There’s a case out of Kansas I have been following for some time. William Marotta served as a sperm donor for two women in 2008 or 2009. The women found him via Craig’s list. The three people entered into a contract saying that Mayotte would only be a donor and would have no rights or obligations as a parent. The parties to the contract have, apparently, abided by its terms even as the two women split up.
The problem is that after the women split up the legal mother (I think in Kansas only one of the women could be a legal parent) obtained public assistance to support herself and her child. The state then sought reimbursement from Mayotte, asserting that contract or not, he was the legal father and obliged to pay child support.
Now a court has ruled that the state’s position is correct. Continue reading
I know there’s a lot of discussion in the comments to the last post, and of course I’m quite happy about that. Discussion is good, right? But there’s a point where the comments become cluttered and it’s hard (for me, coming late anyway) to follow it all. So I wanted to try a new post, restating some but then moving along.
At the outset, I want to highlight what I think is the critical question here: “Is being raised by people who are not your genetic parents necessarily bad?” To me the inclusion of the word “necessarily” is critical.
If you leave out “necessarily” and just ask “Is being raised by people who are not your genetic parents bad?” then I think the answer has to be sometimes yes and sometimes no. Continue reading
There’s a recent story from an Australian newspaper that raises (for me anyway) some interesting questions. There’s a slightly expanded version of the story here, too. But still, I feel like the facts are pretty threadbare. Some of these are simply questions about Australian law–which maybe someone from Australia could answer. But there are also larger issues here.
A lesbian couple wanted to have a child. An identified man provided sperm so that they could do that. I cannot quite tell whether he was someone they knew in passing or someone they knew well or someone they didn’t know at all. Continue reading
Long-time readers may recall that I have written a number of times about reports of a sperm shortage in the UK. (This is the most recent post–from 2012–and it links to many older ones.) I’ve always been skeptical about the existence of this sperm shortage since the actual number of donors (as they are called) was increasing. It is, of course, possible to have more donors and still have a shortage–if demand increases at an even more rapid rate, say. But the reporting on all this was so inept that it was actually very hard to tell what lead to the reports of shortage.
In any event, it’s time to revisit this story in light of this report. Far from a shortage, now there is apparently a “boom” in sperm donations. (It’s important to note, though, that this story is sourced to a single sperm bank–the London Sperm Bank. But the idea of an increase in donors does seem to be born out in the official statistics, which are apparently only available through 2010.)
The thing that interests me most here isn’t just the question of whether there is a decreasing or increasing supply of sperm (or number of donors). Continue reading
The industry that has developed around assisted reproduction is a frequent topic here, often a controversial one. One particular arm of the industry–sperm banks and more generally the use of sperm from sperm banks–has been a frequent focus. There are undoubtedly many points of disagreement here. For instance, some suggest that no one should use third-party gametes. Others suggest that the gamete provider, by virtue of the genetic link that will always exist between provider and offspring, should always be a legal parent.
What this may hide is that there is also a fairly wide area of agreement. I’m going to write about one in particular today. There have been a number of instances–some fictional (books and movies) and some real–where men have produced dozens or scores of offspring. Continue reading
There have been three recent stories (of quite different sorts) about sperm donors (which by extension also have something to say about egg donors) that I wanted to highlight and comment on. Before I get to that, though, I wanted offer a reminder about the terminology I choose to use.
The generally used terms (as you can see from the writings I’ll link to shortly) are “sperm donor,” “egg donor” or, more inclusively, “gamete donor.” I’ve highlighted the “donor” part of each term because this is the word I try not to use. In many (but not all) instances, the “donor” receives compensation though typically the compensation is (technically) for time/inconvenience, rather than for the actual gametes. I accept that motivations of the many people who provide gametes aren’t purely commercial–there are altruistic elements as well. But still, the term “donor” for most of us suggests someone who gives something without compensation. I would prefer to reserve it for those who are actually in that category–those who are purely altruistic–and hence, I try to use “sperm provider,” “egg provider” and “gamete provider.”
Now–to the articles. Continue reading
I’m at the midyear conference of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys/American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys just now. It’s a program devoted to the world of ART and there are lawyers from around the country and the world–a really terrific and interesting group. It’s very busy but I wanted to take a minute out to post this.
This morning there was a great speaker who focused on psychological issues around egg donation. Her name is Dr. Andrea Braverman and she teaches at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. One particular point she made was both simple and provocative: The way parents talk to donor-conceived children can profoundly shape how the children react.
Perhaps this was and is obvious. After all, think about what you call the man who provides sperm? Donor? Father? Daddy-donor? [Your choice here?] Continue reading
I’ve been thinking, while not able to be on-line, about why this area of the law is as it is–a total mess, full of inconsistencies and contradictions. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were tidy and neat, as many areas of the law actually are?
There’s no simple answer to the “why” question, of course. Why would there be a simple answer? But I do have some ideas.
There have always been parents, of course, by which I mean two things: First, that men and women have engaged in sexual activities with resulting birth of genetic offspring and second, that the young creatures require care and someone has provided that care, at least to some of those offspring. Continue reading
There’s an essay on the NYT website today that raises some interesting questions, though I think the picture it paints is incomplete. It’s an excellent and provocative title: Is Forced Fatherhood Fair? I guess the idea is that Father’s Day is a good time to think about this. And perhaps that is true.
To begin with you have to understand what Laurie Shrage (the author) means by forced fatherhood. She’s concerned about instances where “dad’s role was not freely assumed, but legally mandated.” I think what’s she’s principally worried about are cases where a man and a woman who are not married to each other engage in intercourse and an unplanned pregnancy results. At that point, the decision about whether to proceed with the pregnancy or not is not the man’s. If the woman does not wish to have an abortion but instead wants to give birth, she can choose that route. And if she then wants to raise the child as a legal parent, then she can do that, too. In many cases, the man will be the legal father of the child and have obligations and responsibilities as well as rights thrust upon him. He is, in Shrage’s terminology, a forced father. Continue reading
This essay will, I think, be in print in tomorrow’s NYT but it’s been on the web for a bit. It’s from Modern Love–a Sunday column that often deals with complexities of modern family life. In the essay Lisa Schlesinger writes about her experience as the wife of a man who provided sperm to a lesbian couple who were friends of theirs. The husband, Ben, was to be a known sperm donor, of course. The essay shows us some of the complexity of that role and the web of relationships that are affected.
There are three different aspects of the story that I find striking. First is the chain of consultation. When Maggie (one of the lesbians) asked Ben (the husband) his response was to ask Lisa, his wife. Lisa and Ben have three children–a daughter genetically related to both of them and two sons who are from a relationship Lisa had before Ben and thus are genetically unrelated to them. The sons are in the 20s, the daughter 14. Continue reading