Category Archives: parentage

More From the World Of Sperm Banking

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

New York Plays Catch-Up For Lesbian (and Other?) Families

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

DNA testing and the changes it brings

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

From The Olympics II: Simone Biles and the Unmodified Parent

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

And From the Olympics: The Language of Parentage

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

A Somewhat Different Insurance Issue

I’ve written in the past (before the long hiatus–can I start saying “BH”?) about issues around ART and insurance.   There are a lot of tough questions around this.   ART is expensive.   It is health care.   Is it/should it be covered by insurance?   Does the need for ART have to arise from medical infertility rather than social infertility?

(These are tricky questions/categories.   A lesbian couple where at least one woman has fully functioning reproductive systems is sometimes said to be socially rather than medically infertile. But how is this different from a woman  with a fully functioning reproductive system who is partnered with a man who cannot produce sperm?  She is also socially infertile, I think?)

Anyway, I’m not going to review all that here.    I am sure these issues will arise again and I will discuss them as needed.  You can always dig around in the older entries, too.  (This reminds me–I have not been using tags, but I think I will start to do so again.)

So to today’s thoughts, spurred by this article from the morning paper.  (There’s a slightly more detailed version here, but I can only access page one of two.)    Erin and Marianne Krupa are a married lesbian couple who live in Montclair, NJ.  (This happens to be my hometown.)   They want to have a child.   But Erin Krupa, who they decided would carry the first child, has stage 3 endometriosis.   That means she is infertile.  And here I do mean medically infertile.  She has a medical condition that prevents her from conceiving/carrying a pregnancy by ordinary means.   It has nothing to do with the health or sex/gender of her spouse.   Continue reading

The Gender of Parenthood

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