I’ve written before–even post-sojourn (which is how I now think of my long break from blogging) about the problems with unregulated and for-profit sperm banking. It does not seem to me that this is a case that still needs to be proved. Surely it is clear that some sort of intervention is needed? (This doesn’t, of course, say what form of intervention and there are many devils waiting in those details.)
But need it or not, here’s yet another story that offers a glimpse of some of the complex issues that lie beneath current practices and any changes. It appears there is a sperm bank–Xytex–that (wittingly or not–and we’ll come back to this momentarily) provided sperm to a number of women that was not as advertised. It came from James Christian Aggeles. Aggeles lied to Xytex about his educational background and, to my mind far more importantly, his mental health history. While Aggeles had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and narcisissitic personality disorder, he omitted this information. His sperm was used to create over 30 children, including 7 in Canada.
Now clearly Aggeles did plenty that was wrong. But did Xytex? And if so, what? Continue reading
This fall I’m finding it hard to write during the week while I’m teaching, but since it is now the weekend, there are no excuses. And since it is a long weekend, maybe I can even get TWO posts out. We shall see. But in any event, there’s current events to discuss.
For many years now (Could it be 25?) New York families–and particularly New York lesbian families–have had to organize their lives around a narrow and inflexible view of who counts as a legal parent. That was the result of an (in)famous case known as Alison D. v. Virginia M. I’ve written about it many times in the past as you can see from this link.
Alison D dealt with a situation which is regrettably common: A lesbian couple decides to have a child together. One woman (call her “D” gets pregnant and gives birth. As planned, they parent the child together. At some point the women split up and, using the law, the woman who gives birth (that’s D, remember?) attempts to excise her former partner (let’s call her P) from the child’s life. This even though P is the child’s psychological/social parent. Continue reading
I know I’ve been inattentive of late. Believe it or not, my semester just started and getting classes up and running has taken all my time. Been meaning to get back here, but I’m sure many of you know how that goes.
But then I picked up my morning paper (The Seattle Times) which had this article–originally from the New York Times and I’ve linked to that as well. In a way it tells us nothing we didn’t already know–or could have known if we’d thought about it. The easy and affordability of DNA testing makes it possible for adoptees to find their birth parents. (I’m using the term birth parents here because I think it has a pretty well-established meaning, but as earlier posts demonstrate, I’m wary of the sloppiness of language and this term does make me a little uneasy. But I’ll unpack that another time.) Given enough time and enough testing, remaining anonymous simply isn’t possible anymore–whether for birth parents or for gamete providers. (Of course, the enough time/enough testing qualification suggests there may be some significant barriers.)
But even though I might say I knew all this, I think the article is interesting. That’s really because the statement above about what DNA testing makes possible, while true, is not anchored in any context. The article is anchored in a very specific context. And context matters a great deal to me. Continue reading
My last post was a brief note about Simone Biles and the reporting around her family. I’m still watching a lot of Olympics and I’m traveling, so I’m going to supplement it with a few words about this commentary on that story and some additional thoughts.
The commentary is by Jenn Morson who has a life history similar to Biles’ in at least one important way: She was raised by parents who were not her genetic parents. And so, like Biles, she and her parents endured questions about whether their relationship was “real.” While it’s generally in line with the points I was trying to make in the earlier post, I think she adds a good deal to it because she writes from her own experience.
It’s also made me think a bit more about how to describe the question that lie at the heart of these encounters. Perhaps what is at stake here is what “parent” in its unmodified form means? Continue reading
I confess I’ve been following the Olympics pretty closely. Imagine finding something in that coverage that fits so well here? But here it is.
Apparently Simone Biles (do I need to explain that she is the finest gymnast on the US team, thought by some to be among the best ever?) was adopted by her maternal grandfather (Ron Biles) and his wife (Nellie Biles) when she was young. Her genetic mother (Ron Biles’ daughter) struggled with drug and alcohol issues.
There’s nothing secret about this, as far as I can tell. in the article I linked to, Simone Biles is quoted as saying:
When I was younger, I was adopted by my grandparents, which are now my parents” ….. “I call them Mom and Dad. Everything’s just been so normal.”
But I guess not everyone is as clear about this as she is. An NBC commentator said “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” Continue reading
Posted in parentage
I have been meaning to do a little current events but I’ve fallen behind. (Still seeking the right schedule.) Still, this little snippet warrants some consideration. It’s so abbreviated that it might take longer for me to explain it than it took for Sengupta to set out her original point.
So here’s the idea: Many states confer citizenship on a child based on citizenship of a parent. So (roughly speaking) if an US citizen becomes a parent, the child is a US citizen. This is true no matter where the child is born. (The US also says that a child born in the US is a US citizen, no matter the citizenship of the parents. That’s a different point–sometimes a controversial one–and a more unusual approach. It’s also not the topic of discussion here.)
You can probably already see that there is huge room for complication here. When I say “US citizen parent” what kind of parent does it mean? Legal? Genetic? Social?
But that is not the question raised by the news story. It goes in a different direction. It appears that many countries confer citizenship on children of their citizens. Continue reading
I’m not at all happy with my last post. It’s muddled and, as you might remember if you were a reader in the earlier period of this blog, I hate muddled thinking. I won’t try to fix it, but I will take another run at the topic I had in mind, perhaps from a different direction. Maybe even two different directions. Because it seems to me that the problem was that I was answering two separate questions and the failure to pull them apart is what caused trouble.
So here we go for round 2. Question one is a pretty simple one: What takes precedence in the event that some intention is inconsistent with subsequent action? There are really two ways this can happen in the contexts I’m thinking about here. One is that someone says “I won’t be a parent”–I’m taking that as clear expression of intent, and let’s assume honestly meant. But then, as things develop, the person performs as a parent. So you have intention (not a parent) at odds with action (a parent.)
The other possibility is that person says “I’ll be a parent”–and again, let’s assume sincerity– but then fails to perform as a parent. Here again you have intention (a parent) at odds with action (not a parent.) Continue reading
This post is meant to follow from a recent post on intention and point of view. You might benefit from reading that one first, but in a nutshell by point there was that from a child’s point of view, the intentions of the parents (or intended parents) matter much less than the actual actions taken. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that (from the child’s point of view) intentions alone do not matter at all. Only actual action matters. (I should note that I am thinking here about relatively young children.)
But that this was just thinking about the child’s point of view. Perhaps there are other perspectives to consider? In particular, what about the perspectives of the adults? (I guess here I am thinking about the adults involved in ART.) How do we weigh or think about their point of view.
I’m inclined to think that, generally speaking, intentions matter more for adults than for children, though I could be persuaded otherwise. Continue reading
In the past, the question of birth certificates (what they say/do not say) has been extremely controversial here. I suppose what this means is that it is controversial out there in the world. I didn’t really plan to address this topic quite yet, but as it is in the news, here goes.
Today The New York Times reports an important decision from a judge in Texas. In some ways the topic may seem far afield as this is really an immigration issue. It seems that Texas decided to require very specific documents in order for women giving birth there to get a birth certificate. This mean that those who did not have proper documentation of legal entry into the country couldn’t get birth certificates. Forms of identification that had been accepted were being rejected. (So you had been able to get a birth certificate with a passport, but then it changed so that you could only use a passport if it had a valid US visa.)
The point of this policy was to make it difficult (if not impossible) to get birth certificates for the children being born in the US. Continue reading