No Future Contact: Egg Donation and the Fantasy of Anonymity

Authors: Anna Lyon*, University of Texas at Austin
Topics: Women, Medical and Health Geography, Communication
Keywords: Feminism, fertility, anonymity, distance, cyberspace, whiteness, wealth
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: 8210, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

“In spatial configurations,” writes Doreen Massey in For Space, “otherwise unconnected narratives may be brought into contact, or previously connected ones may be wrenched apart.” In the context of donor-assisted fertility, I argue, once-connected narratives may become re-connected through spatial and cyberspatial encounters, though little scholarly or legal attention has been paid to this reality.

My paper critiques the legal contracts that forbid future contact between anonymous egg donors and recipients. These contracts imagine that in a big world, donors and offspring are unlikely to meet by chance. However, since the “mapping” of the human genome, services like 23andMe have proliferated, creating cyber-spaces where geographically distant donors and offspring may accidentally or purposefully cross paths. Even in physical space, donor-conceived people occasionally meet their donors or genetic half-siblings by accident. To make babies who fit their families, recipients typically choose donors who remind them of themselves in every way, including tastes in music, activities, foods, and cultural practices. Like recipients, donors also tend to be white and wealthy (they must have excellent health histories, implying longstanding healthcare access), and thus, are able to travel in pursuit of their interests. In short, donors share what Sarah Ahmed would call the “proximities” that their wealthy recipients enjoy. These shared tastes and proximities, along with cyber-spaces like the 23andMe database, make chance encounters much more likely than the legal contract imagines. I conclude that instead of imagining a spatially-protected anonymity, reproductive law should focus on the ethical management of donor-offspring contact.

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