donor anonymity.[13] The goal of this move is also to fight the shame and secrecy surrounding the stigma against infertility. In France, a survey led by a same-sex parenting association found that opponents of anonymity were slightly more likely to be young, female, queer and/or left-leaning.[14]

Finally, many donor-conceived persons don't like the language used by some conservatives who are opposed to any kind of donor conception. In France, conservative politicians have been known to compare donor-conceived persons to "GMOs",[15] or "bastards"[16] which was called out by some donor-conceived persons.

Radical lesbian opposition to open-identity donors[edit]

This isn't to say that opposition to the ending of anonymity doesn't exist at all on the left. In Europe, it generally emanates from the radical lesbian sphere (which is noted to be not so different from the aforementioned homophobes, as it is generally the same sphere that houses biphobia, acephobia, kink shaming and transphobia)[note 1].

They advance the oft-repeated claim that ending donor anonymity would cause a shortage of donors (which has been debunked by experience[17]), and that it would weaken their families due to the presence of a man that could take away their children in a court battle. While this was historically a legitimate concern and a justification for anonymity, one doesn't see how having the choice to discover the identity of one's donor at one's legal majority, an age where you're supposed to be mature enough to know the difference between "father" and "sperm donor", could have this consequence, if laws are adamantly clear that sperm donation can't result in parentage rights.

They often go much further than that, claiming that expressions such as "origins" or "biological father" (while technically correct[18]) are offensive[19], that "best interests of the child" is a far-right notion[20][note 2], that donor health information doesn't matter[21], or that it's lesbophobic to help (or even let[22]) your children find their biological relatives[23], and they will bash the experience of any donor-conceived person who, however progressive and/or queer she may be, looks for her biological origins and/or uses the wrong language in doing so. Some go as far as denying the involvement of a third person in the conception process, claiming it was just "sperm" or "genetic material" and shouldn't even be called a "donation"[24].

This is just the start of many fallacies, such as lumping all donor-conceived anti-anonymity advocates with the above-mentioned wingnuts, accusing them of being too emotional about this issue, ranting about abusive or negligent fathers, comparisons with abortion (somewhat overlooking the quite obvious fact that donor-conceived persons most definitely aren't aborted fetuses), denying similarities with adoption, personal attacks, false dilemmas, slippery slopes, equating genetics with the Nazis, and other fallacies.

There's also a tendency to deny the agency of anti-anonymity donor-conceived persons, painting them as having been "brainwashed by society"[note 3] into thinking that biological connections matter for them, or portraying them as a bunch of mostly well-off white cishet whiners with straight parents, who appropriate language from more marginalized groups and/or just want to be oppressed. In that case, given the systemic nature of the fertility industry's shortcomings, this effectively blames these persons for being the result of an already flawed and unfair system, and ignores donor conceived queer persons (including the fact that anonymity has been challenged by progressive queer persons with queer parents[25]) and persons of color (while most donors are white, they may have some mixed-race offspring).

More generally, it is advised that, even in the case of an entirely anonymous donation, parents should maintain an open dialogue with their children when they have questions about this, as suggested by the Donor Conceived Guide.[26] This would seem to be more difficult in radical lesbian families, for all the reasons listed above.

Right-wing support for anonymity[edit]

Unlike what the previous group of radical lesbians would like you to believe, there's also a lot of right-wing support for donor anonymity (sometimes even outweighing the radical lesbian opposition by a huge margin, depending on the country). After all, anonymity is the status quo (or status quo ante) in most countries, and in general, conservatives love to defend the status quo.

They may do so out of libertarian principles, as libertarians tend to hate the idea of social rights and government intervention. Ironically for the above radical lesbians, it's often intermingled with pretty masculinistic and pro-capitalistic motivations as well, as they often claim to defend, among others, the interest of (mostly male) donors and the industry, this time to protect them from parentage claims.

In general, though they do hold both positions, pro-anonymity conservatives tend to think that defending traditional supports for anonymity (conservative straight parents, donors, and the industry) is more important for them than opposing radical lesbianism (which they may easily conflate with the whole LGBT movement). In France, for example, right-wing politicians voted against ending donor anonymity, even after lesbians and single women's access to assisted reproductive technology was voted (they also voted against this part, of course).


  1. In fact, some of them have been known to use the word "lesbophobia" as a dog-whistle against donor-conceived persons that disagree with them, pretty much the same way TERFs use this word against male-to-female transgender persons. However, these two groups of radical feminists are still distinct, and do not necessarily overlap.
  2. This concept originates with the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child, which, all in all, can hardly be described as being a far-right text. Notably, this is very different from the usual Think of the children! fare, though sadly, it's often used that way.
  3. Read the following section, right-wing support for anonymity, to understand why this is inaccurate, to say the least. However, bionormativity, defined by overvaluing genetic relatedness, is a legitimate concern; that's why philosopher Daniel Groll argues that banning donor anonymity should be accompanied or even preceded by addressing bionormative prejudice.


  1. Three-parent baby by Kara Rogers (Last Updated: Aug 23, 2019) Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. Donor Babies Search for Their Anonymous Fathers. By Craig Malisow. Published on November 04, 2008 at 11:22am
  3. "Swedish sperm donors have been said to be driven by altruism, but shortage of sperm donors leads to reproductive travelling". Ups. J. Med. Sci. 113 (3): 305–13. 2008. 
  4. Sperm donors should get cut-price IVF to tackle shortage By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor in San Francisco. Last Updated: 4:12PM GMT 11 November 2008. This ref, in turn, cites Dr Joanna Sheib from the University of California Davis
  9. Some examples:,,,,, etc
  14. (results in French)
  19. (in French)
  20. (in French)
  21. (in French)
  22. (in French)
  23. (in French)
  24. (in French)
  26. Donor Conceived Guide by Jeff DeGroot (2023) COLAGE.