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Laugh Lines and DNA Ties: Laura High’s Donor-Conceived Story Part 2

Updated On: November 28, 2023

Continuing our conversation with Laura High, we delve deeper into the nuances of being donor-conceived. Laura’s candidness, combined with her sharp wit, offers a rare glimpse into the personal and systemic challenges of the fertility industry.

Laugh Lines and DNA Ties: Laura High’s Donor-Conceived Story Part 2

Episode Highlights:

  1. Laura’s activism, including protests for donor-conceived rights and her stance against the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
  2. The complexities of navigating identity and relationships as a donor-conceived individual.
  3. Insights into the legal and ethical challenges within the fertility industry, especially concerning donor information and family limits.
  4. The transformative power of acknowledging and sharing one’s donor-conceived status, both personally and in the broader community.
  5. Laura’s personal health journey, influenced by her donor-conceived status, highlighting the importance of medical history awareness.
  6. Engaging discussions with fertility industry professionals, revealing varied perspectives and attitudes towards donor conception.
  7. The urgent need for legislative action and public awareness to reform the fertility industry’s practices.

Guest Bio:

Laura High is a New York actor and comedian. She received her B.A. in Theatre Performance from Nazareth College. Laura has had lead roles on TV shows, and national commercials. Laura performs stand-up comedy at venues like Broadway Comedy Club, Bananas, and headlined Carolines on Broadway. Laura has been featured on the New York Comedy Festival and won the ‘Broadly Funny’ Divison at the 360 Stand Up Festival. Laura is a rising content creator. Laura has gone viral several times on TikTok and her following has grown exponentially in a short amount of time. Laura writes, produces, and edits all of her own work. 

Resources Mentioned:

Closing Summary:

Laura High’s story is more than just an individual narrative; it’s a call to action for greater transparency and ethics in the fertility industry. Her episode is an essential listen for anyone interested in the intersection of personal stories, advocacy and reform. Don’t forget to rate, follow and review Family Twist for more thought-provoking conversations like this one.

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Transcript

Laura High: Laura, for people who are listening that might have family secrets out there that they haven't shared with their children, what did that revelation do to your relationship with your father?

Laura High: honestly, it changed nothing.

Kendall and Corey: Good.

Laura High: We just went back to playing basketball. we just went back to singing musicals in the car together. nothing changed between my father and I.My dad and I have had rough moments as like, in our relationship.

Laura High: Never, ever once. In any of those moments between my father and I, have I ever, ever once been like, You're not my real dad. Never have ever said that, never thought that, never felt that. that man's my father. even if I ever had a relationship with the donor as well. My dad is my dad.

Laura High: That could never ever be undone. And especially as an adult looking back and realizing probably how scared my dad was in that car. Knowing how much bravery it took for him to tell me that cause I'm sure he was scared. Had no idea how I was gonna react. I appreciate his honesty. And I appreciate the courage it took for him to tell me, especially in that day and age when there was no support for him or my mom.

Laura High: I really appreciate that. Everybody always asks me this, what do my parents think of my advocacy? They're my two number one fans. They're so proud of everything i'm doing. My dad's a political junkie, and all the political stuff i'm doing he thinks is so cool

Laura High: I've had some interviews with politicians and he was doing research on them and he was like laura I have some questions for you that you can ask them. he seems so sweet and supportive Kerry Washington came out recently as a sperm donor, and I think she said it the best, the secret's going to affect the relationship. And as much as we want to pretend it didn't happen and bury it, you can't unring the bell. You can't unring donor conception. You can't pretend it didn't happen. It did. It literally created your child. It created their body. there's a couple of things when you bury it as a secret, one, there's going to be shame.

Laura High: Instantly. Whether you are aware of it or not. And that child is going to carry around that shame. this all could be very subconscious, but the fact that you are not, openly telling your child, Yes, this is how we created you. This is the magic in which we became a family. That infertility shame, that scare, that fear that you have, You're going to pass that on to your kid.

Laura High: I know that many parents are going to be like, no, they have no idea, and I'm like, Yes, they do. It will get passed on. it's not like, shame you, or fuck you, it's just, there's so much going on, that you may not even realize, and it's so common for donor conceived people.

Laura High: To have always said, I always knew something was up. I just had no idea. And Kerry Washington even said it herself. once the secret was revealed, she was like, we as a family... experienced healing for the first time. And that secret was now gone. It no longer was weighing down on everybody. And she also talked about how, she got to show her dad, because you kept this secret from me, you made my love conditional love.

Laura High: Now that this secret is revealed, watch me unconditionally love you.that's what I would tell the parents who have those family secrets is, let the healing happen. It will happen.

Kendall and Corey: it's important for parents to hear that

Kendall and Corey: if there's never a secret, such as in Kendall's case, Kendall was adopted, always knew he was adopted.

Kendall and Corey: Those are his parents, and even though they've been gone,for decades. We talk about them on an almost daily basis.

Kendall and Corey: those. Are his parents and I've gotten to know them just through the stories now we've connected with his birth father and his birth father is great, but Betty and ruble are

Laura High: the cutest names, Betty and Rubel. Oh my gosh, I want to have, children's books of, the adventures of Betty and Rubel.

Laura High: We'll co write them. I think you should. Those are the cutest names I've ever heard.

Kendall and Corey: I can never talk about them without being emotional and especially in context with this, I feel so fortunate. That I didn't experience those lies, that secrecy, the potential stigma that's, was especially back then, because I was born in 1970.

Kendall and Corey: and I'm from this tiny town where it kind of surprises me that people were as,

Kendall and Corey: accepting as they were, To your previous point, because my parents had this known history of infertility my mother had three miscarriages, but I think the fact that she was never going to be able to probably

Kendall and Corey: have a baby, it was just common knowledge their friends were so supportive They had friends who had adopted children and wonderful stories where I got to be surrounded by kids that were also adopted.

Kendall and Corey: so it just didn't have the same level of stigma that I know people that you're where your parents age were definitely dealing with,

Laura High: that I know people that were your parents age were definitely dealing with, you know? One of the reasons that the fertility industry has gotten away with so much unethical activity, because of the stigma, no one talks about it.

Laura High: No one talks about the struggles, the emotional struggles, or just the day to day,

Laura High: I do think that the fertility industry has gotten away with so much stuff because no one talks to each other. No one. No one talks what did the doctors tell you? What have you been going through? What are they saying to you? And, and then once the child is born, are you experiencing this?

Laura High: What is happening? Is your kid getting sick? I think that the biggest and easiest thing that we can do that everybody can do right now to fight the fertility industry and to help get regulations passed is we need to let go of the stigma. There is nothing to be ashamed of that you've been going through fertility issues.

Laura High: or that you need help with family building. There's nothing to be ashamed of. so many people need help for family building and so many people struggle with fertility issues. it's unbelievably common. Nothing to be ashamed of. I'm having fertility issues right now. I'm almost through mine.

Laura High: and my fertility issues actually are because of my donor, so, you know, full circle for me.

Kendall and Corey: Wow.

Laura High: I've been on medication now for a couple of years and I'm almost through it because Iwe basically discovered, I have a benign tumor on my pituitary gland, which is located right at the base of my brain, and the pituitary gland controls your thyroid and your adrenals.

Laura High: We caught it before I needed surgery, so I only needed medication to shrink it, and now the tumor is gone, and we're just regulating my hormones now, but essentially the tumor in place rendered me completely infertile. Now, the tumor is not genetic, but the hormonal imbalance that I had been experiencing since I was 13 absolutely seems to run on his side, because I've talked to other siblings who had very similar problems as well.

Laura High: so, Thanks, Papa, for that one. Right. Thanks, Doctor. Thank you,

Kendall and Corey: Yeah. Thanks, doctor. Yeah, exactly.

Laura High: I'm really lucky, but part of the reason that I was able to find it in time is because I knew I'm donor conceived. it's always the first thing I tell my doctors when you go to the doctor, they're like, do you have a family history of this, of this?

Laura High: And I always tell them, I literally was at the OBGYN a couple of weeks ago and they were asking me about my history. I'm like, I'm a sperm donor baby. I don't have half of my medical history. I literally have zero. on my mom's side, no signs of this, but I got no idea what's on the dad's. And they were just like, okay, great.

Laura High: that's always been in the conversation. when we were trying to figure out what was going on with my body, years ago, because I could tell something was wrong. they ran extra tests and I'm so grateful my primary care physician was like, I'm going to send you to the endocrinologist.

Laura High: they just kind of trusted me. And they were like, you know what? She doesn't know half her medical history. And the endocrinologist in a few tests was like, Oh, there it is there. Yep. Your prolactin is skyrocketing. And then got me the MRI and got me on medication in time.

Laura High: I'm very lucky that I could tell people I'm donor conceived. so many people my age don't have thatthey don't even know to tell their doctor that their donor conceived and they're giving their doctors a false medical history, which gets them sick, which gets donor conceived people killed.

Laura High: it gets their children in trouble as well. even though I don't have half my medical history, just the fact that I can say I'm donor conceived alone helps me out a lot.

Kendall and Corey: Mm hmm.

Kendall and Corey: they're not going to necessarily start, pumping you full of stuff that's going to kill

Laura High: they know to run extra tests.

Laura High: And they know to go like, okay, let's run, all this extra shit just in case, just to be safe. And that has helped me out tremendously.

Kendall and Corey: Through the work that you do, have you had interactions with professionals

Laura High: Yeah, they love me. we have a great time. I have two different reactions. Either there are industry professionals who have been the most supportive people and they're like, yes. Yes! Thank you! And they're wonderful and they're so supportive and they're like, I love what you're doing, keep fucking doing it.

Laura High: Because as physicians, as people who took an oath to do no harm, are sick and tired of how... Their industry treats people and like they have seen it and they have felt so alone Trying to battle this industry and trying taking care of their patients they are sick of this as well, but they're unfortunately very few and far between within this industry that is an interaction that I've had with a bunch of People within the industry.

Laura High: And that's always really, really lovely. then there's also some industry people who are like, I don't really know about this. Can you tell me more? when I start talking to them about laws and regulations, they're going, holy shit. I had no idea.

Laura High: cause we don't run our clinic that way. I had no idea it was this bad other places. I had no idea these stories existed. Holy crap. then I have other industry professionals who, are less receptive, maybe a little less gracious.

Laura High: we were protesting the ASRM convention. ASRM is the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. They basically create the guidelines for the clinics and cryobanks to follow in the United States. Now understand I said guidelines, not regulations.

Laura High: None of the clinics and cryobanks have to follow the guidelines. ASRM should be, in a perfect world, our biggest advocate. this should be the group, standing up for donor conceived rights. and they have not. they care about the clinics and cryobanks.

Laura High: They do not give a shit about donor conceived rights, and they've made that very, very clear. They care about the bank accounts, and that's about it. we've seen that from, how we've been treated. the Colorado legislation was the very first, sibling cap proposed in the United States.

Laura High: now Colorado has a 25 family limit. It's still way too high, but it's still something. ASRM, when the legislation was first proposed, publicly was like, we don't support it.

Laura High: the fact that they just actively are not our biggest advocate and they are not actively trying to help us, is very unfortunate. we protested them to remind them that we are people, not products. another year in a row, no donor conceived person spoke at a single panel

Laura High: any of the panels that are about donor conception should have a donor conceived person on that panel. That is the ethical thing to do. there was a panel that was all about how Donor conceived people are feeling about donor conception and they used AI to sift through all of YouTube to gather donor conceived opinions and I'm like, why didn't you just get donor conceived people to come talk?

Kendall and Corey: Exactly. Yeah.

Laura High: there was a panel, I believe, about early disclosure. A donor conceived person should have been on that one.

Laura High: A few donor conceived people should have been on it. There should have been a donor conceived person who did get early disclosure. And there should have been a donor conceived person who got late disclosure to talk about the experiences of both. the fact that ASRM is not putting its foot down and ensuring that our voices are heard, is ridiculous.

Laura High: I always say, it is not upon you to grant us a seat at the table. We are the table. You cannot have a conversation about us without us. It is absolutely unethical, and you should be actively making room, and you should be doing that work, and they are just actively not.

Laura High: so we protested them. To go full circle back to what you initially asked was I was directly told by an industry professional who was at ASRM who told me, people at the convention really saw the protest as like kind of a negative. I was like, Bitch, it's a fucking protest! Yes! Yeah! That's good! That means I did my job!

Laura High: she was trying to tell me that, I'm doing advocacy wrong, and she's telling me, you need to do advocacy better in a way that's, more, industry palatable, I'm just sitting there going Ma'am, in the history of protests, when has the person ever being protested been like, Oh my god, I love this!

Laura High: I love the aesthetic! Keep them outside! This looks great! Oh my god, send them Gatorade! Invite them in! what are you on, ma'am? it baffled me I get it, you don't like us, but do you hear yourself? this is delusional.

Kendall and Corey: You should have said, Oh, you're right. I'll

Laura High: god, I'm so sorry, were we a bother? I am so sorry. You guys think this is a negative? I thought we were just having fun.

Kendall and Corey: Yeah,

Laura High: my god. lady. Give me a fucking break.

Laura High: a lot of the reactions we get isoh, that's just angry

Laura High: Donor Conceived People, that's just gaslighting dismissive oh, you're just angry. yeah, I'm angry. That's actually the very proper emotion when we find out our mothers were... sexually assaulted by these doctors, and legally there's nothing we can do.

Laura High: And you guys aren't doing shit. Yeah, actually anger is 100 percent the appropriate emotion. The fact that I find out that, I'm one of a hundred donor conceived siblings, and all of my siblings are sick as hell because there was a falsified medical history. Yeah, I'm fucking angry. or as one donor conceived person I know, had, 13 surgeries by the time they were 15 years old, because of a falsified medical history.

Laura High: in her words, she was medically tortured. Yeah, anger is the proper emotion. I'm sorry that we're not, more consumable, we're not sweet, and we're just going Oh my god, thank you so much for letting us die. Thank you so much, we really appreciate this opportunity to be killed by you.

Laura High: I'm sorry that we're not nicer about it, Anger is the right term and the fact that the industry has continually treated us. Like mousepads and not like sentient human beings, has got to stop. It's got to stop. it's not just donor conceived people. donors are commodified as well.

Laura High: recipient parents are lied to it's so heartbreaking to hear. they have three four year oldsand they're like. our kid is sick they've have so many problems and we had no idea.

Laura High: We had no idea what was going on I feel horrible and awful. I don't know what to doyou can hear just pain in their voice when you talk to recipient parents who lost their donor conceived child Because of just the negligence of the fertility industry, you just don't forget those conversations you hear the pain and the mourning in their and they know it didn't have to be this way, it, this could have so easily been avoided.

Kendall and Corey: So why isn't there more legislation?

Laura High: donor conception education is so brand new.We're just starting, and I think a lot of it has to be that we're just telling people why they should care. There is some legislation on the table right now, we're trying to get HR 451 passed, which is the federal fertility fraud legislation, which would criminalize a doctor switching out the chosen donor gametes for their own or any others that they feel like so that is one.

Laura High: And you can call your local legislature now and say, like, please support HR 451. the bill is bipartisan. It's got like a ton of co sponsors. It's just stuck in the Judiciary Committee right now, and we need it to get a date on the calendar to vote on. we also have the Donor Conceived Persons Protection Act trying to get passed in New York State.

Laura High: this would require clinics and cryobanks to verify the medical information that a donor hands in. So again, groundbreaking. if you live in New York State or you have family or friends in New York State, tell them to call your local legislature and be like, we desperately need to get.

Laura High: The Donor Conceived Persons Protection Act passed. There are more states in process of also passing their own fertility fraud legislation as we wait for the federal fertility fraud legislation. it's gonna become a little bit more public soon, so I'm gonna wait for those stories to come out.

Laura High: I will say, just be on the lookout, more stories are coming out. there is legislation that is moving and grooving. if you want to find out more ways to support legislation as it unfolds, you can follow the United States Donor Conceived Council, USDCC, on Instagram. It is a group of donor conceived people that literally write regulations and literally negotiate with the industry.

Laura High: if you're particularly interested in fertility fraud legislation, you can follow Eve Wiley on Instagram. Shespearheaded the fertility fraud legislation. You can also follow Jacoba Ballard, who was the head narrator for the documentary, Our Father, which was about Dr.

Laura High: Klein on Netflix, who switched out the chosen sperm for his own. over a hundred patients, the way that we get legislation happening is we need to get more donor conceived stories out there. We need recipient parents, donors like Dylan, and donor conceived people actively coming forward and telling their story, and showing, this is what happened to me, this is the story, this was the lies that we were told, because these stories are so, Horrific, it actually doesn't take much to get these legislatures to really start to listen.

Laura High: fertility fraud is, is comically awful, and the fact that doctors can actively get away with fertility fraud because the laws are just not tight enough is just, absurd. this should be an easy slam dunk, these doctors should go to fucking jail immediately. for doing that.

Laura High: And that was a thing that actually really happened at the protest, which was really magical to see was there were donor conceived people supporting each other and coming forward for the very first time in a very public way, talking about what happened to them.

Kendall and Corey: thank you for sharing those resources because as you said, it's just the more the conversation explodes,

Laura High: then the more things are going to start to change.

Kendall and Corey: Right.

Laura High: donor conception is, in a perfect ethical world, a wonderful way to start a family. It's a great resource if you're having infertility problems, if you need assistance with family building, I want you to have your family.

Laura High: I want that for you. but I want it to be done in a way that is safe and ethical for all parties involved, especially the donor conceived person. I always want to make that really clear, that none of the advocates that I work with are trying to stop donor conception. We're just literally trying to make it safe and ethical for you and your child.

Kendall and Corey: I think what we're talking about is literally pennies on the dollar to do things the right way. it's greed. The greed is there.

Laura High: this is a multi billion dollar industry and a great way to explain it is let's use Dylan's story.

Laura High: Dylan is a donor who donated at Zytex and he donated for multiple years and he got paid a hundred and fifty dollars per donation. I believe he made like 20, 000 ish dollars.

Laura High: one of the things to remember though is, he got paid per donation. when you are a sperm donor one deposit does not equate to one sellable vial. They take that one deposit and they split it up into multiple sellable vials. It might be as little as three, it might be as big as nineteen.

Laura High: Nineteen is the most we've ever heard of. Dylan and I did the math together on how much he donated per week. we tried to lowball it and say they only broke it up into four vials. we played it very conservatively.

Laura High: The cryobank allegedly made... A million dollars off of just Dylan. Just off of Dylan alone. A million dollars. and that's just off of the vials. If you want a full medical history that was not verified, you have to pay extra for that.

Laura High: If you want a picture of the donor, you pay extra. You want to see their handwriting, hear their voice. You're going to pay extra. Now, what happens if you want to have siblings? Okay, then you have to buy more vials. Now you have to pay for storage at the cryo bank.

Laura High: They nickel and dime these recipient parents. So many recipient parents end up having to take a second mortgage. In order to pay for this. you're right, it's an obscene amount of money. the fact that Dylan made about 20, 000 and this cryobank allegedly made a million dollars off of just him and they have way more donors than that is absurd.

Laura High: of course these cryobanks and clinics have overhead. They absolutely have overhead. Give me a f ing break. Give me an absolute break. That is absurd.

Laura High: at a certain point, we have to keep things ethical. I'm so sorry, doctors, you're not gonna be able to buy that second yacht. We have to make sure the sibling pod is under 20.

Kendall and Corey: to your point, we have to educate the general population to what these companies are making, but B, you know, it's unethical across the board.

Laura High: I really just would encourage intended recipient parents I know you want your kid to be healthy.

Laura High: I know you want your kid to be safe. I know you want your kid to be happy. So help us fight for these regulations now because. Before you get pregnant is when you have the most power in this industry. Start demanding change now. because they care about your pocketbook. That's what they care about. They want your money.

Laura High: So you have to wield that power now. Because once you get pregnant, they don't give a fucking shit. They don't care. There are a lot of recipient parents who I've spoken to who are like, My heart has broken. I thought this place cared about me.

Laura High: Apparently not. you have to wield that power now. call your clinic in cryobank and ask them, Have you supported HR 451? Have you supported the fertility fraud legislation?

Laura High: Only one bank has supported the fertility fraud legislation and that's Fairfax. That's the only bank that has now Fairfax still has a lot of accountability. They need to take in terms of like crap they've done, but I will give it to them there. They're the only bank that has actively supported the fertility fraud legislation.

Laura High: you go to every single other bank, every single other clinic and go, I will not use you until you publicly support the fertility fraud legislation.you need to send in a letter, and then I would use you. Or, ask do you openly support a sibling cap?what are you doing to support donor conceived people?

Laura High: be very, very curt, and very just like, no, then I will not use you. I only support, clinics and cryobanks that are,actively supporting donor conceived people.

Kendall and Corey: and you don't have to necessarily be somebody who's looking

Kendall and Corey: to have a child through a

Laura High: bank.

Laura High: you can call and ask questions. Anybody can do that. yeah, those are ways that you can actively start doing some small changes that actually make a big impact. because the more that we actively demand the industry to change, the more they will, because again, they care about money and they're going to be like, okay, how do we make more money?

Laura High: Oh shit. We got to do all this other crap. All right. That's the only way then. that's how we've been able to like get certain things.a little bit more normalized within the industry.

Kendall and Corey: we really, really appreciate what you're doing because, we were talking about very serious subject matter here, but I feel like humor has a place in every conversation. I think it makes,

Kendall and Corey: more palatable for people, it breaks the ice a little bit so thank you for what you're doing and,

Kendall and Corey: keep on wearing that sperm costume.

Laura High: the fact that,people are willing to just listen and hear us out, and goyeah, that is fucked up.

Laura High: We can change it. there are so many complicated problems in this world. We can fix this one. We really can. This is one we can do. And it will make a huge impact on so many different communities in such a positive way. I'm still trying to stay optimistic and believe in the goodness of people.

Laura High: I know that the majority of intended recipient parents genuinely want what's best.

Kendall and Corey: Absolutely. there's definitely some crossover for our different audiences because we talk about surrogacy. We talk about donor conception. We talk about adoption and I'm sure that there are people tuning in because they are interested in that specific issue, but really this is just a big community.

Kendall and Corey: we're all in this community together,

Laura High: we're all in this together,and it all feeds into one another, like the whole baby business, whether it is surrogacy or adoption or anything, it all plays in and it all feeds off of each other, I do believe that we are on the path to making this right. Getting reproductive help into a place that is much more ethical for all parties involved. I do believe that we are entering a phase where we're starting to go down that right path, and that's incredible, in 10, 15, 20 years. we're going to be in a completely different place and it is because I do think that we're all working together and realizing how much we all have in common within that Venn diagram, especially between donor conceived people and adoptees.

Laura High: There's so many similarities and, empathy that we share. I have felt some of the most incredible support from, my fellow adoptee advocates, some of our most fiercest supporters because there's just so much that we understand about each other. Even if we don't have, exact similar experiences, I get you, boo.

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