Yesterday the prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, issued a formal apology to thousands of unwed mothers who were forced to give up their children for adoption in post-World War II Australia. I’m sure that the reaction of many people is “it’s about time” and indeed, that is the case. But there are also a couple of other points that strike me.
First, tying back to yesterday’s post, this is something like a logical consequence of the emphasis on how important marriage is. It looks to me like the problem with these unmarried mothers is that they were unmarried.
Unwed mothers were pressured, deceived and threatened into giving up their babies from the second world war until the early 1970s so they could be adopted by married couples, which was perceived to be in the children’s best interests, the Senate committee report found. Continue reading
I’m going to look more closely at the opinion issued in Kansas yesterday. For background you can start with yesterday’s rather hurried post. If you want to follow along with the actual opinion, I’m going to really focus on the materials after page 18. Up until that point, the court has basically stated the facts (which are in yesterday’s post) and summarized the various positions taken by parties and amicus.
From a totally lawyer/geek point of view, it’s noteworthy that the first discussion of the substantial issues–what does it mean to be a legal parent? Who can claim to be one in Kansas?–arises in the context of jurisdiction. It’s actually not uncommon. Goudschaal essentially asserts that she is a parent (by virtue of genetic connection/biology) and that there are only two paths to parenthood in Kansas–that one and adoption. Since Frazier claims neither, Goudschaal asserts she (Frazier) doesn’t even have a right to ask a court to decide whether or not Frazier is a parent. In essence, Goudschaal asserts that the court has no authority to even consider the question.
This may seem an obscure point to focus on, but I think it tells us something about the potential force of the argument Goudschaal is attempting to invoke. Continue reading
There’s a new opinion from the Kansas Supreme Court that is worth a look. I don’t have time to fully digest it (and so may return to it in a bit) but even a brief read makes it worthy of comment.
The case arises from a regrettably familiar pattern: Two women–a lesbian couple–decide to have kids together. They use third-party sperm and one woman gets pregnant and gives birth. Her legal status is clear. In time the women split up and the one who gave birth asserts that she is the sole legal parent and that her former partner has no rights vis-a-vis the children.
These cases require the courts to determine the legal status of the woman who did not give birth. You’ll find a number of these cases from different states recorded here. (I regret to say that I have not properly tagged them so you cannot pick them out easily.) In this instance, Kansas joins the states that have affirmed legal parentage of the second woman. Over the years courts have used a variety of doctrines to support this conclusion and it’s important to note which path Kansas followed. Continue reading
I’m travelling now and this makes it a bit more difficult to manage the comments, but I came across this story in the paper today (long plane ride=read paper closely) and thought it worthy of note. It’s about single mothers in Vietnam, really, although it begins with the story of a group of single mothers from one village.
These are single mothers by choice, but as must always be true their choices were made in particular and specific circumstances–circumstances defined by culture and by history as well as all the other vagaries of time and place. I think the story struck me because some commenters here have been quite critical of those who would deliberately have children who are cut off from a genetic parent. I can’t help but wonder if people would say the same of these women who are in such a different context. (I should be clear that I cannot say myself since I am not particularly critical of the women who make the same choice here in my own culture.) Continue reading
Yet another pregnant Catholic school teacher in the mid-West has been fired. I’ve written about a couple of similar cases (noted at the end of the news article) in the past. This one is a bit different because, as far as we can tell, there’s no ART angle.
Kathleen Quinlan was a first grad teacher in Cincinnati. She was unmarried. She became pregnant with twins.
Now the Archdiocese has a policy against non-marital sex. This is clearly consistent with Church doctrine. And since there’s no assertion that Quinlan used ART (which is itself contrary to Church teaching), it’s pretty clear that she violated that policy. And on that basis they fired her.
In fact, it isn’t just that she violated the policy. The problem is that it is obvious to everyone that she did so. Continue reading
The post I put up earlier today is in the nature of current events, really. But as we near the year’s end it is also my nature to think back more broadly about what goes on here at the blog. I’d say that one of the most consistent discussions here is one about the importance of genetic linkage.
There are lots of ways to frame this question: Should being the genetic parent of a child make you a legal parent of the child? Should it mandate some other form of legal relationship if you are not a legal parent? Should it give you a “right of first refusal,” as it were? Today I don’t propose to address any of those questions directly. Instead, I want to restate some of the opinions that inform my take on these questions.
Regular readers will all know that I am generally skeptical about claims to legal parentage that are premised on genetic relationship. 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
Although surrogacy is not exactly rare, it also isn’t all that common. And yet it’s often covered in the news. And when it comes up here (as it has in the last couple of posts) it always spurs discussion.
I think it is because it raises so many issues and forces us to unpack so many assumptions. It crystallizes a bunch of questions about motherhood that I wrote about not so long ago. And it makes us think hard about gender/sex and sameness/difference. And really, of course, the problem is pregnancy and what we do with it.
Here’s one way to think about this. Under current law in NJ men and woman are treated differently with regard to legal parentage when surrogacy is used. Continue reading
This seems a reasonably good follow-up to a post about the egg market from a couple of days ago. I’ll start with some background which you can probably skip if the market for gametes is a subject you are familiar with.
I’ve written a lot about sperm and egg donors here, and about the market for gametes. It’s clear that there are important differences between the market for eggs and that for sperm. Historically one difference has been is that sperm has been banked–collected and frozen for later use–while eggs have not been.
If you stop to think about it, there are many ramifications of this difference. Because you can bank sperm there are independent entities that do nothing but collect, store and sell sperm. Continue reading
I’ve been meaning to write about this story for a while, even though it’s far afield from recent threads. I think of this as a reminder that, however much we want to believe in the possibility of being gender-blind, we have to think about gender when we think about parenthood–or at least, about becoming parents.
The Delhi School, a Louisiana charter school, had a policy that pregnant students could not attend classes and that any student suspected of being pregnant had to take a pregnancy test or she was presumed to be pregnant and treated as such. I gather the idea here was that students had to exhibit good character traits and teenage pregnancy is evidence of something less than good character. Continue reading