How Can A Life Be Wrong?

Sarah was barren, and that was her whole identity. That was the purpose of being a woman in the Ancient Near East. And when God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation, Sarah insisted that Abraham take Hagar, her slave, and get her pregnant, so that Sarah could have a baby that way. And so Hagar had Ishmael. And then, when God promised that Sarah would indeed have a baby of her own – one from her own womb, and then Sarah had Isaac (that means laughter, by the way, Isaac is laughter), well, then there was a problem. Now Sarah just wasn’t all that keen on having Ishmael around. So Sarah told Abraham to throw Hagar and Ishmael out into the desert, and he did.

We humans, we don’t have a great track record on this whole caring for all the children thing. All of them. So I guess I wasn’t all that surprised – only disappointed – when I found out about the couple who are suing the sperm bank for wrongful life because they didn’t get the blond-haired, blue-eyed baby they wanted when the sperm bank mixed up the donors.

There are so many levels of wrong with this, I hardly know where to start. So how about at the beginning. Let’s start with the commoditization of childbirth? Consider why people have children. Is it because they really want to have children, or is it because they just want to make sure they’ve passed on their own genes? As a foster parent I got to know a lot of foster and adoptive parents. These folks love children. For them, it was all about the children, not about getting the perfect child to reflect who they think they are. The families I’ve come to know through the foster care system aren’t all blond-haired and blue-eyed (although I’ve certainly had some blond, blue-eyed foster children in the mix). Some of these families look like the United Nations. Some of these families (including my own) have adopted much older children – even teenagers.

But now, it’s possible to go to a sperm bank, and choose exactly the characteristics of the donor that you want, in the hopes that this will lead to a baby that you want. Now it’s a business. Now there are contracts. Well, when there are business contracts, there are bound to be disputes. Someone won’t fulfill a contract. Now it’s a fee-for-service thing. I mean, if I got pregnant by my husband (well, I did, in fact), and our baby failed to be six feet tall at maturity, I couldn’t sue my husband for that! But what if I wanted a six-foot tall child from a sperm bank? Is that any more ridiculous than insisting on a blond-haired, blue-eyed baby?   There is a story that Isadora Duncan once told George Bernard Shaw that they should have a baby together, because it would be so wonderful for a baby to have her looks and his brains. And he answered, “Yes, but what if it had my looks and  your  brains?”  These things just can’t be guaranteed. Children can’t be ordered like a new car.

But I do understand that the sperm bank gave them the completely wrong sperm. They were expecting a white baby and they got a mixed-race baby. Well, the baby is here now. She’s two years old. You might think that would be the end of it. I mean, if you really can’t handle it, you have the option to give the baby up for adoption. While there are many, many older children who would really love to have a permanent home, people just love to adopt babies. But, they didn’t do that. They kept her. So they must love her, right?

Well, they say they do. And Abraham acted like he loved Ishmael. Right up until he tossed his older son right out into the desert. Yeah. I wonder if they ever had another conversation – Abe and Ishmael? I mean, how would that go? “So, um, Dad. I just wanted to say, um, that was really messed up how you threw mom and me out in the desert to die. I mean, it’s cool, because God saved us and all, but, wow, Dad, I just don’t feel like you love me very much.”

This couple, dripping with white privilege, i suing, because they just don’t know how to parent a bi-reacial child? Seriously? One of the moms is uncomfortable going into the black neighborhood to get her daughter’s hair cut? Good Lord, honey, get some perspective! What message do they think they’re sending to their daughter? “We really do love you honey. We didn’t want you – we wanted a white baby, but now that you’re here, we love you. We just still feel injured by your birth and feel like the sperm bank should pay us for all the pain and suffering we have as the result of your very existence. But no hard feelings, right?” Um….

That this couple is a lesbian couple is irrelevant to all of this – but it’s ironic. I find it ironic that someone who also has a marginalized identity can be so completely blind to how she is marginalizing her own daughter. It makes me wonder if we, as humans, will ever learn to extrapolate the lessons we learned and apply them elsewhere.

I wish more people would adopt all the children who are waiting for permanent homes. They aren’t infants. They won’t look like you. They have baggage (and I’m not talking about Samsonite). But don’t all our children need a forever home?

I wish people would stop treating children as objects instead of as fully human. Children aren’t dolls to be played with. They’re people. Real people.

Most of all, I wish – no – I hope and pray that this little girl will have something resembling a normal and happy life. I pray that she knows she is a beloved and whole child of God.

That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.


2 thoughts on “How Can A Life Be Wrong?

  1. I agree about children, definitely, but I also sympathize with this mom and how she is being pilloried. She didn’t opt into the whole raising-a-child-who-looks-different-from-me thing, she was blindsided by it. If it was me, I’d be mad about not being consulted. A lawsuit is not the right way to go, but in this country, lawsuits are how you show that you’ve been hurt or made to feel powerless. That is, if you have the power to bring a suit. I wouldn’t have done it, but I would have been angry that the sperm bank screwed up. Now I feel sorry about all the internet hate this woman is garnering.


    • Alex, thank you for your thoughtful comment on this. You’re right, she didn’t sign up for this. But this is where we’ve come to when we can now have designer children. There are some other blogs that have covered the moral issues of this – but this also touches on eugenics. There are plenty of people who didn’t sign up to have children with all sorts of life-threatening conditions, or lifelong disabilities that might require various levels of care. Yet they raise their children and don’t sue anyone for wrongful life. And that’s really the thing. Had she given up the child for adoption and then sued and said, “you gave me the wrong sperm,” well, I suppose people wouldn’t be quite so upset. But she’s raising this child. She has a daughter. The daughter doesn’t look exactly like her. Exactly like her (it is her biological child). I think she ought to have more care for her own offspring.


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