Ally Agenda: A black herring

By : Jamie Hyman
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JamieHymanHeadshottIn October, two lesbians made national headlines when they sued a sperm bank after giving birth to a mixed-race baby, a clear indicator that they had been given the wrong sperm, since they chose a white donor. Internet commenters piled on, branding the couple, Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon, as racist. Those people are missing the point. Race is a red herring in this situation—the case is about a gay couple demanding respect for the methods LGBT people are required to use to create their families.

It’s not a shock that most people latched onto the race angle, as it was the focus of most headlines about the lawsuit and the women opted to express in the court filings their fears of raising a biracial child in their Ohio neighborhood, which is predominantly white. I can only speculate that these concerns were included to strengthen the women’s case, but I’d argue that the case didn’t need to be made any stronger.

Creating a child with science is a difficult, demeaning, wildly expensive task. It is both physically painful and emotionally distressing. I know, because I have done it.

As I type this, I’m 15 weeks pregnant with a boy conceived via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). A lot of people I talk to don’t exactly know what that is, so I’ll tell you—my husband’s sperm and my eggs were harvested and combined outside of my body, then inserted into my body after growing in a lab for five days. Usually, more embryos are successfully fertilized than you would want to insert at once, so those little guys are frozen for a frozen embryo transfer (FET) later. FET is considered a type of IVF. There is also intrauterine insemination (IUI), where the sperm is inserted by a doctor while the woman is ovulating, and if she doesn’t ovulate regularly (like me!), she’s given loads of drugs to both force ovulation and make sure it doesn’t happen too early.

My current successful pregnancy comes after three failed rounds of IUI, a successful IVF that ended in a devastating late miscarriage, three more failed rounds of FET and another failed round of IVF. When it comes to employing science to conceive, I know what I’m talking about, and I am telling you that when couples enter into the world of infertility treatments, it is always taxing and complex.

All of the treatments have different requirements, but for all three, women must undergo near-daily doctors’ appointments with that oh-so-invasive transvaginal ultrasound, and medications that will exhaust you, bloat you, or make you wonder if you are losing your mind. Sometimes, it’s all of the above!

Then, if the pregnancy is successful, the mother endures months of progesterone shots. Progesterone is both a life-saver that keeps the pregnancy viable and the devil’s hormone. It is stored in an oil so thick that the needle used to draw it out of the vial has to be changed before injection, because it’s too broad to penetrate skin, and then every night, that viscous fluid is laboriously forced deep into muscle. Oh, did I mention the shots go in your butt? Well, they do, and then they continue to cause muscle soreness afterword, so infertility treatments become both a literal and figurative pain in the ass.

This is the process of using science to create life, the exact process that many, many same-sex couples are forced to undergo because biology is biology and same-sex couples are infertile by definition.

In a way, I’m “lucky” because the fertility failures are all mine and my husband’s swimmers are just fine. So we didn’t have to go through the unimaginably pressure-loaded and terrifying task of choosing from strangers’ files who will fertilize your precious egg cargo and make up half of your future child’s DNA.

Cramblett and Zinkon did, though. I can picture them, sitting at a kitchen table with files strewn before them, exhaustively debating the pros and cons of each donor. They made their choice, and then they went through the treatments—it’s unclear which path they traveled, but it doesn’t matter, because they all suck. And then their precious, wanted, beautiful child was born, and it became clear that the clinic had made an unforgiveable mistake.

Fertility treatments are a process. A terrible, agonizing process that infertile couples suffer through because of that hopeful, rainbow-through-the-storm-clouds possibility that science can create a miracle.

It is inexcusable that Cramblett and Zinkon’s clinic didn’t respect that process, and an argument could be made that the mistake shows a breathtaking lack of respect not just for Cramblett and Zinkon, but for same-sex couples and the life they live.

That is what the lawsuit fights for—respect for the process, respect for the couples, and respect for the paths LGBTs are forced to choose if they want to create a family.

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