I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I wanted time to write a well-thought-out response.
Just about two weeks ago, a news story went viral: White woman sues sperm bank after she mistakenly gets black donor’s sperm
I read five different news articles about the case. What it comes down to is this:
A lesbian couple goes to a sperm bank and asks for donor 380. Sperm bank doesn’t have computerized records or ordering process. Everything is done by hand. Mom is inseminated, and, while pregnant calls the sperm bank to ask for more of donor 380 to be put aside for them so their child can have a genetic sibling. Sperm bank says, “380? Don’t you mean 330?” Mom says, “No. 380.” Sperm bank says, “Um… well you got 330 and 330 is an African American donor.”
The lesbian couple then have a biracial, Black and White baby in a small Ohio town that is 97% White, a town that, the two moms say, is very racist. They want to move with their daughter to a city that will be more accepting of the color of her skin. Two years after the baby’s birth, they sue the sperm bank, for wrongful birth and breach of warranty.
And the Claws Came Out
I’m going to write this portion of the post as a series of responses to the comments that I’ve seen about the case.
I’m going to start with, hands down, the most stupid thing I’ve seen anyone comment:
“When you go to a sperm bank, you expect a mix up.”
No. When you go to a bar with $100 and a turkey baster, you expect a mix up. When you go in for surgery on your right knee, you don’t expect the surgeon to operate on your left knee. When you go to a sperm bank, you expect that they have quality control in place to ensure that the right sperm goes to the right woman. Clearly, this sperm bank did not have that kind of control.
“Babies aren’t supposed to be made to order.”
Oh please! This goes hand-in-hand with The Choice Myth. Every biological parent on the planet gets to ensure that his or her baby is of the same race. Biological parents choose the race of their children by choosing their partner. Going to a sperm bank and choosing a donor is analogous to choosing one’s partner, not to ordering up a baby.
“They live in a racist town, but the town is accepting of a lesbian couple? That’s just not possible.”
Race and sexual orientation are not the same thing. Not everyone who is racist is homophobic as well, or vice versa. Furthermore, when someone goes out alone, no one knows his or her sexual orientation upon sight. When someone Black goes out, everyone can tell that person is not White.
“Why would they raise any child, even a White child, in a racist town?”
I believe that anyone can raise a decent human being even in a setting of hate. You can raise your White child to be relatively free of racism and prejudice.* You can raise that child to stand up for people of color. You can role play what to do if a racist joke is told in her presence. You can teach compassion and awareness.
But if you have a Black child, that child becomes the lesson. That child becomes the one the White kids must defend, the butt of the jokes in the role playing. That is not an acceptable environment for a Black child. It’s not her responsibility to be a representative of Black-ness, or to teach people that hate is wrong.
“How are they going to explain this law suit to their daughter?”
This is possibly the second most stupid question I’ve seen asked. First, it’s none of our damn business how they’re going to explain this to their child. Second, it’s a pointless question to ask, because all we can do is speculate. Only the moms know how they’re going to explain it.
“How is their daughter going to feel when she finds out about the suit?”
Along with the last one, this is a very stupid question. How the daughter feels depends, in large part, on how the moms explain the suit to her. It also depends on the child’s nature, or personality. There’s no point in speculating, because there isn’t any answer.
“If they don’t want their daughter, I’ll take her.”
The moms are not saying that they don’t want their daughter. Quite the opposite. They love their daughter. They want to do what’s best for her, and raising her in a racist town is not what’s best for her. They’re suing the sperm bank for the money to move.
“Why did it take two years for them to file the suit?”
I don’t know for certain, but I can imagine that it went like this:
These women did not choose to become a multiracial family, but, here they are. So, they start to learn everything they can about parenting a Black child, while actually having the responsibility of parenting a baby. They discover that their town is not the optimal place to raise their child. They need to move. They explore their possibilities. They determine that filing a lawsuit may be able to fund this move – it was the sperm bank’s mistake that necessitates the move, after all. At the same time, perhaps the lawsuit will prevent this same scenario from happening to other people.
“Having to drive your daughter to a Black neighborhood to get her hair cut is not emotionally distressing.”
I have a lawyer friend who was discussing this case on Facebook with her other lawyer friends. Apparently, it is the lawyer’s job to come up with every possible problem, no matter how small, to put in the claim.
“She shouldn’t be taking a baby to get her hair cut anyway.”
Seriously? You’re commenting on what the women want to do with their kid’s hair? And yes, this is a real comment.
“Why are they claiming wrongful birth? Like being Black is a birth defect?!?!”
According to Legal-Dictionary.com, “wrongful birth” is “A Medical Malpractice claim brought by the parents of a child born with birth defects, alleging that negligent treatment or advice deprivedthem of the opportunity to avoid conception or terminate the pregnancy.”
There’s no way to slice it – that’s a pretty crappy thing to say about any kid. But is being Black a birth defect? I don’t think it is. However, the government seems to see things differently. Almost every state automatically classifies Black children in foster care – even the babies – as “special needs.”
The sperm bank made a huge mistake.
When a couple adopts, the couple must choose which races of children they believe they can effectively parent. For some people, it’s a seemingly easy question – of course they could love and parent a child of any race. For others, the only answer is that they cannot imagine parenting a child of another race. But even for the people who think it’s an easy choice, education and life experience shows them that there’s nothing easy about being a multiracial family. People who adopt transracially are supposed to have education during the home study process about raising children of a different race. We at least learn about the big issues our family might face during our lifetimes.
This couple didn’t get that choice. Sure, it’s white privilege that brought them to live in Uniontown, OH, a town that they say is not particularly accepting of Black people. And now, that white privilege is being brought to light and threatened by being a multiracial family.
But I think the couple is trying to do right by their daughter. They recognize that the world is not colorblind, that they can’t raise her as if she were White, and that she’s going to need to be around people who are like her.
These are all issues the couple would not have faced if the sperm bank hadn’t made a mistake – a mistake that could have been avoided with proper record keeping.
So yes, of course the white couple is suing the sperm bank. They want to move to be in a better place for the daughter. The sperm bank should pay for that move.
* I subscribe to the Avenue Q theory that “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.”