This is in the nature of a belated acknowledgement of Mother’s Day (which has, of course, come and gone.) I’m not partial to the holiday as I think it a commercial construct. But of course, the idea of motherhood is endlessly fascinating to me.
As a nation it seems to me the US runs hot and cold about mothers, as it does about parents and children generally. Remember, as I’ve noted recently a number of times, that the primacy of children and their well-being is the one universally agreed upon point in all the litigation about same sex marriage? Everyone agrees we must do what is best for children. The disagreement comes when we get to what exactly is best for them.
Further, for the more conservative forces that the child needs a mother must seem virtually self-evident. Continue reading
Many of you will know that there is a case from Kansas that I have been following for some time. Before I get to the newest twist, I’ll do a quick summary. For more details follow the link to earlier posts.
Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner were a lesbian couple seeking to have a child. They found William Marotta via a Craig’s List ad. He agreed to provide sperm and, in a written contract, agreed that he would be a donor only and not a legal father.
The problem is that in Kansas that contract does not have legal effect. What would have accomplished the purpose was if the sperm had been provided to a doctor rather than directly to the women. An agreement–even a clear written agreement–simply doesn’t do it under KS law.
Now as it happens all of the individuals involved (Marotta and the two women) honored the agreement. The child was raised by the two women and had no contact with Marotta. But then the one woman who was a legal mother needed financial support from the state and the state, looking to recoup its costs, determined that Marotta was a legal parent and hence owed support. It commenced suit against him. Continue reading
I’m returning to a theme I’ve written about before here. I’m doing this for two reasons. First of all, before is about four years ago and many readers may not have been readers then (or if they were, they may have forgotten about this). In addition, I am a different person today than I was then (then being 2010) and so perhaps I have something different to say.
In fact, I think the same thing has moved me to write today as moved me to write in 2010: Michael H vs. Gerald D. I won’t discuss it in any detail here. You can read the opinions (though it’s not an easy slog) or you can read the earlier posts about it. But for today’s purpose a quick outline will suffice.
Carole was married to Gerald. She had an affair with Michael. She got pregnant and Victoria was born. Victoria is (let us assume, as it was a 98% likely proposition) genetically related to Michael. Carole and Victoria live for a time with Michael and for a time with Gerald, but eventually it seems that Carole and Gerald reconcile and settle down. Continue reading
I’ve written several times in the past years about how new technologies have raised the prospects of a child having three genetically related parents. Most of the discussion has occurred in the UK, but the debate has now reached the US.
The idea here is that egg cells have both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from only from mother to child (and indeed, as I recall it is used to track lineages, sometimes over hundreds of years.) Fathers do not contribute mitochondrial DNA.
Nuclear DNA in an egg combines with DNA from the sperm when the egg is fertilized. Nuclear DNA controls virtually all of the things we think about when we think about genetic heritability–height, weight, eye color, hair color and so on. I believe that, to the extent more complicated things are also controlled by DNA (say tendency towards cancer or alcoholism) it is also nuclear DNA that matters.
But mitochondrial DNA is important. Continue reading
I think we are rightly sensitive to issues of gender equity in parenting, but it seems to me it is also necessary to think critically about them. This was brought home to me by this story in the newspaper today. Does equality give a genetic father the right to be present at the birth of his child, just as the genetic mother will be? Or does the different between being the one giving birth and not being the one giving birth justify different treatment?
For anyone who thinks hard about parentage gender equity is a difficult topic. There are so many levels of sameness and difference that figuring out what amounts to equal treatment can be tricky.
On the one hand, men and women each contribute genetic materials to a child. On that basis one could determine that they are similarly situated and so principles of equality would suggest equal treatment is appropriate. But on the other hand, women are pregnant and men are not. If in this regard they are not similarly situated, then equal treatment is not warranted. How does one fit together the sameness and the difference? Continue reading
In honor of the Academy Awards I thought I would put up a brief post about parenthood in the movies. I’ve written on the general topic (and more broadly, parenthood in popular culture) in the past. Since I believe the legal definition of parent is socially constructed, it’s depiction in popular culture can be important.
Anyway, on the eve of the Oscars I got to see American Hustle. (For the record, it was nominated for ten Oscars, won absolutely nothing, but I thought it was quite good.) It’s about a con artist–Irving Rosenfeld (played by Christian Bale–who is pretty much a small-time, low-life sort of guy. He’s ensnared by the FBI and ends up being used to ensnare increasingly valuable (and generally corrupt) defendants. Based on a true story, as they say.
Rosenfeld is a complicated character. He’s a crook. He preys (at the outset) on other crooks. He has both a mistress and a wife. It’s hard to say he is admirable. Continue reading
I’m still thinking about yesterday’s post–the whole story of the blond Roma children. I’m inclined to agree with Kisrita when she says “the fact that a kid looks different should never be a cause for authorities to get involved unless you have clear evidence of wrongdoing” (that’s in the comments from yesterday) but I’m afraid there’s some distance between should and is. What I mean is that it does happen, even though I think it shouldn’t.
There are at least two different things I think about here–or maybe two different levels on which I think about the same thing. First, there’s the mere fact that different looking adult/child dyad can raise eyebrows or attract attention. Second, there are the specific ways in which this plays out depending on the specific differences we observe. I’m going to consider these in reverse order–second one first.
The second thing is very much about race. Continue reading