Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Father Was an Anonymous Sperm Donor

By Katrina Clark
Washington Post
Sunday, December 17, 2006; Page B01

I really wasn't expecting anything the day, earlier this year, when I sent an e-mail to a man whose name I had found on the Internet. I was looking for my father, and in some ways this man fit the bill. But I never thought I'd hit pay dirt on my first try. Then I got a reply -- with a picture attached.

From my computer screen, my own face seemed to stare back at me. And just like that, after 17 years, the missing piece of the puzzle snapped into place.

The puzzle of who I am.

I'm 18, and for most of my life, I haven't known half my origins. I didn't know where my nose or jaw came from, or my interest in foreign cultures. I obviously got my teeth and my penchant for corny jokes from my mother, along with my feminist perspective. But a whole other part of me was a mystery.

That part came from my father. The only thing was, I had never met him, never heard any
stories about him, never seen a picture of him. I didn't know his name. My mother never talked about him -- because she didn't have a clue who he was.

When she was 32, my mother -- single, and worried that she might never marry and have a family -- allowed a doctor wearing rubber gloves to inject a syringe of sperm from an unknown man into her uterus so that she could have a baby. I am the result: a donor-conceived child.

And for a while, I was pretty angry about it.

I was angry at the idea that where donor conception is concerned, everyone focuses on the "parents" -- the adults who can make choices about their own lives. The recipient gets sympathy for wanting to have a child. The donor gets a guarantee of anonymity and absolution from any responsibility for the offspring of his "donation." As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?

Not so. The children born of these transactions are people, too. Those of us in the first documented generation of donor babies -- conceived in the late 1980s and early '90s, when sperm banks became more common and donor insemination began to flourish -- are coming of age, and we have something to say.

I'm here to tell you that emotionally, many of us are not keeping up. We didn't ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion. It's hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won't matter to the "products" of the cryobanks' service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place.

We offspring are recognizing the right that was stripped from us at birth -- the right to know who both our parents are.

And we're ready to reclaim it.

Growing up, it didn't matter that I don't have a dad -- or at least that is what I told myself. Just sometimes, when I was small, I would daydream about a tall, lean man picking me up and swinging me around in the front yard, a manly man melting at a touch from his little girl. I wouldn't have minded if he weren't around all the time, as long as I could have the sweet moments of reuniting with his strong arms and hearty laugh. My daydreams always ended abruptly; I knew I would never have a dad. As a coping mechanism, I used to think that he was dead. That made it easier.

I've never been angry at my mother -- all my life she has been my hero, my everything. She sacrificed so much as a single mother, living on food stamps, trying to make ends meet. I know that many people considered her a pioneer, a trailblazer for a new offshoot of the women's movement. She explained to me when I was quite young why it was that I didn't have a "dad," just a "biological father." I used to love to repeat that word -- biological -- because it made me feel smart, even though I didn't understand its implications.

Then when I was 9, the mother of one of my classmates ran for political office. I remember seeing a television ad for her, and her family appeared at the end -- the complete nuclear household in the back yard, the kids playing on a swing suspended from a tree and eating their father's barbeque. I looked back at my lonely, tired mother, who sat there with a weak smile on her face.

In the middle of the fifth grade, I met a new friend, and we had a lot in common: We both had single mothers. Her mother had suffered through two divorces. My friend didn't have much to say about her dad, mainly because she knew so little about him. But at least she got to visit him and his new family. And I was jealous. Later, in the eighth grade, another friend's father had an affair and her parents divorced. She was in so much pain, and I tried to empathize for the loss of her dad. But I was jealous of her, too, for all the attention she was getting. No one had ever offered me support or sympathy like that.

Around this time, my mother and I moved in with a friend and -- along with several other teenagers, one infant and some other adults -- lived with her for nearly a year. I went through a teenage anger stage; I would stay in my room, listening to Avril Lavigne and to Eminem's lyrics of broken homes and broken people. I felt broken, too. All the other teenagers in the house had problems with their dads. I would sit with them through tears during various rough times, and then I'd go back to my room and listen to some more Eminem. I was angry, too, and angry that I had nowhere to direct my anger.

When my mother eventually got married, I didn't get along with her husband. For so long, it had been just the two of us, my mom and I, and now I felt like the odd girl out. When she and I quarreled, this new man in our lives took to interjecting his opinion, and I didn't like that. One day, I lost my composure and screamed that he had no authority over me, that he wasn't my father -- because I didn't have one.

That was when the emptiness came over me. I realized that I am, in a sense, a freak. I really, truly would never have a dad. I finally understood what it meant to be donor-conceived, and I hated it.

It might have gone on this way indefinitely, but about a year ago I happened to see a television show about a woman who had died of a heart attack. A genetic disease had caused her heart to deteriorate, but she didn't know about her predisposition because she had been adopted as a baby and didn't know her biological families' medical histories. It hit me that I didn't know mine, either. Or half of it, at least.

So I began to research Fairfax Cryobank, the Northern Virginia sperm bank where my mother had been inseminated. I knew that sperm donors are screened and tested thoroughly, but I was still concerned. The bank had been established in 1986, a mere two years before my conception. Many maladies have come to light since then.

I e-mailed the bank five times over the course of a year, requesting medical information about my donor, but no one responded. Then one Friday last spring, I started surfing the Web. Eventually I came upon an archive of "Oprah" shows. One was a show about artificial insemination using anonymous donors. A girl perched on Oprah's couch. Next to her sat her "donor," the man who was her biological father.

I froze. Why hadn't I thought of that? If I wanted medical information and a sense of roots, who better to seek out than the man responsible for them?

I set out to find my own donor. From the limited information my mother had been given -- his blood type, race, ethnicity, eye and hair color and hair texture; his height, weight and body build; his years of college and course of study -- I concluded that he had probably graduated from a four-year university in Northern Virginia or the District within a span of three years. Now all I had to do was search through the records and yearbooks of all the possible universities and make some awkward phone calls. I figured if I worked intensely enough, my search would take a minimum of 10 years. But I was ready and willing.

A few days later, searching for an online message board for donor-conceived people, I came across a donor and offspring registry. Scanning past some entries for more recent donors, I spotted a donation date closer to what I was looking for. I e-mailed the man who had posted the entry. A few days later he sent a warm response and attached a picture of himself. I read through his pleasant words and scrolled down to look at the photo. My breath stopped. I called for my mother, who rushed in, thinking something was terribly wrong. "I think I've found my biological father," I gasped between sobs. "Look at the picture. . . .That's my face."

After a few weeks of e-mailing, this stranger and I took DNA tests. When the results arrived, I tore open the envelope, feeling like a character in a soap opera. Most of the scientific language went over my head, but I understood one fact more clearly than I have ever understood anything in my life: There was, the letter said, a 99.9902 percent chance that this man was my father. After 17 years, I let out a long sigh.

I had found the man who had given me blue eyes and blond hair. And it had taken me only a month.

My life has changed since then. Once the initial disbelief that I had found my father wore off, my thoughts turned to all the other donor-conceived kids out there who have been or will be holding their breath much longer than I. My search for my father had been unusually successful; most offspring will look for many, many years before they succeed, if they ever do.

My heart went out to those others, especially after I participated in a couple of online groups. When I read some of the mothers' thoughts about their choice for conception, it made me feel degraded to nothing more than a vial of frozen sperm. It seemed to me that most of the mothers and donors give little thought to the feelings of the children who would result from their actions. It's not so much that they're coldhearted as that they don't consider what the children might think once they grow up.

Those of us created with donated sperm won't stay bubbly babies forever. We're all going to grow into adults and form opinions about the decision to bring us into the world in a way that deprives us of the basic right to know where we came from, what our history is and who both our parents are.

Some countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, are beginning to move away from the practice of paying donors and granting them anonymity, and making it somewhat easier for offspring to find their biological fathers. I understand anonymity's appeal for so many donors: Even if their offspring were to find them one day -- which is becoming more and more probable -- they have no legal, social, financial or moral obligation to their children.

But perhaps if donors were not paid and anonymity were no longer guaranteed, those still willing to participate would seriously consider the repercussions of their actions. They would have to be prepared to someday meet the people whom they helped create, to answer questions and to deal with a range of erratic emotions from their offspring. I believe I've let go of any resentment about the way I was conceived. I'm playing the cards I've been dealt and trying to make the best of things. But not all donor-conceived people share this mindset.

As relief about my own situation has come to me, I've talked freely and regularly about being donor-conceived, in public and in private. In the beginning, I also talked about it a lot with my biological father. After a bit, though, I noticed that his enthusiasm for our developing relationship seemed to be waning. When I told him of my suspicion, he confirmed that he was tired of "this whole sperm-donor thing." The irony stings me more each time I think of him saying that. The very thing that brought us together was pushing us in opposite directions.

Even though I've only recently come into contact with him, I wouldn't be able to just suck it up if he stopped communicating with me. There's still so much I want to know. I want to know him. I want to know his family. I'm certain he has no idea how big a role he has played in my life despite his absence -- or because of his absence. If I can't be too attached to him as my father, I'll still always be attached to the feeling I now have of having a father.

I feel more whole now than I ever have. I love our conversations, even the most trivial ones. I don't love him, and I don't know if I ever will, but I care about him a lot.

Now that he knows I exist, I'm okay if he doesn't care for me in the same way. But I hope he at least thinks of me sometimes.

Katrina Clark is a student in the undergraduate hearing program at Gallaudet University.

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My Life as a Sperm Donor Dad

By Mike Livingston
Washington Post
Sunday, December 17, 2006; Page B04

"Do you have any kids?"

It sounds like a simple question. But at the risk of sounding like Bill Clinton, it depends on what the meaning of "have" is.

I'm the biological father of a lesbian couple's children -- two beautiful daughters, born a year apart in the summers of 2004 and 2005. I love them. They love me. At least enough to fall asleep on my shoulder when I sing to them. They live in New England, and I visit as often as I can.

Am I their father or their sperm donor? The labels don't matter. The gift involved here is not a vial of protein strands. The real gift is the one I received: a family with a pair of little girls who are profoundly fortunate to have two devoted, strong, courageous moms. My daughters have three loving parents and live with two of them. I, for one, was not so lucky as to live with even two parents for most of my childhood. I turned out okay, but my daughters have a definite advantage.

I was 32 and single when an old friend invited me into this family. I had always vaguely assumed that I'd have a child eventually, but I thought I'd have a wife first, and neither was a front-burner project in the summer of 2003. I was busy with writing and politics. My friend asked me, out of the blue, whether I'd like to help her girlfriend -- her fiancee -- have children. (Plural.)

I didn't take the question too seriously at first, but she brought it up again a few weeks later, and then I took it very seriously indeed. Here were two bright young women, devoted to each other and financially secure in their careers (one is a nurse and one is a mental health caseworker; a kid could do worse for caregivers). I'd sign away my parental rights and responsibilities, but I'd have a relationship with the children. The kids would know that I'm their father and that we planned this family together -- that I'm not just some guy who got their biological mom pregnant and skipped town.

The prospective moms had looked into sperm banks and anonymous donors, but they wanted someone the children could know, someone who would stay involved but would also respect their right to be parents. They wanted their kids to have a dad.

A "known" or "open" donor is a daunting risk for a lesbian couple: Had I changed my mind before I formally surrendered my right to custody, many state courts would have sided with me -- then a single guy living from paycheck to paycheck as a freelance writer -- against a nurturing, stable, two-income household headed by a committed lesbian couple. They had to trust me. And they did.

When Samantha was four hours old, I had been holding her for half her life; I held Emily to look out the window at her first sunrise. My co-workers had thrown a baby shower, and Emily went home in a car seat they had given us.

Two years ago this month, I spoon-fed Samantha one of her first solid meals. At that point, I had already changed more diapers than some dads ever do, even if they live with their babies. Long before she could talk, people started asking me what she called me. I'd always shrug and say, "She calls me waaah, the same thing she calls everyone else."

Now she calls me Daddy. Sometimes she picks up the phone and says, "Hi, Daddy" into it until one of her moms dials my number, and then she talks to me for a few minutes, calling out the names of pets and sister Emmy and characters from "Shrek" and "Dora." I tell her I love her, I miss her, I'm proud of her, I'm looking at a picture of her giving Emily a big hug, and I'll see them soon.

"Do you have any kids?"

I'm the father of two smart, healthy, delightful daughters. They are not a political statement or a social experiment; they're little girls, with pretty eyes and mischievous smiles. They get their pictures taken with Santa. They're learning not to be too grabby with the cat. They love to take turns pushing each other down the hall in a laundry basket. They have two mommies who love them, are raising them well, love each other and keep a joyful house. It's a happy family and I give thanks to be part of it.

That's the answer.

Mike Livingston is a freelance writer in Takoma Park and a child passenger safety technician.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Lesbians and single mums to get IVF on the NHS

Daily Mail
By JULIE WHELDON, Science Correspondent
Last updated at 23:20pm on 10th December 2006

More single women and lesbians could get IVF under Government plans to scrap the requirement for doctors to consider a child's 'need for a father'.

Currently doctors can only give fertility treatment if they believe their patient has taken into account a child's need for a father-figure.

But now it has emerged that ministers are likely to drop this in a shake-up of Britain's embryology laws expected to be announced this week.

They fear making clinics consider a child's 'need for a father' could open them up to accusations of unfair discrimination.

Ethical campaigners reacted angrily to the move warning it amounted to 'gender correctness at its most ridiculous.'

The 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act sets out current rules on research and treatment using human embryos.

Ministers want to reform the act to bring it up-to-date with scientific advances that have occurred over the past 16 years.

A white paper is expected to be published on Friday setting out the Government's proposals ahead of a new Bill next year.

Yesterday it emerged that, as well as dropping the 'need for a father' part of the old Act, ministers are set to back embryo screening to weed out genetic defects - or to create a 'savour sibling' for a sick child.

However families would not be able to choose the sex of their baby for non-medical reasons.
Leaks suggest it will probably also bring controversial internet sperm suppliers under regulation for the first time.

The White Paper is likely to also give backing to scientists who want to controversially create 'chimera' embryos combining human DNA with animal eggs for research.

Such work has already sparked outrage from ethical campaigners who warned it was 'abhorrent' and undermined human dignity.

The Government is also expected to say donor fathers could be told 'in some circumstances' when offspring take up a right to access some information about them.

They could also be able to access 'limited non-identifying information' about the children, who, from the age of 18, might be able to discover if they have siblings born from the same man's sperm.

In addition, the time limit on the storage of embryos - with the consent of both parents - could be doubled to 10 years with a one-year cooling off period if either withdrew their permission.
Some clinics will currently provide IVF to single women and lesbians as long as they are happy the women have considered the child's need to have a male role model in its life.

However many others refuse to treat women who have no male partner because of the child's 'need for a father.'

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has warned in the past that this may conflict with human rights legislation by amounting to discrimination against single and lesbian women.

Over the summer public health minister Caroline Flint told MPs that ministers were keen to retain a duty on doctors to consider a child's welfare.

"But we are thinking that there is probably less of a case for retaining the law in terms of a reference to a father," said Flint.

Robert Whelan, deputy director of Civitas think tank, yesterday warned this was 'grossly irresponsible.'

"The people who engage in this sort of activity see children as an accessory and something they can have as a right.

"The fact that the child will suffer is a secondary consideration." Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "The current act merely says that the need for a father should be taken into account. "To eliminate even this token gesture toward the role of the father is an example of gender correctness at its most ridiculous and discriminates against men."

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kansas News Editorial re Sperm Donor Case

Parsons Sun
Ann Charles, Editor and publisher
12/06/2006; 1:47:15 PM
Wednesday's Editorial

Sperm donation

By definition, donate means to give away freely for a good cause. Yet the Kansas Supreme Court is being asked to intervene in a case where a sperm donor is claiming parental rights for the twin children he fathered through artificial insemination.

The response of the court to this "donor" should be a resounding no.

A Kansas law written in 1994 gives no parental rights to the donor unless a written agreement is signed ahead of time. It is folly for someone who purportedly has a strong interest in fathering children to not have been fully aware of the law before donating sperm to help a friend become a mother. It is even more folly that he and the mother didn't fully discuss the implications and his involvement, considering they weren't married and had no plans to do so.

And it was particularly remiss for the mother, who is an attorney, to not initiate the conversation, knowing that friendships change over time.

But what was done at the time cannot now be changed. The only thing at issue is moving forward from this point, and depending upon the court's ruling, shoring up the legislation.

If a donor does have the right to claim parental rights, would that also mean he could eventually be sued for child support? If a donor is determined to have parental rights, how long would he have to place that claim - only within the first year, or would he be able to do so when the teenaged son looks like a reflection of himself?

There's another issue here and it's the idea that anyone who wants to bear a child should be able to. People need to grow up and realize the world does not revolve around them and their personal wants. They need to think about the ramifications for the child.

Having a child isn't like buying a car or taking on a mortgage. A child is not something to acquire simply because a person wants one. While future parents may think they can provide a loving home to a child, they must stop and think about what they are doing to the child.

How will that daughter react 15 years from now when she knows she has been the cause of years of legal battles over donated sperm? How will that son accept that half of him began in a lab tube?

Just because science allows something to happen doesn't mean that everyone who wants to take advantage of it should. Personal wants today must be balanced with the child's actual needs tomorrow.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wanting Babies Like Themselves, Some Parents Choose Genetic Defects

Not exactly donor conception but related in that parents choosing DI or DE do choose based on donor traits on some level. For more commentary go to this blog's parent blog.


New York Times
December 5, 2006
Wanting Babies Like Themselves, Some Parents Choose Genetic Defects

Wanting to have children who follow in one’s footsteps is an understandable desire. But a coming article in the journal Fertility and Sterility offers a fascinating glimpse into how far some parents may go to ensure that their children stay in their world — by intentionally choosing malfunctioning genes that produce disabilities like deafness or dwarfism.

The article reviews the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or P.G.D., a process in which embryos are created in a test tube and their DNA is analyzed before being transferred to a woman’s uterus. In this manner, embryos destined to have, for example, cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease can be excluded, and only healthy embryos implanted.

Yet Susannah A. Baruch and colleagues at the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University recently surveyed 190 American P.G.D. clinics, and found that 3 percent reported having intentionally used P.G.D. “to select an embryo for the presence of a disability.”

In other words, some parents had the painful and expensive fertility procedure for the express purpose of having children with a defective gene. It turns out that some mothers and fathers don’t view certain genetic conditions as disabilities but as a way to enter into a rich, shared culture.

It’s tempting to see this practice as an alarming trend; for example, the online magazine Slate called it “the deliberate crippling of children.”

But a desire for children with genetic defects isn’t new. In 2002, for example, The Washington Post Magazine profiled Candace A. McCullough and Sharon M. Duchesneau, a lesbian and deaf couple from Maryland who both attended Gallaudet University and set out to have a deaf child by intentionally soliciting a deaf sperm donor.

“A hearing baby would be a blessing,” Ms. Duchesneau was quoted as saying. “A deaf baby would be a special blessing.”

Born five years ago on Thanksgiving Day, the couple’s son, Gauvin, was mostly deaf, and his parents chose to withhold any hearing aids.

Controlling a child’s genetic makeup, even to preserve what some would consider a disease, is the latest tactic of parents in an increasingly globalized society where identity seems besieged and in need of aggressive preservation. Traditionally, cultures were perpetuated through assortative mating, with intermarriage among the like-minded and the like-appearing.

Modern technology has been adopted for this purpose; for example, a quick Web search reveals specialized dating services for almost any religious or ethnic subgroup. Viewed in this context, the use of P.G.D. to select for deafness may be merely another ritual to ensure that one’s children carry on a cultural bloodline.

Still, most providers of P.G.D. find such requests unacceptable. Dr. Robert J. Stillman of the Shady Grove Fertility Center in Rockville, Md., has denied requests to use the process for selecting deafness and dwarfism. “In general, one of the prime dictates of parenting is to make a better world for our children,” he said in an interview. “Dwarfism and deafness are not the norm.”

Dr. Yury Verlinsky of the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago, who also refuses these requests, said, “If we make a diagnostic tool, the purpose is to avoid disease.”

But both doctors said they would not oppose sending families to other doctors who might consent.

Today, parents increasingly use medical procedures to alter healthy bodies. In 2003, for example, the Food and Drug Administration granted approval to Eli Lilly to market human growth hormone for “idiopathic short stature,” or below-average height in children — to make them taller, purely for social reasons. Theoretically, almost a half million American boys qualify for treatment. Why, some may argue, should choosing short stature be different?

Mary Ellen Little, a New Jersey nurse with dwarfism, had her first daughter before a prenatal test for achondroplasia was available. For her second child, she had amniocentesis. “I prayed for a little one,” meaning a dwarf, she told me.

The wait, she recalled, was grueling, since “I figured I couldn’t be blessed twice, but I was.” Both her daughters, now 11 and 7, are “little people.”

The major barrier to Ms. Little’s simply choosing her children’s height is ease. To her, P.G.D. to select for dwarfism is too invasive; however, if having dwarf children were simply a matter of trying to conceive at a certain time of the month or taking a pill, she said, “I would do that.”

Barbara Spiegel, a homemaker in Maine who has dwarfism, had a first pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. She underwent genetic testing during her second pregnancy, and because of a laboratory mix-up involving petri dishes, was told that her child would grow to normal height. She would have loved the child, she said, but in an interview, she recalled thinking, “What is life going to be like for her, when her parents are different than she is?”

She worried that the child would be teased excessively. Ms. Spiegel’s best friend, who has average height, has a daughter with dwarfism, and the child sometimes comes to Ms. Spiegel for support; maybe an average-size child would also go to others for motherly advice. For a brief time, Ms. Spiegel grieved because she felt a dwarf baby would have been “just precious.” But after a week, the mix-up was detected and she got her wish.

Genetic testing for dwarfism has an extra ethical wrinkle. When both parents are dwarves, their embryos have a 25 percent chance of normal height, a 50 percent chance of dwarfism, and a 25 percent chance of what is called a double dominant mutation, which is usually fatal soon after birth. Because many dwarf mothers worry that their fetuses might have the fatal mutation, those who conceive without assistive technology, like Ms. Little and Ms. Spiegel, often undergo amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling to detect double dominant mutations. Many consider abortion if the test is positive — but many would carry either a dwarf or an average-height child to term.

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis can identify embryos with double dominant mutations, so they can be discarded before implantation, while preserving embryos destined for either dwarfism or average height. In dwarves, then, P.G.D. could help avoid many doomed pregnancies if double dominants were never implanted. But then a choice would have to be made, since the genes are known. And many dwarves might select embryos for dwarves — although others might choose those for average-size children.

Dr. Stéphane Viville, who first reported P.G.D. for dwarfism in 2003 in France, used it to eliminate embryos with dwarfism among couples where one member was a dwarf and the partner had average height. Interestingly, if confronted with a situation where both parents were dwarves, Dr. Viville says that he most likely would implant only an embryo destined for normal height — and forbid not only double dominants but also dwarf embryos.

I think Dr. Viville fears that P.G.D. could be used willy-nilly to make genetic freaks. Yet the same fears pervaded the issue of in vitro fertilization decades ago. The small number of P.G.D. centers selecting for mutations doesn’t bother me greatly. After all, even natural reproduction is an error-prone process, since almost 1 percent of all pregnancies are complicated by birth defects — often by more disabling conditions than dwarfism or deafness.

More important, as a physician who helps women dealing with complex fetal diseases, I’ve learned to respect a family’s judgment. Many parents share a touching faith that having children similar to them will strengthen family and social bonds.

Of course, part of me wonders whether speaking the same language or being the same height guarantees closer families. But it’s not for me to say. In the end, our energy is better spent advocating for a society where those factors won’t matter.

Dr. Darshak M. Sanghavi is pediatric cardiologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the author of “A Map of the Child: A Pediatrician’s Tour of the Body.”
Embedded links are to other NYT articles and were present in original on line article

Monday, December 04, 2006

Kansas Supreme Court Hears Case of Sperm Donor's Rights

A state law that gives sperm donors no parental rights unless there's a written agreement between the man and woman is ambiguous and should be struck down, the attorney for a Shawnee County man told the Kansas Supreme Court on Monday.

Kurt James asked the court to reverse a lower-court ruling that said Daryl Hendrix didn't have paternal rights to twins conceived with the use of his sperm in 2004. James acknowledged there was nothing in writing, but said Hendrix assumed he and Samantha Harrington agreed that he would be involved in the children's lives.

"The Kansas statute should be clarified to help Kansas fathers assert their responsibility," James said after the hearing.

It's the first time the state's highest court has considered the constitutionality of the 1994 law. A group of family law professors says a ruling in the man's favor could dramatically alter how the law deals with sperm donors.

The court could rule as early as Feb. 2.

Hendrix and Harrington were friends for a number of years when he agreed to donate his sperm to help her become pregnant. No written agreement was signed, though Harrington is an attorney.

Hendrix was present once when Harrington took a sperm sample to Missouri for insemination, but not at a second visit when insemination was successful.

Harrington and Hendrix were present for Monday's hearing but declined to speak with reporters.

Susan Barker Andrews, attorney for Harrington, said her client didn't coerce or trick Hendrix into giving sperm samples and that she always intended to be a single mother.

The twins were born in May 2005. Harrington went to court the next day, and a Shawnee County district judge concluded in December that Hendrix had no parental rights. Hendrix appealed.

Harrington had sought to have Hendrix's parental rights severed through a child in need of care petition, a step generally taken when a child is abandoned, neglected or abused by a parent. Her petition was never acted upon by the lower court, which dismissed the case.

Andrews said there was no evidence that either party knew what was required under state law to establish or waive paternity. But Harrington filed the district court petition to make her intentions clear when it was evident that Hendrix wanted more than she was offering.

"She was concerned about her security and that of her children. That's why she went the extra step and didn't rely on the statute," Andrews told the court.

James said there was little case law nationally for justices to rely upon because no other state has a provision similar to that of Kansas. But, he said, when a donor such as his client wants to be involved, there must be due process to determine what rights exist and how they should be protected.

Several family law professors who wrote briefs to the court ahead of Monday's arguments said women who want children might not opt for artificial insemination in such a legal climate if parental rights were an issue. And men might balk if they know that by donating their sperm, they could be held liable after the fact to support the child.

James told the justices that the case may prompt the Legislature to revisit the law and consider expanding or clarifying the rights of donors.


The case is, In the Interest of K.M.H. and K.C.H., No. 96,102.

On the Net:

Kansas Supreme Court: