News Flash: You’re Not a Donor If You Get Paid

D. Phillips Science Library

Imagine you’re dropping off a bag of clothes at Goodwill. The attendant says, “Would you like cash or a check?”

Wait. That’s not what happens. The employee who helps unload your car says, “Would you like a receipt?” because this is a tax-deductible donation, meaning the giver receives no monetary compensation. We all get the concept, right?

Even if you donate an expensive vehicle, or go to a lot of effort cleaning out your house, or give a kidney, you are not financially compensated. Because if you were, it would no longer be a true gift. It would be payment for services rendered.

We donate blood because it’s a needed service. Hospitals need it for transfusions. You could literally be saving someone’s life. A trip to a blood bank or plasma center takes a little over an hour. The process is nearly identical. But while giving blood earns you juice and a cookie, “plassing” (regular plasma extraction) can net $60/week, if you go twice weekly. Giving plasma at a Red Cross center is allowed only once a week but selling it to a for-profit has different safety rules:

The twisted business of donating plasma

The lower the standards, the more money to be made. And in the current economy, there is more incentive than ever to justify selling biological products for cash:

How much can I earn by selling my body (parts)?
I donated my eggs to travel the world

Sometimes, it’s just renting your body:

Surrogacy Source~ Costs


But let’s face it. If there is money involved, no matter what the money is supposedly for, the transaction is not a donation. Semantics? If you go on a date and have consensual sex, that’s called a relationship. Pay your date and it’s prostitution. It’s not called “a sex donation”. You are either paying for, or being paid for, sex. Hookers and johns are generally looked down upon, even though the world’s oldest profession is utilized by millions every day. The Chinese may have euphemistically called them “daughters of joy” but no one claimed they were “selfless givers of the act of love”.

“Sperm donor” has a negative connotation. The term is often leveled at deadbeat dads who owe child support. It reduces their contribution to “only” the biological, yet thousands are seemingly desperate for their services.

I am a married father…and a sperm donor

A “donor”, who made the down payment on his first house with the money received from jacking off once a week for six months. How altruistic. How might his little swimmers feel in 20 or 30 years?

“It’s a transferring of loss. The parents are pursuing this” (conceiving a child) “and by going through anonymous donation, they get their dream of parenthood. But then that loss is just transferred to us.” (Kathleen LaBounty, conceived by anonymous sperm donation in 1981 ~ Houston Press)

While thousands of “donor babies” have not searched, thousands of others have. Many have been reunited, if not with their biological father then with some of their half-siblings, who could number in the hundreds if their bio-father was a frequent donor. But like “surrogate” is a misnomer, so is “donor”.  As Ms LaBounty told an Infertility Network symposium in Canada: “They’re not “donors” — there’s no donation going on here. There’s a sale of goods, and it’s not relatively benign, like giving blood. It’s not sustaining life — it’s creating it.”

Besides the male contributors, we have genetic mothers — egg sellers — who are not necessarily the same as the gestational mothers, with the misnomer of “surrogate”. The actual surrogate would be the adoptive mother, but society (and the Adoption Industry) would not think of reducing the buyer to such a level. We have to keep the customers happy. So now we have “snowflake adoption” where leftover embryos from IVF procedures are offered up to potential adoptive parents, again for a price.

“Donor conceived children” are like adoptees in that they are expected to be grateful. They were not only chosen, they were deliberately created, at a great cost.

And that is the crux. Deliberately making babies for others is a calculated decision, not a donation, not a charitable act. As long as money is involved, it will be a suspect and tainted business. And no amount of pretty misnomers can alter that reality.

Elle Cuardaigh is author of The Tangled Red Thread.

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