Sperm Donor Secrecy with Laura High, EVs for Peewees, SNAP Out of It
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This week has brought a lot of change for public health. On one hand, the first electric school buses have started rolling out, courtesy of bipartisan infrastructure funding. On the other, politicians proposed severely limiting SNAP benefits. V breaks down what all this means for our communities. Then, V welcomes medical-rights advocate and comedian Laura High to talk about being a donor-conceived person. From serial sperm donors to sibling pods, there are many ways that a lack of regulation can corrupt the infertility industry, and Laura shares how she’s pushing for more protection.
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V Spehar, Laura High
V Spehar 00:01
Hey friends it’s Friday January 27th, 2023 Welcome to V INTERESTING where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m V Spehar and today who’s quitting their job, world leaderst, hat who, and good on them will also breathe in this spicy fumes of diesel buses but not for long e-buses are on their way we’ll get into the cost and the benefits. And lastly, we’re gonna chat birds bees and ethical sperm donations please with comedian and donor conceived person Laura High. All that and more on today’s V INTERESTING from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together. Quiet quitting, loud quitting Zoomers, having three full time work from home jobs that don’t know about each other to triple their income. Millennials and Gen X going on their second decade of holding middle manager positions because their boomer bosses won’t retire and the newly divorced Sister Wives of TLC trying to recruit you into their boss babe MLM. The state of work is depressing. Add to that a pandemic, mass violence and climate emergencies and many people are crippled by existential dread. And a lot of us have quit our jobs in search of greener pastures, you know, all the normal stuff you do when the world is crumbling around you. So we shouldn’t be surprised that this I literally can’t this is me. canting vibe extends to people whose lives are already pretty stressful world leaders. This past week, Jacinda Ardern stepped down as the Prime Minister of New Zealand, she said, quote, I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple. In other words, she was burned out and hope still among us has not felt this way. And still the rhetoric around it has been a lot of blue, she quit she couldn’t handle it. She couldn’t even finish her term. And you know what? That’s right. That’s exactly what she did. And good for her for making that decision. Imagine running an entire nation on no sleep, especially through a horrific terrorist attack and an ongoing pandemic. In that way, a leader stepping down under these circumstances is democracy working the way that it should. Countries and parties should be run by people who are up to the task and able to recognize when it’s time to pass the baton. Democracy is a relay race, not a solo sprint. Unfortunately, not all countries make it easy for that kind of transition of power to happen. Like could you imagine my pen pal Joey B. checking out and handing the White House to Kamala so we could finally have the first female president. A girl can dream but I can’t see that happening here, right? Luckily, in New Zealand, the structure of the government gives someone like Ardern more of an opportunity to do this. New Zealand has a parliamentary government where voters elect to Parliament and then the parliament elects the Prime Minister. So if the Prime Minister wants to step down, Parliament just elect replacement, it’s pretty simple, pretty contained. In other countries with different types of governments, leaders aren’t encouraged to step down. It may be the family’s legacy at stake or a threat of violence from rival parties, or it’s just too complicated to find a replacement. And it all creates pressure for people to stay in a position of power even if they’re not fit for it anymore. Sometimes quitting is the best thing you can do. Our Durbin’s resignation might have sent a shockwave through the global community, but it’s something we practice and preach every day of our plebeian lives. So why shouldn’t extend to everyone if you need a break, if you’re burnt out, you have to take care of yourself. For lots of people knowing when to quit and committing to quitting is the best thing for the quality of their work and also the quality of their life.
V Spehar 04:15
Speaking of quality of life, who has had the absolute pleasure of breathing in the fumes from idling school buses, who has had that absolute pleasure five days a week your entire childhood? The exhaust from diesel buses contains over 40 toxic air contaminants, carcinogens, ozone smog forming compounds, and a fine particulate matter known as slit exposure to find particles is known to cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, lung cancer, strokes, and even premature death. And if it seems idiotic, that we haven’t yet implemented hybrid or EV school buses in any real way that I’m with ya. hybrids have been around for decades, and now electric cars are getting a ton of attention to especially in the United States, and of course they are. This is America baby. We love cars, and we love new stuff. Have you seen the wait list for the Ford lightning pickup truck? Oh, it is a mile long. Evie innovation has been a boon for the private sector, but it’s yet to extend to publicly funded vehicles in the same way. Fortunately, that is starting to change. Last year, the EPA approved $5 billion in grants and a push for clean school buses. And as you might have guessed, that was part of the bipartisan infrastructure package which we continue to cheer for on this channel. And we are starting to see that bus money rollout like Guy Fieri looking for America’s greatest diners, drive ins and dives I mean, if he was driving an Eevee. In this first round of money, the EPA prioritized low income areas in all 50 States, Washington, DC and several territories and tribes. The agency reported paying for over 2500 buses this round and brace yourself. Those 2500 buses have already accounted for almost a billion of the $5 billion. Because these babies are expensive. Each one of these buses can cost two to four times as much as a diesel fueled bus. The benefits though, are worth it. Electric buses significantly reduce bad emissions, reduce air and noise pollution and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. They have zero tailpipe emissions and generally require less maintenance than diesel buses. And I love this part. They’re made in America. The bluebird Corporation is right out in Fort Valley, Georgia. Thomas built buses has a big ol factory in rural North Carolina, you got Collins bus in Kansas, and there’s a dozen or so more across the nation producing e-buses for schools and public transit. Currently, only 1% of school buses in the US are electric. But the good news is we’ve started chipping away at the need and other groups are jumping in to do their part to the California State government started offering millions of dollars in funding for school districts to purchase e buses. In other parts of the country advocacy groups have lobbied bus companies to lease electric buses to school districts that can’t afford to buy one outright. So yeah, there’s a lot to be done. But with interest and support coming from all corners of the country, I have a feeling that soon we will ride the struggle bus no more.
V Spehar 07:33
Kids have hit hard in the streets if it’s not bus fumes, giving them asthma attacks. It’s the Republicans of Iowa trying to further limit the types of food their guardians and I’m sure many of their low wage bus drivers are allowed to purchase when using Snap. Big headline this week, Iowa State Republicans led by Pat Grassley the spawn of Senator Chuck Grassley introduced a bill that would ban snap users from purchasing bread, flour, white rice, American cheese, fresh meat, pasta, butter, and a host of other food staples, basically limiting what SNAP users can purchase to what is on the WIC approved shopping list. And we’ll get into the difference between SNAP and WIC in a second. Grassley was quoted as saying he believes the snap dollars allocated by the federal government to ensure folks don’t literally starve to death could be quote, better spent elsewhere. So let me just start with this. You can’t get any lower. Or maybe you couldn’t get any dumber, you couldn’t get any dumber than proposing a bill as a state representative on how federal funds are to be spent. For one you’re out of your jurisdiction. And for to my brother in Christ, you cannot get lower than further limiting the access to food a person on an already very narrow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has access to Lastly, Grassley since you are clearly ignorant, snap serves a whole other demographic of folks in need than WIC does, which is why they have different to prove to shopping lists you off brand walnut, so let’s get into it. This special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC was established in 1974 to reduce infant mortality and improve the health of our nation’s children. The approved shopping list is intentionally narrow to ensure that the foods purchased are in line with government health guidelines for feeding children or supporting the nutritional needs of women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is one of the most limited shopping lists. Because women who qualify for WIC often also qualify for SNAP. And the guidelines for WIC were written to compliment Snap, snap Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program was created in 1939 by the Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace, and it was created to address agriculture surplus. Mabel big fig in of Rochester, New York was the first person to use a food stamp, which allowed what the government then called undernourished people to purchase some of this agricultural surplus using their little orange or blue stamps. So while it sounds nice that the government was finally taking care of their hungry citizens, it for real was the subsidy to the farmers cuts it today. And snap is the largest federal assistance program in the United States. About 38 million people in the United States benefited from the SNAP program in 2019. Alone, which is the last year we have data for. And if you’ve ever tried to apply for SNAP benefits, as I have personally in the past, you know how incredibly difficult it is, and how little the SNAP benefit actually provides. Which is why further limiting the approved shopping list is so egregious. Snap serves predominantly adults, the number one benefactor of SNAP, can you guess who it is? It’s white single income mothers with at least two children. In addition, there are 1.2 million low income veterans on SNAP. And those are fully grown men in most cases. And so we want to say to these guys, thanks for taking the bullet for your country, you can’t buy white bread. What’s he going to do when snap only gives you 104 bucks a month, and a loaf of white bread is $1. But wheat bread is 354 point 8 million elderly folks are on SNAP. And that number should actually be double. But the application is online. And I mean, how many of your grandmother’s have a computer, 83% of elderly folks on SNAP live alone, old people deserve comfort.
V Spehar 11:50
A recent study of 60,000 Low Income Maryland seniors found that SNAP participants are 23% less likely to enter a nursing home and 4% less likely to be hospitalized in the year after receiving their SNAP than non-participants. But even if you’re unmoved by the humanity, impact of SNAP, maybe like the economy and analysis from the USDA Economic Research Service found that for every dollar in SNAP benefits spent, it generates $1.79 in local economic activity. Now some of that has to do with cutting out the middleman and just buying your fruits and vegetables directly from the farmer. So you’re closing the loop on how your money circulates to a more local area. But it’s also in part thanks to value matching programs like double up the food bucks, which is funded by the not for profit organization, their food network. I spent decades working on food security and food equity programs. And one of the things that I fought hardest for was helping college kids to get access to SNAP. An estimated 40% of US college students experienced food insecurity. But they can’t get SNAP because they are either somehow still tied to their parents income, or they don’t meet the minimum work requirement. It’s a fight that we are still in and it’s going to be addressed in this year’s draft of the Farm Bill. You know what, let’s do that before I literally fall off the edge of the world ranting on this topic. We’re going to just take a quick pause. We’re going to stop here and we’re going to get somebody from the hunger caucus or someone from the Farm Bureau to come on the show and explain how these food programs work and why oversight falls to the Department of Agriculture and not the Department of Health and Human Services as you might have expected there’s also a ton of other really dope stuff in the farm bill that I think you guys would be excited to learn about. And maybe we could even ask them why eggs are seven bucks a carton right now would you guys like that? I think that’d be fun. Aria Arias, a producer, here are your friend please get me the farmer in the dell and Old MacDonald on the line we got a show to make in the meanwhile, hold kindness in your heart for folks on SNAP. People experiencing financial hardship and hunger have so few choices that they get to make. They should at least be granted the simple pleasure of choosing what to eat. All right, I’m gonna be honest with y’all. I don’t have a segue here. We were talking about choice. And then we were talking about poor college kids. We’re talking about not being able to have what you need to get what you want. Sperm donation. I’m not even joking. That’s the next story. That’s what we’re going to talk about. There are about 150 commercial sperm banks in existence in the United States. And these banks are often clustered around universities where many intelligent and Virol young men live. You can’t donate sperm if you’re a gay man. You can’t donate if you use IV drugs. If you have a history of chronic illness in your family if you’re colorblind or if you carry the gene mutation that might cause breast cancer. You have to be between 18 and 39 years old, and many cryo banks even require you to be Over five foot seven, just 2% of all sperm on the market has been donated by black men, in part because of racism. And also because up until recently, sperm banks were rejecting sperm that had the sickle cell trait, something that is most common in black people. But if you’re one of the lucky fellows with sperm bank suitable spunk, you can make up to $1,500 a month donating because there are surprisingly near zero regulations on donation spermbank.com advocates for men to come in two to three times a week if they can. One prolific sperm donor who has fathered 57 children says he abstains from sex so he can save his quote, Tiptop specimen for deposit. The tip top telly whacker is Kyle Gordy. He’s 31 and he began donating in 2014. And he has helped more than four dozen women become mothers. He has a whole TikTok account dedicated to documenting his seed spreading. And it’s also where he sells rare Pokémon cards. If those are things that you’re looking for, you could check them out at Kyle Gordy 123. While, Kyle is out here trying to put a face to anonymous sperm donation. Many donors both egg and sperm have wanted to keep their participation a secret that anonymity makes sense if you centered the perspective of the donor. But what is owed to the donor conceived person? I mean, shouldn’t the person brought into this world by donor conception have a right to know their medical history, their biological creators, and maybe even if they have siblings out in the world and how many siblings they’ve got. My next guest is Laura high. A New York City based comedian who uses her platform to shine a light on the fertility industry and her personal experience as a donor conceived person.
V Spehar 16:56
We’ll have more with Laura after the break. Welcome back friends. As I said before the break, I am here with Laura High, who is advocating for donor conceived people’s rights. This is a side of the fertility industry we don’t often hear much about as so much of fertility is focused on the miracle and joy of conception. Laura, you started gaining attention after sharing videos on TikTok about what it’s like to be a donor conceived person. And you’re helping a lot of people to understand just how flawed the infertility industry is. Start me at the beginning, when did your parents decide using a donor was going to be the best option for them to start a family.
Laura High 17:53
So their infertility journey took about three years. So they were trying to do stuff in the beginning. But I believe it was probably the second year was when they started potentially using donor conception, both of my parents had infertility issues. My dad’s issues could not be solved. My mom’s though could. So it took her body a while and it took her two surgeries, and three years of hormonal therapy to get her body regulated.
V Spehar 18:21
I mean, even just starting off with your story here, like there are such extreme measures that people go to because they really want children. And some people might be coming in with the perspective that like all donors are good for humanity, because they’re helping other people start their own families. You know, what do you say to that?
Laura High 18:36
I would always try and go the empathetic route and go like I get it, I understand that you have this urge and this need and that like it’s intense. And I and I totally understand that. And I feel you. But you got to remember that the choices that you make right now are literally going to impact your child and your grandchild for the rest of their life. So I get you have those urges. But no, it is not that black and white. There’s so much gray, there’s so much corruption. And there are so many people preying on that desperation, you got to backtrack and really put in so much more emotional labor, then you think you do to ensure your child safety. I think a lot of people really think about it as we just want to get the baby. We just want to get the baby and they don’t really think about the fact that this baby is going to turn into a child, a teenager and then a full grown adult. And I think people really just stop at the baby and they’re like, we’ll just get the baby and then everything is fine. I literally was on the phone a couple of hours ago with a donor conceived person who found out that they were donor conceived at the age of 24. When did you find out? I’m extraordinarily lucky. I was told at the age of 14. I was conceived in 1987. I was born in 1988. So for me to have been told at 14 was miraculous. Now in the donor conceived community We encourage all parents to tell their children from the very beginning, it is always part of their story. Like tell them like, you know, it’s always part of their story. There’s never going to be like a shock value. But the fact that I was told that 14 was such a gift, my parents told my pediatrician that she’s donor conceived. And my pediatrician was like, okay, so you are going to tell her when she is middle school, Laura’s father must be the one to tell her because since he is the non-biological parent, she’s going to be very insecure that maybe her dad doesn’t love her. So he needs to be the one to tell it to ensure that she feels that kind of safety. I am so grateful that she did that. And my parents always had every intention of telling me.
V Spehar 20:39
But what age do you think is appropriate to let the kid know, hey, this is the way that we ought to do things?
Laura High 20:45
Birth, you let them know from the beginning, it is their story from the very beginning, you let them know that a nice man, nice woman nice person helped them have you and help create your nice family. It’s like you spent all of that money, all of that emotional labor doing this, all of that work to have this child. And now it’s going to be this big, giant secret. What. And it’s also I tell people, like the reason that the infertility industry has gotten away with this for so long is because of that stigma and that shame. That’s the only reason they’ve gotten away with it. If we were much more willing to talk about it and be much more open, when there’s nothing to be ashamed of infertility impacts so many freaking people, it affects so many people, so many people go to the infertility industry, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Bodies sometimes just don’t work and need a little bit of help. That’s perfectly normal. And the fact that we have stigmatized this so much has gotten our society into so much trouble.
V Spehar 21:44
So when your dad told you, and he says to Laura, I have something to tell you.
Laura High 21:49
He’s, when he first asked me, do you know how babies are made? That was how he started the conversation, which was my favorite thing. And then basically, so my, my I have an older sister who’s 15 years older than me, she’s my half-sister for my father’s first marriage. And he asked me, do you know why your sister was adopted? And I’m like, and I always, like, made up a story. And I told her, I was like, well, I assumed it was this and he was like, no, your sister was adopted, because I am unable to procreate. And you know, your mom, and I had some issues having you. And so we did donor conception. Do you know what that is? And I was like, Yeah. And it was like, yeah, that’s, and I’m like, oh, that answers a lot of questions, dad. And I remember it was, for me a very validating thing, because I always knew something was up.
V Spehar 22:42
Did you feel love and the way that he was telling you this, like the pediatrician said, like, Did it help you guys be closer or just what came of it?
Laura High 22:51
I knew he was very scared telling me even at 14, I could tell he was so scared. I was going to reject him. He was terrified. And I could tell that from the way he was talking to me. And that makes me so sad. It really does. And I always tell my dad, that because I don’t ever, that never, that’s so something I just don’t want him to feel. And I look like a carbon copy of my mother. We joke that there wasn’t a sperm donor and I just was a carbon copy ever. But I always tell my dad that, you know, I get so much from mom, I look just like her. Even my signature is like her. But my sense of humor, the way I tell jokes, the cadence that I have when I’m on stage is directly from you. You taught me how to be funny. And my sense of humor is my livelihood. It’s my career, and it’s my most prized possession that I got from you.
V Spehar 23:43
If someone is out there listening right now, and they think that they might have been a donor conceived child, what would you tell them? What would you want them to know?
Laura High 23:52
I would suggest to them saying if you think that there is a possibility you are donor conceived, I would definitely buy yourself an ancestry or […] test because unfortunately, a your parents potentially will not admit to it unless the evidence is literally just like right there on the table. Purchase it. Get it, test it be prepared. Because once you open up that Pandora’s box, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube so you have to be emotionally ready for what’s coming. But if you are donor conceived, you do have to know your I hate to sound dramatic, but it really is true. Your life literally could depend on it. Join our community. You can find us online and you can also then talk to your parents. There are so many resources to help you kind of bridge that gap there is the donor conceived support group. You can find them on Instagram there is we are donor conceived. You can find them on their website you there’s a Facebook group for them. You have donor conceived Council, you can also find them on Instagram. There’s also a great book called Three makes a baby that can also help you out and give you a lot of tools. There’s genetic counselors out there who can really help with donor conceived children with sort of piecing together a medical history, but just come find us come find our community. I really thought that I was fine with being donor conceived. I was like, No, I’m good. This is fine. It has no impact on me, what are the medulla? But then once I really started interacting with the community, and I was listening to other donor conceived people saying how they felt, they were saying things that I had felt, but I was like, no, no, I’m not allowed to feel that and I put it way, way, way back in my brain. And I was like, Nope, we’re not feeling that that’s inappropriate, if I feel that, and if I genuinely feel that it’s going to hurt people, I can’t feel that. But then listening, that donor can see people express those things that I had buried very, very deep down on myself, gave me permission to actually for the first time start dealing with it, and really starting to come to terms with those emotions, and actually taking positive steps to gain control back in my life.
V Spehar 26:05
And what were those feelings you were so afraid would hurt people?
Laura High 26:09
I was sad that I wasn’t biologically related to my father. I was very sad. And that I do wish they told me earlier, even though I was lucky at the age of 14, I’m so lucky. I do wish it was earlier. Um, I am very upset. I’m very upset at the doctor who inseminated me, I’m very upset at him. With how he handled my insemination. He put my mom and myself in huge danger with how my insemination went down. And I’m so glad I’m here. I’m so glad I’m here. But the desperation to have me really put my life at risk. And what I have learned through donor conception and ever is like, I am so lucky, because I could have easily had significantly more health issues. And the fact that I’m as lucky as I am is literally just sheer luck.
V Spehar 27:08
When you say that the way he did the insemination was dangerous for you and your mom, what do you mean?
Laura High 27:13
I mentioned my mom was they were trying for three years. And so what ended up happening was my mom had full reconstructive surgery, full reconstructive surgery. And then right after she had full reconstructive surgery, as soon as she was fully healed. The next month, she was ovulating. And she was ready for insemination. But she was ovulating on the Jewish New Year, and the clinic was closed. So they said okay, so we’ll just wait one more month. You gotta remember, like, if you’ve not been on fertility drugs, like fertility drugs are strong and powerful. And they are a lot. And my mom was like, Please God, I’ve been on this for three years. Is there anything that we can? Is there anything that we can do? And I was my doctor’s first patient. So this is his first time. I don’t know how the hell he came up with this plan. But he decided, Okay, I’ve got it. You’re going to show up at a hotel concierge, the donor is going to drop the sperm off. You’re going to go pick it up and inseminate it with your husband, Laura. Yeah.
V Spehar 28:20
And they didn’t want to do it this way. I mean, there are people who do it that way. And they’re very happy with that. They knew that’s what was gonna happen. But they just said to your mom who wanted to do this in a doctor’s office in a professional, scientific and clinical way. hey, yo,
Laura High 28:34
And my mom is so sweet. She’s so cute. She’s like Laura, I picked up the sperm. I kept it close to me to keep it warm. And then I whisked off to your father’s office and that’s where you were made. And I love him like I love at the clinic was closed. But dad was still working.
V Spehar 28:47
First of all, I love your mom and I love your dad. They’re so lovely. And, and so that’s what happened.
Laura High 28:54
That is what happened and I love and my mom’s like, and that’s how you were made. And I’m like Yes, Mom. I was made not conceived. I was made like a Toyota.
V Spehar 29:03
A Toyota, conceived at your father’s office. What a hard working guy your dad is.
Laura High 29:08
You know, kick those legs up. I got a spreadsheet I gotta worry about. I’m like, I really just should be grateful he didn’t get the intern to do it. But the reason I say that it put my mother at danger was I was inseminated in 1987. This was fresh sperm. The one rule the FDA has is that all donors have to be tested for STDs. This was fresh sperm. That donor was not tested that day. This was not got from cryobank. He called in a friend to do a favor in 1987 in New York City. My mom and I are very, very lucky.
V Spehar 30:01
And I thought being conceived at the cove haven in the Poconos in the 80s was dangerous. That’s quite the tail.
Laura High 30:09
And then when I called that doctor when I was 19 years old, and I asked him, I was like, Hey, I I’d love to know who my donor is, I’d love to know medical history. What can you tell me? And he was like, Well, I can’t tell you. I don’t know who your donor is because he came from a clinic that was filled with doctors and students, but that clinic burned to the ground. So all of your papers and medical history is gone. But I can tell you that they were completely healthy and there’s nothing to worry about.
V Spehar 30:33
Yeah, how convenient.
Laura High 30:34
And I was like, dude, I’m 19 But I know you’re why is this full grown ass adult lying to me? They did. I don’t even believe that.
V Spehar 30:45
It does make you think like, How common is this? How often is this happening?
Laura High 30:48
Donor conceived people are told that their papers were destroyed in the fire all the time. Apparently, Katrina took out most of our papers was a big one that we hear. But fire is a big one. There is an arsonist who particularly targets and fertility clinics and he is very dangerous.
V Spehar 31:21
Were you able to find out anything about the donor at that time?
Laura High 31:25
No, I did not find anything out about my donor till I was. Oh my goodness, how old I was, 29 until I located my donor? Oh, yeah, I was 29 years old.
V Spehar 31:38
What did you find out about him?
Laura High 31:43
So well, before I found him, I found out because it was two years. When I took my ancestry and 23andme and I found out I was half Jewish.
V Spehar 31:55
I was gonna ask, was it a 23andme? Because you it’s unavoidable. Now people are finding out all kinds of stuff.
Laura High 32:02
Absolutely unavoidable. So ancestry, both my mom and I took so that we could compare her and my genetics and see what was different. And it was a big, big honkin, 50% Ashkenazi Jewish right. And she didn’t have a lick of Ashkenazi. And we were just like, well, there it is. It was like we had suspected that like the donor must have been Jewish, but like I’ve literally had Hasidic Jewish people come up and talk Yiddish to me. Like it’s very clear from like, my facial features and everything. Like people assume that I was Jewish since I was like 12 years old. And so I found them. And I found out my donor is an OB GYN orthodox rabbi moil. Well, my donor is an OB GYN, and we definitely know that the doctor who inseminated me, we know that he knows my donor. They were definitely friends.
V Spehar 32:56
You also did start discovering some siblings. What kind of feelings does that bring up?
Laura High 33:00
So as a child, and I look back on it now, and I feel so horrible, literally, you know how like most kids like are like, Mommy, I want like a pony. I want to drive the car. I wanted brothers and sisters, I wanted siblings. That’s all I wanted. That’s all I wanted. And I begged my parents for siblings. All I watched it. And they were just like, we can’t do it Laura. And I had no idea why. And I was just like, I must have been like such a triggering little child. So what happened was, I was 30. And then I got this email from this girl. And she said, Hi, I know this is going to be really, really weird. But I think I might be your half-sister. And I was like, what? Due to how my donor conception went, I did not think I was going to have any donor conceived siblings. I didn’t think that was a possibility for me. So the fact that I suddenly had a sister and then she was like, well, actually, you have two sisters because my full sister is also your half-sister. And I was like, what? And she was like, and I found already another donor conceived siblings as ours as well. So I was just like, I have three sisters? And I recently just found a brother. He has not contacted me back yet. Sometimes it takes people like years. So I’m giving him space. And we’re there’s more of us coming through the grapevine because we found out that like my donor was donating for six years, they have projected that we easily could have over 50 siblings.
V Spehar 34:26
Well, you did pray for siblings.
Laura High 34:29
I did and I got what I wanted.
V Spehar 34:32
Take me to the 80s Let’s go back to the beginning. When this gynecologist donor was working with another gynecologist, the one who made your mother be pregnant. And what was happening they were just willy nilly donating?
Laura High 34:50
I gotta go back farther than that. Okay, go a little further. So 1982 my donor started medical school and that is when he started donating. So he donated all throughout my have called school. And he donated for me after he graduated. So he we know of at least six year span. We don’t know if he continued donating after me, we have no reason to believe that he stopped we but we just we don’t know.
V Spehar 35:13
How many times can somebody donate.
Laura High 35:15
We have found and interviewed donors who were donating once a week for 567 years. And that is dangerous, because then you create massive giant sibling pods, I really started trying to track down sibling pods. And in one month, I found eight pods of 100 kids each two with 80 and two was 70.
V Spehar 35:41
Wow. Okay, and going back to folks who are listening and are like, Okay, that sounds like a lot of very happy families. What you were finding is the trouble is the trauma for the person who has now found out they have 50 siblings, 100 siblings, but also sometimes this is happening in a very small town.
Laura High 35:58
Yeah. Many of these siblings, I have spoken to people who were their sibling was their best friend growing up was their next door neighbor, they went to school with, they dated them. Chances are if you are somebody who’s going to a specific clinic, and you do donor conception, there are lots of people who are in that area are going to use that same clinic. So you have these clusters of siblings all in one clinic. So many parents do not tell their children that they are donor conceived. So many, so they don’t even know that they should be looking out for them. Also, the clinics actively lie about how many siblings have been produced or can be produced. So they’ll think like, Okay, so there’s only five of them out there. That’s fine. Like, I don’t have to worry about that. But actually, in reality, they have 100 siblings out there.
V Spehar 36:44
I have a question on that part right there. Because in the light amount of research I’ve done into purchasing sperm, you have these options nowadays, right? Where you can buy one straw, I believe they call it or two, or you can buy the whole lot. But what you’re saying is like, without regulation, we don’t really know how many times somebody is donating. How do people buy sperm? Laura, this is what I need to know from you.
Laura High 37:09
So you go in, you pick your pick your donor, let’s call him Fred, you pick Fred. And you see and they say that there’s 20 straws available. And you think you know what I want to control how many siblings my child has, I’m going to spend the money and I’m going to buy all of the straws. And you purchase all the straws. That’s gonna be a crapload of money, but you’re like bucket, I’m going to do it.
V Spehar 37:36
Yeah. And just for people listening when I mean, it’s like $2,500 a straw could be more than that. But that’s like the going rate.
Laura High 37:44
So you buy the straws. And you’re like, Okay, well, I have all the straws. That’s great. So I’ve got all of them and it’s all set. They say 20 straws available, but they could easily have 1000 straws in the back on ice. They don’t have to tell you, Jack, they don’t have to tell you how many straws they have available. They don’t have to do that. Or maybe Okay, you got that fresh batch. But you know, Fred’s gonna come back in next week, and he’s gonna donate a whole lot more.
V Spehar 38:14
Are there not laws to stop people from doing this?
Laura High 38:17
No, there’s no kind of donor tracking system whatsoever. There isn’t a cap on how many babies can be made from one donor, there’s nothing stopping a genuine predator of a human being from going and donating at every single clinic in the States. There’s nothing stopping him.
V Spehar 38:33
I’m questioning everything I know about this industry. And I’ve been following you for so long. And I’m so grateful you’ve been sharing your personal story. It just helps people one not feel so alone. It takes the taboo off of talking about it. And it’s just things that we had no idea about, right and really 23 and me, it’s undeniable, you’re not going to get past it. People are going to take that test. I can only imagine how many family Christmases were ruined. Like, what 10 years ago, when this came out. People must have been going nuts.
Laura High 38:59
The amount of skeletons that have been revealed. I mean, 23andme and ancestry alone, alone have destroyed the infertility industry. But it is something like talking about 23andme and ancestry. I know that a lot of people are concerned about like them selling their information and stuff. And they’re like, I know I’m donor conceived. But like I don’t know, I just don’t want the government to have your information. If you are donor conceived, a private company already has your genetic material. It already does. So at least get information that you need from 23andme and ancestry. You what you fear is already there, like it’s already happened. Just do it. Get your health information, find your siblings, at least get the info you need. And if you’re a donor and you’re worried about like, well, I’m worried about like a company selling my material then don’t donate. I mean, there’s two different ways of being a donor outside of the industry. One you can like we’re going to make up a couple let’s use was Sarah and Vera Okay, Sara and Vera want to have kids, but they don’t want to go through the infertility industry that makes them worried. they’ve listened to a lot of donor conceived people, they understand how important it is for like, biological mirroring, and all that kind of stuff. Sarah wants to be the one to carry the children. They want to use Sara’s eggs. Vera has a biological brother, who is absolutely willing to donate his sperm. This way, the medical information is the same, the grandparents are the same, the family is the same. And they’re like, Oh, my God, this is perfect. So her brother donates. Now before they do that, they obviously have a bajillion conversations about how this relationship is going to work. How this dynamic is going to work, what do we expect, they’re still absolutely going to get a family lawyer to draw up the contracts, because each state is different. And even though it’s family, you still need to do that. That is one way you can be a donor in extremely, extremely best possible scenario way. Now if you do not have somebody in your family who is willing to donate sperm, but maybe you have like a really good best friend. Great. You can also do that. But same, same thing. Bajillion conversations, really good lawyer must be involved. That’s one way you can do it. The way that we do not like and what donor conceived people do not approve of in the least bit? Are the serial donors that you find online via Facebook group, or the apps called just a baby. We cannot tell recipient parents enough stay away from the Facebook groups. There are Facebook groups with over 30,000 members, where it is literally trading sperm. Really, yes, I have infiltrated and they are terrifying. And they are flat out dangerous. So basically, you go into these sites, and you either see a donor or you see a recipient parent saying like, here’s what I’m looking for, this is what I need. And this is what I’m willing to do. And in my in these groups, or I’ve looked through them. And obviously there’s zero resources available about raising a donor conceived child like they have nothing to do with that. They offer a boiler plate contract to sign with the donor, which is like one that’s absolutely illegal, because again, each state has their own laws for family law. So basically like that kind of boilerplate contract, it’s not going to stand. And on top of which there are a lot of donors and recipient parents who are absolutely willing to do natural conception, which completely throws donor conception out the window. And if we are going to start getting worried about donors actually ending up owning child support or donors demanding parental rights, natural conception completely, like puts that right on the map. Because if you do natural conception, and there’s no contract, there wasn’t a lawyer involved, you didn’t have a physician overseeing the conception, the court is going to have a very hard time differentiating it between donor conception and a one night stand. It’s absolutely dangerous to do this. And it’s also where a lot of cereal owners go as well. And the serial donors are terrifying. We have a lot of them in the United States. There’s a lot of serial donors all across the world who do sperm tours where they just literally spread their seed, because they have freaking breeding kinks. And there is nothing stopping them. They it’s very, very scary. And again, the psychological impacts that this is going to have on the donor conceived people who result from this I can’t even begin to imagine, but also a lot of serial donors, we have found end up having genetic issues in which they know completely No, they are spreading, and they don’t want anybody. And it’s also just for them. This is like a narcissistic little kick that they get to, you know, just dominate over people.
V Spehar 44:05
We’re gonna take a quick break again, and we’re gonna come back and we’re gonna get into Netflix just had a documentary called our father that explores this, we’re going to talk about that, and a little bit more about the donor conceived industry and ways that you can educate yourself on it. We’ll have that when we get back. Okay, friends, thank you for coming back. I am here with a comedian, although what we’re talking about has not been funny so far. And I want to recognize that a lot of people’s first introduction to this industry, mine included, is watching the movie our father on Netflix, and for those who haven’t seen it, it is a true story about a fertility doctor who used his own sperm on patients. Now, is that something that’s common? Is that legal?
Laura High 45:01
That’s a fun question. So one, it is common, it’s way more common than what we realized. And this is a global phenomenon. This is not just for the States, I would like everybody to understand this is a global phenomenon. We have found doctors doing this all across the world. And you know, if you thought our father was terrifying checkout baby God, who’s about, you know, a doctor in Canada who did something very similar. So is it legal is a very tough question. So when Dr. Klein of Indiana was actively doing that, federally, it was not considered a crime anywhere in the States.
V Spehar 45:37
Right. And by doing that, you mean switching up the chosen sperm that the person getting pregnant wanted to use with his own sperm and being the person to inseminate the person who wanted the baby.
Laura High 45:49
At that time when he was doing that? There was no state where it considered it illegal. Now, presently, it’s only illegal in 10 states.
V Spehar 45:58
Wow. You would think that that’s like sexual assault.
Laura High 46:02
One of the stories that I kind of use as an example is it currently literally just a couple a couple of years ago, there was a very good friend of mine, Morgan of Rochester, New York. She always knew she was donor conceived her and I were friends in college. She’s absolutely wonderful, complete, you know, Spitfire of a human being a lover to death. She took the Ancestry DNA test found out found her siblings found out you know, her best friend growing up was always her sibling, and kept digging, kept digging, kept digging around. And then she found out not only did her mother’s Doctor switch out the chosen donor DNA for his own, but he was Morgan’s OB GYN for 10 years. So he knowingly did gyno exams on Morgan. And what was even more creepy was he purposely switched appointments around with the nurse practitioner to ensure he was doing the physical exam on her.
V Spehar 47:00
I remember reading about all of this here in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Laura High 47:04
And he is in practice still to this day, right because it is not considered a crime in New York State. And just to throw a little bit more salt on the wound, when our father came out, which was May 2022. Because of commercial DNA testing, we had already found 44 doctors in the United States who had done the same thing. Since then, we have found six more doctors who have done the same thing. But only 7% of the United States population has taken a commercial DNA test. We know that there is so many more there’s and to be frank, I do know more. They just have not come forward. They’re just too scared, which I totally get. And I understand this has happened way more. There is nothing there’s nothing stopping them if you do not live in one of those 10 states.
V Spehar 47:53
Right. And there is some legislation coming to give relief to donor conceived folks like in Colorado, the right to access information about their donors. What is important about that for people?
Laura High 48:03
Typically when people donate there, they’re young, because unfortunately, a lot of the clinic’s favorite place to go poach donors is college campuses. They literally set up pop up stands at college campuses, they are welcome to come into lecture halls and classrooms and talk about hey, wouldn’t it be awesome to pay for your spring break? If you guys sell us your eggs in your sperm, it’s absolutely predatory and completely unethical. And I want to see that be banned and illegal as soon as possible. But so we all remember when we were like 20 years old 1921 We’re pretty healthy. There’s no health issues, there’s nothing. What happens in 10 years health issues start popping up. Maybe your father has had a heart attack, maybe your mom has now had breast cancer. Maybe you’re starting to show signs of some issues, your donor conceived child, even potentially your 100 of donor conceived children have no access to that information. They don’t know that that can put their literal life at risk, which we have proof of and we have seen there’s a donor conceived person who I personally know, their donor later on in life found out that they were a carrier for a clotting disease. The clotting disease their sister also had in which passed away from and this donor can see person found out they had a clotting disease. Now luckily, she was able to track down and find her donor and he was very gracious and told her this information, but that is lifesaving information. There’s another egg donor that I I’ve been very lucky enough to interview she’s amazing after she donated she had a cardiac event in which basically was a heart attack. She has a pacemaker she was diagnosed with congenital heart disease. She worked like crazy to get the clinic to tell the recipient parents that they need to get their kids echoes and EKGs absolutely immediately the clinic blocked her at every single point. They refuse to tell the recipient parents and the children that the kids are ticking time bombs. Luckily she found them through I believe, like the donor sibling registry or ancestry or 23andme. And she was able to at least warn some of them. This information is lifesaving. So the fact that these kids adults at that point are able to access that information can genuinely save their life.
V Spehar 50:11
Was there anything that you learned from being able to figure out who your donor was that was impactful to your life?
Laura High 50:18
The fact that I’m Ashkenazi, I mean, if you’re Ashkenazi, there’s a ton of genetic stuff that comes that comes with before I got engaged my husband, we did a DNA test to make sure that we weren’t related. But if like if him if he was also Ashkenazi, we would have needed to do a genetic test to make sure that we were not carriers for certain things. But yeah, knowing that I’m Ashkenazi now I’m understanding like, Oh, is that why my stomach hurts every time I eat dairy meat?
V Spehar 50:43
Has it encouraged you to like explore the religion at all? Or meet others?
Laura High 50:48
I really, yeah, it was actually one of my best friends is a very, very devoutly Jewish and as soon as I found out, he invited me to my first Seder. So it is something that I’m exploring way more. And I really want to spend more time learning about it as I go as I get older. But yeah, that information is so important. And for me, also being in contact with my siblings, because like, we’ve had our long conversations about like, Hey, do you have this? Do you have this? Do you have this because two of my sisters who I’ve spoken to have some fairly serious medical issues, and we’ve been able to compare notes. One thing that I have personally had is I’ve had hormonal issues my whole life, no idea what they were no idea where they came from. And last year, I was diagnosed with a benign tumor on my pituitary gland, which is right behind my eyes, and it’s like right at the base of my brain. Pituitary glands affect both your adrenals and your thyroid. The tumor is not hereditary, but the hormonal issue is genetic. And that made me predispose to growing this tumor, being somebody who I was diagnosed at 33. With that made me very scared and realize, like, holy shit, what else is down the pipeline for me?
V Spehar 52:01
Now? Predominantly, the conversation that we’ve had so far has focused around white doctors doing these things, and in your case, a white family, creating a White donor conceived child. How is this manifesting in communities of color? Are they having the same issues? Or is it different?
Laura High 52:21
Oh, you just hit on a really, really rough issue. And I’m so glad you brought this up. Um, so donor conception, the foundation of it as eugenics. That’s what it is.
V Spehar 52:34
That’s what I was thinking it sounded familiar.
Laura High 52:39
And it’s still to this day, legalized eugenics. So I’m going to take you on a little bit of a journey. So we have journals of early donor infertility Doctor journals, and like they say, like, oh, it was the sand they had man, not the dark haired man, like it’s like, oh, look at that and writing there it is. They actively turned away donors of color. The important piece to remember is, the infertility industry is exceptionally unregulated. It is very, very unregulated. You have what’s called ASRM, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. What they do is they constitute guidelines for the clinics to follow not actual regulations, guidelines. And that is a very, very important distinction. Because they’re going to tell you the classroom like oh, we have all these rules and everything. No, no, no, no, no, they have guidelines, not regulations, do not let them fool you, they always try to do it’s very, very tricky little language. And you can see that one of my favorite things to show people is if you just type in Mayo Clinic, sperm donor screening, type that in and look it up and you’re gonna see FDA requirements is an STD test, and then they’re gonna say ASRM guidelines, or they’re gonna say recommended. They really very, very carefully switch out required to recommend it, you easily can miss it. So that is a very clear way on how I sort of show everybody how it works. But there isn’t any anti-discrimination laws in place for donors. So you basically have a lot of doctors in a backroom, deciding who or who isn’t allowed to be a donor, or to put it plainly who or who isn’t allowed to procreate. And they can turn away donors for dumb reasons, dumb reasons. Maybe they’re like, no, too short. We know plenty of donors who were turned away because they had red hair. But oh, that’s strapping young gent who donated at three other clinics with a genetic illness don’t matter. It’s fine. Come on down. Why don’t you donate for a bit? You look the right rule for us. You look it.
V Spehar 54:38
Because it’s a product for sale. And I mean, as a consumer of that product, potentially in the future, we fall into these traps, right? We’re looking at I’m like, let me find somebody who looks like me. Let me find somebody who’s this. Let me find somebody who’s that because you’re trying to recreate what we’re not able to naturally recreate whether that’s, you know, straight or gay or queer or other identifying couples. And it’s such an emotional difficult place to be in and then to be making decisions. And, and then you know, now you have these kids who are old enough and the internet is powerful enough to bring you all together to say like, you know what we need to change the way that this is being done. Because people who want families should be able to have them, you know what I mean? Like there should be an option for it, but an option that does less harm. And that’s something I admire about the work that you’ve been doing also, is the advocacy work to help other donor conceived people, make the rules better make the process better. What do you think can improve the industry overall?
Laura High 55:35
Very simply is listening to donor conceived adults. That’s where we start. That is the most basic of things that we all can do. And I mean, I think that that’s true with like any kind of community is listened to the people with the lived experience. I know that what I say I know what other donor can see people say might really go against the norm, it might really go against what we’ve all been taught our whole life. And I understand that what I say might bring out some sorrow and some sadness, and I totally understand and I get that. But it doesn’t still take away from the truth of what I’m saying. The devastation that this industry can have on society as a whole, not just donor conceived people is tremendous. This is fundamentally changing our genetic diversity and our gene pool. This affects everybody, you have to start listening to donor conceived people, you need to start talking about struggles with infertility, take away the stigma of it, there’s nothing wrong with struggling with infertility, there’s nothing wrong with doing a different kind of family planning. There’s nothing wrong with that, start having a conversation about it, normalize that conversation. And that alone will make a huge difference and make it much easier when we are going to start asking you to call your local legislatures to get the fertility fraud legislation passed, which would make it a crime for a doctor to switch out the chosen donor sperm for his own. We are also federally trying to vote on the donor can see persons Protection Act, which would also require clinics to verify the medical information that a donor hands in, because right now clinics don’t have to do that. Donors can come in and literally just completely falsify a medical history. And there’s nothing stopping them. Nothing. So voting, calling your local legislators but just talking about infertility, talking about your struggles, and listening to donor conceived people. It’s really like, we you know, you don’t have to completely you don’t have to completely break the form. It’s very, very simple.
V Spehar 57:42
What’s something that you wish you knew, before you started this journey?
Laura High 57:46
Oh, my God. Jesus, I wish I knew all of this information. By the time I started. Because of how I was made, I didn’t think I had siblings. Knowing that I had siblings would have been lovely knowing, just knowing the lack of regulations, because it’s like, you know, when your doctor tells you things, you’re like, Oh, my God. Okay, great, cool, doctor. Thank you. Awesome. But I just wish that I knew how unregulated it is. I wish I knew as a child, my mother knew it when I was a kid, that we should be asking these questions like when health issues started popping up. We were saying we actually don’t know. Can we get extra tests? I know now. Now it’d be a big thing that I would recommend anybody if you are donor conceived, nail into your doctor’s that your donor conceived you are missing half of your medical information. Typically, if they’re a good doctor, they will run extra tests.
V Spehar 58:41
Makes sense to me, Laura, I’m so grateful that you were here today and you shared so much of your personal story so much of where people can get help and resources. You are a great friend. You are a hilarious Comedian. We didn’t get into the comedy yet, but tell folks where they can find you on the interwebs.
Laura High 58:55
On the interwebs you can find me on Tik Tok at Laura high five. You can find me on Instagram at Laura high five and you can find me on Tik Tok for as long as that thing is going to be up at Laura high five. You can also find me on YouTube at Laura High. That is my real name. I’m very easy to track down. You also have my website LauraHighfive.com Where you my show schedule is also available so you can come see me do stand up and talk about and actually try and make donor conception funny and do my husband my ex where I do attempt to make jokes about my trauma and other people’s trauma.
V Spehar 59:32
I love this. Thank you so much, Laura.
Laura High 59:34
Thank you so much.
V Spehar 59:38
I learned more about sperm just now than I ever thought I was going to need to know I mean, I’m glad that I know it. This was very interesting. Wow. Fun fact Laura is actually in DC right now marching on Washington in support of a […] of federal and state legislation to do with ending fertility fraud. So that’s great news. And this legislation will bring the United dates are in line with global fertility industry standards and make sure people can’t like I don’t know, switch the specimen or do other creepy things. You can find more information about this at right to know dot U S. That’s going to do it for our show today. Thank you again to Laura for being with us. What did you guys think it was our first Friday show? I thought it was pretty nice. You know, it’s like relaxing. It’s Friday. It’s weekend time. Leave me a voicemail. Let me know what you thought 612-293-8550. You can follow me at under the desk news on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.
V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.