Thursday, March 09, 2006
Twenty kids, eleven moms, one dad
Eleven women having children with the same man....not through polygamy or promiscuity, but through the modern marvel of reproductive science.

Women who undergo artificial insemination typically choose from a large pool of anonymous sperm donors. General characteristics, like height or education, may be revealed, but that's about it.

Well, while reporting this story, we looked at a case in Virginia where one man's genetic profile has proven especially popular. He is said to be of German descent, tall and athletic, and is responsible for "fathering" as many as 20 children through 11 different women.

He chooses to remain anonymous, but the mothers have established an incredible connection to each other through a Web site called DonorSiblingRegistry.com. The site allows mothers who conceive children with donated sperm to connect with one another.

I spoke to several women who connected in this fashion. They have become fast friends, but perhaps more important, their kids have discovered they have brothers and sisters. To see the kids' photographs is striking, because of their resemblance to one another.

The moms are smart and highly educated. They aren't unusual but for the fact they all chose sperm from the same donor and have kids with a strong biological connection.

So are they all really members of the same family? Are these kids actually brothers and sisters in any meaningful sense? This is one of those assignments I'll be thinking about for a long time.
Posted By Dan Simon, CNN Correspondent: 2:57 PM ET
  63 Comments
It is stories like this which redefine the term "nuclear family," and at the same time, eliminate it from our vocabulary. It's refreshing to know that every family is different in their own unique ways.
Posted By Anonymous Amy, Fort Wayne, IN : 3:27 PM ET
I almost feel like these procedures rationalize polygamy. What's better? The man that has children with multiple women without being a father. Or the man who becomes a father to them all through polygamist marriage? Maybe I just think it's logical because I'm a man myself.
Posted By Anonymous Gary, Evanston, IL : 3:34 PM ET
Family is about relations. So are brothers and sisters. That man is merely a sperm donor; he's not those kids' father. Since those kids don't share the same parents, they can't be siblings in any meaningful or unmeaningful way. On the other hand, kids in adopted families are siblings even though they don't share the same biological traits.
Posted By Anonymous Grace, Santa Maria, CA : 3:36 PM ET
My partner and I are actually reconsidering known or unknown donor insemination for this exact reason. It's too overwhelming to have to think about your children having 20 siblings and not having any control over the people who come into your life. This actually really frightens me.
Posted By Anonymous Wendi, San Francisco, CA : 3:36 PM ET
I feel that they are brothers and sisters. Just because the donor doesn't have intimate relations with the ladies means nothing. All he provided was his sperm. Just like millions of men today where they "hook" up with women and to never have contact with them again, aka "one night stand". So if this man does this over and over then chances are he could have multiple children, from different ladies. They are all related. And they should all get in touch with each other too. I have a 16 year old daughter, who could have brothers and sisters, but we will never know, for we cannot locate her father. I do not agree with donating sperm at all. it's not fair to the child. I think it is a act of selfishness on both parties. I have seen my daughter feel complete sadness for not knowing her real father. And it is not her fault. Just like all the other children out there whos mother chooses not to be with a man and do what is the natural and right way to conceive a child. What is our world going to be like in 10, 20 or even 30 years from now with millions of children living without having a relationship with their biologial father's? Will they feel like they are meant to be ?
Posted By Anonymous Josie, San Francisco, Ca : 3:37 PM ET
Very dangerous because two of those kids may marry without knowing they have the same father ....
Posted By Anonymous Deborah, Sunland, CA : 3:45 PM ET
I am a child suport enforcement officer and I thought by the title of this blog that you were referring to one of my clients!
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer, Pittsburgh PA : 3:47 PM ET
Yes, they are of the same family in the clinical and biological sense of the word. Good move on the part of the mothers to get in touch and keep in touch. With the world getting much smaller in this electronic age it is a good thing to know who you are related to when you choose a spouse.
Posted By Anonymous Margie, Providence RI : 3:52 PM ET
It totally ruins the very definition of a family. I could not live with myself if I couldn't live with my children when they are growing up.
Posted By Anonymous Essvee, Portland, OR : 3:53 PM ET
Besides the the fact that these families are realizing their dreams of having a family, there is the advantage of having a pool of possible matching blood, heart and liver donors, if necessary.
Posted By Anonymous Bushy, Washington D.C. : 3:53 PM ET
There really isn't a discussion if they are half brother or half sister in the biological sense. They share half their DNA. If one of the boys meets one of his half sisters (Unknown to them that they are related) and reproduce, the risk of the offspring displaying genetic defects goes way up (one of the reasons incest is not done frequently in all species). This is a problem if the 20 siblings are in the same area.
Posted By Anonymous Jeff, Washington DC : 3:54 PM ET
Being a sperm donor in my opinion is a wonderful thing. There are many families out there that cannot concieve and use this is a resource. That said, I think they are brother and sister. What as human beings makes us family? It is our genes, therefor, wouldnt these children be related. Lets put a positive spin on the marvels of science rather than always looking for the negative. Let us be human to one another no matter who our fathers are.
Posted By Anonymous Lady Jane, Buffalo Minnesota : 3:57 PM ET
How interesting - it would be great to see photos of the children to see how much of their "sperm donor" father they are alike.
Posted By Anonymous Barbara, Houston, Texas : 4:01 PM ET
society is extremely confusing today. It is hard enough to have a normal functioning family with the pressures that are put upon us. I agree with sperm donation but I do not think it wise to treat these other offspring as siblings. Let each family become a unit and maybe that mother will have a man who will treat her child as his own and become a whole unit.
Posted By Anonymous L Holmes, West Palm Beach, FL : 4:02 PM ET
This is some more food for thought about sperm banks and how different it can be from artificial insemination.
While it gives a chance to women it can also be pretty unfair to the kids. Knowing their 'siblings' as in this instance gives an additional sense of family but what if as grownups they want to know their 'father' who prefers to remain anon ?
Articles like this help us know many facts which otherwise would have surfaced only later.
KUDOS
Posted By Anonymous Dinesh, Lyndhurst, NJ : 4:03 PM ET
They may be biological relatives.. but until a meaningful conection is made, they would be nothing but strangers.

Sharing DNA is not a prerequsite for being a family.

I myself call my non-exsistant father a sperm donor. since he got my mother pregnant then walked away. He is nothing more. He may share a gene or two with me. But thats it. He is nothing more.
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Baltimore, MD. : 4:08 PM ET
Most men are able to father a child, even by "remote control" or artificial insemination. Not every man is able or willing to be a dad. We all have had a biological father, but we who are truely blessed have also had a dad. These kids are bothers and sisters and I would hope that they are able to interact with each other as such. The logistics of the whole thing gives me a headache.
Posted By Anonymous Craig, Tustin, CA : 4:09 PM ET
A true modern world matrix ! We have regulated ourselves into a swirl. First we outlawed polygamy and licensed divorce into normality. I once sat with some friends over thanksgiving las November to learn that a girl I had met on the internet and talked to for well over 5 months was a 2nd generation counsin from my mother's... capitalism has nailed that part of extended family nexus to rest. Thank you so much for brnging this issue up - maybe what is needed is another regulation: each couple wanting to go through this process perhaps should know more about the sample being used and how many times it has been succesfully used to reproduce and perhaps more details about the offsprings of earlier samples. Imagine sleeping with your biological sister or brother just because of a medical gap in communication!
Posted By Anonymous Charles, O. C.; Athens GA : 4:09 PM ET
I once considered artificial insemination and eventually adopted in an open adoption. This experience has changed my perspective considerably. I have worked hard to establish contact with my daughter's biological siblings, because I believe the time will come when she will want to understand her origins. While I am her true parent, I can't presume to control the importance she may or may not give to biological connections in her life. I think it's great these women have found a way to give their kids access to more information about their identities.
Posted By Anonymous Laurie, Cambridge, MA : 4:10 PM ET
I came to be through artificial insemination because my father could not have any children. Notice I said father because even though I did not come from his sperm I never thought twice about him being my father. I was told I was artificial inseminated when i was 12 and even then it didn't bother me, I actually thought it was kind of cool. To those who oppose artificial insemination and think its wrong: Thanks for not wanting me here b/c with out artificial insemination I would never have been born.
Posted By Anonymous Josh Conway, Arkansas : 4:11 PM ET
It just surprises me that people aren't freaked out by this - the possibility of brother and sisters marrying without even knowing it - that's disgusting and unnatural. Having children this way is unnatural.
Posted By Anonymous RS, Michigan : 4:13 PM ET
What about a child having a Father? (not in the biological sence, but in the parenting one) Do these children have a Mother and a Father at home, or are these just Women getting pregnant and being single moms? The fact that this isn't even mentioned is troubling. Kids are better off with 2 parents (and yes, they should be different sexes). You wonder why our society is going to hell in a handbasket?
Posted By Anonymous JLM, SLC, UT : 4:15 PM ET
What a mess! Why would "highly educated women" do this to their children? I guess these women have have little common sense or spiritual background.. I feel very badly for these children, they are probably going to have some issues, due to these women's irresponable reproductive decisions.
Posted By Anonymous Madelin - Santa Ana, Ca. : 4:17 PM ET
Risky business. Sperm-donors should have a limited number of donations to prevent 20 women from selecting that same sperm. Although this donor is not a 'father' in the full sense of the word, its a question of how do the offsring realise they share the same DNA before something really horrific happens. Not to mention, we dont need any one donor cornering the maket, mass producing his DNA based off a profile to create a specific rational profile.
Posted By Anonymous Larissa, Charlotte, NC : 4:18 PM ET
I have a son through insemination from an "open donor. This means that the donor agrees that my son can contact him when my son reaches the age of 18 (if he is curious to meet his biological father--a choice that will be completely up to him). I understand that there are multiple perspectives on this issue, but what I can tell you is that my son has all of the love, care, and advantages that I can possibly give to him, and he is a happy little guy. Finding his potential "siblings" and/or "father" are issues that we will handle when he is old enough, and again, we will follow his lead and love him no matter how he decides to handle these issues.
Posted By Anonymous Mary, Boston, Ma : 4:19 PM ET
This is great that the women are intelligent, the male strong, athletic, gorgeous, intelligent, all blond and blue eye's..BUT, I adore "BUT's" How many more children out there are there ? This can cause a problem genetically by in-breeding accidentally, not knowing each other. This has happened with adopted siblings.has happened with Dogs and cats. THINK ABOUT IT! What is science thinking by using one vile or a couple of one males sperm to impregnate many females? More than a moral issue here, but a medical issue , as this can cause defects down the road with these children; has anyone thought of this, yet? The clinic who did this, or any facility that does this practice should be closed down and probably brought to court / reprimanded. The gentleman, while being a STUD, would be asked NOT to donate his sperm to anyone anymore. For the safety of all human intelligence on this planet.

Shawny P. Romarine * In Kirkland,Wa.
Posted By Anonymous Shawn L. Pastore Romarine Kirkland, wa. 98034 : 4:20 PM ET
And there sit all the children who need to be adopted.
We in this world are not perfect so why create that perfect child? Help those who are already in need of mommies and daddies.
Posted By Anonymous Shari Panama City Beach, Florida : 4:25 PM ET
You ask -"...are they all really members of the same family?" I should hope that none of them would meet, fall in love, and decide to create another generation - together! What a risky way to get an answer to your question.
Posted By Anonymous LC in Hot Springs, AR : 4:26 PM ET
There are already millions of children living without their fathers. Men and women continue to make mistakes in developing relationships and ending them with little regard for the innocent children who might be born of those relationships. That said, the children in this "family" are unique in the fact that they KNOW the others are out there. Their mothers have proven to be mature and pragmatic in their decision to utilize donated sperm in their quests for children. There is no chance that these children might "accidentally" hook up later in life because their mothers are establishing the bonds of a familial relationship and saying "hey you have brothers and sisters out there!" I only wish my philandering ex-husband cared as much. My children have numerous siblings that we are aware of via the rumor mill but have no definite knowledge of. That is a situation in which the dangers of incest (intentional or not) become more apparent. Kudos to those moms for putting their children first!
Posted By Anonymous Diana, Odessa, Texas : 4:27 PM ET
What a tragedy... makes you wonder about the emptiness these mothers must feel - so strong that they felt it necessary to connect with others who did the same. As wonderful as it is to help give life and despite the positive aspects of sperm donation it must be very diffcicult to cope with the notion that you and your loved ones share genetic traits with other people that don't really form part of your family. Even if strong bonds are developed their paths can never truly match the essence of what it means to be family.
Posted By Anonymous John, Norfolk Virginia. : 4:28 PM ET
On the one hand it's almost creepy that there could be an unknown number of "half-siblings" conceived in this manner.
On the other hand, it's a marvelous opportunity for people to have children when they otherwise would be deprived of the concomitant joys and headaches involved. I applaud these women for their honest and straightforward approach to parenting in our "brave new world".
Posted By Anonymous Deb, Richmond VA : 4:30 PM ET
It makes me sad for these children. I can't imagine the identity issues they will face as teens and adults. It's a very distored image of a family. God designed marrige and families for a specific purpose -- a mother and father raising children under one roof to love, support, and teach them about themselves and their place in the world. How can we expect America to have healthy families and thus responsible citizens when the beautiful act of procreation between a man and woman is artificially created and intentionally divided?
Posted By Anonymous Jessica, Miami, FL : 4:37 PM ET
They are definitely siblings because of their DNA. They must know who their siblings are so they will not accidentally marry one another. Each sperm donor should have a maximum number of recipients allowed (perhaps 2).
Posted By Anonymous Jen, New York, NY : 4:42 PM ET
I will be undergoing Artificial Insemination in two weeks for the first time. My partner and I will be using anonymous donor sperm (yes, my partner is also female). The idea of having an unknown father of our child does not bother us because our child will have two loving parents at home, and we feel the sex of those parents is secondary to the love they provide for a child.

We also are not concerend with the number of possible half-siblings out there who will have the same donor because any man who chooses to have frequent one-night stands could have just as many children as a sperm donor. This is not unique to sperm donation.
Posted By Anonymous Teresa La Crosse, WI : 4:43 PM ET
If they feel they are family, then they are family. How many of us had aunts or uncles who actually were just good friends of our parents, but never knew the difference, and didn't care after we found out the real relationship?
Posted By Anonymous JL Sigman, Columbia, SC : 4:43 PM ET
CNN needs to investigate these sperm banks. We are finding cases where they sell the sperm to another bank and then change the donor id number.
Posted By Anonymous pat, omaha ne : 4:45 PM ET
Gooood issue! Wow! Too many issues to address. I think it's another example of "Too Much Freedom" in our society. Individuals' rights rule above all else (the many, the group). As many commentors responded, how are the kids potentially going to feel, emotionally, about not having a "father" in their life?? Are these women "selfish" in this regard?! Good question(s)...
Posted By Anonymous Sam, Sacramento, California : 4:46 PM ET
There are so many children that need homes, loving parents, a warm environment. These sperm are being handed out like candy when these children who are already born have no family to go to. We keep creating more to take care of when we already have too many who are not taken care of.
Posted By Anonymous Julie, Lincoln Park, MI : 4:46 PM ET
I see this situation as demonstrative of the increasingly frequent clash between Science and Ethics. Although science provides the viability of artificial insemination by anonymous donated sperm, the ethical implications are considerable. To me, adoption is the ethical alternative. If a couple are unable to have children because the husband has infertility issues (e.g. motility), an adoption provides a child for the couple to love and cherish. And, it provides a parentless child an opportunity to have a family. In the case of single female, my personal ethical viewpoint is that a child is best reared by a mother and father, so marriage should to a loving husband and potential father is best (and refer back to adoption above if the husband is infertile). The ability for a single heterosexual female or a homosexual female couple to be able to procreate artificially is unethical in my view. Why? In the case of a single female, it is a fairly selfish act to me, to intentionally deprive a child of a father. In the case of a homosexual female couple, it is simply a further demonstration of the unnaturalness of their relationship. I'm sure those comments will bring the extremists out in full force, but absolutely no one can ever deny that whether humanity is evolved or created, procreation is meant to occur between a man and a woman. Not a test tube, not by artificial insemination using anonymously donated sperm. To me, the closest ethical use of artificial insemination is for a heterosexual couple using the husband's sperm, if the natural method does not work for some reason. There are my thoughts. Thanks for the interesting report.
Posted By Anonymous Morgan, Reynoldsburg, OH : 4:47 PM ET
I agree with the other bloggers that it is important for the paternity data to be shared for several obvious reasons.
Posted By Anonymous AG, Shreveport, LA : 4:48 PM ET
My husband and I considered artificial insemination in trying to become parents. However, we chose the adoption route. I completely support the concept of donor sperm and donor egg for this very reason. There are those of us who cannot conceive children through what others determine 'the natural way' therefore in order to become parents, we do what is necessary and what is afforded us via science. The idea that it is not fair to the child is preprosterous and selfish on the part of the donor sperm or egg. By them donating, it allows some of us who cannot get pregnant the ability to have a child that many women and men take for granted that they can get pregnant and have a 'family' in the conservative biblical sense of the word.

This is no different than the fact that my adopted son has 2 full siblings by blood and 1 1/2 sibling by blood from his birth father. He has biological siblings out there somewhere. Once he gets old enough, he is more than welcome to search for them along with his birth parents. However, we are his family in every sense of the word, just as these mothers and children are family, siblings.. in every sense of the word.
Posted By Anonymous Shannon, Pottstown, PA : 4:54 PM ET
Nothing like creating a less diverse gene pool with the same donor.
Posted By Anonymous Mark, shreveport, LA : 4:56 PM ET
they should throw away the sperm after the first use
Posted By Anonymous Chaol, Atlanta, GA : 4:57 PM ET
Yes they are of the same family and the same blood. God bless and keep them safe.
Posted By Anonymous Sonia Morristown NJ : 4:58 PM ET
I think it is great that these ladies are making contact while the children are young. They will probably think of each other more as distant relatives than siblings as they mature into teenagers. This will hopefully prevent them from accidently dating in the future. I would love to see the follow-up story in 20 years to see how the children, primarily raised by single women, turned out. My guess is, pretty great.
Posted By Anonymous Jo, Tulsa Okla : 5:00 PM ET
it takes more than just blood to be a brother and/or sister. Family is more than sperm. It all dpeeneds on how these women allow the children to interact with eachother growing up. I do think it was foolish of the sperm facility to allow this many children by the same man. we have enough of that on Jerry Springer much less in real life.
Posted By Anonymous leigh, kenosha wi : 5:00 PM ET
How can a women looking for a donor truly know that the descriptions one gives are accurate? I could say I'm 6'3", great looking, have a nobel prize in astrophysics, and won the heisman trophy and women would think they were actually getting those "traits" when I'm 5'4" overweight, smoker and dropped out of high school because of a drug addiction.
Posted By Anonymous Jimmy, Washington DC : 5:00 PM ET
A few years ago, I accidentally met a young lady who turned out to be my sister on my fathers side. We were in our 20's at the time. If I were a man and started dating this woman, that would have been a problem. Same thing can happen to these kids. Maybe sperm donor selection should be limited.
Posted By Anonymous R.Smith, Los Angeles, CA : 5:03 PM ET
A Resounding YES. Who cares about blood ties and weddings. These children found each other through their mothers. Whats in their hearts is all that matters.
Posted By Anonymous S Taylor Rio Vista California : 5:07 PM ET
I see science is still trying to replace God. Those women don't seem too intelligent to me. How despising that humans have come to this
Posted By Anonymous Diane in Dallas : 5:14 PM ET
With so many orphaned children in this world, I would like to see more of the people opting to have biological children through sperm donation choose adoption. But everyone is different and their choices should be respected.

There is only one definition for a family and that is a group of people, living together, and bound to each other through love.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 5:16 PM ET
They are biological siblings but nothing more than merely that. Biologically relations are pretty much meaningless without the connection of having been raised together. Its a curiosity for sure, but to call these kids siblings is almost repulsive.

How do you think the adoptive fathers feel about this pseudo relationships that these birth mothers are pursuing and nurturing? Why these mothers can't be mature enough to understand that the real heart of a relationship is Love and not some gene pool.
Posted By Anonymous Mark from Albany, NY : 5:17 PM ET
I also came to be through artificial insemination because my father could not have any children. I also say father because he was there for me in every sense of the word BUT the man who I am made of is much more than a mere sperm donor. He is also my father and I am deeply saddened that I can never know him. I wouldn't have been born without him, he is a part of me and that is why he is so important. Anonymous sperm donation should not be an option on the infertility treatment menu.
Posted By Anonymous Ann, New York, NY : 5:17 PM ET
It's so easy for human being to distort the purpose of sex. Now, no one needs to have sex to have a baby, as they can do so through artificial insemination. On the other hand, they can have all the sex they want without having a single baby through contraceptives of all kind.
No wonder we see so many emotionally detached family where the parent cannot really bond with the child and the child growing up wishes he or she will not have any of his or her own. It's getting tougher and more decision to make to be a human being. Not only you have to be ready for a marriage, you need to be ready to be a parent.
Posted By Anonymous Willie, Short Hills, NJ : 5:21 PM ET
My partner and I were discussing this very subject just a week ago or so. This kind of thing bothers me. I've talked her into adopting, but she wants at least one biological child.

As far as this (breakdown of the family unit as some would say) being a disturbing trend in society, I'm not too worried. You have just as many good or bad people that come out of broken/non-traditional families as do you have good or bad people that come from perfectly normal families. The numbers speak for themselves.

Society will continue to adapt as it always has.
Posted By Anonymous Kris - Houston, Tx : 5:23 PM ET
This man has acheived an ultimate status in evolutionary terms. He has effectively propagated his genes into the pool while imposing very little to no effort or risk. This strategy has allowed his children (genes) to be very well protected and taken care of. Women who undergo these procedures are generally well educated and financially stable. Additioanlly these women will probably exspend a great deal of energy, effort, and risk raising these children while he does not.
Posted By Anonymous Jeff Dunnman, SLC, Utah : 5:24 PM ET
I see repeated comments about the possibility of these genetically connected "siblings" possibly meeting, falling in love and wanting kids of their own. Don't you think that if two people are in that sort of relationship there is a good possibility that they would know that they were each conceived with unknown donor sperm? The genetic screening available today and simply knowing which bank the sperm came from would help to identify or eliminate the risks.

Having the sibling registry is wonderful for the women and their children if for no other reason than to have a way to connect in case of medical emergencies.

Congrats and good luck to all of the wonderful women who have had the courage to do this and the men who have donated a bit of themselves to help these women out.
Posted By Anonymous M. Bishop, Bethesda MD : 5:31 PM ET
No ones mentioned it so I'll toss it out. In my opinion guys go to donate sperm for 2 reasons 1.)arrogance - the world should have more of his genetics out there or more commonly 2.) Money.

Usually these clinics offer $1-200 per sample. Depending on the location and how many clinics are in the area he could have submitted multiple samples. This story only deals with the mothers who selected his sample from one clinic. How many other children are out there from this gentleman that don't even know about these 20? 50, 75, 100+?
Posted By Anonymous Chris W. dallas Tx : 5:41 PM ET
There seems to be a lot of concern about inbreeding, but those of us who have utilized sperm banks mostly have made the decision to be open to our children about their origins, and hope that future partners will have knowledge if they too were conceived in this manner. My daughter is loved so much, and no one can tell me she will be deprived of a father. She has male role models and lots of friends, and she will never know she is different, as I am going to expose her to all sorts of family types. Family, as in 2 or more people who love each other.
Posted By Anonymous Debby, Portland, OR : 5:44 PM ET
What a great story! The networking these mothers have done is incredible. Maybe this example could be used as a model for the future.
It seems that many people out there have ethical issues with AI, but I for one think it's a true testament of how wonderfully intelligent human beings are, and how we are constantly evolving and customizing our existence.
Reproduction merely cuts to the core of genetic fitness. So this guy has 20 kids--he's done his biological job by passing on his genes.
The mothers, on the other hand, have brought humanity into the situation by creating family groups, yet also passing on their genes.
In the "off" chance that half siblings would meet, fall in love and marry, let's not forget the fact that not so many generations ago, marrying within one's own family was common practice. Somehow we all made it from here to there, and look what we're doing now.
Incredible!
Posted By Anonymous Matthew, Tucson, AZ : 5:44 PM ET
They selected someone who "is said to be of German descent, tall and athletic...." Sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it?
Posted By Anonymous Marie, Harrisburg, PA : 5:46 PM ET
Does anyone ever request "Short and lethargic"
Posted By Anonymous Sonny, Canton, Mi : 1:27 AM ET
My mother always told me "blood is thicker than water".
Posted By Anonymous Paige Els, Spring Texas : 10:21 AM ET
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