There’s an essay on the NYT website today that raises some interesting questions, though I think the picture it paints is incomplete. It’s an excellent and provocative title: Is Forced Fatherhood Fair? I guess the idea is that Father’s Day is a good time to think about this. And perhaps that is true.
To begin with you have to understand what Laurie Shrage (the author) means by forced fatherhood. She’s concerned about instances where “dad’s role was not freely assumed, but legally mandated.” I think what’s she’s principally worried about are cases where a man and a woman who are not married to each other engage in intercourse and an unplanned pregnancy results. At that point, the decision about whether to proceed with the pregnancy or not is not the man’s. If the woman does not wish to have an abortion but instead wants to give birth, she can choose that route. And if she then wants to raise the child as a legal parent, then she can do that, too. In many cases, the man will be the legal father of the child and have obligations and responsibilities as well as rights thrust upon him. He is, in Shrage’s terminology, a forced father. Continue reading
As you all probably know already I’m a big fan of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She does the most remarkably insightful interviews and the movie and book reviews are also really good. It’s one of the ways I keep up with the world.
Anyway, last week (this is unusually timely for me) she interviewed a young woman named Sarah Polley. Polley is an actress and filmmaker and her most recent work is a documentary called “Stories We Tell.” (It actually just played at the Seattle International Film Festival, but I’m sorry to say I missed it.) It’s an exploration of Polley’s own family history. In the course of it she interviewed her siblings and her father (a Canadian actor named Michael Polley), among others, at length. (Her mother died when she was 11, which is obviously long before the movie was made.) What she focused on was a running joke/rumor in her family that Michael Polley was not her genetic father. Continue reading
If you search “Utah” on this blog, you will find discussion of a few Utah cases that treat unmarried men remarkably harshly. Utah strongly prefers that children be raised in married families. When an unmarried woman gives birth if she does not want to marry the father, the state makes it as easy as possible to place the child for adoption. A genetic father not married to the mother has only a very narrow window of opportunity to declare himself. If he does not file proper papers before the mother files her consent to adoption he is not a legal father and hence has no due process rights at all.
Today the Utah Supreme Court actually found an application of the statute violated the constitution. This is news enough that I wanted to get a quick post up tonight. I have to read the opinion more carefully but at first blush it is hard for me to see this as a case with any broad ramifications. Continue reading
There are so many different threads running through the conversations in my last few posts. It’s hard for me to keep track of it all. I just thought I’d try to write something short to isolate some questions about gender and legal parentage. I want to make a few observations even though the evening grows late and I’m probably not thinking all that clearly.
First, it seems to me that if you take genetic relationship as being the criteria for assigning legal parentage, then it is easy to figure what to do about surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy with the genetic material of the intended parents is unproblematic. Continue reading
Here’s a story that’s been sitting on my desktop for a long time. On some level, I’m just not sure what to make of it–what it tells us about the nature of fatherhood. It’s about an RV that tools around NYC with the words “Who’s Your Daddy” emblazoned on the side. It offers on the spot DNA testing to establish paternity.
Compare the two stories that are featured early on. Think about what this tells us about what it means to bea father.
In the first, a man who has clearly been deeply involved in a child’s life–who is clearly committed to the child–learns, to his horror, that he is not genetically related to the boy. It’s tragic that this knowledge would fundamentally alter his relationship to the child. Isn’t that relationship–five years in–based on something far more than strands of chromosomes? Continue reading
First off, my apologies. On top of the usual chaos of travel/vacation my internet access has been on the fritz. I’ve started in on comments three times so far only to have things crash before I hit that “post reply” button. Very frustrating for me and perhaps for all of you who are wondering if I still care. The answer is that I do care and that shortly I should return to the land of reliable internet (though there will still be disruption with a last round of company/social activity.) Sorry for all this but it is, after all, summer.
Now–on to a post. I’ve written a number of times about the case arising out of dueling court actions in Vermont and Virginia. This past Sunday (I think it was) the NYT had an extensive article on the background and aftermath of the litigation in that case.
It’s a sad story about a lesbian couple who began a family together. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a blood test that can be done fairly early on during pregnancy that can allow sequencing of the DNA of the developing fetus. This opens the door to all sorts of difficult choices.
Here’s a story I think of as a follow-up: An early blood test can also be used to establish paternity. (Paternity here means genetic paternity, not legal paternity.) Because the test is a simple blood test it carries very little risk, though it is pricey. And of course, you can only do this if you also have a blood sample from at least all but one of the possible fathers.
As with the other blood test, this gives people the option of having yet more information–and the question is what people will do with it. I found the suggestions in the paper surprising:
Besides relieving anxiety, the test results might allow women to terminate a pregnancy if the preferred man is not the father — or to continue it if he is. Continue reading
I’ve been thinking about the opinion the US Supreme Court issued yesterday–the one about whether posthumously conceived children qualify for social security benefits. I did a fairly quick review of the opinion yesterday, but there’s surely more to say. There are layers of questions about what lines are drawn, who draws them, and whether they are permissible.
The children here argued that the line had been drawn in an impermissible way.
“Under the government’s interpretation . . . , posthumously conceived children are treated as an inferior subset of natural children who are ineligible for government benefits simply because of their date of birth and method of conception.”
Brief for Respondent 42–43. In other words, she asserted that drawing a line between children conceived before the death of the husband/sperm provider and those conceived after his death was impermissible.
Of course, line drawing is often what law is all about. Continue reading
While I’m on the subject of Utah and father’s rights I wanted to put up a post with a couple of other relevant links.
First off, there’s this story about something like a sting operation designed to examine how Utah adoption agencies operate when dealing with unmarried women considering adoption. The story could be a little more clearly written. It might be important to know that to the extent the story suggests that agencies tell women about Utah law the information the agencies provide seems to be accurate. Continue reading
As I (finally) am going through the comments, Rebecca alerted me to an interesting and potentially important opinion arising from a case I discussed a while back. You can go read that post but I’m also going to sketch a little background here.
You may recall that Utah has remarkably harsh law regarding unmarried fathers. This arises in part from the state’s strong preference that children be raised within a marital family. When a single mother gives birth in Utah placement of the child for adoption is seen as a better option that leaving the child with either the birth mother or the birth father. (I’m assuming the people don’t want to get married for if they do, no more single mother.) To facilitate adoption in this circumstances birth fathers have extremely limited rights. Unlesss they do exactly the right things very quickly they are not legal parental rights and hence, have no right to object to an adoption.
This is the circumstance that underlies the case that lead to my earlier post. Continue reading