Category Archives: parentage

New Oklahoma Case–Lesbian Parents, Legal Parents and Gender Neutrality

Add another case to the sadly long list of lesbian parents behaving badly. This one comes from Oklahoma and it also raises an argument that does arise from time to time–an argument that provides and opportunity to think about gender neutrality and the definition of parenthood.

You can read the actual opinion here, but I will summarize the facts.  I remind you, however, that I have no special knowledge of the facts and am merely repeating what the court says.  

Ami Dubose and Tracey North began to live together in a lesbian relationship in 2001.  North gave birth to a child in 2007.   This child was planned by the couple and conceived via assisted insemination.  (No information is provided about the source of sperm and I’m guessing anonymous donor.)   The couple lived together, coparenting the child, until 2012.   (By then the child would have been five or so.)  

Dubose never adopted the child and Dubose and North didn’t formalize their relationship.  While I’m not sure what exactly they could do in Oklahoma, the reason they didn’t take these steps is that both women were in the military.  Given the then-applicable “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, any action to recognize their relationship of the relationship between Dubose and the child could have endangered their careers.    (This is actually a fairly common situation and one of the lesser known but more serious consequences of that now-changed policy.) Continue reading

More on Thai Surrogacy and a Taste of Newspeak

I have an extremely erratic internet connection just now, so I guarantee you this will be short.  That’s if I can get it posted at all.   There’s a short story in today’s paper about Thai surrogacy–the fallout of the Baby Gamay story I already blogged about.   The main point is that Thailand is not letting intended parents leave Thailand with the children Thai surrogates gave birth to at the moment.   It’s a drastic remedy when you think about it.  No question in my mind that Thai surrogacy needs reform, but keeping the children (and through the children, the intended parents) in Thailand hardly seems an answer.   On the other hand, it surely a deterrent.  Who would choose Thai surrogacy knowing that the risk was you’d be living in Thailand.  (Nothing against Thailand–but if you didn’t plan to move there, it would be rather a complication.)

What really moved me to write, though, is the last sentence of the story in the Seattle Times.  It is by Rod McGuirk who writes for AP.  I cannot find a link to this anywhere–but as I say, my access if really spotty.

So here is what it says:

Scores of Australian biological parents are currently pregnant through surrogates in Thailand.

This, to my mind, is newspeak–the language of George Orwell’s 1984.   There may be biological parents in Australia (though remember I prefer “genetic?”) But there is no way they are pregnant.   And I haven’t the slightest idea what it means to be pregnant through another person.  It is (to my mind) bad enough when a non-pregnant person with a pregnant partner says “we’re pregnant.”

Pregnancy is personal.  The surrogates are pregnant.  The providers of genetic material are not.   It’s a terrible thing to twist language to suggest otherwise.

Gonna go now while the connection holds…..

Important NJ Case On Psychological Parent

I’m detouring from surrogacy to write about an important new decision from New Jersey.   The opinion, issued by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, is here.   I’m going to take a bit of time to lay out the facts before discussing the issues raised and resolved.     Do note that the case is subject to further appeal in New Jersey as well as subsequent proceedings in the lower court should the appellate opinion stand.

KAF and FD were a lesbian couple.  They began living together in 1999.  They decided to have a child together.   They used sperm from a donor and Arthur was born in 2002.   They relationship did not thrive and in 2004 they split up.   However, unlike many lesbian couples who show up in court cases, they got along well enough afterwards and in 2005 FD adopted Arthur.   (She did so with KAF’s approval, which I’m quite sure was required.) Continue reading

Talking to the Kids

I consider this a continuation of the last few posts about the darker sides of surrogacy.   (Just as a reminder, I don’t think surrogacy is inherently bad or wrong, but I do think it subject to abuse.  The recent stories illustrate the sorts of abuse I worry about.)

As I read about the Thai case one thing I noticed is that the focus of concern seems to be either Gamay (the infant boy who remains in Thailand) or Pattaramon Chanbua (the surrogate).   There isn’t much concern about the infant girl, who is presumably with the intended parents in Australia.    But the girl is who I want to think about here for a bit.

I suppose I should start by saying that I don’t have universal concerns about the well-being of children born of surrogacy.   I think the evidence gathered thus far shows that they, like children conceived/born other ways, are mostly just fine.   This is important because it means I don’t see the well-being of children as a general objection to all surrogacy.

But this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to think about.   Continue reading

Thai Surrogacy Fiasco–What Can We Learn?

There’s a story that has been all over the media the last few days involving an Australian couple who used a Thai surrogate.  I’m sure you can find a dozen different versions of the story, but I’ll start with this one from the Washington Post.  One of the reasons I’ll use this one is that it makes it clear that a lot of the details are unknown and/or unclear.

That said, here’s the bare-bones account.    (I’m trying to stay to the facts we know, but I think I have to make some assumptions, too.   I’ll try to identify them.).  An unnamed (and presumably heterosexual) Australian couple went to Thailand to hire a surrogate.   (While it doesn’t say this, I think we can assume that part of the reason they went to Thailand is that compensated surrogacy is prohibited in Australia.)

Pattaramon  Chanbua is a 21-year-old Thai woman.   She is food vendor and earns $622 per month.   A surrogacy agency offered to pay her somewhere between $9300 and $16,000 to serve as a surrogate.   She agreed to do so.  Continue reading

More on the Downsides of Surrogacy

There’s something weird about the ebb and flow in the media attention to surrogacy.  You seem to get a blast of positive coverage and then, a few weeks later, a corresponding blast of negative coverage.  Right now we are clearly in negative territory, as this article nicely shows.       It’s about the black market for surrogacy that currently exists in China–and apparently exists on a pretty large scale.  (The article quotes an estimate of “well over 10,000 birth a year.”   That is a pretty huge number (though of course, China has an enormous population.)

No one could mistake this for a positive article.   As with most black market enterprises, black market surrogacy is rife with abuse and exploitation.   While the surrogates employed by one agency (Baby Plan) are (to my mind, anyway) surprisingly well-paid ($24,000), the conditions under which they operate seem nightmarish to me:  Continue reading

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