How Far We’ve Come Together!

Imagine it’s the early eighties, a very different time for the lesbian community. Although coming out to friends, family and co-workers was being encouraged by activists to advance the cause for gay civil rights, living a closeted life was still the stark reality for many if not most lesbians across the country.

It was in this oppressive environment that I decided to move forward on what was then a revolutionary idea: helping lesbians like me become mothers. At the time, I was in private practice as a women’s health care provider. I was also a co-founder of San Francisco’s Lyon-Martin Women’s Health Clinic—named for lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin— which was the first facility in the country specifically devoted to meeting the medical needs of the lesbian community.

The Barriers Lesbians Were Facing Were Pretty Daunting

I heard repeatedly from my lesbian patients that they wanted to have children but were having trouble finding supportive ob/gyns, fertility specialists or sperm banks. That’s why I started Pacific Reproductive Services in 1984 with the mission to provide sperm bank, fertility and insemination services to the lesbian community. Demand for our services grew and so did the number of sperm donors we were able to provide our patients. By 1990, we started shipping sperm across the country.

A Commitment To Provide “Willing To Be Known” Donors

We decided from the beginning to focus on providing clients with donors who are contractually obligated to meet a child born of their donations at least once when he or she reaches 18, at the child’s request. Any additional meetings or communications beyond that point must be mutually agreed upon by the child and the donor.

Although these donors are more challenging to recruit than anonymous donors, they are another important way for us to support our clients. They prefer these donors because they want their children to have the opportunity, if they choose to pursue it, to understand a little more about the other half of their biological heritage.

With more and more children now coming of age, some have chosen to be in contact with their donors. These have been almost universally positive experiences on both sides. There’s no question more children will want to meet their donors in the future but even if some don’t, the main thing for their mothers—and for me— is that they have that option available to them.

Sherron Mills
Sherron is the founder and president of Pacific Reproductive Services



At last! Our marriage rights affirmed.

This truly seemed an impossible dream when we launched PRS in the early 1980s. At that time, living a closeted life was still the stark reality for many if not most  people in the LGBT community.

Over the last few days since the Supreme Court decision, I’ve thought so much about the women we have assisted over the years to build families of their own. It is moving to imagine long-delayed weddings taking place all over the country, with the kids in tow. Some will be too young to know what’s happening but others will know well just how much this means to their moms and to them.

Many outstanding organizations – and a nationwide army of volunteers – played a pivotal role in bringing us to this amazing point. I would particularly like to recognize the impressive National Center for Lesbian Rights ( In 2013, NCLR  filed a lawsuit on behalf of three  same-sex couples, who moved to Tennessee for work and decided to challenge the state’s  laws prevent ing recognition of their marriages.   It would prove to be one of the most important lawsuits considered by the justices in bringing legal recognition to gay marriages throughout the country.

It’s a new day – beyond wonderful.

Sherron Mills
Sherron is the founder and president of Pacific Reproductive Services

Should Women Using Sperm Donors Have Some Genetic Testing, Too?

With today’s incredible advances in genetic testing, you’re right to expect your sperm donor to be as free as possible of conditions that could seriously affect the health of your baby. But what about you?

I highly recommend that if you’re planning to become pregnant, you should make an appointment with your doctor to have a complete medical evaluation before conception, including genetic tests. Genes contain the information your body’s cells—and your baby’s—need to function.

The genetic makeup your baby is born with can affect your baby’s health in two major ways:

  • Single gene disorders are caused by a problem in one gene and run in families. Examples are cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.
  • Chromosomes are the structures where genes are located. Chromosome disorders occur when all or part of a chromosome is missing or extra, or if the structure of one or more chromosomes is not normal. Most chromosome disorders that involve whole chromosomes do not run in families.

Depending on your genetic risk factors, your doctor might suggest you meet with a genetic professional for counseling. Reasons to consider seeking genetic counseling include:

  • A woman who is pregnant or plans to become pregnant at 35 years or older.
  • A family history of a known or suspected genetic condition, birth defect, or chromosomal abnormality. These include Fragile X Syndrome, the leading cause of mental retardation, spinal muscular atrophy, an often fatal neurological disease and cystic fibrosis.
  • Two or more pregnancy losses.
  • Exposure to a drug or other substance known or suspected of interfering with fetal development.
  • Having a medical condition known or suspected to affect fetal development.
  • Increased risk of getting or passing on a genetic disorder because of one’s ethnic background. Examples include sickle cell anemia, which has the highest rate of occurrence in African Americans and, and secondly, in Hispanics. Also, people of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry are at higher risk for diseases such as Tay-Sachs, a rare inherited disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Taking good care of yourself prior to getting pregnant is the best gift you can give, both to you and your baby. And with today’s advances, genetic testing, as part of a good general medical exam, is the best insurance you can have that the genes you’re passing along are good ones.

Sherron Mills
Sherron is the founder and president of Pacific Reproductive Services

With Donor Genetic Testing, More Is Better

The number of tests done varies among sperm banks, sometimes significantly.

In recent years, lesbian couples and single women seeking to have children through artificial insemination can be more confident that FDA-regulated U.S. sperm banks are screening and testing their donors for serious inheritable conditions.

But despite the growing prevalence of genetic testing, be aware that the number and type of tests conducted on prospective sperm donors varies among sperm banks. Additionally, federal regulators and state licensing authorities (with the exception of the New York State Department of Health) don’t currently require donor genetic testing. They do, however, conduct rigorous and regular on-site reviews of all U.S. sperm banks and mandate testing for communicable diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea, and for sperm quality.

What genetic testing does the sperm bank perform on donor applicants?

Check with the sperm bank you’re considering about its genetic testing protocol for donor applicants. The recommendations developed by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists can be considered today’s “best practices” in this field. For the testing we perform at PRS, which incorporate and go beyond the basic best practices standard, please visit our donor testing page.

Keep in mind there’s no testing protocol that could possibly cover the limitless number of genetic disorders human beings can carry. These range along a broad spectrum from harmless to minor to serious to life-threatening. Plus, not all genetic diseases are inherited: Some genetic mutations can occur spontaneously during embryonic development, and others through some type of environmental exposure that can manifest at any time of life. The risk of a birth defect resulting from donor insemination, according to leading medical research institutions, is the same as the risk from conceiving naturally: in the range of 2% to 4%.

Genetic Disease Prevention: A Breakthrough in Child Health

Genetic testing is one of the most important new frontiers in medicine. It’s also one of the biggest advances in the history of the sperm banking field. The number of devastating diseases identified from routine screening tests would’ve seemed unlikely even a decade ago.

Here are important factors to consider when choosing a sperm donor: his general health, physical characteristics, ethnicity, education, and interests. With the growing availability of genetic testing, the quality and breadth of a sperm bank’s donor testing program is vital information to add into your decision-making process.

Sherron Mills
Sherron is founder and president of Pacific Reproductive Services

A Young Man Connects With His Sperm Donor

You’re thinking of having a baby and wish to use a sperm donor. Should you choose a “willing to be known” donor or an anonymous one? At Pacific Reproductive Services, the large majority of our clients—most of whom are either single or coupled lesbians or heterosexual women choosing single motherhood—select willing to be known donors over the anonymous ones we also offer. From the beginning, we have made recruiting such donors our top priority as a sperm bank because we know our clients very much want their children to have the opportunity, if they choose to pursue it, to understand a little more about the other half of their biological lineage.

How Does It Work To Choose a “Willing to be Known” Donor?

Every WTBK donor contractually agrees to provide PRS current contact information and to have at least one face-to-face meeting with a child when he or she reaches 18, should the child request it. Increasingly, this initial conversation occurs on real-time video such as Skype if a physical meeting is impractical. Any additional meetings must be mutually agreed upon by both the child and the donor. In addition, under California law, the donor waives all parental rights, eliminating the possibility that he could at some point seek custody or visitation privileges.

“I Don’t Know What To Expect, What To Feel”

Cooper was one of the first babies conceived through artificial insemination using a PRS WTBK donor. At the age of 19, he made one of the biggest decisions of his young life. With the full support of the lesbian couple who are his parents, he decided to pursue the option of contacting his sperm donor. With a mixture of nerves, anticipation and a desire for a degree of closure, he filled out the request to Pacific Reproductive Services for the donor’s information.

“I don’t know what to expect, what to feel,” Cooper said. “Just to know his name is pretty great.” His moms were just as nervous. “I just hope it goes well —it’s so momentous,” one commented.

“Such A Moving Experience”

The long-awaited conversation between Cooper and the donor was captured forever by a film crew working on an MTV documentary on gay parents and their children. Connor never stopped smiling as he chatted with the donor who had also been looking forward to the conversation. “It was such a moving experience,” Cooper said, after the call was over. They have continued to stay in contact.

But not all young people now coming of age as part of the first wave of inseminations using our WTBK donors have shown the same interest as Connor and others in making contact. At least not yet. They may at some point in their lives. But the main thing for me—and for their mothers—is that they have that option open to them.

Sherron Mills
Sherron is founder and president of Pacific Reproductive Services

Choosing the Right Ovulation Predictor Kit
(Yes, It Does Matter)

An ovulation predictor kit is a valuable fertility tool to have on your road to motherhood. This easy, at-home test, measures your urine for a spike in the level of luteinizing hormone. Known as the LH surge, this rise is responsible for ovulation. A positive test indicates that ovulation is likely to occur within the next 12 to 36 hours.

Some important things to know about using ovulation predictor kits:

  • Women don’t necessarily ovulate the same day in their cycle every month, so be sure to always follow the instructions in your kit for what day in your cycle to begin testing. If your test was first positive on your 12th cycle day last time, don’t wait until cycle day 12 to start testing in the next cycles, as you may ovulate earlier.
  • Do not test your first morning urine. It’s very concentrated and therefore could result in a false positive result.
  • Although the test may be positive for 1 to 3 days, the first positive result is detecting the LH-Surge. Stop testing and inseminate. You should ovulate within 12 to 36 hours.
  • Be sure your test is 100% positive before you inseminate.If your test line is almost as dark as the reference line, but not quite, it’s not yet a positive result. A test isn’t positive until your test line shows what your kit defines as positive (as dark or darker) than the reference line. Some kits have a smiley face for a positive result, which can be easier to interpret.
  • We recommend you do a “dry run” test at least one month prior to your first insemination cycle so you can become familiar with the appearance of a positive test and the approximate time in your cycle that you can expect to ovulate.

We recommend these test kits because they are more specific to the LH surge than other products:

OVUSponse is available for purchase at our PRS offices or online. It’s a 1- step LH ovulation predictor test that yields results in about 3 minutes. Each kit comes with 9 tests.
For more information go to: or call: (877) 546-4223.

First Response is available at most major drug stores and other retailers. It’s a 1-step LH ovulation predictor test that yields results in about 5 minutes. Each kit comes with 7 tests. PRS does not recommend using the 20-day test product.
For more information go to: www.first

Sherron Mills

Sherron is founder and president of Pacific Reproductive Services

New Kids’ Album from Grammy Winners Celebrates All

Guest blogger: Dana Rudolph

Dana is the founder and publisher of Mombian (, a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.

The lyric, “I belong to a family. It may not look like your family,” epitomizes the joyous new children’s album Dancin’ in the Kitchen, by two-time Grammy Award-winning duo Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer. Families with same-sex parents are only one of the many types of families celebrated in this a warm and funny collection.

Fink and Marxer are best known for their traditional and contemporary folk, old-time country, and swing music. They’ve made 44 albums together, working with musical greats such as Pete Seeger and Tom Paxton, and have composed and performed award-winning children’s music for 25 years.

They had long wanted to make a children’s album of songs and stories that more families could identify with, Fink said in an interview. She cited as inspiration the 1986 children’s book (and associated album) Free to Be…a Family, developed by actor and activist Marlo Thomas, which defined family as “a feeling of belonging.”

A fresh take with a variety of music stylings

Dancin’ in the Kitchen is a fresh take on similar themes, with an expanded range of families. “There are many topics that are easier to talk about with music,” Fink said. “We feel like we’ve continued the story and made it yours and ours!”

They brought together songwriters, performers, and a children’s chorus to create a wonderful tapestry of an album that combines a variety of musical styles as well as family types. The pieces have all been recorded, but Fink and Marxer recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for publicity and marketing before the album is released.

Making a family a home

The common thread throughout is what makes a family and a home—with almost all of the songs looking at the world from a child’s perspective. The first is the toe-tapping “Dancin’ in the Kitchen,” recorded with the Grammy-winning Savoy Family Cajun Band. It starts right off with the line, “Dancing in the kitchen with Mommy and Mama,” with later verses celebrating “Daddy and Papa,” a baby brother, grandmother, and cousins. At parties she’s had, Fink says, “Everyone always gathers in the kitchen. It seems to be the heart of many homes. . . . We know families like all of the ones described in that song, but kept it flexible so people could sing along and include their own families.”

“Happy Adoption Day” is soothing and celebratory. “Soccer Shoes” is about a child with a divorced mom and dad who can’t remember at which parent’s home he left his soccer shoes—but who is otherwise managing life in two households. The song was written by Sue Ennis, songwriter for the rock band Heart and a friend of Fink and Marxer.

Other songs celebrate a new child, spending time with a grandparent, being twins (sung by identical twins Greg and Jere Canote), and the canine members of our families. Single moms, stepparents, families with grandparents as guardians, families with siblings from around the world, and families with different-sex parents also get mentioned. “I’m My Own Grandpa” tells us about a man whose father married the man’s wife’s grown daughter. It’s a silly song on the face of it—but also a nod to sometimes complex family ties.

Songs about gender roles and being biracial

There are no songs about transgender parents, but gender roles come up in “Everything Possible,” which says, “There are girls who grow up strong and bold, there are boys who are quiet and kind.” And in “The Family Song,” a child whose mother is a doctor and whose father is a nurse “doesn’t understand the jokes” people make about his family.

The spoken-word piece, “Who Is in Charge of Naming the Colors,” by storyteller Andy Offutt Irwin, is a clever, funny look at being biracial. “Andy’s got a smart sense of humor as well as a mouth full of hilarious sounds!” Fink observed.

Times have changed

The most touching track is the lullaby “Everything Possible,” written by Fred Small. In it, a parent says, “I will sing you a song no one sang to me. May it keep you good company. You can be anybody you want to be. You can love whomever you will.” A later verse is more specific: “Some women love women. Some men love men. Some have children, some never do.”

That song first appeared on their 1992 album, “Nobody Else Like Me,” and Fink and Marxer had wanted to include a children’s chorus in it then. “It became quite controversial,” Fink related. “Most parents loved the song,” she said, but “a few parents told us that not only could their child not sing on that song, but if it was in the album, they could not sing in the album.

“We sent a note home telling them we respected them all, but would not be censored,” Fink said. The chorus did not sing the song, but the women “recorded it as a trio with folksinger David Roth and closed the album with it.”

Times have changed, and the new album has “a beautiful kids’ chorus” added to the original tracks. Fink said, “The parents were all very enthusiastic about this and all of the songs. We love seeing progress.”

Crowd-sourced new album

Fink and Marxer are planning to release the album in mid-February 2015. If they raise more than their goal on Kickstarter, they hope to use it on additional public relations, gift recordings for various childrens’ programs, and music videos.

That would indeed be something for all families to dance about.

Find out more about this album and its Kickstarter campaign at or learn more about the duo at

A Rare Breed: The “Willing To Be Known” Sperm Donor

First, a little clarification. Most sperm banks use the term “ID Open” to mean a donor who agrees to have his contact information released by a sperm bank to a child at 18 or older, at the child’s request. AT PRS, we term our donors “willing to be known” (WTBK) because we go one step further: they’re required to sign a contract that they’ll have at least one meeting with a child.

These contacts will increasingly take place via real-time video technology such as Skype. After this conversation, both the donor and the child must agree to any additional communication. Although after so many years we cannot guarantee contact, the large majority of requested meetings do happen.

In my many years as a donor coordinator, I have interviewed thousands of potential donors. We accept less than 1 in 25 into our program. Almost all of our accepted donors are WTBK because our primary focus is to meet the special needs of lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual women who want to form alternative families. They typically have a deep interest in having as much knowledge as possible available to their children, should they wish it.

Our WTBK donors tend to share some special characteristics that make them willing to enter what is, after all, a serious, long-term commitment. They are paid more than anonymous donors but that is only one motivation. They tend to be empathetic people who can put themselves in the place of a child who might someday want to know more about his or her origins. Also, they are supportive of women who want to form alternative families and typically have friends or family members who have done so. They really want to help make that dream possible.

This WTBK donor expresses the sentiments of many when he says:

“I’m in my last year of law school and I won’t deny the extra income is pretty helpful, but I’m also very close with a single friend who used a sperm donor. I saw how important it was for her to give her child the opportunity to meet the donor someday. It just felt good to me to go ahead and give another child that chance.”

It is a lovely fact that, as the years go by, we hear of many meaningful connections that have been made. Some children may never feel the need to take that step. But for their mothers, and for us, the important thing is that they have the opportunity.

by Lisa Ferretti

Lisa is Donor Coordinator for Pacific Reproductive Services