Friday, May 11, 2007

Reproductive Technology and the Law: What Fun!

Justme sent along a link to this story running in the Harrisburg paper today. What is really interesting about this article is how the journalist decided to lead with the story: "Sperm donor must pay support." Ostensibly anyone reading this article would expect to hear an unbelievable story of a court ruling (an activist judge, dare I say) who forced a sperm donor to pay child support to the parents. But, if you scroll down a bit, you learn:

Legal experts said the ruling is unique in making more than two people responsible for a child. It also brings into question when a sperm donor is liable for support, though at least one expert said the ruling shouldn't worry truly anonymous donors.

Senior Judge John T.K. Kelly wrote in the April 30 ruling that Frampton had held himself out as a stepparent to the children by being present at the birth of one of them, contributing more than $13,000 during the last four years, buying them toys, and having borrowed money to obtain a vehicle in which to transport the children.

"While these contributions have been voluntary, they evidence a settled intention to demonstrate parental involvement far beyond merely biological," the judge wrote.

Robert Rains, who teaches family law at Penn State Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle and is a co-director of the school's family law clinic, said the decision should not intimidate men who contribute to sperm banks.

"This should be entirely different from a guy who goes to a sperm bank and makes a donation with the understanding that he will remain anonymous," Rains said.

So what is this story really about? It's about a panel of judges who rule that there are more than two parents involved in the raising of the chid. This ruling is not about implicating anonymous sperm donors as parents, who are now liable for the child. Rather, it is an interesting study of how the courts might start acknowledging that more than two people can claim to be parents. It is also a case that highlights how reproductive technology practices are changing family law.

Lori Andrews, a Chicago-Kent College of Law professor with expertise in reproductive technology, said as many as five people could claim some parental status toward a single child if its conception involved a surrogate mother, an egg donor and a sperm donor.

"The courts are beginning to find increased rights for all the parties involved," she said. "Most states have adoption laws that go dozens of pages, and we see very few laws with a comprehensive approach to reproductive technology."

The state Supreme Court is considering a similar case, in which a sperm donor wants to enforce a promise made by the mother that he would not have to be involved in the child's life. That biological father was ordered to pay $1,520 in monthly support.

About two-thirds of states have adopted versions of the Uniform Parentage Act that shields sperm donors from being forced to assume parenting responsibilities. Pennsylvania has no such law.

Another important lesson to draw from this case is that PA better get with it and adopt a Uniform Parentage Act, eh?

So, I guess the law is starting to recognize that it takes a village to raise a child, eh?

UPDATE: Here is Twisty's take on the article.