Actor faces sperm donor debate head on

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A little piece of a big problem

U.S. actor Jason Patric (The Lost Boys) has got himself into a rather sticky situation with his ex-girlfriend. Their child custody case has sparked a heated battle in California about whether certain sperm donors should be granted parental rights.

A judge left a bad taste in Patric’s mouth when he ruled that he has no parental rights to Gus, the three-year-old son he conceived with Danielle Schreiber using in-vitro fertilization. The couple never married and offer very different versions of the arrangements for Patric’s role in the life of “his child.”

The judge determined that Patric met the definition of a sperm donor under state law and thus had no legal rights as the boy’s father, a verdict the actor is having a hard time swallowing.

As a result, state Sen. Jerry Hill, has put forward legislation that would allow a man whose sperm was used to conceive a child through artificial insemination to seek parental rights. However, the man has to aptly prove that he has maintained a certain level of involvement in the child’s life.

Opponents have written letters arguing that the bill could negatively affect the rights of same-sex couples, or single mothers who choose to use sperm donors to conceive, making many vulnerable to unnecessary lawsuits.

The great sperm debate is not just a case of “whose is it?” but also “who am I?” There are many donor-offspring who do not know know their history, or the identity of their father, all because the circumstances of their conception, the iron shield that is law and the disconnected label of “sperm donor.” The complex questions of “should a donor’s identity be available upon request?” and “what rights do the children have when it comes to access to information?” are largely debated in B.C.

Take the case of Olivia Pratten, the Vancouver woman who spent a decade trying to uncover her sperm donor’s identity and was denied by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Pratten argued that she should have “access to her past,” in the same way that adopted children do. However, the court argued that it would be an intrusion into the lives of the many who donated their sperm anonymously.

Next, take the familiar case of a single woman who has long desired to have a child. She asks a friend to donate sperm, he agrees on the understanding that he will have no rights or responsibilities regarding the child. When the child turns five the woman loses her job and files an action in family court against her friend the donor, seeking child support.

Or how about the case from the U.S. of the lesbian couple who also desired to start a family? They ask one of the woman’s brothers to donate his sperm to inseminate the other. The brother agrees, on the condition that he will not be considered a parent but will be allowed contact with the child. When the child is two years old, the couple breaks up, one woman refuses to allow the brother to visit the child any longer and he must take her to court to seek visitation rights.

These cases could be anyone, their identities those of many, the tale of the sperm who grew up and wanted to know why the laws lines are so grey, the woman who looks in the mirror and only sees half a face.

Physician and Medical Director at Genesis Fertility Centre in Vancouver, Sonya Kashyap, says that “ideally it would be nice to have something like a bank, where children of donor’s can go to learn as much as possible about their medical and genetic histories without transgressing the donor’s privacy.”

However, she also mentions that “if at the time of donation the donor did not consent to be identified, it probably takes presidence initially.”

If laws were to change, it’s possible that eliminating anonymity could be the death of donation. And for those who want to be known, the certainty of their lasting involvement is like whispering in winter, a lingering breath seen on the breeze of an ever-changing season.

Will this great debate cause more people to open their mouths on the matter, or are words wasted in an argument that may simply be too hard?

Your sperm, my body, our child. Who decides?

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Nicolle Hodges Journalist/Reporter for VancityBuzz, Editor of @Valley_Buzz, Freelance Journalist Black Press and CTV Vancouver Promotions Host. Follow my journey on Instagram: @nicolledoubleL
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