Why has fatherhood fallen into such low esteem? It’s almost fashionable to see fathers as buffoons. Take The Simpsons or Malcolm in the Middle or any other sitcom. Is this a passing fad, or something deeper?
Last month, I told you about the growing trend among children conceived through donor insemination to seek out their half-siblings. For the kids featured in a New York Times story, it was a necessary corrective to what they called their “lopsided” personal histories.
The piece inadvertently highlighted an ugly truth about our culture: We are so intent on safeguarding the personal autonomy of adults that we sacrifice the needs of children. Abortion, of course, is a prime example. But so is the case when moms deliberately set out to deprive kids of what every child needs: a father.
Births through donor insemination, or DI, have “more than doubled in the past decade.” But, as Bradley Wilcox, an outstanding young scholar at the University of Virginia, recently pointed out, while our attitudes toward conceiving children out-of-wedlock through DI have changed, the needs of our kids have not.
In a recent Weekly Standard article, Wilcox reminds readers of what any objective social scientist will tell you: Kids who grow up without their fathers are at a greater risk for problems like drug and alcohol use, incarceration, and quitting school. I have seen thousands upon thousands of these kinds of cases in the prisons.
Wilcox then makes the connection that the New York Times refused to: By deliberately turning fathers into “donors,” DI exacerbates the problem. In his book about these kids, psychiatrist Kyle Pruett writes that they “hunger for an abiding paternal presence.” As one girl told her mother, “You know I need a daddy, or I can’t be a child.”
While others don’t go so far, they are still affected by their mothers’ “choices.” One young Canadian spoke about her “grief” and “anger” at having a “lopsided” personal history forced upon her. “How dare someone take my choice away from me? How dare the medical profession tell me it doesn’t matter?”
Her resort to the language of “choice” answers her own questions. Personal autonomy and the right to “choose” are the highest values in Western culture … Being able to “choose” is so important that questioning whatever is being chosen is regarded as a kind of “intolerance.”
This is especially true when it comes to what are euphemistically called women’s “reproductive issues.” For much of the elite, people who dare to point out the obvious are being intolerant: bigots. But the fact is, children need more from their fathers than their DNA and depriving them of this to enhance your freedom is selfish.
For these very reasons, some European countries have banned the “donor insemination of single women,” the “anonymous donation of both sperms and eggs,” or both. Their own commitment to personal freedom has not blinded them to the folly of deliberately conceiving children “without flesh-and-blood fathers committed to playing a paternal role in their lives.”
Let me be clear: My principal beef is with the “neutral, positive, or breathlessly celebratory tone” in which these choices are often discussed. This tone, and the worldview underlying it, is what makes this tragedy possible.
Changing that tone starts, as in the abortion debate, by pointing out that it is “a child, not a choice” that we are really talking about. Only then can we hope to keep kids from going to bed with a hunger that our culture does not want to recognize: the hunger for Dad.