Columnists, Jon Caldara, Politics, Transparency

Caldara: Let donor-conceived adults know their origins

There is a 1960 Doctor Seuss-like kids book that was popular in my childhood. “Are You My Mother” is a nail-biting, John le Carre style super-thriller.

See if you can follow the twists and turns in this one: Momma bird flies away from her nest for just a tiny moment to find a worm, and while gone her egg hatches. The baby bird goes looking for its mommy.

In this pre-gender-fluid time he asks all these other mommies, “are you my mother?” In a stunning plot twist the duck mom says no, I’m not your mother. So does the dog mom, and cat mom and so on.

Without giving away the incredible suspense of this Jason Bourne-like action thriller, at the end the little birdie does, in fact, find his real biological mother, to the relief of every three-year-old being read the story. (For some reason child abandonment was a big theme in kids stories of my youth. Think Bambi. They sure knew how to make us kids feel safe).

If the book were written today the little bird would be running around asking, “Are you one of my two-or-more mommies?” And when the bird was all grown up, he’d be making record requests to find his biological father.

And that’s the story of Senate Bill 224. But first a bit of history.

Kids who are adopted tend to grow up. And as they do some of them want to know who their biological parents are. Until about eight years ago they would run into a brick wall. The information could be kept from them.

If we didn’t have this natural craving to know where we come from, would not exist.

For an adopted or foster child it can be far more than a curiosity. It might provide emotional closure to find out who their biological parents are. It can go a long way to help heal some pretty deep emotional scars.

Knowing more about one’s genetic parents could be lifesaving. As science and healthcare progress, your genomic history is crucial for health care. If you’re adopted, which box do you check on the medical form when it asks, “is there a history of cancer in your family?”

To their credit, the Colorado State Legislature really stepped up and advocated for adopted and foster kids. Updating the law, they allowed adopted people, when they became an adult, to find out who their biological parents are, if such information was available.

I instinctively understand why some adoptive parents are nervous about letting their kids find out who the “other” parents are. Which is why this authority doesn’t come into play until the kids are grown.

Fine for adopted kids. Fine for foster kids. But what about “donor-conceived” kids? I’m talking about kids of a same-sex couple. Our governor’s family would be a good illustration.

To be clear, Jared Polis and his husband are deeply caring, great parents, and I doubt their kids would have such need. I’m using them to illustrate only because they are the best known same-sex couple with kids in the state.

For each of their kids, I assume one of them donated sperm and they arranged for a donor egg and a surrogate to bring the baby to term. As an adult that child might want to know which dad is his biological father and who his biological mom is. If Colorado’s first couple refused to provide such information, as it stands now, Polis’s then adult kid would be legally powerless to find out.

Hats off to Sens. Steve Fenberg, a Democrat representing Boulder County, and Bob Gardner, a Republican from El Paso County, for advocating for such a person to have the legal right to know, like any other adopted kid, once an adult.

Senate Bill 224 would require future donors to agree in writing to provide their information (identity) which could be accessed in the future by their adult, biological children. It would require the companies that do the work of “donor-conceived persons” to keep records so they could later be seen.

Of course, this only helps such kids conceived in Colorado. Other states should follow Colorado’s example and pass similar protections.

If this transparency makes sense for adult adopted kids, it makes sense for donor-conceived ones. There isn’t any difference. People should know who their biological parents are.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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