Sorry to keep putting up posts without attending to comments, but I am on vacation and only on-line for a little bit at a time. I came across this story and as it revisits a topic that hasn’t been here for a while, I thought it worth putting up here.
This case is from Kansas. Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner are a lesbian couple who wanted to raise a child. In 2009 They put an ad on Craig’s list seeking a sperm provider. William Marotta responded. Bauer, Schreiner and Marotta made an agreement–he would provide sperm but would not have any rights or obligations as a parent. Schreiner gave birth to a child–a girl–who is now about 3.
Now I’ve written about stories like this many times–you can use the tag of lesbian mother or sperm donor to find some. In this instance, only Schreiner was a legal parent. Perhaps Bauer was not allowed to complete a second-parent adoption. And in the fullness of time, Shreiner and Bauer split up.
But there’s an important difference between this case and the others I can recall writing about. Here all the parties went along and kept to the agreement. Bauer and Schreiner share time with the child even though Bauer is not a legal parent. Marotta has received occasional reports on the child but has made no attempt to play any particular role in the child’s life.
So what is the problem, you might wonder? Well, Shreiner (the legal lesbian parent) fell on hard times and applied for state public assistance. Because Bauer has no legal obligation to support the child, the state decided to seek support from the child’s legal father–and the state asserts that this is Marotta. Apparently the insemination was performed at home and so under Kansas law, it argues that Marotta remains a legal parent. Had a doctor performed the insemination, Marotta would not be a legal parent. And the agreement, I think, has nothing to do with it.
This really seems a bit of a mess. Parental status ought not to turn on whether insemination is performed by a doctor or not. That’s an invitation to confusion and mistake. The main error the people here made probably was not consulting a lawyer–who probably could have told them to use a doctor. But this is likely parenthood on the cheap–and why take on the expense of paying a lawyer when everyone agrees?
Surely it would make more sense for the state to seek support from Bauer–who is in fact acting as a parent of the child. But that would mean recognizing her as a parent (because the state has fused the requirement of support to legal parentage). And Kansas doesn’t want to say she’s a legal parent. Certainly that is the route I would go.
There was another case from Kansas I wrote about–quite a while back now. It’s one where the Kansas Supreme Court confirmed that employing a doctor did indeed sever the donor’s legal rights. So this case pretty clearly frames the ‘what does the doctor matter’ question. And I suppose we shall see.