BBC News Story: Should sperm donors have parental duties?

By admin on February 20, 2013

An article out today in BBC News:
Should sperm donors have parental duties?
By Pia Gadkari BBC News, Washington

As more women become pregnant using sperm donated by men they know, the law must
establish what role, if any, these men should play in their biological
children’s lives.

When William Marotta answered a Craigslist ad seeking a sperm donor, he was just
trying to help two women start a family.

Over a few days in 2009, he gave the couple several donations in plastic cups
and signed an agreement giving up all his parental rights. He thought he would
never see them again.

But in October he got an alarming letter: though the women did not want him to
be part of the child’s life, the state of Kansas was suing him for child

Mr Marotta, 45, discovered that the women raising his biological daughter had
separated and the child’s mother, facing financial difficulties, had enrolled
the girl in Medicaid, a government healthcare programme for the poor.

The state asked her for the name of the girl’s father, who officials said was
financially responsible for the medical expenses incurred.

Experts say they are seeing an increase in legal disputes over the relationships
sperm donors have with recipient families in cases where the donor’s identity is

In some cases, like Mr Marotta’s, donors do not want to be recognised as legal
parents. But lawyers are also seeing more cases in which donors seek contact
with their biological children.

In the UK, the High Court recently handed down a landmark ruling giving two gay
men in a civil partnership the right to apply for contact with their three
biological children, who are being raised by lesbian couples with whom the men
are friendly.

The men could even win the right to play a role in rearing the children.

In the US, analysts like Charles Kindregan, professor of family law at Suffolk
University in Boston, say Mr Marotta’s case demonstrates why the law is so
“clearly outdated”.

The law protecting sperm donors from parental liability was passed in the 1970s,
when most women seeking fertility treatment were married. Because treatment was
new and cumbersome it had to be administered by a doctor.

But medical advances now offer cheaper, easier alternatives to treatment in a

Single mothers now make up as many as 49% of the women who receive donor
conception treatment, says Wendy Kramer, director of the Donor Sibling Registry.

Sperm Donors:

44% of donors attended college, and 39% hold graduate degrees
48% of donors have full-time jobs
40% are full-time students

Source: Donor Sibling Registry

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families account for another third of
recipients, with heterosexual couples making up the balance, she says.

“That’s a huge difference from when I became pregnant 22 years ago,” she says.
“At that time most of the women were like me – married, infertile couples.”

Ms Kramer emphasises that because donor recipients have not been required to
report live births back to sperm banks, healthcare practitioners, regulators and
legislators have been unable accurately to track the changing landscape.

She adds that there is “zero” tracking for sperm donors who do not go through

And in these casual arrangements, there is also zero legal protection for the
biological mother and father.

Nearly all the current litigation involving sperm donors stems from
complications arising out of private donations.

Under the Uniform Parentage Act of 1973, the law on the books in most US states,
a physician’s involvement ensures the donor has no parental liability.

In Mr Marotta’s case, this rule made all the difference. Because the women used
a home insemination kit instead of a doctor, he could be on the hook for about
$6,000 in child support, his lawyer Ben Swinnen says.


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