Global ART, Citizenship and the Genetic Link, Or Are Those Your Eggs In There?

There was a discussion in the comments of another post within the last week about how US citizenship is conferred.   (I think it is in the comments on this post but they are lengthy and I cannot be sure.)   This story makes me want to briefly revisit a topic I’ve discussed at least once in the past.  

Generally speaking you might think that if a woman  who is a US citizen gives birth while she is outside the US, then her child will be a US citizen.   But  this isn’t always the case.   For children conceived via ART, US citizenship does not flow from legal parentage–it flows from genetics. 

Let’s assume the man who provides the sperm is not a US citizen.  (If he is, though, you are done, because citizenship is conferred via his genetic connection.)   If the woman who gave birth did not use her own eggs then in order to know the citizenship of the child, we need to know the citizenship of the egg provider.  If she was a US citizen, then the child is.  If she was not a US citizen, then the child is not a US citizen either.

To be clear, it does not matter who the legal parents of the child are.   Thus, the sperm provider might not be a legal parent, but if he’s a US citizenship, the child is, to0.  The same is true with the two women involved.  It doesn’t matter which is legally a parent.

This story, as you can see, concerns babies born in Israel.   Israel is one of those ART destination countries.   I’m not an expert on Israeli law–I don’t know who counts as a parent there.   (I do know that there is often a premium placed on Jewish egg providers because in the view of some rabbis, only a child conceived with an egg from a Jewish woman is Jewish.  That’s a different story.)

But I don’t need to know Israeli law and I don’t need to figure out state the women in the article are from and what the law is there.   I suppose you could say that the US state department policy makes things simpler–it’s all and only about genetics.   You need to know where the eggs and sperm came from.    Of course, this does mean that consular officials have to ask some rather personal questions.

It’s interesting to think about what other systems might work better.   Should the citizenship of the child depend on legal parentage?  And should legal parentage then be assessed under the law of the country where the child is born?   Where the parents are from?   I’m not sure there’s a perfect answer out there.

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7 responses to “Global ART, Citizenship and the Genetic Link, Or Are Those Your Eggs In There?

  1. This makes me think of the never-ending issues the president has had to deal with being the first “black” president as to whether he is a natural born citizen or not…

    Imagine the issue if a donor conceived or a full legal adoptee (neither parent genetic and sealed OBC) ever becomes president (no Clinton, Ford?, nor even if Gingrich makes it – are full adoptees and Clinton wasn’t even a legal adoptee).

    Tangled webs when first we practice to decieve saying comes to mind here. It has to be genetic determination or the constitution regarding who can be president, will have to be changed as far as I can tell. Even if things are changed you still need a court document to verify which goes back to my original stance that all donor conceived should have court documents.

    • Hell yes documents

    • Now there’s something to think about. What the Constitution says is:

      No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President

      Obviously the part about being a citizen at the time of the adoption of the Constitution (1789) is not going to be in play anymore. So you have to be “a natural born citizen.” What does that mean? There’s a post a long way back about the phrase “natural parent.” https://julieshapiro.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/how-the-law-creates-natural-parents/ I always assumed that a natural parent was a genetically related parent but that is not the way the term is always used. So I no longer know if I know what a “natural born citizen” is.

      I think it has been understood to mean that you need to be born in the US. There was discussion about John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, would qualify.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/28/us/politics/28mccain.html
      (Interesting to note that the issue also arose with the campaign of George Romney, father of Mitt Romney, who was born in Mexico.)

      Anyway, none of this seems to go to the DNA question and I think that is because this has been tied to place of birth rather than genetics. You could be the child of two non-US citizens (legally and genetically) but if you were born in the US you’d be good to go.

      Way too long a response. Sorry.

  2. I am not sure this article is getting it right. My niece and nephew were born while my sister and her husband (both US citizens) were living abroad and no one questioned them about genetics when they return to the US. This was only a couple of years ago.
    Then again, they were in their twenties.

    • Could be several things going on there. One might be that no one says the consul’s office has to be suspicious. I cannot imagine that they ask everyone. It might be that folks in Israel are subjected to this sort of question more because Israel is such an ART destination? Or maybe it is really recent?

    • Thanks for adding that link. It’s interesting just to see the kind of coverage that stories like this get. One voice that I think is under-represented in comments here is that of the folks who are using ART. This coverage, it seems to me, does a bit more from that point of view.

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