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August 15, 1980 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1980-08-15

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Page 4-Friday, August 15, 1980-The Michigan Doily

Artificial insemination
and gay motherhood

Dems care now
ENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY did more at
the Democratic convention this week than just
stir up a little brouhaha in an otherwise dull four
days. He forced his fellow Democrats to care.
Caring is most important in an election year,
when so many of the eligible voters find nothing to
care about. Too mny feel that high inflation and
unemployment will continue no matter who is in
the White House, and too many will stay home on
election day next November.
In New York, Kennedy's message was clear:
Democrats have to care, they have to fight to keep
liberalism alive, and, most importantly, they have
to fight the threat of Ronald Reagan this fall.
Kennedy is a good example of what one who
really cares can do. His successful fight for plat-
form concessions has given, his supporters
something to fight for in November. He has convin-
ced many of those who are lukewarm about Car-
ter's re-election that Democrats have a good plat-.
form to support this election year.
Kennedy's buoyant speeches this week have not
focused on Jimmy Carter's successes and failures.
Instead, he has made lively, brilliant jabs at
Ronald Reagan. The same energy that drove Ken-
nedy to fight so long and so hard for his liberal
beliefs within the Democratic party will drive him
to work just as hard to defeat Reagan next fall.
A fight against an incumbent president is never
easy, and Kennedy's effort was made even harder
by Carter's strategic campaign ability. Kennedy's
lengthy campaign was admirable, though, and that
he did not give in to party pressures to surrender
after the primary season is even more admirable.
He has shown the Democrats that they should not
approve an unacceptable platform that leaves out
the interests of minorities and the underprivileged.
In that same vein, now, he will convince the
delegates, whose hearts he has won, that they must
not allow Ronald Reagan to be president next
November.

SAN FRANCISCO - Mandy
Johnson, a lesbian and'a 30-year-
old law student in San Francisco,
sits over a cup of coffee, reluctant
to discuss the question: Why is
she choosing to become pregnant
through artificial insemination?
Finally she leans forward and
the words tumble out. "I want to
experience another generation. I
want to be around children
growing up. And besides, I feel
like I'll have the economic
resources to support a child when
I finish law school. And I'd like to
give that security to a young
human being."
MANDY hesitates again. Then
finishes. "But it's not good to talk
about it too much-they can take
a child away from you if they
really want to."
Artificial insemination has
been a medical practice for
roughly thirty years, primarily
developed for married women
with infertile husbands. A recent
washington Post article
estimated that 10,000 children
were born in 1979 through this
method. The Post specifically at-
tributes these births to married
couples.
However, off the record, single
mothers are giving birth through
artificial insemination with in-
creasing frequency. And par-
ticularly inrtheSan Francisco
Bay Area where there is a large
gay community, a number of
them are lesbians.
SUPPORT groups assist
mothers who have gone through
the experience and other women;
seeking information and advice.
Two booklets written and
published by lesbians and gay
men describe the entire
procedure, its legal status, and
the way to make appropriate
community contracts for what is
known as the donor-liaison-donee
method.
In this method a sperm sample
from an anonymous donor, often
gay,-is placed in a jar and turned
over to a liaison, or go-between.
She drops the sample off at the
perspective mother's home,
where the sperm is inserted sim-
ple with an eye-dropper or small
syringe. The. liaison usually
charges a nominal fee for her
service-linking an anonymous,
healthy donor .to a lesbian who
wants to be amother.
IN AN established medical
clinic this same service can cost
up to $100. Hospitals guarantee
healthy sperm donated by
cautiously-selected men with
good health records-mostly
medical students.
Dr. David Schwartz was in-
vited to be a donor during his first
year at the University of Califor-
nia at San Diego Medical School
in 1975. The offer included $25
payment for each donation. He
declined, he says, because "it's
clear they screen people for high
intellectual aptitudes by asking
medical students in the first
place. I know of no other college
division, graduate or otherwise,
where this solicitation is done.
They also seem to select on the

By Barbara Fisher
basis of physical traits. The
point is you have to be
chosen-you can't just offer your
sperm."
Going through alter-
native-and Gay-channels for
insemination has both practical
and personal implications for
most lesbians. Since in-
semination is not always suc-
cessful the first time, the higher
cost of hospital treatments can
mount rapidly-money that is not
readily available to most lesbians
struggling to make ends meet.
AND SINCE most standard
health and hospital care still
assumes heterosexuality and
marriage for patients, dealing
with a gay donor and liaison of-
fers a more emotionally
reassuring experience for a
prospective mother who is both
single and a lesbian.
Is this alternative safe and
sanitary for the woman and child
in question? Dr. Mary Hart, a
lesbian who is a doctor in San
Francisco, contends that "there's
little risk of infection and most
people, over-awed by technology,
don't realize how safe and easy
the procedure can be."
However, both she and Dr.
Schwartz caution that it runs .
some risk of venereal disease.
Gonnorhea is commonplace in
the San Francisco gay male
community. Both doctors
strongly recommend that any
donor, straight or gay, have
frequent VD checkups.
CAROL JONES, a lesbian in
Berkeley, also points out that a
single woman using artificial in-
semination has to be very com-
mittes and emotionally capable
of repeating the process until
conception occurs. "I've been
trying to get pregnant for about a
year. Every month it's a whole
project. Sometimes it really
grates on my nerves, but still I'm
doing it because I feel there's a
love relationship between a
parent and a child that's different
than any other relationship." She
credits the support of her family
with helping her persist in the
determination to become a
mother.
Both Carol and Mandy Johnson
are involved with women whc
want to help raise their children.
And Carol has planned ahead
with her liaison for the donor tc
be contacted in the future if her
child wants to know who the
father is. But Carol very clearly

retains the primary respon-
sibility for her child. "I think
that's an important attitude for
any mother to have."
Many lesbians refuse to talk to
anyone about it outside their own
support groups and friends. They
fear legal reprisals from state or
federal courts which might
declare artificial insemination
illegal for unmarried women.
Donna Hitchins of the San Fran-
cisco Lesbian Rights Project
says that at present the only laws
bearing directly on artificial in-
semination absolve the doctor
and donor from legal respon-
sibility and declare the husband
responsible for the child as long
as he has consented to the
method.
NEVERTHELESS, lesbians
remain wary of advertising their
unique families. One woman
"aid, "we're just like other.-
mothers, really. We're tired of
being treated like freaks by the
media and the general public.
And there's no guarantee that the
authorities won't try to repress
gays and women further by
passing laws against us."
Many Americans feel uncom-
fortable about lesbians rearing
children, although it's cleartoo
most that the traditional nuclear
family has had its own image
tarnished in recent years. Kids
from the best of homes do run
away, take drugs, anddrop out of
school. Even the best of
marriages can end in divorce.
But homosexuals are considered
abnormal by many
heterosexuals, and immoral by
many Christians, a worse bet, in
other words, ona healthy family.
Dr. Hart disagrees. "Lesbians
giving birth represent a supreme
model of responsibility for paren-
thood precisely because they are
not bogged down with traditional
male-female roles," she argues.
"Lesbians know they, are totally
responsible for their own welfare
and the welfare of those under
their care."
In that sense, she believes that
artificial insemination paves the
way for the further economic and
social independence of all
women, and not lesbians alone.
But there is clearly an added in-
centive for gay women who want
to be understood as a group of
people concerned just as much
with love, stability and family as
anyone else.
Barbara Fisher is an associate
editor for Pacific News Ser-
vice.

Editorial policies
Unsigned editorials appearing on the
left side of this page represent a majority
opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board.
Cartoons frequently appear on both the
left and right side of the page; they do not
necessqrily present Daily opinions.

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