Journal Article

Identity, Genealogy and the Social Family: The Case of Donor Insemination

Sarah Wilson

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 11, issue 2, pages 270-297
Published in print August 1997 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online August 1997 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
Identity, Genealogy and the Social Family: The Case of Donor Insemination

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In this paper I discuss whether or not biographical information concerning the sperm donor should be disclosed to children conceived through donor insemination. Policies of disclosure for example in the context of adoption, have been justified on the basis of a notion of identity which emphasizes genetic ties. This notion of identity and the policies of disclosure of information concerning biological parents based on it, have been criticized by many writers, including feminists, as reinforcing explanations of human organization and development based on biological determinism rather than on ideas such as social construction. Further, this notion of identity is seen to emphasize the importance of genetic parenthood over the commitment involved in bringing up a child as a social parent. While agreeing with these criticisms of that particular notion of identity, I argue that the notion of identity as a whole should not be summarily rejected. Rather, it should be re-interpreted using a sociological approach incorporating the notion of narrative. This second narrative notion of identity is developed with reference to the situation of some groups of children, who like those born from donor insemination, generally do not have any knowledge of their biological parent[s], for example adoptees, the children of the disappeared in Argentina and child migrants. In this paper, policies of disclosure which allow these children to gain some knowledge of their biological parents are discussed in light of the two notions of identity. It is argued that disclosure may be justified on the basis of a narrative notion of identity. This allows for the justification of a policy of disclosure on grounds of identity which avoids the rigid dichotomy created between biological determinism and social construction: the importance of social parents to the child is emphasized, however the desire a child may have to know something about her or his biological parent is not denied or dismissed.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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