Opinion

Lesbian couple sue sperm bank over biracial child

An Ohio-based couple started a media firestorm when they sued a sperm bank over their biracial child—but are we misinterpreting their reasons?

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Photo: iStockphoto

Perhaps by now you’ve heard of Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon, a lesbian couple who used a sperm bank to impregnate Jennifer with what they thought would be a white baby.

During Jennifer’s pregnancy, they ordered additional sperm from the same donor for the future conception of a biological sibling. They were soon notified that they had actually conceived with sperm from a black man that had been sent to them in error. Now, two years later, the couple is suing the Midwest Sperm Bank in Chicago for “wrongful birth” and “breach of warranty.” The couple states they’ve endured emotional and financial losses by becoming mothers to a biracial daughter in Uniontown, Ohio, which they describe as an all-white community of racial intolerance.

Despite being thrust into the world of parenting, these mothers appear to be doing the best they can for their biracial daughter. They have advised that the $50,000 they are suing for will fund their relocation to a more racially diverse area, which will offer their daughter a school with a lower risk of discrimination than the all-white school she is slated to attend in her current neighbourhood.

Read more: Single mom, donor dad: An unconventional pregnancy story>

Based on what we know, they are doing what they can to climb the steep learning curve of being white parents to a biracial daughter. As a mother who adopted transracially, I can personally attest to how critical it is to a child’s identity and self-esteem to have role models in her community that look like her and provide an understanding and awareness of her race.

Sure, there are plenty of supporters of this legal suit who feel if you order a blue sweater, then you are entitled to receive a blue sweater, not a green one. However, as many other protestors point out, a baby is not a sweater that can be returned for refund or exchange. As horrific as it sounds, if Jennifer and Amanda were truly as racist as their critics claim, wouldn’t they have terminated the pregnancy, or made arrangements to have the child adopted once she was born? They did no such thing, so perhaps what we are really seeing is the impact of negative media commentary. Is this a case of society’s unwillingness to accept that a lesbian couple has all the same rights as a heterosexual one? A lesbian woman has the same feminist right to decide what happens to her own body, but perhaps the critics are thinking that this particular couple should simply be thankful that they got a baby at all, considering their inability to conceive without a sperm donor.

Other critics are crying out on behalf of the child, and rightfully so. Yes, the child has had some invasion of privacy, but this suit will have disappeared into the Internet archives by the time she is able to search her own name. This suit is not about racism or rejection of their biracial daughter, but a means for these mothers to give their child a life with less racism than she would experience in her current community, with perhaps some funds set aside for professional support if she needs it. Most importantly, this suit is about culpability from the sperm bank to ensure no other children are accidentally subjected to worse fates, and I’m willing to bet Cramblett and Zinkon will make sure their daughter is fully aware of their own reasons for this suit to protect her from the public’s interpretation.

So, let’s stop with the latest mom-bashing judgement of these two women. Like the majority of us, they are ultimately just trying to do right by their child.

Jackie Gillard is a Toronto-area freelance writer with plenty to write about as the second wife to her second husband, mother to the daughter they adopted in South Africa and stepmother to a teenaged boy. Check out her other Today’s Parent articles or tweet her at @PapayaJambalaya.

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