[FOUNTAIN]Whose sperm are you?Adam and Eve have just married. Unfortunately, Adam suffers from azoospermia, or an absence of sperm in the semen. Eve receives the seed of Satan kept frozen at a sperm bank for artificial insemination. But before the baby appears, the couple breaks up. Without any means to make a living for herself and the newborn, Eve files a lawsuit against her ex-husband and the sperm donor, claiming that they should cover the expenses of rearing the baby. In court, Adam says, “The baby did not come from my seed, and I divorced Eve before the baby was born. Why should I take the responsibilities?” Satan also denied his responsibility for the infant. “I just sold my sperm,” he says.
In this case, Adam is the sociological father who has a family relationship with the baby only by law, and Satan is the biological father who did nothing more than sell his sperm.
Of course, this story is fiction. But in reality, such legal disputes between the two types of fathers are taking place across the globe.
The sperm industry has prospered since 1978, when the first “test-tube” baby was born as a result of in vitro fertilization at a hospital in Britain. Because one syringe-full of semen contains 100 million sperms, the reproductive cells are a biological resource that can be tapped limitlessly. From a business point of view, the sperm industry is a high-value-added one that requires very little cost for raw materials.
During the early days of artificial insemination, people thought that biological fathers did not have legal responsibility as fathers. At that time, sperm donation was considered a transaction of commodities. But as the sperm industry booms, such a notion began to change. In the United States and Europe, new types of sperm banks have mushroomed, offering home delivery of sperms. These agencies distribute to women leaflets that provide information about sperm donors, and cart sperm to the home of an aspiring mother to impregnate her.
Since 2001, some countries, including Switzerland, have passed laws that require a sperm donor to be identified. In Korea, a divorced couple is waiting for a local court’s final decision over which of them has the ownership of a fertilized egg kept frozen in a medical institution.
We are living in an age when people should have more respect and awe for human life.
by Lee Kyu-youn
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.