Menstuff® has compiled the following information on issues
surrounding sperm banks and your potential liability for those
donating their sperm.
Case Could Freeze
Is Sperm the New Superfood?
Related Issues: Sperm Donors
Case Could Freeze Sperm Donations
The case involves sperm donor Joel L. McKiernan and his lover Ivonne V. Ferguson. Ten years ago, they entered a verbal contract that a three-judge panel of the Superior Court said was valid "on its face." In exchange for McKiernan donating sperm that led to the birth of twins through in-vitro fertilization, Ferguson released him from any obligation toward offspring. (IVF involves fertilizing a woman's eggs with sperm in a lab dish and, then, placing the fertilized eggs back in the aspiring mother's uterus.)
Ferguson denies that an agreement to release McKiernan from responsibility ever existed. Nevertheless, she named her then husband as 'father' on the birth certificate. Five years after the twins' birth and in the wake of divorce, she filed against McKiernan for child support.
The tangled personal circumstances of this situation constitute a legal nightmare and the sort of 'hard' case that makes bad law. And bad law is exactly what may result.
Both the trial court and the Superior Court houstonvoice.com/print.cfm?content_id=1373 called Ferguson's actions "despicable" and expressed sympathy toward McKiernan. Yet both found him liable to pay over $1500 a month in child support plus arrearages to the now-divorced Ferguson. (McKiernan has married, moved, and now has two other children he is raising.)
Why was McKiernan considered liable? The original contract was deemed unenforceable due to "legal, equitable and moral principles." The main abrogating principle: biological parents cannot waive the interests of a child -- a third party -- who has an independent 'right' to support from each one of them.
It does not matter that a third party did not exist when the contract was forged and probably would have never existed without the contract. Nor does it matter that the law generally presumes a husband to be the father of any child born during the marriage. The donation of sperm alone makes McKiernan financially liable for the twins until they reach adulthood.
Or it will if he loses the Supreme Court appeal, which weighs the extent of a sperm donor's liability. Presumably, the ruling would equally impact women who donate eggs for another's fertility treatment.
Pennsylvania, like most states, has not adopted a version of the www.aaml.org/Articles/2000-11/UPA%20FINAL%20TEXT%20WITH%20COMMENTS%20.htm Uniform Parentage Act, which protects sperm or egg donors from the responsibilities of parenthood. Many -- if not most -- donors merely presume that anonymity provides such protection.
In the case of Ferguson v. McKiernan, the identity of the sperm donor was always known. But the principle sustained by the courts could apply with equal force to anonymous donors.
Ferguson's attorney argued that her case did not threaten sperm banks or fertility clinics because such facilities had not been involved.
McKiernan's attorney noted that the contract in question was virtually identical to the ones they offer: namely, anonymity or non-involvement in exchange for a donation. If a mother or father cannot waive the 'right' of a potential child to support, then it is not clear how a fertility clinic could do so in its capacity as a broker-for-profit between the two 'parents'.
The danger this precedent would pose was www.timesleader.com/mld/timesleader/9228387.htm expressed by Arthur Caplan, a professor and medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania.
Caplan explained that anyone who donates genetic material on the basis of anonymity "ought to understand that their identity could be made known to any child that's produced and they could be seen by the courts as the best place to go to make sure the child has adequate financial support." The prospect become more likely if one parent is requesting support from a government agency.
Sperm banks are legally required to maintain a record of each donor's identity, often indefinitely.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge Ronald D. Castille was www.observer-reporter.com/296057286820119.bsp more blunt than Caplan in his assessment of the risk that donations would cease. "What man in their right mind would agree to that [sperm donation] if we decide this case in your favor? Nobody." What woman in her right mind would donate eggs?
Estimates on infertility in the United States vary but the rate is www.fertilitysolution.com/chapter1.html often placed at about 15 percent, even without including gay and lesbian couples. That is, 15 percent of couples fail to conceive after one year of regular, unprotected intercourse. If miscarriages are factored in, the rate increases.
The use of donated sperm and eggs is a common solution to infertility. According to Dr. Cappy Rothman of the California www.cryobank.com Cryobank, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 artificial inseminations occur every year in the U.S. And that is only one form of infertility treatment.
If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court finds the sperm-donor to be liable for child support, then many forms of infertility treatment in most states could become less available and more expensive. Those donors who step forward will want to be compensated for their increased legal risk.
The courts have pitted a child's "best interests" against the rights of biological parents to contract with each other on the terms of reproduction. They may have also opened a Pandora's box of complications involving a child's claim on a sperm donor's data and wealth.
But the worst consequence may be the denial of life itself to children who are desperately wanted by infertile couples. The law should not obstruct their chances of conceiving.
©2005, Wendy McElroy
Is Sperm the New Superfood?
In fact, it's a pretty handy dietary supplement for perpetuating the species: Imagine being pregnant in a time or place when resources are scarce how could you provide nourishment in utero? A daily dose of seminal fluid saves the day!
It sounds strange, but that's what scientists recently discovered a particular species of female squid is doing. The southern bottletail squid, found around the Spencer Gulf in South Australia, bulks up on male squid ejaculate. According to new research from Monash University in Australia, female squids swallow male semen as a means of delivering nutrients to aid in the growth of their unfertilized eggs.
But as it turns out, the practice undermines the male squid. He has limited semen and his biological mission is to reproduce, so any ejaculate that the female consumes is a lost mating opportunity. "If a male produces an ejaculate that isn't able to successfully compete in the egg fertilization race, he is essentially an evolutionary dead end," researcher Benjamin Wegener explained.
Hmmm... it seems consumption of semen is not only nutritious, it could be considered a method of birth control in a sense. And, it's free.
Speaking of nutritious: Did you know that the average human ejaculation (3.4 mL) contains approximately the same amount of protein as the white of an egg? It also has trace amounts of nutrients including zinc, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B12. According to the Huffington Post, it actually has as many nutrients as a protein shake! (Of course, there are minor variations among individual donors.)
In fact, the researchers above wonder if semen sampling may be a method of selecting one's mate, and have more questions to explore. "Are females using males as a food source or as a means to assess the quality of her partners? Are males even capable of using this feeding behavior to manipulate female reproduction? Hopefully future discoveries will uncover the answers," Wegener said.
In the meantime, we're not suggesting that humans consume semen
it's simply interesting to note that the substance is
practically a superfood!
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including her latest book, Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century. She lives with her husband in Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org Also, see her daily blog at www.zetetics.com/mac