There’s a booming market for ‘free’ sperm donors online. Anyone moving forward with sperm donation using a free donor they met online needs a legal contract, drafted with the advice of an attorney, to ensure their parental rights are protected. Potential donors also need their own legal advice drafting a contract that ensures that they will not be on the hook for parental support of any offspring. In this post, we’ll discuss the risks and benefits of known sperm donation so you can make an informed choice.
Why (and How) Do People Find “Free” Sperm Donors?
Sperm banks are expensive. Depending on the bank you choose, a single vial can range from $800 – $1250 and most people will need to purchase several vials throughout their fertility journey. On the other hand, there’s lots of people out there with plenty of sperm and many are more than willing to ‘donate’ directly to intended parents. In addition to not paying for sperm, many people using these sites to find a donor also forgo the fertility clinic, opting instead for “At Home Insemination”.
Another advantage that some people see to connecting directly with a donor and cutting out the sperm bank as a middleman is the opportunity to know the identity of the sperm donor from before birth. Most sperm banks have standard practices of allowing disclosure to the child of a donor’s identity once the child turns 18. If you privately connect with a donor, though, you have the opportunity to know that identifying information from the beginning. There is also the possibility of being able to negotiate contact on an ongoing basis throughout childhood.
Often for free, these ‘known donors’ connect with recipient families online. Many people in the market for a free sperm donor use sites like:
- Just A Baby
- Known Donor Registry
- And of course, various Facebook groups
Safe(r), Known Sperm Donation Isn’t Free.
You might think that if you can find a ‘free’ sperm donor and do at home insemination, trying to conceive could be free. But it’s not. I won’t tell anyone how they should or should not find a donor, but I do want to ensure that you are aware of the risks and three ways that you can minimize them.
If you choose to use a sperm donor that you meet online, do not skip these 3 necessary expenses.
- Legal Advice (for You and the Donor)
- Medical Testing and Advice
- Donor Screening
Get Legal Advice
Get legal advice (for you and the donor) from a local, licensed attorney with experience in Assisted Reproductive Technologies. If you are in Illinois, send a message to get started. I offer sliding scale fees, so even if money is tight, proper legal advice should be within reach for you. If you live somewhere else, you can also reach out to me and I’ll be happy to provide you with a trusted referral in your state.
There’s lots of bad advice and misinformation floating around on the internet about legal implications for known sperm donation. The main thing for every person considering this route to know is that in the United States, parentage is determined based off of state law. That means that every state has it’s own statute the governs requirements for known sperm donation. The requirements vary drastically depending on what state you are in. Don’t believe me, here’s some examples:
- Some states (including Illinois) mandate that both donors and intended parents have independent legal advice. Others (like California) have a state form that donors and intended parents can use.
- Some states allow ‘artificial insemination’ to take place at home. Other states require that any insemination procedure be done by licensed medical professionals.
- States also may have their own court procedures which may be used (before or after birth) to establish parentage for intended parent(s) and disestablish parentage for donors.
There’s also a lot of misconceptions around birth certificates. Some people believe that it’s ‘good enough’ if they just don’t name the donor on the birth certificate. But that’s wrong. A birth certificate is an administrative document. It does not convey (or disestablish) parental rights and responsibilities. The only document that has the power to do that is a Court Order issued by a judge. Just because someone doesn’t name their sperm donor as a ‘father’ on the birth certificate does not mean that person can’t come back and file for custody or visitation of the child. It also doesn’t mean that they can’t be liable for child support.
When looking at donor profiles, you will see donors state how they intend to ‘donate’ to their recipients. They may list “AI” (artificial insemination), “PI” (partial intercourse), and “NI” (natural intercourse). Don’t be fooled. PI and NI are both just forms of sex. Men that will only do NI or PI are not donors at all because across the board, state statutes exclude conceptions occurring through sexual intercourse from the definition of assisted reproduction.
The only way to truly understand how to minimize the legal risks associated with known sperm donation is to hire counsel.
Using a ‘fresh’ donation from a sperm donor you met online carries with it a significant health risk. Please make sure you understand that risk and take the necessary steps to reduce it before you move forward. Talk to your own doctor about ways to protect yourself if you choose to take on this risk. You should also take steps to ensure that your donor has done recent STI testing and you receive a copy of the results.
Beyond STI testing, you want to think about the health of a future child. What is the sperm donor’s medical history? What about their family history? Consider both physical and mental health. Have you and the donor both done genetic testing so that you can minimize the risk of passing inheritable diseases? Note that I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. Talk to providers that you trust about the topics of STI prevention, fertility, pregnancy risks, and genetic counseling.
You also want to consider the how (and where) of the donation with safety in mind. The absolute safest way to do known sperm donation is to go through a clinic. The general process is that the donor will do STI testing at the time they provide the donation, the samples will be quarantined for 6 months and then STI testing will be repeated prior to the samples being released to you for use. Some clinics or cryobanks will allow you to waive the quarantine requirement. Even still, many people using ‘free’ known donors don’t consider this method. If you choose to forgo the clinic and do at-home insemination, consider how your physical safety in determining the logistics of the exchange.
If you choose to use a known donor instead of purchasing from a sperm bank, you are fully responsible for screening your own donor. Some donors lie with severe consequences. Consider a case from just a couple weeks ago in The Netherlands in which a donor fathered over 550 children and lied to prospective parents to persuade them to use him as their donor.
The lengths you choose to go to will, of course, be personal preference. However, think about what questions you want answered about the potential donor. They may include questions you have about why he wants to donate, his educational and employment history, past donations, plans for future donations, criminal history, romantic relationships, and anything else you find relevant. Best practice is not to take donors at their word. Take the time to investigate and verify the answers donors give you. This might involve running a background check, investigating the person’s online presence, talking to references, etc.
Get Your Known Donor Agreement
Pineapple Law, PLLC can help both known donors and intended parents understand the legal risks of known sperm donation. It can be a risky process for all involved and getting it right is critical. Hiring Pineapple Law, PLLC to draft your legal contract can help provide you with assurance that you are legally protected, while at the same time making family accessible to more families that need help. With Pineapple Law, you’ll have transparent, affordable help at a flat-rate.