Same sex couples are no less fertile than heterosexual couples.
Lesbians are as capable of conceiving a child using a sperm donor, as are women who have a male partner. Homosexual men require an egg donation and a host uterus. In either case, 50% of the child’s DNA will come from the parent.
Only 50%? True, children of “conventional” families get 100% of their DNA from mom and dad, except… for those who don’t. For women whose male partner makes little or no sperm, sperm from a donor (usually anonymous) is the only chance to conceive. Likewise, when the female heterosexual partner is devoid of eggs, either because she is older or because of early pre-menopause or menopause, eggs from a donor (anonymous or known) represent her only chance to have a child.
This has been going on for decades. And in most cases kept strictly confidential. So for all you know, some of your friends may have been conceived through sperm and/or egg donation. Some of your pregnant friends may have used donor “gametes.” Many of the older female celebrities have conceived through egg donation. This information is kept private, as it should.
So should the widespread use of sperm and egg donation by heterosexuals clear the way for same sex couples? Why not?
Prior to the development of new fertility options, both men and women struggling to have children shared one big dark space. All doors were shut. For generations, they were left there, barren.
And then came reproductive technology and started opening one door at a time. First just cracks, then wider, until it was fully open. Women considered irreversibly infertile were newly empowered: motherhood was within reach. Another door had opened for infertile men. A whole field developed, helping men with various fertility problems become fathers. And there are no guards at either door, checking for sexual orientation.
Same sex couples are as fertile.
As a reproductive endocrinologist helping build families for more than 20 years, I have been impressed by the love, commitment and stability of same sex couples.
Most heterosexual couples approach their quest for parenthood as a joint responsibility. As they should. Female-male causes of infertility are split about 50-50. And most husbands are extremely supportive of their wives and are actively engaged in their fertility treatment. However, in many heterosexual couples there exists a large Mars/Venus polarity in prioritizing children, career and lifestyle. In many such couples, the female is frequently left alone to deal with infertility, even when the male is the problem!
Even after fertility treatment is successful, life doesn’t get any easier for women. In a two-income household, having a child, or children, does not free the new mother from working full-time. Many husbands realize the burden on their wives and actively participate in raising the children. These are, what we call – partners. And then come the “Mars” husband, maintaining that caring for the children should fall squarely on the shoulders of his wife, no matter how hard she works or how late she comes home. Those are the limited partnerships. Very limited indeed.
And about half of the couples divorce. Likely, they are more of the “limited partnership” variety, but surely not exclusively.
As for the welfare of the children of same-sex couples, a study by Catrell & Bos, published in Pediatrics, looked at 78 children born to 154 lesbian mothers who conceived through donor inseminations and found that the 17-year-old children of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, academic, and total competence than typical American children. They had significantly fewer social problems, less rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than age-matched children. The study attributed this to the mothers’ “commitment, even before their offspring were born, to be fully engaged in the process of parenting.”
Additionally, just last week the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced their support for same-sex marriage and adoption/fostering rights regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents. The AAP announced their support as it follows their belief that “children need secure and enduring relationships with committed and nurturing adults to enhance their life experiences for optimal social-emotional and cognitive development.” With the backing of scientific evidence, the AAP feels a family unit provides this to children, no matter the sexual orientation of the parents.
Same-sex couples must endure the stress of family building, coupled with the constant struggle for acceptance in a predominately heterosexual society. As patients they also have to deal with major insurance coverage as well as their own legal status and that of their children’s, already born with an inferior status in society. If we accept the 3.5% American adults identifying themselves as gay (the Williams Institute Review, April 2011; 272,493 in NYC), the same way we accept left-handedness (15%) as equals, discussion can start regarding the structure of same-sex parenting, including their legal titles.