Sperm Wars: program one
Sunday 6 March  2005 

Whatever you call it Ė spoof, cum, jizz, spunk Ė sperm is no longer just something you wash off your sheets. Itís become a commodity, and in the Western world itís in short supply. Sperm banks are running dry and sperm donors are running scared.

It used to be that young men donated sperm with abandon. But these days men are increasingly anxious about finding themselves emotionally or financially responsible for a child they never intended to parent.

So how do you find sperm if you donít have a willing partner? Who gets to have it and how much it costs depends on who you are and where you live around the world.

Australia has been a microcosm of ethical dilemmas around sperm. Bitter battles have been waged over whether lesbians and single women should have access to sperm, and whether donor conceived children and donors should have access to each other. Governments and public opinion are increasingly wary of anonymous sperm donation and the result is that itís often difficult to get your hands on sperm, so much so that even politicians have been asked to donate in an attempt to stock up the banks.

Denmark, by contrast, is supplying women from Stockholm to Seattle with anonymous donor sperm. Itís holding out against moves in other European countries to ensure sperm donors can be traced by their offspring. One clinic exports to 40 countries around the world. Itís possible to choose and order sperm and have it shipped to your doctor with the click of a mouse.

Meanwhile in India, sperm banks are springing up in response to a growing local and international demand for Asian sperm. The parliament is currently debating whether to start regulating this burgeoning new industry.

Despite this commercialisation of sperm, and the efforts of regulators to have at least some minimum standards for donor insemination, many thousands of people around the world are making their own arrangements. Through websites like Sperm Donors Worldwide anyone anywhere in the world can find a donor or willing recipient of their sperm. Itís an ethical and legal minefield, and itís set to change our ideas of fatherhood forever.