“A white woman was accidentally impregnated with a black donor’s sperm. Now she’s suing.”
“White Lesbian Couple Starts Family, Comes With Unwanted Blackness.”
“White Ohio Woman Sues Over Sperm From Black Donor.”
It all sounds repugnant, and I don’t dispute that there may be some primordial racism fueling the lawsuit of Jennifer Cramblett, the white Ohio woman who is suing a sperm bank for impregnating her with a black donor’s sperm, but don’t let race distract you from the central issue: The sperm bank fucked up. Colossally. To me it’s indisputable – and personal.
Steph and I decided to start a family two years ago. We decided that I’d carry. It felt like a more natural fit with my gender identity and because of my complicated family genetics (you’ll need to read my memoir to get that story), I wanted a child biologically related to me; one who had a chance of looking like me.
After three months of testing, our doctor at NYU Fertility determined that my body was good-to-go and he informed us that I’d get my first insemination the following month, so it was “time to pick a sperm donor!”
This process of picking a sperm donor, by the way, would have made a great reality show. I am the most controlling human being on the planet, a Virgo to the nth degree, detail-oriented to the point of sometimes meeting criteria for OCD, and historically speaking, I can’t make a decision when there’s too many options. We had about a week to decide on the paternal genetics of our future children, and when I tell you we had an almost infinite amount of options for who the donor would be, I am not exaggerating.
Sperm donation is big business folks. The ‘banks’ as they’re called, are FDA approved, and they house every combination of intelligence, physical health, mental health, race, culture, religion, education, eye color, hair color, height, weight, talent and aptitude that one can imagine. If you can think it, there’s a good chance that some college-aged kid who meets your exact criteria has donated his sperm in exchange for some spending money.
It took us about five days to decide on our sperm donor (we only had 7), after having purchased additional information (ala carte, of course) about his medical history, his psychological history, his ACT score, a personality test, and of course, an adult photo. I’d read somewhere that we are more likely to conceive with people who we’d be attracted to in real life. So I picked a guy who looks like my wife, Steph. We called him Boy-Steph.
Our story doesn’t have the ending that we wanted – but that’s not the point. Here’s the point: If sperm banks don’t want to be held accountable for giving aspiring parents the exact sperm that they sign up for, they shouldn’t offer options. This isn’t about race. It’s about accountability and taking responsibility for the fact that these sperm banks have God-like control over their client’s future children.
I have a family member who’s husband’s sperm were slow swimmers – the cure for which involved taking the sperm, spinning it, and inseminating her. There’s a lot of trust that goes into getting inseminated. Can you imagine if she had been inseminated with the wrong man’s sperm?
I have another family member who used a donor egg to conceive her child. Her process of choosing said donor was as laborious as my own in picking a sperm donor. I can’t begin to wrap my head around the heartache she’d have suffered if after the emotional tsunami of choosing a donor, she’d been impregnated with the wrong donor’s egg.
It’s akin to being sent home from the hospital with the wrong fucking infant, people, but worse: You can return the wrong infant, but what happened to this family can’t be reversed.
Here’s another point that you probably haven’t considered (because the only people who would consider it are those who go through this miserable process):
Some of that pre-insemination testing that I underwent was intended to identify any chromosomal abnormalities that I was a carrier for. Lots of people are carriers for a genetic abnormality but it only becomes a problem if both the man and the woman are carriers. What if I had been a carrier of a genetic abnormality and I had specifically chosen a sperm donor who wasn’t a carrier, but because the sperm bank fucked up, I wound up inseminated with the wrong sperm and became pregnant with a child who had that genetic abnormality. You know, two lesbians can’t bump in the night to become pregnant – we have to go through a very complicated and expensive process to breed. The upside to that process is that we get to choose the exact genetics of the sperm.
That said, I disagree with Cramblett’s choice to go public with her story. If she were politically minded, or if she actually gave a shit about being a role model for the LGBT community, she would have kept quiet. This kind of publicity is not the kind our movement needs, specifically because race is involved and any imbecile could have predicted that it would become a distracting variable.
If Cramblett were thinking long-term, as dare I say any parent should about the effects this fiasco will have on her child in terms of her racial identity, her family identity, and of how this will effect her socially, she certainly wouldn’t have done this.
So let it be known that I think Cramblett’s decision to sue the sperm bank was ill conceived (pun intended), outrageously selfish and a bad decision for all involved. Still, what that sperm bank did was inexcusable – and they should pay multiples of the 50K that this couple is asking for.