Canadian Journal of Family Law


Fiona Kelly

First Page


Document Type



The number of single mothers by choice (SMCs), that is, unpartnered women who choose to conceive a child that they intend to raise on their own; has grown rapidly in Australia, where they now represent the largest user group of clinic-based donor sperm. Despite the growing visibility of SMCs, constraints remain for women who wish to parent autonomously from a partner. This article explores a complex new challenge for Australian SMCs: whether to participate in the increasingly popular phenomenon of “donor linking,” defined as the process by which parents who use donated gametes to conceive seek access to the donor’s identity. Made possible by formal legislative pathways in three Australian states, as well as informal mechanisms such as DNA testing, the availability of donor linking arguably places additional pressure on SMCs to embrace dominant norms around gender, family, and fatherhood. Drawing on data from an interview-based study of twenty-five Australian SMCs, this article explores how autonomous mothers who conceive using donated sperm navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by donor linking. It is argued that while donor linking is popular among SMCs and may make it harder for them to resist dominant norms around parenting, family, and gender, the majority of those who engage in the practice are able to shape their experience in a way that preserves their autonomy.