Petri-Dish Papas

A recent television program showed a young woman named Melody leafing through old medical school yearbooks, searching the faces of male students to see if anyone looks like her. Melody is trying to find her biological father: Her mother conceived her through artificial insemination. "I find [it] maddening," Melody says, that intelligent people "fooled themselves" into thinking my biological background would be "inconsequential to me." The fact is that our entire legal system treats artificial insemination of single women as inconsequential. The federal government does not regulate sperm banks, and all but two states allow a completely open consumer market for buying and selling sperm. This laissez-faire approach is part of an increasingly common idea that children don't really need fathers any more. As David Blankenhorn writes in his book Fatherless America, "Sperm-bank fatherhood is essentially a commercial product, something bought and sold in the marketplace." After his date with the petri dish, the father—if we can call him that—simply takes his cash and leaves. But human life is never that simple. The children of donor insemination are growing up—and, like Melody, many are pursuing their biological roots. Andrew Kimbrell, in his book The Human Body Shop, says these children "often become curious, even obsessed, with discovering their genetic background." Many are angry, "deeply disturbed that their births were part of a business transaction," Kimbrell writes. They have "feelings of being rejected and sold by their biological fathers." Many say things like "My father sold me for $25." But perhaps the most puzzling thing is that there is virtually no moral debate on the subject—a magazine article here, a television program there, but very little serious discussion. The predominant attitude seems to be that artificial insemination of a single woman is a private matter, beyond the proper reach of moral judgment or legal restraint. The politically correct view today is that a single woman can raise a child just as well as a married couple can. To imply otherwise is said to insult the woman. But ironically, at the same time, social experts are admitting that children raised without fathers are statistically more likely to drop out of school, to have teen pregnancies, and to be in trouble with the law. This is especially clear in the inner cities, where crime correlates more closely with fatherlessness than with race or economic status. And if fatherlessness is generally a bad thing, then I say it's time to rethink America's wide-open sperm market that allows women to purposely produce fatherless children. Most European countries outlaw the sale of sperm to single women. They understand that it amounts to official sanction of male irresponsibility. An Oregon legislator recently introduced a bill to prohibit doctors in that state from performing artificial insemination on single women. Why don't you urge your own state lawmaker to do the same thing. Human fathers are meant to mirror the fatherhood of God Himself. We should no longer tolerate official policies sending a message that children don't really need fathers any more.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary