ART’s ethical implications are not solely a religious issue, and “Anonymous Father’s Day” makes no explicit religious claims. But its promotion of heterosexual marriage attracts religious audiences, who oppose the reproductive alternatives ART facilitates.
Jennifer Lahl, the writer, director and producer behind the film, recently held back-to-back screenings in Washington, D.C., at the conservative Christian-focused Family Research Council and the Catholic Information Center. Lahl plans future showings at Christian institutions.
This is the second film on gamete donation by Lahl, founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture, a California-based nonprofit that studies beginning and end-of-life issues.
Though the center is not religiously affiliated, Lahl considers herself a “little’o’ Orthodox Christian,” and said faith can offer a strong basis for bioethical concerns.
“I think it naturally aligns for people of faith because we’re concerned about the embryo and the unborn,” said Lahl, a registered nurse. “We’re concerned about the barren womb, and life issues, and justice.”
Religious groups glom onto the controversy. Sperm donation allows single mothers, lesbian couples and unmarried couples to have children. And children that are born to married couples who use sperm donation have a different biological father than the one that raises them.
“There is a significant ethical problem — in terms of anonymous gamete donations — in terms of family structure,” said David Prentice, a senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council.
The council does not take a stand against in vitro fertilization per se. But Prentice says sperm donation raises the moral issue of respect for a child.
“We have a perspective that all human life should be treated with dignity,” he said. “The kids should be conceived in love because there’s a desire for them.”
But Scott Brown, director of communications at California Cryobank, said this is exactly how donor-conceived children are treated.
“What would be different than a single woman or a lesbian couple adopting a child versus creating a child from their own genetic material plus a donor?” he said.
“I think the parents that choose to use a sperm donor — whether they’re heterosexual, homosexual, or single — are more committed, more dedicated, and go through so much more emotional and financial strain to achieve their goal of parenthood than the average person who can just conceive naturally,” he said.
It’s unknown how many donor-conceived children are born in the United States each year, but 30-60,000 is a common estimate. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, more than 1 percent of children are born through ART, which includes in vitro fertilization without donor gametes.