Several years ago I got a call from the long-time co-founder of California Cryobank (CCB), gently and intelligently “checking me out” as an educational partner in his attempt to help his colleagues in the sperm bank industry understand why some policies needed to change.
Since then Charles Sims has continued to impress me as someone who does indeed care about the ethics involved in an industry that once upon a time for him was simply a great new medical frontier, enabling married couples in the 1970s to build families when the husband’s sperm was not able to fertilize a wife’s egg.
California Cryobank was once a company used only by married couples, who largely vowed never to tell their child the truth of their genetic make-up. It now finds half of its business is with lesbian couples and single women. Dr. Sims and I have had many conversations over time, and one of the prevailing topics has been about the ethics involved in giving offspring the right to information about who they are genetically. He understands why offspring might want to know more about the man who donated the sperm, and has tried to impress upon his colleagues the safe ways to help make that happen.
Choice Moms obviously raise children who know from the start that someone else was part of their creation story, and they are naturally curious about who that was. We are increasingly turning to sperm banks, like The Sperm Bank of California and California Cryobank, who offer open-identity donors that agree to be contacted by offspring after they turn 18.
CCB’s open-identity donor program is new enough that not many of its offspring are old enough yet to make contact. It remains to be seen how many of them want to make contact, and how well they are able to do so through CCB channels.
Limitations on offspring born to one donor…authentic medical information from a donor, generally college-aged at the time of donation…honest disclosure to families when a donor is found to have a rare genetic condition…contact with a donor after offspring are adults (or even before, in the case of those who mutually make contact via Donor Sibling Registry). These are all extremely important ethical frontiers.
Thus far, Dr. Sims is one of the few sperm bank directors I trust enough that I recommend his sperm bank and imply endorsement by accepting their sponsorship of Choice Mom resources. (Alice Ruby at non-profit The Sperm Bank of California is another). In kind, I’ve heard that Dr. Sims has recommended my “Choosing Single Motherhood” book to others, which one mental health counselor said was an endorsement that carried weight for her.
Over the years I have become very familiar with members of the California Cryobank staff as well, including marketing director Carla, who is on the verge of becoming a Choice Mom after years of attending Choice Mom events as a sponsor. Carla was the one who convinced her employers to invest in Choice Mom resources and more than anyone, has single-handedly enabled me to expand the workshop offerings and website resources that I offer here for free.
I am obviously very grateful to California Cryobank for its support over the past five years. I am careful about “who I get in bed with,” since the integrity of the services and products discussed on ChoiceMoms.org is essential to our trust as a community. I will never advise women which sperm bank to choose, but I am happy to include California Cryobank as one resource for women to consider.