Exhibit 2 In The Case for Regulating Non-ART Conception

I link to this story with some reluctance.    Still, perhaps it is worth comparing Ed Houben to Desmond Hatchett.   Hatchett was the subject of a post a few days back.   He has 30 children with 11 different mothers.

Houben leaves him in the dust.  He has fathered 82 children in the last ten years and, if the story is correct, there are ten more women who are pregnant.   It’s unclear to me how many different mothers there are but I’m quite sure it is a lot.

Now there’s a difference between these two men.   The women Houben impregnates are trying to get pregnant–that’s the whole point.   And Houben apparently has no interest in actually playing a role as father to any of these children.  I think Hatchett’s situation is different.

Indeed, perhaps the person to compare Houben to is Trent Arsenault.   Both Houben and Arsenault seem to want to characterize what they are doing as a public service.  They are helping women who do not have access to sperm get pregnant.   No strings are attached by either man–by which I mean, he will not be petitioning for parental rights.   They both advertise on the internet.

The difference is that Arsenault just provides fresh sperm to women while Houben engages in intercourse with them.   That difference is at least legally significant in many places.   Certainly in every state in the US Houben is legally the father of these children, paperwork or no.  He is therefore liable for child support.   It’s the having sex part that puts him in Hatchett’s category.  Indeed, I think legally Hatchett and Houben are indistinguishable.

By contrast in some places Arsenault might be a father (legally) but in some places he won’t be.  And in some places the agreement that accompanies the delivery of the sperm might matter.

Is there a moral or an ethical difference between these three men?  Are Arsenault and Houben “better” because all the adults in the picture are on the same page, part of the same plan?   Or are they worse because their conduct is quite deliberate, while Hatchett is (apparently) just having a lot of unprotected sex with women?   Would you distinguish between Aresnault (who delivers his sperm in a cup) and Houben, who delivers his sperm more personally?

One thing to notice–the FDA at can at least try to regulate Arsenault.  (I should check on the progress of their efforts.)   It’s much harder to stop Hatchett and Houben.   Sex is legal.   Maybe the advertising Houben does is not in some places, but you could get to the same place fairly easily.

In any event, it seems to me there’s at least as good a reason to worry about Houben as there is to worry about Hatchett.   Maybe even more, since he seems to be set to continue this behavior on principle.

12 responses to “Exhibit 2 In The Case for Regulating Non-ART Conception

  1. not to pick the pepper out of the fly guana but you mean this guy engages in something beyond sex which they all engaged or there would have been no offspring. he engaged in sexual intercourse. they all engaged in sexual reproduction which is just sperm meets egg. look it up. two of these men are engaging in sexual intercourse leading to sexual reproduction the other only sexual reproduction. the law seems to turn on intercourse correct?

    • [This was rife with typos that didn’t help clarity at all. I’ve fixed them, I think. My apologies.]

      Not an expression I know, but you know I won’t agree with your choice of words. When Arsenault meets someone in a Starbucks and hands her a vial of his sperm he is not (to my mind) enaging in sex. I just think no one thinks that is what you mean when you say “I had sex with him.”

      And yes, the law at least sometimes turns on intercourse vs. any other form of insemination. It saves the statue drafters having to have an exhaustive list of all the forms of ART. Intercourse is the only thing that isn’t considered ART the way the 2002 UPA is written.

      • Thank you I did make lots of typos. Intercourse is what they say makes the difference I was just clarifying. Thanks.

        • I actually meant that my original reply had typos and I did try to fix those. Wasn’t referring to your comment. But we’ve arrived at clarity on the underlying point anyway, so that’s good.

  2. Yes, the FDA can regulate Trent to a certain extent – not because he is donating through AI but because he is advertising. I think you need to make that point clear. He is perfectly within his rights to donate through FSDW- and has- and no-one can do anything legally other than if the mother files for support. Its the ADVERTISING that they can ‘get him’ on. He just needs to take his site down and they cant do anything to stop him.

    I dont particularly support any of these three. They are all choosing something that has major ethical issues. If Trent was not donating to so many, and was remaining in touch with all children and genuinely interested in their well being then perhaps he might be the front runner- just. To me, dont have sex to create children unless you want to raise them. However at least these children get to know about the father – many dont in the US.

    There is a 4th option- a man who donate through AI showing clear intent to not be the legal parent- but who is accesible to the child and they can develop their own relationship- even though the child is being raised by other, loving, parent/s who are staying up when they are sick, cheering them on at soccer games etc. And as I said in another post, set a limit of how many times a man can do this legally – and not assume parental rights. There can also then be mandatory information sharing.

    • Emma you just said something interesting; a limit on how many times he can do it without parental obligations. Nobody has said that before. Its worth talking about. But still your left with those kids being on unequal footing with the rest of his offspring and that is not fair to them. I guess it really makes no difference how many there are if they are not equal in the eyes of the law to his other offspring in terms of what they may expect of him then its unfair to them. Still it was an interesting thing to say

  3. I don’t make the law, but if I did, I’d put all three men in the same category.

  4. check that. I’d put arsenault and the other guy in the category of unfit fathers and reject any petition they put forth for child custody due to their willful abandonment of their kid. However Id make them liable for child support to the extent of their ability to pay, which would preobably not be much after so many kids. On the other hand, the guy with the 30 kids whose having lots of unprotected sex, he didn’t willfully abandon those kids, and if he sued for custody/visitation I’d have to examine it seriously.

    • Interesting response. The two who are donating sperm are knowing participating in the creation of children someone wants to raise (and wants to raise without them). I think I could argue that this is rather more responsible behavior than the man who is (let’s assume) simply having a lot of unprotected sex. It seems to me the latter is doing something much more harmful to many lives than are the former. (Note that neither Arsenault nor Houben is an anonymous donor, thus the concerns around not knowing genetic lineage won’t arise.)

      • But they are not trying to support their offspring either like the other guy. The other guy does not appear to be hiding from his responsibility he’s just not up to doing that for so many kids

        • Perhaps before I begin I should distinguish between offer financial support and offering other forms of support, although maybe it will turn out not to matter. By non-financial support I mean the various forms of emotional/pscyhological/generally hands-on support parents are expected to provide for their children.

          Hatchett may be theoretically available for both–he’s legally obliged for both, I think. But it seems to me pretty obvious that it is impossible that a man earning minimum wage can provide meaningful financial support for thirty children. And while he might be able to provide non-financial support to thirty children were they all in one household (though I confess I’m doubtful about this), he surely cannot provide meaningful non-financial support to eleven different households. But the women who give birth to these kids may be counting on him for some of both kinds of support. Since it seems to me obvious that Hatchett cannot hope to fulfill his obligations and since privation will follow from his failure, I think his actions are quite irresponsible–far more so than the actions of the other two people.

          The other two men are equally unable to provide the sorts of support one generally expects from a parent, but (and this is crucial to me) it is understood by those involved that they aren’t planning to. The mothers involved do not want or expect the support for them. Thus, while they may also be failing in meeting legal obligations (it depends on the law which we don’t know) they are actually meeting the expectations of the adults involved. I think they get points for living up to expectations.

          Not that I’d recommend any of these courses of conduct, you know. I’m just comparing them–not advocating for them. I am not particularly happy about any of this.

          • Oh I did not say I thought he was shuffling a full deck I just said he was not trying to shirk owning up to his responsibility as having fathered all of them and they’ll know his family and whatnot.

            I kinda bet he’s got a little something something going on the side or he would not be so attractive to the ladies. Minimum wage earners don’t get a whole lot of play unless they are female. Maybe a different law enforcement agency ought to examine his case.

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