Article, Artificial insemination, assisted conception unit, Baby, Choice mother, Choosing single motherhood, Conception, Cost of IVF, Denmark, Depression, Donor conception, Donor sperm, Female empowerment, Fertility, Fertility clinic, Finding the right sperm donor, How much does IVF cost, Infertility, Journalism, Knock yourself up, Newspaper article, NHS, NHS-funded sperm bank, Single mother by choice, Sperm bank, Sperm bank for lesbians, Sperm donor uk, Trying to conceive, Using a sperm bank, Where to find a sperm donor, Women's rights, Writer
The Mail on Sunday newspaper sank to a new low today. It skilfully managed to combine all three of its notorious characteristics – bias, bigotry and blatant ignorance – in a single article.
The headline was deliberately and maliciously tailored to incite hatred and whip up a scandal by demonising vulnerable women (lesbians and those who are single) who are in the sorry position of needing assistance in order to conceive. It read:
‘NHS to fund sperm bank for lesbians: New generation of fatherless families… paid for by YOU’ [sic – yes, it even included the childish capitalisation of the final word!]
Some people are fortunate enough to find a wonderful partner and start a family with ease. Others are not so lucky. Should they be forced to live a childless life?
As a solo mother by choice with a beautiful baby boy whom couldn’t be more loved, I was deeply saddened by the article and the mindless comments it provoked. Has human society not advanced to an intellectual level at which loving families of all kinds are accepted and valued? Have we learned nothing from the prejudices of the past?
To go through the process of conceiving solo, one has to climb enormous emotional, financial and physical mountains. With donor sperm IVF in the UK costing around £10,000 per attempt, it is the biggest financial gamble of one’s life. Most of Britain’s fertility clinics charge extortionate prices, preying on desperate women whom they know would sell both kidneys to raise the money for even the narrowest chance of a child. Women endure this alternative route to motherhood because of the enormous amount of love, dedication and care they have to offer a child. Because family and family values are important to them.
When I went through the conception journey two years ago I received no support whatsoever from the NHS and spent a large chunk of my life savings. I ended up so disgusted with the lack of help, lack of donor information and outrageous charges in the UK that I travelled to Denmark and underwent IVF in a clinic there. I used a Danish sperm bank that provided detailed information about the donor and offered reasonable charges. But not before considering risking my own life through using unregulated home insemination methods – a big regret but, at the time, I felt forced into the decision through UK clinic prices and lack of support.
On the use of NHS funding that could be spent elsewhere…
“The NHS should spend the money on cancer sufferers.” “The NHS is for the sick.” “Why should we pay for these selfish women?” – three of the comments made by members of the public. There will always be areas of NHS funding that someone, somewhere feels should be better allocated. Alcohol-related harm costs the tax payer £3.5 billion a year. Last year, total expenditure on NHS Stop Smoking Services was £87.7 million. Money spent on people who have wilfully and selfishly chosen to engage in acts that endanger themselves and others. And yet many are in uproar about a Government grant of £77,000 to subsidise a facility designed to help dedicated couples and individuals to create devoted families. As a tax payer (the majority of women using the sperm bank will also have worked and paid tax for many years) I am glad to see my money going towards this worthy cause.
I cannot overemphasise the misery of being alone (due to an inability to find the right partner or, in many cases, going through a divorce) and desperate for children just as one’s fertility is rapidly declining. I have been there; it’s life-destroying. If unsuccessful in conceiving a child, I am certain I would have added to the drain of £8.6 billion spent each year dealing with depression. The NHS is certainly for the sick but it also has a duty to promote mental wellbeing. Having a child is the only cure for the devastation of not having a child.
On the condemnation of ‘designer babies’…
Wanting to know something of the physical and intellectual characteristics of someone providing fifty percent of your child’s genetic make-up is perfectly understandable. It is very sad that such an act is tainted with the ‘designer baby’ brush. Surely we are ‘designing’ our perfect family when we choose a partner, based on the characteristics we like.
Single parent = unstable home?
The circumstance that causes most psychological damage to children is divorce (current rates just under 40%). Theoretically, a couple who choose to have a child is putting them at greater risk than a solo mother. Children of solo mums have been longed for and fought for. They are deeply loved and appreciated. Most grow up in stable, caring home environments, free from arguments and negativity.
The sperm bank service is a step in the right direction. It’s a shame that the article shows extreme bias, intent on scandalising the issue, and doesn’t represent the views of the loving families whose lives will be forever changed by the birth of a dearly wanted baby.
There is still a long way to go before single and lesbian women have equal rights in matters of assisted conception. We are all responsible for raising the next generation. I want to see that generation growing up in stable, loving homes with a parent or parents who have longed for them, are grateful for them and are now dedicated to their wellbeing and happiness.