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
I wanted to add a very brief coda to the last post on what it might mean to be a Jewish Mother. (The discussion in the comments is quite extensive and I confess that, in this week in which my kids graduated from middle school and high school, I have lost track of them.)
Anyway, there was a letter in yesterday’s Science section of the NYT commenting on the article. (There were two letters, actually. The second is the one I’m referring to.) Perry Dane made a great point that I’d like to echo here.
“Jewishness,” as a matter of Jewish law, is a technical legal construct much like citizenship, not a biological or psychological category.
There’s been extensive discussion in the comments on an earlier post about a teacher fired from a Catholic school for using ART. I just posted an update–the teacher won a jury verdict. But I wanted to take this in a slightly different direction.
In the comments someone linked to this essay which I had been meaning to write about. It’s from the New York Times and the title gives a fair view of the topic: “What Makes A Jewish Mother.”
Caren Chesler, who wrote the essay, gave birth to a child using an egg from an anonymous provider. The question she focuses on is whether her son is considered to be Jewish. Continue reading
This essay will, I think, be in print in tomorrow’s NYT but it’s been on the web for a bit. It’s from Modern Love–a Sunday column that often deals with complexities of modern family life. In the essay Lisa Schlesinger writes about her experience as the wife of a man who provided sperm to a lesbian couple who were friends of theirs. The husband, Ben, was to be a known sperm donor, of course. The essay shows us some of the complexity of that role and the web of relationships that are affected.
There are three different aspects of the story that I find striking. First is the chain of consultation. When Maggie (one of the lesbians) asked Ben (the husband) his response was to ask Lisa, his wife. Lisa and Ben have three children–a daughter genetically related to both of them and two sons who are from a relationship Lisa had before Ben and thus are genetically unrelated to them. The sons are in the 20s, the daughter 14. Continue reading
I’ve been thinking a bit more about the recent Tennessee case that was the subject of my last post. I discussed the facts in the earlier post but will run through some of them again quickly here. The Tennessee events giving rise to the case, informatively entitled “In Re Baby,” began when Jennifer E. agreed to serve as a surrogate to Luca G. and Antonella T. Pursuant to the agreement, Jennifer was artificially inseminated using Luca’s sperm.
Shortly before the resulting child was born Jennifer, Luca, Antonella and Jennifer’s husband, Joshua, jointly petitioned the court to establish parentage. The hope was to ensure some sort of legal clarity before the birth of the child. The court declared that Luca was the child’s legal father and also determined that any rights Jennifer might have theoretically had were forever terminated.
After the child was born Jennifer, who had apparently changed her mind, sought to prevent Luca and Antonella from taking the child with them. Continue reading
A few months back I wrote about a book on my “to read” pile. It’s Andrew Solomon’s “Far From The Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.” I have it from the library just now and, as it is around 1000 pages, I don’t think I’m going to finish it. Truth be told, I won’t even make a good start on it. Even so, I’m moving it from “to read” to “to buy.” That’s significant as I buy books rather sparingly, preferring to rely on the library unless I think a book is really a keeper. This one is.
It’s funny because the first thing that struck me was the very first sentence. It’s not surprising that I read the first sentence first, of course. What’s funny is that’s the same thing that struck me when I read the Guardian review, but I’d completely forgotten that. (Okay, mind like a sieve. I know.)
This time I’ll quote the first two sentences rather than just the first line.
“There is no such thing as reproduction. 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
Continuing with what seems like little run of personal stories, I wanted to talk about this recent photo essay. You can find the photos here, too, though the text is different. And, as is noted, the surrogate involved has her own blog. Anyway, I think this fits nicely with a not-too-long ago post about another personal surrogacy story.
Kristen Broome is the mother of a two-year-old. Her husband is in the military and was in Afghanistan during the time this takes place. She learned that her second cousin, Jamie Pursley, had had a miscarriage and could no longer carry a pregnancy to term. Kristen offered to be a surrogate for Jamie and Jamie’s husband, Jacob. Continue reading
I try to keep one eye on scientific developments that, while still in early stages, promise to complicate parenthood even further. I wrote about one line of research in the fall. This research opens to door to creating gametes (that would eggs and sperm) from ordinary cells, or at least from non-gametes. This is an outgrowth of research aimed at creating new specialized cells generally.
As the earlier post makes clear (I hope) the idea of creating specialized cells has wide application. The example I used (taken from research) involved creating new retinal cells which would be useful for treatment for certain retinal disorders.
But the implications of the research for reproductive technology are apparent. Continue reading
For several years (time does fly) I’ve been following an Iowa case challenging the state’s refusal to issue a birth certificate listing the names of both married women when one woman gives birth. As you’ll see if you read through the posts I just linked to, the case is something of a follow-on to the Iowa litigation that resulted in access to marriage for same-sex couples in Iowa.
The Iowa Supreme Court has now issued its decision. It determined that the state must issue the birth certificate listing both women’s names. Of course this brings up the whole birth certificate debate and the reasoning of the court is interesting in that larger context, too. (If you look under the tag you’ll find a lot of posts about birth certificates and what they should or do say and mean.)
For those who don’t want to read through the opinion and/or the earlier string of posts, it’s worth noting a couple of key features here that are really woven into the facts of the case. Continue reading