Donor-Linked Families and a New Parenthood Practice: Intimate Surveillance

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Rosanna HERTZ, Wellesley, USA
Donor anonymity has become a worldwide issue. In some countries the concept of donor anonymity has become obsolete due to mandates requiring children to have access to donor information at age 18 (such as in Sweden, Australia, The Australian state of Victoria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, New Zealand), and because of readily available genetic testing. Yet, most prominently in the United States, the issue of donor anonymity remains incredibly relevant, as laws surrounding donor anonymity have not fully caught up with the medical and technological sleuthing available to parents who conceived children via the booming global fertility industry. The sociological impact of the technologies used to search out donors has not been fully examined. Findings from a large qualitative study of families (interviews with parents and their children) who conceived with the use of a commercial donor are useful to discussing how: (1) The purchase of online gametes from the fertility industry creates an environment that normalizes personal information-sharing and encourages surveillance work; (2) despite guarantees by commercial banks to enforce donor anonymity, parents can easily use “detective work” online to figure out the donor’s identity; (3) as a result, donors are ‘followed’ on various social media platforms without their knowledge; (4) this surveillance is linked to motherhood beliefs about keeping track of the child’s intimates. In effect, this detective work is a resource parents provide their donor-conceived children. Moreover, the practice raises a set of ethical issues about the boundaries parents say they draw around official contact which belongs to their child when they turn 18.