Assisted conception is a growing part of the maternal landscape. Whether it is a need because of infertility or a choice to parent independently, utilizing cryobanks (sperm banks) is no longer a taboo topic.
Cryobanks and clinics are not required to report birth figures; however, CNN reports that since 2018 “roughly 30,000 to 60,000” babies have been born annually by artificial insemination.
Within the last few years, clinics have seen more Black women as patients. But, unfortunately, they can’t say the same for Black donors.
There are 41 cryobanks located in the United States.
California Cryobank, Fairfax Cryobank, Seattle Sperm Bank, and Xytex are the largest, with more than 100 donors each.
In 2022, The Washington Post found that “fewer than 2 percent” of their sperm supply was from Black donors — less than 12 out of 748.
These disproportionate numbers have led Black women to choose donors outside of their race. Or give up on their quest to have a child.
One would think the lack of supply is due to Black men choosing not to donate. However, several factors in the insemination process set Black women up for failure. First, the donor applications and criteria could be seen as discriminatory. While the “add to cart” race for recipients is another hurdle.
The supply of Black donations does not meet the demand. Also, consider that Black women are not the only ones looking for Black donors.
Within The Washington Post’s study, only one of the 15 women the outlet spoke with obtained sperm from a Black donor.
One woman recalled her “cart” by a faster consumer while buying her vial.
Along with the race to pay, the race against time is also a factor.
The Post mentioned one woman in the study had to wait almost two years for a Black donor to be presented to her.
This timetable can be discouraging to possible recipients who are also dealing with the diminishing health and infertility rates that plague Black women between the ages of 35-45.
Before the frenzy takes place on the website, the process of acquiring Black sperm donors is even more daunting.
CBS News spoke with Dr. Tia Jackson-Bey, a fertility doctor in New York City, about the lack of Black donors.
She pointed out that cryobanks are usually located in areas with a low population of Black men and are not marketed to attract them.
Some cryobanks also reject donors who do not have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Donors are also sometimes asked to provide health records dating back three generations, which can be hard to obtain for some.
One of the most controversial factors of the application process is rejecting gay men.
Business Insider states, “FDA regulations prohibit men who have had sex with men in the past five years from becoming anonymous donors.”
The FDA does allow gay men to donate directly, meaning they know their recipients.
According to the outlet, the FDA implemented rules in 2005. The reasoning was attributed to dated medical data from the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which said that gay men were at a higher risk of HIV.
The odds are stacked against Black women seeking a donor with the same cultural background.
Angela Stepancic was one of those women and chose to do something about it.
A recipient herself, Stepancic was inspired by her difficult journey to find a Black donor, which ultimately failed.
“It’s America, we’re supposed to have all the choices that we want, but we really don’t have any choices in this process, and this is the one process that really impacts our legacy the rest of our lives, you know our future. As, as a family and as a people,” she told CBS News.
In 2022 she opened Reproductive Village in Washington, D.C.
The cryobank prioritizes Black donors and recipients and intentionally has drop-off locations in minority-majority cities, including Houston and Atlanta.
Stepancic said she wants “to give them access to the same amount of options that every other couple has going through this process.”