Category Archives: parentage

Who Do We Worry About With Surrogacy?

As my vacation winds down, I have been thinking about this article, which I’m sure many of you saw.  (It was on the front page of the New York Times a couple of days ago.)

There’s been a lot of discussion about surrogacy here over the years (and I’m actually working on a more sustained law review type piece on the subject.)   You all probably know that mostly I worry about the vulnerability of the surrogates.   They are virtually always women who have less power, less money and less education than the intended parents.

While I haven’t written much about it, I know many people worry about the vulnerability of children conceived via surrogacy.   No question that children are vulnerable.   But all the studies I’ve read tend to show that children born via surrogacy don’t really fare differently than other children–which is to say that most do just fine.    Nothing I’ve seen suggests that surrogacy per se is a problem in this regard.

Anyway, in general the people I’m the least concerned about are the intended parents–those who contract with the surrogates in order to become parents.    And that is where this article comes in:  Continue reading

NYT Surrogacy Article

I’m sure many of you saw and read this story that was in the NYT a couple of days ago.   The headline (“Coming to US for a Baby, and Womb to Carry It”) doesn’t really do it justice.   While it is, in fact, a story about the US as a destination for what is sometimes called reproductive tourism, it isn’t only that.   It’s full of interesting little points about surrogacy and many of the hard questions surrogacy raises.   From  my point of view, this makes it hard to know where to begin.   So I guess I’ll just dive in……

The article does a nice job of at least touching on some of the issues that can arise with surrogacy.   So, for example, the question of compensation is raised.  Do you pay a surrogate?  How much and for what?   Perhaps it isn’t clear that even within the US there’s enormous variation on the approach to compensation–from making compensation illegal to facilitating it.

Does the exchange of money mean that surrogacy exploits women? Continue reading

New NH Holding Out Opinion

I know I’ve been silent for quite a while. Bit of a break. But there’s a new opinion that has brought me back to the keyboard. It’s from the Supreme Court of New Hampshire and is yet one more case of the breakup of a lesbian family. (Sadly you’ll find a number of those on the blog. Because the legal status of lesbian co-parents can be unclear there is often the opportunity for litigation if things get messy.)

For the purposes of its decision the court took the facts as stated by the petitioner, Susan B.   I will do the same.

Susan and Melissa D met in 1997.  They held a commitment ceremony (no legal marriage that time) in 1998.   They wanted to have a family and bought a house together.  Melissa gave birth to Madeline in 2002.   She was conceived using sperm from an anonymous donor who shared Susan’s Irish heritage.

Many details seem to confirm Susan’s status as a parent (and here I mean social status):

Susan and Melissa decided to give Madelyn Susan’s middle and last names.

Susan and Melissa were both named as Madelyn’s parents in the birth announcements sent to friends and family and printed in the local newspaper, as well as in a “dedication ceremony” held in the Unitarian Universalist Church when Madelyn was a year old. Susan was listed as Madelyn’s parent in her preschool documents and in her medical records. Susan was involved in the daily care of Madelyn, and Susan and Melissa jointly made all decisions involved in raising Madelyn, including decisions regarding health care, education, and religion.

Continue reading

A Very Late Appreciation of Fathers

I know that, from time to time, I get a certain amount of grief about being hard on men/fathers here.   I don’t  think most of the complaints are justified, for what that is worth.  But I also don’t want to miss this chance to talk about why it might be hard to be a good father.    (To be clear, here I mean “father” in all the depth and complexity of the social/psychological role–not simply a genetic father.  It’s obviously quite easy to be a genetic father–which is part of why I wouldn’t give too much weight to that accomplishment.)

So around Father’s Day, there were a series of provoking stories and/or posts from NPR.  They’re all accessible via Code Switch, an NPR blog about race, culture and ethnicity.   They lead me to a wonderful blog called “Daddy Doin’ Work.”  That blog is by Doyin Richards who is a Black man who is both a dad and a husband.   Continue reading

New Families in All Their Infinite Variety?

Back in March I put up a post about a column by David Dodge, who is a sperm donor for lesbian couples who are friends of his.  (The idea is that he will be known to the child but will not function as a parent.)   It was on the Motherlode blog (run by the New York Times).

Well, now it turns out that this is to be a weekly series under the name “Sperm Donor Diary.”   This in itself is probably a sign of the times.   Last week he posted about euphemisms, describing a conversation about what he was doing he had with, among others, an 11 year old brother.   I didn’t comment on that, but it is surely worth a look.  (It also strikes me that each of the first two columns in the series have a great deal to do with language–a reminder of how important the words we choose are.)    One thing notable (and also carried over from the first entry) is the degree of openness in the process underway.   This, I think, bodes well for the future.  No secrets means no tension about letting secrets out.

Anyway, here is this week’s post and it has prompted me to write.     Tori and Kelly are the lesbian couple involved.   Kelly is pregnant (and the baby is due in July.)   That’s as much as we knew in the past, I think, and it really isn’t that unusual.  But it turns out that both Kelly and Tori provided eggs that were fertilized in vitro using Dodge’s sperm.   Continue reading

Australian Birth Certificates And What They Mean

I approach the topic of birth certificates with some trepidation, because it seems to be a particularly controversial topic.   I approach Australian law with great trepidation, as I have no real understanding of Australian law.  I rely on what others say, and that is always risky.   So you can just imagine the degree of trepidation with which I approach the topic of Australian birth certificates.  But nonetheless, here I am.

Some background first:  One problem with talking about birth certificates is reaching an agreement about what they are/what they do.  I’ve written about this a number of times.   (See above trepidation.)

A number of things make the topic more complicated than it might at first seem.  For one thing, I assume every country (and many states) have their own ways of doing things.  Continue reading

University of Utah Balances Harms—Did They Get It Right?

A few months ago I wrote about Thomas Lippert.   Lippert worked for a fertility clinic in Utah in the early 1990s and apparently substituted his own sperm for that of intended genetic fathers on at least one occasion.    This came to light recently as genetic testing revealed that a 21-year-old was the genetic child of Lippert and not, as was thought, her social/psychological (and legal) father.

Because this happened quite a while back and because the clinic closed in 1997, details of exactly how this happened are scarce.  It is, however, clear that Lippert was anything but a model citizen.  (He died in 1999.)

Once the story came to light, the University of Utah (the clinic had some affiliation there) did an investigation.  And now that is complete.   So the next chapter in this story is the University’s response.   While it is interesting, it is not entirely satisfactory.   Continue reading

New Case on Genetic and Gestational Lesbian Mothers in the UK

First off, thanks to Natalie Gamble and Bill Singer for pointing me towards this case.   It’s actually a nice complement to the Jason Patric case, which has been the focus of a lot of recent discussion here.

A lesbian couple in the UK wanted to have children.   One woman provided eggs.  (She’s the genetic mother.)  These were fertilized in vitro and the resulting embryos were transferred to the other woman’s uterus.   (She’s the gestational mother.)  The gestational mother gave birth to twins.

Both women cared for the children with the genetic mother assuming the role of stay-at-home mom.   As some point one of the earlier-created embryos was transferred to the uterus of the genetic mother and a third child was born.   (The third child is a full genetic sibling to the twins.) Continue reading

Who Gets To Keep The Frozen Embryos?

From time to time there are disputes about the disposition of frozen embryos.   (This has come up here before.)   If you think about it, it is not hard to see why.  Anyone using IVF creates embryos.   You almost always create more than one or two for a variety of reasons.  So you don’t end up using them all.  Maybe you think you’ll use them later.  Maybe you’re not sure.   In any event, the common practice is to freeze them.  That defers the decision about what to do with them.

Disputes arise when two people who created the embryos (usually each contributing their own genetic material, but not always) split up.  Who gets them?   This seems to turn in part on what the people want to do with them.  In general, in a string of early cases, the person who wanted them destroyed rather than used prevailed.   No one, it was said, should be forced to procreate.

(That’s not an entirely satisfactory logic to me–if a man and a woman have sex and she gets pregnant, she can certainly decline to have an abortion and the man will procreate.  Continue reading

The Broader Implications of the Patric Case

There’s  a lot of discussion (some parts of it more relevant than others, some parts of it more temperate than others) about the Jason Patric case–both here and out there in the world.   (I do not really mean to suggest that you should read the 152 comments (a number of which are mine) on my post.  That’s way over the top, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s part of the reason for starting with a new post.)

Anyway, I’ll remind you a bit about the case and what I think of it, but then move on to some broader observations.  Patric provided sperm used to impregnant Schneider.   Patric and Schneider had been a couple and had tried to conceive a child via sex.  But that hadn’t worked–either the couple part or the conception part.   I think it is agreed that by the time they were doing insemination they were not a couple.  (If’ I’m wrong, by all means correct me.)

Schneider gave birth to Gus.   Patric played some role in Gus’ life.  (The details of what role are surely in dispute.)  Patric wanted legal recognition as a parent.   Continue reading