Sperm and Egg Donor Anonymity image

Harvard Law School, April 28, 2015
I. Glenn Cohen (Faculty Director)


Download the Full Paper

Faculty Director I. Glenn Cohen has authored a new paper on gamete (sperm and egg) donor anonymity in Oxford Handbook of Reproductive Ethics (Leslie Francis ed., Oxford University Press, 2015, Forthcoming.


Gamete (sperm and egg) donor anonymity has become an increasingly active area of legislative, bioethical, and empirical interest over the last decade or so. This chapter reviews and discusses these developments. The initial jumping off point is the very different status of gamete donor anonymity, contrasting the U.S. (where the law does not prohibit it) with the rest of the world (where it has been largely prohibited by law) and examining the effects of these policies.

While I focus primarily on sperm donor anonymity in this chapter, it is worth emphasizing that most of the legal materials, as well as the ethical arguments, apply equally to egg donors.

The chapter unfolds as follows: Part I describes the widespread adoption of legal prohibitions on sperm donor anonymity in most developed countries other than the United States. It also examines the effects these changes in law have had on supply. Part II examines the United States, where there is largely no legal prohibition on sperm donor anonymity. As this Part shows, though, many donor-conceived children have turned to non-legal means to try to ascertain the identity of their donor. Part III examines the big ethical debate in this area head on – should the state legally prohibit sperm donor anonymity and require that all sperm donors put their identifying information into a registry available to donor-conceived children at a specified age? Part IV considers some peripheral debates relating to accidental incest, whether sperm donors should have rights to identify their genetic offspring and not only the converse, the interplay between compensation for sperm and egg and anonymity, and issues posed by "circumvention tourism" – travel abroad to avoid domestic law about anonymity.

Download the full piece!

bioethics health law policy i. glenn cohen public health reproductive rights