The Remarkable Resilience of the Two Parent Model

I missed this report from the Pew Center when it was issued, but this morning this media follow-up caught my eye.  For me the take away here is that two parent families–and specifically gay and lesbian couple families–are far more socially accepted than single mother families.   (They didn’t ask about single parent families, only single mother families.) 

The study surveyed people about various non-traditional family forms.  In presenting the results, the authors clustered respondents into three groups:  Accepters (who generally accept the non-traditional forms and make up 31% of respondents), Rejecters (who reject non-traditional forms and make up 32%), and Skeptics (who generally sharing tolerant views but concerned–and make up 37%).  

The striking divergence between Accepters and Skeptics arises when you look at the findings with respect to single mother families.   Here’s a lengthy quote: 

Perhaps the most striking difference occurs in attitudes toward single motherhood between the two more tolerant groups. Virtually all Skeptics (99%) say the increase single in [sic] motherhood is bad for society. In contrast, nearly nine-in-ten Accepters say the increase in single women having children has made no difference (74%) or is “a good thing for society” (13%).

So sizable is the difference between Accepters and Skeptics on this single trend that the division of the Accepters and Skeptics is driven primarily—though though not solely—by views on single motherhood. In fact, these two generally similar groups would merge into a single cluster if the question about single motherhood were removed from the analysis.

Of particular note, the survey also asked about two same sex parent households and there a substantial majority of both Skeptics and Accepters thought the trend was either positive or made no difference.  ( You can find the results in the study, but the numbers come out to 81 % of Accepters and 67% of Skeptics in the positive/no difference camps.   For Rejecters the same number is 10% and they are all in the “no difference” camp.  No Rejecters think gay and lesbian couples raising kids is a positive trend.)

This divergence–the relatively wide acceptance of lesbian/gay couples raising kids and the relatively wide rejection of single mothers–is striking and (to me anyway) somewhat surprising.   I’ve written about single mothers with some frequency in a variety of contexts.  (Because that’s a pretty varied list, I’ll link to one specific post as well.)   I’ve also written about the way in which the debates around access to marriage for same-sex couples have reinforced the two-parent model.  

You might think that the lesbian/gay parent family would be the more socially contentious.  After all, the past decade has seen numerous efforts to bar same-sex couples from adopting children.   By contrast, no one challenges the ability of single women (or single men, for that matter) to adopt.  

But really we should all have seen this coming.   Increasingly initiatives and legislation aimed at barring lesbian and gay couples from adopting have failed, which is why more recent efforts focus on barring all unmarried couples from adopting.   (Doubtless it is just a coincidence that in states that have considered/adopted such bans, there is no possibility of lesbian/gay couples being married.)  As lesbian and gay families have gained acceptance, the specter of the unmarried parent (and particularly the unmarried mother) remains. 

For reasons unconnected to this story I’ve been thinking recently about our deep attachment to the notion that two is the right number of parents.  It’s not that you cannot see where we got such an idea–it’s all about biology.   But if you don’t buy the idea that parenthood is fundamentally biological–determined by DNA–then why the persistent attachment to two parents? 

I don’t accept the genetic definition of parenthood and I don’t have a good answer to the “why two parents?” question.  But it seems to me that this study shows that our attachment to two parents is deeper than our attachment to a gendered notion of parenthood.   

That makes a certain amount of sense, really.   We all know enough men and women to know that men can be caring and nurturing and women can be disciplinarians.   Thus, we can imagine the two-parent family with two women or two men without really having to break the mold.   It’s the one-parent family that is the greater challenge to our model family.   All of which makes me want to think more about why we so readily accept that the right number of parents is two.


66 responses to “The Remarkable Resilience of the Two Parent Model

  1. Julie, it’s workload. It’s just a practical thing. Raising a kid is so much easier for two people than for one. And I bet that if they compared ‘single parent’ to ‘couple’ to ‘extended family’ options, extended families would get the nod.


  2. I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be a single parent. Everone has two parents from which they are decended, two families to which they belong equally. Everyone alive is the direct result of their parent’s reproduction with eachother. Therefore everyone has a mother and father in terms of human reproduction and society seeks to hold those parents, that mother and that father accountable for raising their children to adulthood. Officially the only way out of that legal obligation is to give your child up for adoption so that your child can be adopted into another family.
    People who are/were in foster care have parents and foster parents.
    People who are adopted have parents and adoptive parents.
    People whose parents are married but not to eachother, have parents and step parents.
    People whose adopted parents are married, but not to eachother have parents, adoptive parents and step adopted parents.
    People who are married have their parents and their parents-in-law

    You have to exist on earth as the child of the parents who created you before you can exist as anyone else’s anything. The people who create you in so doing, establish the extent to which you are related to every other person who ever or will ever exist. Nothing they do to or with eachother before or after your creation will have any bearing on your birth position in relationship to the world. You have to exist as your parent’s child in order to be adopted by adoptive parents or fostered by foster parents. If adoption were to terminate your existence as your parent’s child you would cease exist and would not be alive to exist as the adopted child of your adoptive parents. The parent child relationship never goes away it exists simultaneously with all other relationships you’ll ever have because those relationships require you to exist as the child of your creators.
    So single parent, just means the parents are not in a relationship with eachother, it does not necessarily mean the parent’s are not both very much alive and being held legally accountable for for raising their child to adulthood. Single parent is jut an indicator that the chil’s parents are not married to each other. Its hard to say whether or not children of single parents do better when either one or both remarry. I think its good for children to be raised by happy parents in supportive relationships that are models for good interpersonal adult relationships. I don’t think straight couples have the market cornered on good interpersonal adult relationships.

    I really think its hurful to say that a child has no father he has a donor or whatever variation you want to use in that sentence. For people so worried that their kids birth certificate make the kid look normal, and that stuff is nobody’s bsiness Its really ironic that they could look a kid square in they eye and say “you don’t have a father” as if the child was cloned or is somehow designed differenly than any other child. If one parent is related to the child, and the other person caled parent i not related and did not adopt, its just not true to say they are the child’s other parent, ignoring the abandoning parent completely as if they just never existed. It seems kind of insulting to the child. I know love is suppose to be enough, maybe it is. The only people fit to judge are the kids, cetainly not me I’m not living it.
    adopted parents. The unqualified parent-child relationship does in reality continue regardless of abandonment or adoption or marriage or divorce. When someone adopts a child they become an adoptive parent and the child becomes their adopted child, the child can’t cease to exist as the child of his or her parents or they would also cease to exist as the adopted child of the adopted parents. One relationships existence is dependant upon the other and it is for this reason why I could not understand the assignment of parental title over a newborn child to anyone other than the mother and father who reproduced to create the child. I agree that mother’s and father’s are not always the best people to take care of their own children.

    to anyone other than the people responsible for that will ever do anything more than exist simultaneously with the or foster parents, or step parents or parent’s in law
    You cannot be someone’s step unless you exist as your parent’s as your parent’s child. You cannot be someone’s spouse or sister or boss or neighbor without first existing as your parent’s child.

    • I’m sure this is tiresome to regular readers, but just in case, I want to be clear about where I disagree. The statements about two parents is one way you can look at things. It’s not the way I choose. I have no quarrel with biology–I understand that all children are concieved using genetic material from at least two (and now possibly three?) individuals.

      The question I want to ask is what is/should be the legal status of those individuals and, more specifically, whether those individuals should be legal parents of the child. We do not have and have never had an absolute rule that they must be recognized as legal parents. The problem I have with Marilyn’s assertion above is that it simply states that they either are or should be legal parents. The first (that they are legal parents) is inaccurate as a description of current law. The second (that they should be) is offered without discussion of why that is so. Thus, it’s a bit of a conversation stopper. It simply brings us to a point of saying that we disagree.

      It’s important to me to progress beyond that point. Why should the gamete providers be legal parents? Why is that a good idea? Who is helped by this rule? In what ways? What do we need to know assume to assess it.

      I don’t see answers, or even attempts to offer answers, to these questions. I think what lies behind the “gamete providers are/should be legal parents” view is often a variation on a natural law argument. What I mean by that is there is an underlying assertion that this is just the way things are (think about gravity–clearly a natural law) rather than a human construction, and thus, it is not within our power to change it. It is beyond discussion and doesn’t need to be justified because things just are that way. But this is clearly not the case. We have assigned fatherhood in all sorts of ways for a thousand years or more.

      Often assertions of natural law rest on a religious foundation–natural law is God’s law. I don’t know whether that is the case here or not, but it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t accept that it just has to be that gamete providers are legal parents. We can make choose to recognize them as legal parents or not. After all, the whole notion of legal parenthood is a human construct. Which brings me back to the big question—WHY should we arrange things so that they are legal parents?

      • What are you suggesting Julie? That court deliberations should be held for every child immediately upon birth, to determine who should raise that child?

        • and who exactly would be the parties to the hearings, if no persons are to be identified as parents by default?

          • There’s one parent by default–the woman who gave birth. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear. The ones to be considered after birth would be those who had been identified before the birth as possible candidates. I realize that seems very fuzzy but I haven’t got it fully articulated yet. DNA would not make you a candidate. (Not surprising coming from me, right?) Planning to be a co-parent and acting like one (yes, that’s fuzzy) would.

            • no fair julie. You started out asking “why parents” when you REALLY meant “why fathers.”
              Questions like these really give feminism a bad name! 😦
              Anyway that barely changes the situation; all you’re saying is that hearings should be held for all children as to who the father is. That’s even whackier and more big brothery than Marilyn’s universal DNA testing proposal.

              • No, I actually didn’t mean “why fathers?” If you want to put it that way, I would say I meant “why a second parent at birth.” The second parent at birth–the one that is sometimes in a position to benefit from something akin to the marital presumption–could be male or female, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been thinking about two mother cases as well as mother/father cases and also single mother cases. Only if you assume that the second parent would have to be male can you reduce this to “why fathers” and I do not make that assumption.

                Also I’m not proposing a hearing for all children, and certainly not one seeking to decide who the father is. That would be entirely impossible and a bad idea even if possible. I have in mind something more like an administrative sign up process–you know, like when you fill out the birth certificate. Some of this could be done during the pregnancy, but I’d leave the final sign off-on the paperwork until after birth. I’m still working out what I think so I cannot be more detailed at the moment, but I promise to put it here when I figure it out.

        • I’m actually working on a proposal (not for practical purposes, but as an academic) that might involve some simple proceeding after the birth of a child that would allow the confirmation of additional parent(s). (No reason why there should only be one additional parent added.) It doesn’t seem any more outlandish than the idea of testing everyone’s DNA (which others propose.) And it would ensure some degree of clarity about who was in and who was out.

      • I also disagree with the following “We have assigned fatherhood in all sorts of ways for a thousand years or more. ” The deliberate assignment of paternity to persons other than the genetic forbear has certainly existed in history but represents only a small percentage, an exceptions to the norm, not the norm itself.
        In western society they turned out to be the exception that prove the norm, because when the political clout behind it wore off, society reverted to the same old biological thing.

        • This is one we’re going to disagree about then and probably the best I could do is marshall sources to support my view. But maybe our disagreement is more about degree than about the fundmental accuracy. Would you agree that in the past we assigned fatherhood in a variety of ways–two main ones being the marital presumuption (wife gives birth means husband is legal father) and holding out (man presents child born to single woman to the world as “his” for specified period of time, he’s legal father). These were not devised because we didn’t have DNA testing. They were devised because they worked out well. And they survive to this day even though we do have DNA testing.

          To this day we tend to use DNA when we (society) feel it is very important to assign a child to some man. (I’m thinking here of where single women give birth and we need to find someone to pay child support.) The advantage of DNA is that there will always be some man identified.

          Is the gist of your comments that using DNA as the critical test of legal parenthood is “natural” and therefore the right thing to do? Is there any better reason than that? Anything perhaps related to it being good social policy or good for children?

          • Why fatherhood by default is good social policy
            1. It’s good social policy because it reflects the psychological reality of the vast majority of people. Yes, that’s my primary argument. Call it “natural” if you will.
            If and when ART becomes THE mainstream way of procreating we could revisit the situation, but as sex doesn’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon, I doubt we will see that in our lifetimes.
            2. It’s good social policy because it promotes the investment of men in their offspring

            • 3. if taken as part of a larger picture of emphasizing and strengthening the importance of biological relationships, will allow for a more stable society with constant relationships, a much needed rock of stability in a transitory society.

          • Julie,
            We don’t need to assign a child to some man we need to assign the child to THE man. The man that the child decended from. You know THE man.

      • You know what? As grateful as I am to you truly for educating me far beyond what I deserve sitting in a whole other state not paying tuition – its kind of insulting if I take the time to read what you wrote and comment on it and you know I do listen to you and that over time my opinions have changed that you don’t even bother actually reading what I write because you have my script all written out for me and in it I fail to address all your key questions and I think this and I think that I never feel like I’ve gotten through to you that i do not think genetic connection means a person is going to take such better care of a child than someone else I’m not nearly as closed minded and conservative as you’d like to make me in fact throwing the bit about religion in there was just bizzare since it seemed the whole thing was about what I said.
        I’m having a real hard time right now realizing that something really important to me which is ending anonymity right from the begining, may be totally out of reach for me to be involved in because I can’t stomache the strategy of denying same sex couples the right to have their marriages recognized by the government. They have founded a family they with a joint income head of household and dependent spouse no children required. I think there is something very very broken in the marital presumption and that is that the presumption is not corrected when its discovered that it was made in error that there is no biological basis in fact for maintaining that presumption. I think since all children are the offspring of a mother and father that all children do deserve to be supported financially to adulthood by both those people because it is reasonable to expect people to take responsibility for the children they create. Law is written presuming that there will be people who don’t want to raise their offspring to adulthood and what if they all did it at once and every child were abandoned by the parents who conceived them – then the burden falls to the government to support the children and find adoptive homes for all of them. Well that is a lot of effort and expense and its helpful to us to simply say its illegal to abandon your kids to begin with so I do think there is good reason for the original two parent model because we know every child has one and we need to start out by holding people accountable for their own actions and then if they don’t want to or fail to meet those obligations then you consider allowing other people to take over as adoptive parents etc. That holds people accountable for their actions. I also feel that anonymity even in adoption is a detriment to not just the child but the child’s paternal relatives because the ongoing exchange of information from birth forward benefits the entire family and can prevent the child from having to suffer unnecessarily through a medical problem that could have been caught sooner and it cuts the child off from other connections and information that might be advantageous to their development and the development of other young members of the family. Most people who conceive anonymously have many anonymously conceived children and some that they are raising – they’re all being raised in a vaccuum isolated from information that could matter to eachother and to other members of their father’s family. I’m starting to feel that it should be a crime to keep a child secret from his or her relatives even in adoption because being a part of that network of information on an ongoing basis for the first 18 sets the child in the best possible position to grow healthy and strong learning from the other members of his own family and hopefully applying that information to his own life. I think intended parents would be wise to consider that and I think the law should just plain make it mandatory there is no reason why we should allow information to be cut off when it does not have to be – the person doing the anonymous conceiving is right there, its not like some one night stand that really did dissappear into the eather. These people supposedly have altruistic intentions and agree to let their offspring be raised by strangers, why not give the strangers all the information that the child is entitled to simply by being born into his own family. They don’t have to like eacher but I think the father has some obligation to his kids to make sure and to himself to be playing with a full deck of cards and knowing the health of each child at birth. If he is producing mentally handicapped babies and does not know it – he can’t make decisions that are in those children’s best interests. If he knew and he decided to continue conceiving maybe he would want to hand pick the people raising the child to make sure they were up to the potential challenge of raising a special needs kid or maybe he’d be willing to raise his kid if he found out his child was being given up for adoption. See anonymity and waiting 18 years to communicate stops the normal flow of information that allows people to make informed decisions about their actions, their next move. Anonymity freezes that man in time where everything is perfect and there is no future there are no outcomes and he will be doomed to repeat the mistakes if there are any. Even if the child sails through life uneffected knowing and being known to his father’s family would be like strapping him into a seat belt or putting a bike helmet on him. There is some real value there. Why name the man who conceives anonymously the father? Because there is no universal right to know anyone other than your parents, there is a legal obligation for people to raise their offspring to adulthood that’s pretty clear by the DNA tests done in paternity suits and by voluntary declarations of paternity and presumption of paternity. Men are suppose to support their children and women are presumed to have a maternal relationship with the child and they are jointly responsible for raising the child to adulthood. That is a good thing and if they fail then then someone else can take over. What heterosexual men do by allowing a false presumption of paternity to go uncorrected in order that they may be assigned the title of father, that is not forthright or candid. I don’t think the child’s best interests are served by that. The child has a right to be supported by the father the one who could pass a dna test and the mother the one who could pass a dna test and then also the mother and father’s respective spouses because child support is calculated on the parent’s joint incomes if it elevates the lifesyle of the child. The support provided by the mother’s husband as part of him taking responsibility for her debts, should be in addition to the child’s father’s order for support. The and the child would benefit from interaction with their own family as well.

        I’m real upset to distance my self from something I really wanted to do because I won’t involve myself in something that will discriminate and opress people as the result of my actions so I’m not going to be visiting this board for very much longer. I’ll use that time to connect families. The goal of influencing the law is beyond me. It would be nice though if when I posted you replied to what I said not what I say in your movie where your telling me off and proving me wrong. At least base the tell off on what I said then I might learn something.

  3. Dang erase everything from the very end up to I’m not fit to judge or just erase the whole stupid thing. My thoughts were not clear anyhow. Sorry.

  4. Why? I like it.

  5. I honestly don’t see how having been pregnant is so much more important than being maternally or paternally related. I know what your trying to achieve with that line of reasoning its just that if you don’t buy the genetic connection as a basis for assiugning legal parenthood, it comes off a bit hypocritical to by the bioloical one (vessel of life and all), because neither thing has anything to do with how well a person will or won’t take care of a child. There are plenty of examples of women who gave birth being woefully negligent with their children. Its just as weak an argument when held to the same standard.

    • The language “maternally or paternally related” is unclear, but I take it you mean “genetically related?” I’m going to proceed on the assumption that this is what you mean.

      First off, give me an ideal world in which a woman carries a pregnancy to term because she wants to. (If you’re not willing to grant me that (as the thought experiment) then my argument is weaker, but I still stand by it.) The woman who is pregnant and given birth has a relationship with the child. She has nurtured and sustained it in a way no one else has. Because I think legal parenthood should be about recognizing and respecting relationships of nurtering, I think the law ougth to recognize that. In some ways I just want to say she has earned the right to be a parent by performing that role.

      Does this mean she has to continue to be a parent? No. She can give the child up for adoption. Does it mean she will necessarily be a good parent? No–as you say, there are instances where she will not be.

      But the woman who gives birth stands alone in having a real and substantial relationship to the child–one that is readily identifiable based on the most casual observation of things. The very fact that you cannot even tell about who the DNA folks are without testing and that they could be totally ignorant and oblivious demonstrates to me that that relationship is not rooted in every day lived reality.

      I know that this is the crux of our disagreement. And I’m willing to go as far as saying that the DNA people might be intereseting to the child and perhaps should have some recognized legal status. But children are raised in the real world by real people and I care much more about who takes care of them than I care about what a set of scientific tests might show. It seems to me fundamentally dangerous to divorce legal parenthood from acts of caretaking. If all it takes to be a legal parent is the ability to trace strands of DNA then I think we’re in big trouble.

      • You heard of the Attleboro cult case? Following the leader’s vision, they stopped feeding a baby until it starved to death and buried it in a state park. The state took the remaining children away, though the families attempted to hide them with relatives. Well, the mother of the starved baby (and the leader’s wife, I think) got pregnant again during the investigation and trial, and she was locked up during her pregnancy so that when her baby was born it was immediately taken from her and placed far far away. She was an example of a woman who gave birth but was not the legal mother. I believe the state acted correctly, and being related or giving birth does not mean we have to assign parenthood to that person. It never has meant that. It is only the assumption, the expectation, responsibility and duty of the bio-parents to raise their offspring, not their right.

        • I do not know the case. If the facts are as you say, it’s probably a good idea to take the child away at birth. But that doesn’t suggest to me that the woman who gave birth wasn’t a legal mother when she gave birth. I’d say instead that she was a legal mother whose rights were terminated because of demonstrated unfitness or whose child was taken into protective custody until her fitness could be assessed.

  6. This is a great big huge pandora’s box and I can not even begin to try to address much of it in a comment on this post BUT I’d like to address a couple of the issues you raised w/ links to concerns:

    Julie wrote:
    “I’ve also written about the way in which the debates around access to marriage for same-sex couples have reinforced the two-parent model. ”

    Please read this post and links (specifically the full PDF I linked at the bottom of the post):
    http : //familyscholars. org/2011/03/16/children%E2%80%99s-human-rights-with-respect-to-their-biological-origins-and-family-structure-by-margaret-somerville/

    Julie wrote
    “As lesbian and gay families have gained acceptance, the specter of the unmarried parent (and particularly the unmarried mother) remains. ”

    Please read/consider these thoughts:
    http : //www . huffingtonpost . com/elizabeth-marquardt/coparenting-before-concep_b_825828. html

    Julie wrote:
    “All of which makes me want to think more about why we so readily accept that the right number of parents is two. ”

    Please stay tuned for Elizabeth Marquardt’s upcoming report:
    “One Parent or Five: A Global Look at Today’s New Intentional Families, to be released by the Commission on Parenthood’s Future. Watch FamilyScholars . org for updates.”

  7. “It seems to me fundamentally dangerous to divorce legal parenthood from acts of caretaking.”

    So who’s trying to divorce them? On the contrary, we’ve agreed that legal parenthood can be taken away from people who are unfit.

    This being the case, what is there to gain by refusing the recognize the father as default parent? (and thereby requiring that he engage in caretaking?)

    • Perhaps what we disagree about is the message that is sent by laws that make legal parenthood (and particularly legal fatherhood) turn on nothing more than DNA. I fear that if we say that men are fathers simply because they have a genetic link, then we give them this critical status (critical with respect to both the child and the other parent(s)) way too easily. We do not convey any sense that this status is something that requires a deep commitment. And many times, in fact, men do not make that commitment. But having made them parents we let them occupy the role with very little in the way of performance, to the detriment of children and other parents.

      Unfitness is a very high standard (and probably should be) and is used to take the status away. I want to set a higher bar for gaining the status in the first place. Responsibility and commitment do not necessarily follow from DNA. Where they do, that’s terrific, but where they don’t, why give the status?

      • “Responsibility and commitment do not necessarily follow from DNA.”

        Responsibility and commitment follow from marriage though, that’s the whole point. It’s not a perfect screen against unfit couples marrying and procreating, but it certainly increases their fitness. That doesn’t give them a right to go outside the marriage to create children though.

  8. Responsibility and commitment do not necessarily follow from pregnancy either.

    Even if you view it as a form of caregiving.

    But your plan actually promotes the opposite of your stated intention. If your stated intention is to promote responsibility, absolving all fathers of it by default, instead of expecting it by default, seems quite a counterproductive way to go about it.

    The only people it makes sense for, are ART consumers. But why should they as such a small minority get to make the rules for the rest of us?

    • I see what you are saying, but I have a slightly different take on it. I’ll ramble on a bit but I think the bottom line might be that the acceptace of responsiblity needs to be voluntary and made jointly with whoever is giving birth, so I don’t want to over-encourage it.

      I think many–perhaps even most–men who participate in the intentional creation of a child they plan to raise (by sex or by science or by a combination of both) follow through. And I think the women they are engaged in the process with do as well. In other words, the vast majority of the time, I think it all works out nicely. And I think the law should make that easy to manage, not get in the way. (This is why there needs to be an easy way to ratify the family form after the birth of the child.)

      There are two sorts of cases where I see potential problems. One is where the pregnancy is entirely unintended. The other is where the people involved in the project cannot work it out–it falls apart before the birth of the child.
      (In either case, the woman who is pregnant has the right to decide whether to continue the pregnancy or not. I know there are all kinds of debates about abortion and also many practical reasons why you might challenge this statement, but let’s just let it go for the moment lest we get off track?)

      If the pregnancy is unintended but there is a relationship between the parties, then perhaps they will decide the raise the child together and that’s fine with me. They then move up to the earlier paragraph. BUt if they cannot work it out, or if there is no relationship, I’d let the pregnant woman figure out what to do–to carry the child to term, to place the child for adoption, to raise the child. And if she chooses to raise it, to include that other person or not. Perhaps the man involved should have the right of first refusal on adoption. Perhaps the man involved bears some financial responsiblity for the child. But I’m comfortable with that (on a torts/damages theory) without giving him parental rights.

      • I am distinctly uncomfortable with it.
        I am not sure you understand the psychological ramifications of it.
        No child should ever be treated in law as if his/her birth was a mistake/ damages/ something to be penalized for.
        The law treating the child as such can only increase the father’s own resentment of the child. Here’s this human being with whom he had no relationship with but who will be his punishment for the next 18 years.

        Also note the double standard here. An official sperm donor has given the gift of life. Not only that, he gets paid for it. But a man who conceived a child via sex is liable for causing damages. What is the only difference between the two? What the MOTHER wants.

        I say if its all based on what the mother wants, then the MOTHER should be liable for any “damages.”

        There you have it. Lose, Lose, Lose. Not good for men. Not good for children. And not even good for women, except in a theoretical sense of extolling motherhood.

        “But I’m comfortable with that (on a torts/damages theory) without giving him parental rights.”

      • Even if you view is as a tort thing, by recognizing the sperm provider as responsible for damages you are implicitly acknowledging that sperm is somehow has a more significant relationship to the child’s assistance.

        Because if sperm was just an inconsequential, tiny, nearly irrelevant building block, surely one could find other people more responsible or the child’s birth- these include doctors, nurses, grandparents, friends, even taxi drivers.

        • It only allows me to give kisarita 1 thumbsup. and 2 and 3 and 4 and….

        • I’m not sure that’s true. This is a question of legal causation. I don’t think you could say that a doctor caused the baby to be born although she/he might have assisted in the birth process. Ditto the cab driver (is that to get to the hosital?) By contrast, I think that both the man and woman who engage in voluntary intercourse cause conception to occur, which eventually results (at least sometimes) in the birth of the child.

          You could wonder about whether or not the chain of causation is too attenuated or whether there are intervening causes, I suppose. Other things have to happen after the man’s part is finished. Some of these are not the product of human agency (either the sperm fertilizes and egg or it does not). Others may be (a woman might choose not to have an abortion.) But these are different questions from the one you raise. I don’t dispute the biological realities about the consequences that can result from the sperm/egg proximiity. The question is what follows from that chain of causation.

          • True Julie, but why do you look at the moment of conception as THE causal event for the existence of this child? Why is that more significant than, say performing resusciation at the time of birth?
            Especially since we have agreed that life for all legal purposes begins at birth.

            In any locale where women are legally free to choose abortion, with men having no say in the matter, no male should be held “liable” for the birth of any child, unless their is evidence he engaged in coercive measures to prevent the woman from exercising the choice to abort.
            How do you justify choice for women but not for men?
            That of course, is if you look at it from a liability perspective, which I have already explained that I do not. No human being is a liability simply for existing.

            • First off, I am not sure I need to say (nor did say) that conception is THE causal event. Having intercourse (and thereby delivering sperm to egg locale) may result in pregnancy which in turn may result in birth. Liabilty can be imposed for actions where there is causation even though there may also be other actions that are part of the chain of causation. (This is all a part of torts class and I don’t want to go too far down this road.) A person might argue that the resuscitation you mention is an intervening cause that ends their responsibility, but I actually think that would lose. Once a person is pregnant it is reasonably foreseeable that birth will occur in a setting where medical people may take steps to ensure the survival of the child. Thus, you don’t get to say “I’m off the hook because the doctor acted.”

              I also don’t think this has anything to do with when life begins. That’s a different question important for other reasons, but it doesn’t matter here. I think if X produces a chemical that’s in paint and I am exposed to it as a result of which my eggs are damaged as a result of which a child I give birth to requires substantial medical care, I might well be able to clami that X is liable for that even though many things happened in between. It depends on whether the chain of events is seen to be reasonably foreseeable and I think it is pretty foreseeable that intercourse might lead to a baby. (The fact that a woman retains the right to decide that it won’t lead to a baby doesn’t necessarily matter either, because she has just as much right to decide to continue the pregnancy.)

  9. I’m so completely with Kisarita on this. But I had a little revelation today where I think I see more where Julie is coming from – that’s huge. It circles me right back to what I believe but it’s only fair to say:
    Marriage has existed longer than our understanding of the male’s role in the human reproductive process. Marriage allows two people to found their own family a 2 person family, where all of a sudden your not just responsible for your own sht but someone else’s as well, clothing them feeding them housing them paying their debts taking care of any children they may have had before the marriage as well as any they have during the marriage. So I can envision a time where everyone knew women had babies and the law expected women to be responsible for caring for their babies and if they were married their burden for caring for their children would supposedly willingly be assumed by her husband. It happens today that people can have their wages attached in order to support their step children if they are married to a man who has failed to meet his support obligations to children conceived with another woman. I’m sure that can be a real slap in the face if those children were born of infidelity, but you know going into the marriage that you will have to assume financial responsibility for your spouses actions. So I can see where if you are married and you are infertile and your spouse is not where you might agree that your spouse could have children with someone else and you would knowingly accept their burden for caring for that child as if that child were your own. Here though is where I think the marital presumption of paternity fails to protect the best interests of the child when that presumption is false –
    If the presumption is false it means the child is not being supported by the male parent. The absent male parent’s obligations are not being fulfilled by the mother’s husband (or wife I mean to be fair), the mother’s husband/wife is helping the mother fulfill her obligations to her child; there are two people doing her job for her but nobody is doing the dad’s job for him. The child is really entitled to be supported by his Father as well as his Mother. If his Father happens also to be married then his wife (or husband, lets be fair) would also be on the hook for helping him meet his obligations to his child.

    While I’m sure you don’t agree with the last part – I did have that lightbulb moment where I realized us humans have not always understood the male female reproductive process – which would be how a woman’s husband would come to be responsible for her children and called father regardless of who might really be the father in terms of human reproduction. And why her husband might continue to be responsible for his wifes child despite a DNA test. That’s all you and what you’re about. I however see that responsibility as being a function of his obligation to support his wife and meet her obligations to her children but as their step father.

    Thats all

    • Hi Marilyn, can I respond here to something you wrote on FamilyScholars (I am banned there). You wrote:

      “I know there is no procreation rights inherent in marriage, no husband or wife has the right to compel the other to conceive children with them, no judge will order a spouse to have sex and I know that even though it may seem like it on the surface, the state does not have the authority to take paternity away from an unmarried man and give it to the husband of the woman he conceived with.”

      I think there are certainly procreation rights inherent in marriage, and that spouses do in fact consent to have sex and conceive offspring with each other, and not with anybody else. If a spouse refuses to have sex after marriage, the marriage can be annulled because it never actually happened. If a spouse starts refusing to have sex later on in the marriage, and it goes on for a long time, that is abandonment or abuse and is grounds for divorce. Of course that doesn’t mean a spouse can force the other to have sex at any time, that is also abuse. There must always be consent each time, but the spouse also should always consent whenever there is no reason not to. 1 Cor 7:3-4 says it’s a sin not to perform the marital duty, both for the husband and the wife. And the Bible also says that married couples are certainly allowed to have sex, the “wedding bed is undefiled” (Heb 13:4). And the law also affirms that married couples are always allowed to have sex (I even sometimes say that they are allowed to have sex in public, provided they don’t do it lewdly and lasciviously, but that might be impossible. In the old days, though, when many people shared rooms and there was less privacy, sex was often done semi-publicly, under the covers probably, and it was OK if the couple was married.)

      And refusing to have procreative sex by contracepting against the other spouse’s wishes, or getting a vasectomy unilaterally, would also be grounds for divorce, I think, if the other spouse still wanted children. So, though a judge would never order a woman to have sex, they might dissolve the marriage if she refuses.

      Also, on the issue of presumption of paternity, I agree it is used to assign fictional parenthood to the woman’s spouse and should be repealed. It only makes sense if adultery is illegal and treated like the huge crime and sin that it is. In such a case, it just goes without saying that the husband is always the presumed father, and there is no conflict. It doesn’t make sense now that we have reliable paternity tests, and now that husbands often aren’t the father. I doubt any men consent to their wife committing adultery when they marry, which Chairm almost seems to be saying when he says they consent to the presumption of paternity. No way would I ever consent to being on the hook for kids my wife had by another man, but maybe that’s why I’ve never married either.

      btw, I think I know who nobody.really is 😉

      • John why don’t you conttinue to write on Family Scholars under another name.

        • Tried that, I think they blocked all the IP’s and computers I ever posted from. Besides they’d know it was me as soon as I said what I want to say. Although, you and some other people are raising lots of the same points now, especially when you mentioned “civil unions that are constructed in the same manner as marriage except for reproductive issues.”

          That’s all I ever want to say, so thank you! To answer Marilyn’s point about hetero couples that use donor conception, I’d point out that donor conception is not a right of marriage or related to marriage, and yes if we can ban it or stop it we should ban it or stop it for all couples not just same-sex couples. But actually conceiving offspring is a right of marriage, combining genes, and that right should not be given to same-sex couples because it would require making artificial gametes and therefore marriage should not be either. I do think a law is called for like what Somerville suggests, and it wouldn’t interfere with anyone’s private lives, because that sort of thing can’t be done privately in the bedroom, and the couple wouldn’t be trying to keep private about it anyhow, it’d be public that the child is their offspring.

      • Hi John
        Your so cute you got banned and your chomping at the bit to talk – I’m addicted to debating family and bio law too – probably to the detriment of spending time with my own actual family (blood and defacto) The irony in that is not lost on me. Of course you can respond here if our host will allow it. I say the same thing all the time anyway.

        So you said “I think there are certainly procreation rights inherent in marriage, and that spouses do in fact consent to have sex and conceive offspring with each other, and not with anybody else.”
        John I agree with what you said about people making committments to eachother in marriage and that fidelity is one of big ones as well as sticking through bad financial times and being sick etc. From a religious or even just plain old moral decent ethical point of view society expects and respects people don’t break those promises. But that is different that husbands and wives having a legal obligation not to break those promises and honor their word.
        I have to go to bed now I’ll respond more later – you put effort into what you wrote and you had to find a way/place to say i’d be waiting for a response too. Heres half a one. The jist of the next 18 chapters will be – while I respect the religious origins of marriage in general and the bible that you reference in your comments, the government is not likely to have as strict moral requirements as religious orginizations, and adultery is a great reason for people to decide not to stay married, but its not like adultery is agaist the law and the government will throw a person in jail for it or will send them the equivallent of street sweeping parking ticket, or will disolve the marriage if the vital records office receives racy photos of a person having sex with someone other than their spouse or won’t let someone get divorced if they arent able to convince a judge that their spouse cheated, etc – audultery may be grounds for divorce privately but the state will grant a divorce for no other reason that one of the spouses no longr wants to be married.


          • I am sorry for the delay in posting this–for some reason it popped up needing approval and I was away from the blog.

            I actually don’t agree with you about everyone knowing what marriage means. Surely some people think marriage is about love and commitment and doesn’t need to have anything to do with having kids? Cerrtainly people get married (and no one suggests these marriages are invalid) knowing they will never have children.

            There’s a second point–tangential here but on my mind–about the line between children born within marriage and those born outside of marriage. This was the topic of the conference I was at. One of the most important developments in family law in the latter third of the 20th century was the move to ensure that children known as illegitimate were treated as well as those who were legitimate. The idea was that kids don’t have anything to say about the circumstances into which they are born or about whether the adults who create them marry or not. Thus the law generally aims to ensure equal treatment for all children, whether concieved in a marriage or not. That was a major change from many centuries of law and, I think, a good one.

            • What happens now is that, in essence, unmarried parents are automatically married to each other and then divorced immediately, making their children legitimate and their parents obligated to each other as if they had married and then divorced, even though they didn’t. It sort of forces a man to marry every woman he gets pregnant, but doesn’t force the woman to marry him back. I guess that’s a good system, but it doesn’t give anyone an incentive to marry. Perhaps it did cut down on men having premarital sex, knowing they’d be held accountable, but that doesn’t seem to be what happened, since at the same time it encouraged women to have premarital sex.

              I’m not suggesting we bring back illegitimacy or start letting men off the hook, I’m just saying that marriage still makes sex and children legitimate like it always did, even though unmarried sex and children are now also made legitimate.

        • Marilynn and Kisarita, what if I altered my Compromise proposal to include ending anonymity? Specifically, if the Egg and Sperm law, which I’ve been proposing as “1) Stop genetic engineering by limiting conception of children to the union of a man and a woman’s sperm and egg” were written to include Margaret Somerville’s proposals, like so:

          “1) Stop genetic engineering by limiting conception of children to the union of a natural sperm from one identified, living, adult man and a natural ovum from one identified, living, adult woman.”

          I had been leaving “living” and “identified” out of my proposal because I didn’t want to complicate matters by prohibiting stuff that people are currently doing, as I figured it would make it harder to get passed if it also ended anonymity. My main goal is to prohibit genetic engineering and designer babies, and to preserve everyone’s equal right to conceive offspring from their own genes. But maybe you’d support the Compromise if it also ended anonymity, and maybe it would go over better if people saw that straight couples were also having something taken away from them, besides things that they can’t do yet, like design their offspring.

          Remember, the other two laws in the Compromise are to set the legal effect of state marriages as protecting the couple’s right to conceive offspring together, in order to protect against future encroachments and eugenic pressures, and to federally recognize state Civil Unions as marriages for federal purposes provided they are defined by the state as “marriage minus conception rights.”

          I think kisarita suggests the same kind of compromise for CU’s. She (?) recognizes that same-sex couples just don’t have the same ethical rights and liberties when it comes to reproductive issues. That’s the bottom line. And legal entities with different rights and liberties should not have the same name, because they are not the same. A different name would just acknowledge reality. If we were to allow same-sex couples to create offspring, then they should be called marriages. Being allowed to conceive offspring is the core essential fundamental meaning of marriage. The reason we can’t give marriage to same-sex couples and also enact the Egg and Sperm law is that it would mean that marriage didn’t protect their right to procreate offspring, it would change marriage for everyone by stripping away the protections to use the couple’s own genes to procreate. Any marriage could be brought down to the level of a same-sex couple and forced to use third party gametes.

          How’s about it? If we all three started pushing that new compromise, it might actually break through and get passed. (Chairm and Glenn might even come around, when they realize they’ll still be allowed to oppose homosexuality.)

          • I haven’t really formulated an opinion as to future genetic technologies, so I don’t have a well thought out response to your proposal.

            I know that I don’t like the spectre of the technology. But at this point, I don’t have much to offer other than “I don’t like it”. I have not identified whats behind it.

            • If your question is a practical one, how to be a more effective activist, I think it is probalby more effective to address each cause separately. But hten again I’m not an activist.

            • I may not have followed every twist and turn of the discussion you all have been having here. (I’ve been busy and I appreciate your carrying on without me.) What do you all (and John, perhaps I most specifically mean you) think about this. Suppose a man and woman are trying to conceive. She carries a gene for a serious genetically heritable disease. Can this couple decide to do IVF and then ask that the doctors examine her eggs to see if they carry that gene before using them? The idea here is that you have the couple using their own genetic material (do I need to have them be married? That doesn’t matter to me, but if it does to you, let’s have them be married) but they are being intentionally selective about which genetic material they use, and they therefore engaged in what you might see as a form of genetic engineering, although I don’t think of it quite that way. Thoughts?

              • What you describe is called PGD, PreImplantation Genetic Diagnosis. I don’t consider it genetic engineering as there is no changing of any genetic information. It would not be prohibited by the “Egg and Sperm Law” which is gaining form as:

                “1) Stop genetic engineering by limiting conception of children to the union of a natural sperm from one identified, living, adult man and a natural ovum from one identified, living, adult woman.”

                I do think that all IVF is unsustainable and harmful and would favor a law banning all forms of intentionally creating a person, leaving only sexual intercourse and the roll of the genetic dice for all people. PGD would be banned by that too of course. But as that would be a lot harder to accomplish, I don’t want to hold off on achieving the other laws and resolving the marriage debate. If I am correct that IVF is unsustainable it will become apparent later anyway and can be prohibited later.

                Similarly, I don’t want to hold back on achieving the other laws to try to stop donor conception and intentional unmarried conception, though I do also think those are unsustainable and deny human rights. Ideally, the law would simply prohibit creating a child by any means other than marital intercourse, ruling out IVF, gamete donation, surrogacy, and genetic engineering all at once, but that would affect so many people that it would surely be harder to pass. The most important thing is to stop slipping down the slope towards designer babies and loss of equal reproductive rights, and preserving fixed sex and sexual reproduction and marriage’s meaning as approving of procreation. After that we can look at current practices.

                • John can you answer these questions for me?
                  There are penalties for not complying with laws and codes and ordinances:
                  What should be the penalty for an unmarried woman who gives birth?

                  What should be the penalty for an unmarried man who is confirmed as being the father of that child through a DNA test?

                  What should be the penalty for a child of unmarried parents?

                  What should be the penalty for a married woman who gives birth to a child that was fathered by someone other than her husband?

                  What should be the penalty for a man that fathers the child of a married woman?

                  What should be the penalty for the child?

                  • The only changes as far as penalties that I advocate are a huge $10M fine and jail time for breaking the egg and sperm law, for all the doctors and clinics as well as the couple.

                    And if we ever prohibit intentional unmarried conception, we’d have to have large fines for all involved there too, including the couple, but mainly targeting the industry. I’d favor taking the child away to be raised by strangers, as the parents would have proven to be unfit by their calculated disregard for their child’s rights. But unintentional pregnancies should not be punished, we should deal with those the same as we do now.

                    I would oppose attempts to punish unmarried women who got pregnant, or their children, and only favor punishing men with forced support or jail time (but to get the jail time, he’d have to go and commit a different serious crime to get out of having to pay support).

                  • And by the way, the penalties for Fornication and Adultery in Massachusetts are maximum penalties, I think $30 and $100 respectively. Judges do not have to impose a punishment at all, just as prosecutors do not have to prosecute and police do not have to enforce the law. That’s the reality of the current situation.

                    I do think we could raise lots of revenue here if judges asked every person who came through their courtroom if they have had unmarried sexual intercourse in the past year, and if they answer yes, impose the $30 fine.

                • I don’t think what I suggested is PGID precisely. That’s done after sperm and egg have united and, for some people, runs into the when does life begin issue. To avoid that, I posited choosing among eggs–which eggs should you use? I think this technology is in its (you’ll forgive me) infancy. But I have no doubt it is on its way. Anyway I understand your acceptance of PGD (and, I assume, of what I described) to be pragmatic–in your perfect world you would ban this but the perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

                  Maybe I need to reread more of what you’ve written, but I cannot agree that the acceptability of particular instances of procreation should turn on exactly how the sperm is delivered to the egg. Am I right that for you, a child might be concieved by the same two people (married man/woman) using the same materials (his sperm/her eggs) with the same intention (creating a child they will raise together) would be okay if the sperm was introduced to the egg via intercourse but not of the sperm was introduced to the egg in a petri dish? What is the justification for drawing the line there? How about if the wife was inseminated with the husband’s sperm–no petri dish but no intercourse?

                  • I don’t know if there is a way to test individual eggs or sperm. As I understand it, they test embryos by removing one cell while it is blasocyst stage and testing it, which destroys that cell, but the blastocyst it came from is still viable and can be implanted. I don’t know they’d test a single cell without destroying it. But even assuming it’s possible, I’d object because of the eugenics aspect and the unsustainability and intrusiveness and cost.

                    It’s pretty much the same objection that the Pope has to IVF, even if it is “homologous IVF” and joins the sperm and egg of the married couple. It changes the nature of the resulting person into a product. People should not be intentionally made. They can be “wanted”, OK, but not forced into existence.

                    In addition to the objections of the Pope, I also object because it is unsustainable and expensive and unnecessary. It intentionally creates an extra mouth to feed, an extra rich person who will keep on consuming more than their share of the earth’s resources. It’s only acceptable to accidentally create people. IVF is already 1% of our insurance premiums, and it’s only just beginning to take hold. If it becomes mandated coverage under Obamacare like it is here in Massachusetts under Romneycare, it could balloon to 10%, a huge cost, especially if we start down the eugenic selection road, where everyone will be pressured to select their healthiest gametes.

    • “And why her husband might continue to be responsible for his wifes child despite a DNA test. That’s all you and what you’re about. I however see that responsibility as being a function of his obligation to support his wife and meet her obligations to her children but as their step father.”

      That makes sense. But I don’t think a husband is responsible for a wife after she commits adultery. But if he chooses to stay with her and raise her and some other man’s child, it should be as a step father, you’re absolutely right.

      • I agree he should not be responsible, but until he gets divorced he could be on the hook, just like if she ran out and bought a car right before they got divorced. Marriage is a whole lot of risk, but people will never stop doing it.

  10. Interesting post. I also found the Pew results to be surprising. In my blog, I question whether the right wing might tap this sentiment to pass laws restricting parenting by LGBT persons.

  11. Julie – The voluntary admission of paternity form establishes for the state, the presumption of biological relatedness necessary to name that man as father. Marriage does the same thing in terms of establishing a presumption of biological relatedness. For the state to presume a paternal relationship it has to be biologically possible for the person in question to be paternally related to the child. This ability to establish this presumption in the eyes of the state by meeting some minimium criteria such as merely being married or merely signing a VAP has allowed for paternity fraud since the dawn of marriage and also for collusion where the mother and the husband/VAP signer could conspire to prevent a man who is paternally related from meeting his obligation to his offspring. You know that makes me angry and I thik they are lying. But as you have pointed out so many times the state may be faced with obvious evidence that the presumption for paternity was in fact false despite having signed a VAP or despite being married and instead of correcting the error the courts have been known to leave the worng guy named as father out of some misguided sense of duty to protect the best interests of the child. So this wrongness of presumption of paternity goes on equally for married couples just as it does for unmarried couples.
    My question for you is why when it can be proven that the word paternity has been so abused as to mean anything anymore, have’nt lesbians and gays utilized the VAP as a vehicle to name the WRONG person as parent in States that don’t yet allow same sex marriage while your waiting? I mean I don’t think anyone should take advantage of that loophole in marriage nor do I think it should be abused on the VAP – but I’m logical and strategic to a fault and if I was yall I’d be demonstrating that couples are using the VAP just like the marital presumption to name a biologically unrelated father and the state lets them get named as father despite the fact that paternity can’t possibly exist, and then that would be unfair to same sex couples who are also unmarried. See I think the courts have screwed up by not correcting every incorrect presumption once they become aware of it – at the same time I do hate to see people not seeing the forest for the trees here. You know I’m for SSM so this suggestion to utilize the VAP like marital presumption is not some tactic to get gays nad lesbians to not get married.
    I wish I had the fight in me to get the presumption on the VAP and in marriage fixed so they correct it when its wrong but I don’t. Good luck with your project.

  12. Mr. Howard
    I’ve had an exhausting experience on Family Scholars talking to a brick wall that makes you look like a radical left wing socialist comune hippie. I’d be happy to respond to your questions – “1) Stop genetic engineering by limiting conception of children to the union of a natural sperm from one identified, living, adult man and a natural ovum from one identified, living, adult woman.”
    Okee dokee specific. How does that stop genetic engineering? Are we really genetic engineering yet? Commercialized family building, commercialized conception involves (oh please God I hope) living men and women. We don’t really know for sure if they’ve consented which is a concern to me. I suppose what your suggesting is in line with ending anonymity. If I may suggest that “known” be equally specific. I’ve come to think its really criminal (my unfounded definition) to prevent a child from knowing and being known to not only both parents but to the members of their maternal and paternal relatives, not just after 18 years old but from birth forward.

    Oh I’m such a radical I know.

    • I might have to actually go read the family scholars exchange you refer to. I just posted a question on one of Kisrita’s comments that I think picks up on your question about genetic engineering. I suppose part of the point is I’m not sure what counts as genetic engineering.

    • “I suppose what your suggesting is in line with ending anonymity. If I may suggest that “known” be equally specific.”

      Yeah, I think “identified” means ending anonymity. I think it means the name of the mother and father are correctly specified by name on the birth certificate, verified with a test, from birth forward. They would hopefully be, but needn’t be the legal guardians of course. But I don’t think Somerville is proposing shutting down the commercial banks or prohibiting facilitating intentional unmarried procreation, though it’s certainly consistent with arguing to do that. My proposal wouldn’t do that either, but I do think we should, because the UN is correct about children having, as much as possible, a right to be raised by their parents, and facilitating intentional abandonment obviously is not in keeping with that.

      Oh, and that law would stop genetic engineering and designer babies and same-sex couples from doing whatever it would take to have a baby, because the language would specify that the baby be the natural union of a actual living identified people. Perhaps the phrase “natural union” would have to be defined more specifically, but then we’d get into those dehumanizing words you don’t want us to use. I don’t like having to use them either, but once the law is passed, the result would be we wouldn’t have to use them anymore.

  13. I hope whoever you all are that are tickling your brains with the thought of affecting others lives with your points of view, you will consider all those ugly situations of “rape” “incest” and many more sad but real ways to conceive. Children might be best not knowing the details of their existence as your will might think. I don’t mean to sound so ugly about the subject but am currently dealing with a real life situation which has hurt a child due to DNA (noun) parent verses a loving parent (verb). While nature really is substantial in conception, I find a lot of the laws have been made with some unfortunately narrow minded people who are thinking about their visions while forgetting to open their minds to the realities of these subjects and the children are the collateral damage.
    There are a lot of well intentioned laws, rules, etc put into place but real life experiences are being left out of the equation and the legislation, senate as everyone seems fixated on their own thoughts and imagined outcomes. Once these well intentioned bills become law there is a lot of damage done before (if ever) anyone pays attention to the damage that has been created from it and is willing to address the damage, acknowledge it and then take the steps to reverse it as someone will have to be accountable.
    People are too caught up in others rights or what they believe is right while they really need to do what is right for them and stay out of the part where their opinion becomes a “right” while well intentioned and live and let live.
    If DNA is needed to be known, it is there to be had but sometimes we should use our energy to just do what is right for ourselves.
    Unfortunately some people need laws as they have no sense but I find them to be the exception not the rule and we are tending to make laws based on the few who could be dealt with individually.
    The result is the majority who had sense are having to work too hard to do what should be an easy task made difficult by those senseless few.
    I believe your original point makes sense but I also believe there is a vast part of the subject you are not considerring.
    I am currently stuck in a quagmire of law regarding this very subject and am seeing first hand all of the rules/laws we have made in the best interest of children which are harming them needlessly with no end in sight and the laws one must hurdle to just get to the starting line only to see no finish line. It is becoming impossible to navigate through all the thoughts people put into law as they felt it should be “someones” right the system has lost its justice while trying to untangle that web we’ve woven.
    I don’t normally just pipe in but this subject has been a large issue in the past two years of my life.

  14. “And by the way, the penalties for Fornication and Adultery in Massachusetts are maximum penalties, I think $30 and $100 respectively. Judges do not have to impose a punishment at all, just as prosecutors do not have to prosecute and police do not have to enforce the law. That’s the reality of the current situation.

    I do think we could raise lots of revenue here if judges asked every person who came through their courtroom if they have had unmarried sexual intercourse in the past year, and if they answer yes, impose the $30 fine.”

    You know that I think its ridiculous to make it be illegal. Fining people is a funny idea - if you could prove it like those damned red light cameras (oh there is a joke in there some where ) we'd clear the national debt in no time. We'd have extra money all kinds of extra money.
    I remember being mad that my husband's red light ticket photo was in black and white. He thought I was splitting hairs, I thought it was a real good point.
    As an aside I think the gender qualifiers on marriage are probably just left over from the days when charges of homosexuality would land a person in a paddy wagon to spend the night in jail. The gender requirements may have a theoretical function and may even be practical for people getting married who intend to have children but not everyone wants to or is capable of it - so live and let live I say. There are so many interesting problems in the world to think of and for me that just isnt one of them.
    $30 fine. funny.

    • John if you really believe a chlid should be taken away from its parents just because they are unmarried, you’re on the side of the folks who see no value to biological parenthood . Strange bedfellows!
      It’s also supremely illogical; if non marital conception is so bad because it places a barrier between a child and one of its parents, then how could separating the child from both parents be a solution?

      • Kisarita hits the nail on the head. Here is the problem with criminalizing any reproductive behavior or even just any behavior that is not outright dangerous on the part of the parent: they need to take care of their kids and they can’t do that from jail or with less money to pay fines. Its I think a delicate balance. I’d like to make it a crime to prevent a child from knowing or being known to their own relatives because it places them and their relatives at a disadvantage over those who know and are known to their relatives – but I think my goal there is not so much to punish the mothers that may conceal the information (which they will never stop doing) but to give those women’s children a leg to stand on if they find out to say “hey, you had no right to place me at a disadvantage now caugh up what ever info you have mom” I think it is neglect or poor care on some part when you can find out about your child’s siblings and keep up with their health and growth, give them and their cousins grandparents an opportunity to know eachother. But it would be wrong to take the child away from the parents just because they lied or were selfish and chose an anonymous person to conceive with. Extra hurt wont help

      • Abuse trumps the value of biological parenthood, wouldn’t you say? The point of taking away children who were intentionally created from unmarried progenitors is to stop intentional creation of children from unmarried progenitors. Otherwise the crime pays off, and people will keep doing it. When people learn to stop doing it, then there won’t be children taken away anymore. Children can do OK in foster homes, they won’t know if they are there because their parents were drug addicts or incestuous couples or if they violated a genetic engineering law or sperm donor law, or maybe they’d find that out later in life. Their Birth Certificate should have the correct names on it, though.

      • And I hope you go back and read my comment again and see that taking the children away was not the primary mechanism to stop the practice of donor conception. At first I’m sure we’d slowly phase out the practice by first shutting down the sperm banks and fining doctors and facilitators, but we wouldn’t take any children away from the people who commissioned them. That would probably be enough, but if there remained an underground market for sperm and eggs and it was hard to stop it at the source, we’d have to start taking away the product. Of course, by then, they’d wise up and claim that their child was a product of unintentional intercourse, and unless we had evidence, we’d have to believe them. And remember I did say that we shouldn’t punish unintentional pregnancies.
        And remember, that the whole subject of unmarried conception is irrelevant to my primary concern of stopping genetic engineering and preserving the right of every marriage to produce offspring using the couple’s own genes, to not be prohibited by law or forced or pressured into using substitute genes instead. So the objection that we shouldn’t take children away from unmarried parents is a valid objection, but it’s off the mark. It may be hitting a nail on its head, but you had to go to a lot of work to get that nail out of all the stuff I’m talking about.

        And, you mention that you don’t have good feelings toward genetic engineering technology (which let’s agree means creating a person with genetic information altered from what an actual man and a woman provide) – so do you think it should be legal right now, today, for a lab to go and make a baby with that florescent green gene from jellyfish, so they grow in the dark like those genetically modified bunnies do? Do you think we have to wait until someone does that to a person before we prohibit it? We can prohibit it right now, and then if people in the future decide they know better, they can change the law then. There is no harm from prohibiting it now, is there?

  15. “but I cannot agree that the acceptability of particular instances of procreation should turn on exactly how the sperm is delivered to the egg.”

    I agree with Julie more than 100% on that issue, which intrigues me but I have some idea why its as important to her vision for the future as it would be for mine except I’m not exactly in a position to have a vision that anyone would listen to. Fun to talk about though.

    “Am I right that for you, a child might be concieved by the same two people (married man/woman) using the same materials (his sperm/her eggs) with the same intention (creating a child they will raise together) would be okay if the sperm was introduced to the egg via intercourse but not of the sperm was introduced to the egg in a petri dish? What is the justification for drawing the line there? How about if the wife was inseminated with the husband’s sperm–no petri dish but no intercourse?”

    Yeah yeah all the same the result is the same. Nobody is having anything taken from them in that senario. Everyone believes they know where their genetic material is and the two are intending to make a baby together. The baby is not handed off to someone else stealth. I just don’t see the problem in theory. In practice because of fraud, misappropriation and handling errors mistakes occur in the lab that would not occur in life. I think it would be a shame to ban people from fertilization treatments if it will help them improve the speed at which they’ll conceive so I think more needs to be done to make sure consent is documented in people’s real names and maybe test to make sure its the right embryo before implanting it in a person’s body so that you don’t end up with “the wrong embryo” ethical quandaries where Julie would side with the womb and I side with the woman who never agreed to commercially produce children for other’s to raise.

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