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
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
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
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
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
As you may have read elsewhere, the appellate court in California has ruled on the parentage case brought by Jason Patric. (You can get to the opinion from this page if you look under opinions issued on May 14.). The papers paint this as a victory for Patric, which is correct, but they also (at least the headlines I’ve seen) get the details wrong.
I’ve written about this case before and it’s certainly gotten it’s share of media coverage. I won’t recite the facts (which are sharply contested) in any detail, but it’s interesting and important to read the facts as recited by the court. Critically, Patric provided sperm for the insemination of Danielle Schreiber. The pregnancy resulted from insemination. And after the birth of the child (Gabe) Patric developed a social/psychological relationship with Gus. (This very barebones version of the facts may actually be consistent with both sides’ versions.)
So the court said several important things. First, the fact that Patric provided the sperm doesn’t make him a parent. It also doesn’t give him the right to establish any particular relationship with the child. (That’s footnote 10 and is a point that Patric conceded.).
Second, the fact that Patric provided sperm doesn’t preclude him from using California law that would be available to anyone else Continue reading
Many of you will know that there is a case from Kansas that I have been following for some time. Before I get to the newest twist, I’ll do a quick summary. For more details follow the link to earlier posts.
Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner were a lesbian couple seeking to have a child. They found William Marotta via a Craig’s List ad. He agreed to provide sperm and, in a written contract, agreed that he would be a donor only and not a legal father.
The problem is that in Kansas that contract does not have legal effect. What would have accomplished the purpose was if the sperm had been provided to a doctor rather than directly to the women. An agreement–even a clear written agreement–simply doesn’t do it under KS law.
Now as it happens all of the individuals involved (Marotta and the two women) honored the agreement. The child was raised by the two women and had no contact with Marotta. But then the one woman who was a legal mother needed financial support from the state and the state, looking to recoup its costs, determined that Marotta was a legal parent and hence owed support. It commenced suit against him. Continue reading
A couple of days ago I blogged about the contested parentage case involving Jason Patric. There’s been a bunch of discussion there and as I was reading through it I thought of an interesting variation on the problem.
To be clear, this has absolutely no basis in fact, as far as I know. But since (as I pointed out before) we really don’t know the facts that seems fine to me. Instead, a variation like this (what law professors generally call “hypothetical”) allows you to test you thinking about legal rules. It allows you to see which facts would matter to you–and that in turn can lead to questions about why those facts matter.
With all that in mind, here’s the imaginative exercise. Suppose they facts are as we know them–which is to say that there is disagreement between the parties about what exactly the plan was, but somehow the plan went forward. Further, suppose that (as is the case) after the birth of the child the man played some role in his life. (We can talk about what role if you like–but in the real case that’s a part of the contested facts, so I won’t lay it out here). But now suppose that just before heading into court we learn that, through some terrible error, the sperm used to create the child was NOT Jason Patric’s. Continue reading
I know that the parentage case involving Jason Patric and Danielle Schreiber has been all over the web for a long time but as it has finally arrived in the NYT, I thought I might as well take the time to comment. I don’t think I can begin to summarize the facts, so for starters I’d suggest you go and read the article. (I’m going to work off the facts as reported there.)
One thing to note at the outset is that many of the facts are disputed. I don’t pretend to have any special knowledge of the facts. Thus, I do not know about what did or did not happen. For instance, I do not know why Jason Patric was the one who took Gus to be circumcised when Gus was eight-days old. But there do seem to be a bunch of things that there is agreement about. Jason Patric is the genetic father of Gus. Continue reading
Here’s a second-hand story that gives me something to think about: A two-year-old boy in Texas has inherited 11 frozen embryos left by his deceased parents. It appears (though I don’t think this is explicitly stated) that were the embryos brought to term, the resulting children would be full genetic siblings of the boy. But as he is only two and won’t be allowed to make decisions regarding the embryos till he is 18, there will be quite an age gap by the time any “sibling” appears if, in fact, they appear at all.
Strange though this seems I think it must be right. There seems to be no doubt that the embryos belonged to the boy’s parents. The parents died (sadly, they were murdered) and left no will and no other instructions regarding the frozen embryos. It’s hard for me to see any alternative at this point except to decide that the embryos–like all other possessions of the parents–devolve to the boy.
This may be treating them like property, but again, what is the alternative? Continue reading