12.19.2009

Genetic Lessons from a Prolific Sperm Donor

The ethical consequences of sperm donation and IVF catch up with a donor, from a recent Newsweek post.
It's a crisp fall day in Northville, Mich., a small suburb of Ann Arbor, and Kirk Maxey, a soft-spoken, graying baby boomer with a classic square jaw, is watching his 12-year-old son chase a soccer ball toward the goal. Maxey is doing what he does every Saturday, along with hundreds of other family men and women across the country, but he's not your average soccer dad. Maxey, 51, happens to be one of the most prolific sperm donors in the country. Between 1980 and 1994, he donated at a Michigan clinic twice a week. He's looked at the records of his donations, multiplied by the number of individual vials each donation produced, and estimated the success of each vial resulting in a pregnancy. By his own calculations, he concluded that he is the biological father of nearly 400 children, spread across the state and possibly the country.
When Maxey was a medical student at the University of Michigan, his first wife, a nurse at a fertility clinic, persuaded him to start donating sperm to infertile couples. Maxey became the go-to stud for the clinic because his sperm had a high success rate of making women pregnant, which brought in good money for the clinic. Maxey himself made about $20 a donation, but says he was motivated to donate more out of a strong paternal instinct and sense of altruism. "I loved having kids, and to have these women doomed to wandering around with no family didn't seem right, and it's easy to come up with a semen donation," he says. "You would get a personal phone call from a nurse saying, 'The situation is urgent! We have a woman ovulating this morning. Can you be here in a half hour?'"
Maxey, now the CEO of Cayman Chemical, a 300-person global pharmaceutical company, says back then he just "didn't think about it a lot." He didn't have to. When he began volunteering, he wasn't asked to take any genetic tests and received no psychological screening or counseling. He merely signed a waiver of anonymity, locked himself in a room with a cup and a sexy magazine, and didn't consider the emotional or genetic consequences for another 30 years. Both his cavalier attitude and the clinic's lax standards, Maxey says, explain why he may have so many offspring. But now a fierce conscience is catching with his robust procreative drive. When he's not running his company, Maxey has become a devoted advocate for better government regulation of the sperm-donor business. He is also making his genome public through Harvard's Personal Genome Project, and hopes that the information collected there might one day help his offspring and their mothers. "I think it was quite reckless that sperm banks created so many offspring without keeping track of their or my health status," he says. "Since there could be [many families] that could have to know information about my health, this is my effort to correct the wrong."
via Genetic Lessons from a Prolific Sperm Donor

12.14.2009

The Road to Hitler Was Paved With Abortions (and Contraception)



See http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?did=1209-gardiner for the full review of Cultures of Abortion in Weimar Germany. By Cornelie Usborne. Berghahn Books. 284 pages. $90.

The following is an excerpt:
In her research for Cultures of Abortion, Cornelie Usborne examined literary works, movies, trial documents, medical records, social workers' notes, police interviews, and newspapers from the years of the Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. She consulted archives both in Protestant Prussia and Saxony and in Catholic Bavaria and the Prussian Rhineland. Although she is pro-abortion and thinks reality is "socially constructed," her research is valuable because it shows how the groundwork for Adolf Hitler's eugenic-abortion policies was laid.

But even before abortion was an issue, contraception was "big business" in Germany prior to World War I, due to "Neomalthusian propaganda." In 1913 Max Marcuse interviewed 100 women in Berlin and found that all but three used contraceptives — forty of them also admitted to having had "one or several abortions." In 1914 Oskar Polano interviewed 500 women in W├╝rzburg and found that 81 percent of the wives of civil servants and 72 percent of the wives of workers used contraceptives. No surprise then that in 1927 the law was changed to allow contraceptives to be advertised, though some of these, like the uterine coil, were also abortifacient.

A steep decline in the population was inevitable: those who married before 1905 averaged 4.7 children per family; those who married in 1925-1929, only two. The top civil servants who married before 1905 averaged 3.5 children; those who married in 1925-1929, only 1.6. In Protestant Ohren in 1910, 389 villagers had 86 children in school; in 1925, 382 villagers had only 36. Two million men had died in the trenches in World War I, yet in 1919 a feminist hailed the decline in the birthrate as "the greatest, non-violent revolution" achieved by women, one that gave them "control of life." No wonder the Weimar Republic was distinguished by "the lowest birth rate in the Western world." With this fall in birthrate came "a new hedonism in women's sexuality."

Contraception, of course, was not foolproof, so abortions multiplied and "official disapproval" of them faltered. In 1917 new guidelines set forth by the Reich Health Council allowed abortions "on the strictest health grounds," only if approved by two doctors. In 1926 the law on abortions was mollified, and in 1927 the Supreme Court allowed doctors to perform "therapeutic" abortions. German law on abortion became "one of the most liberal in the world" because doctors could easily convince officials that any abortion was necessary for "health" reasons.

Men find it hard to look evil in the eye and call it by its true name. It was no different in early 20th-century Germany, where women spoke of the need to "curb coercive procreation" by legalizing abortion. Coercive here meant having to bear to term a child who was already in the womb.

* * *


12.10.2009

You Big Fundamentalist Churches with all your Darn Kids are Ruining the World for the Rest of Us

This article at the Financial Post left me completely slack-jawed.

Readers of this blog need no convincing that the population scare is mere myth. But feel free to suggest other policies from China that would work on a global scale as well. Judging by the the author's thoroughly thoughtful article, Chinese suppression of information is off the table since it's already been implemented. Freedom from religion, a vital component of any "healthy" regime, is also not open to discussion, since it would have to come along with a global one-child policy. Er, I guess state-sponsored abortion would also be necessary, since we can't get people to stop having sex merely by telling them to limit their progeny to half the number of people required to reproduce. Hm. So what's left? Replacing "In God we Trust" on our currency with "Psalm 137:9"?

12.07.2009

Defusing the Population Bomb



Listen to "Defusing the Population Bomb", available at Catholic Answers at http://www.catholic.com/radio/calendar.php, which originally aired on Friday, December 4 at 3:00 p.m. ET.