Here’s a UK story that lines up nicely with an earlier post I did about NY. As a result of a law enacted last fall (you can read a few comments about the legislative debate here) lesbian couples will now have several new paths to joint parenthood in the UK. Though the headline here is about birth certificates, in fact the changes go deeper than that.
I’m not entirely sure I’ve got all the details right, but the thing that seems most clear is this: If a woman in a civil partnership gives birth after using ART (this would include IVF and donor insemination) then her partner’s name goes on the birth certificate. Even more important, her partner is the legal parent of the child, just as the husband of a woman who gives birth would be. Given that the UK is a single country without separate sovereign states, this would place the partner in a fairly secure legal position. (It’s not clear to me what another country might make of the certificate, of course.)
Further, it appears that even if the two women are not a parties to a civil partnership, as long as both women sign the necessary consent forms (some of which at least are required before doing any ART), then both women are legal parents. And of course get their names on the birth certificate.
This is particularly interesting because while the two women could be a lesbian couple, it does not appear that any specific relationship is required. Thus it could be any two women who agreed to raise a child together–as long as they are not blood relatives. That’s an unusual provision, to say the least. The signing of the consent forms the basis of parenthood.
I cannot help but wonder what exactly the problem with blood relatives would be. Obviously there is no concern about genetic inbreeding, since none of this has anything to do with genetics. It seems curious that two friends would be able to become parents together but two sisters would not. I suspect this is simply mirroring the requirements that two people getting married not be blood relatives.
The one catch to be wary of is that if insemination is done at home, these provisions will not have force. Again, the article is a bit less than clear here. It appears that women who are in a civil partnership can do home insemination and still both be parents, while those who are not in a civil partnership will not both be parents if they do home insemination.
In any event, it seems clear that a line is drawn between home insemination and insemination in a clinic of some sort. This is one of the those arbitrary spots. Why the parentage of a child should be dependent on where exactly insemination occurs is beyond me.
Finally, note that all this has very little to do with gay men. That’s because the UK has it’s own laws about surrogacy, placing it in a different regulatory web. It’s the capacity of lesbians to give birth that gives them access to this body of law.