When Does a Man Become a Dad? When the State Says So

Over the years, American culture and its view on what “family” means has changed drastically.  Same sex marriage (while not allowed everywhere) is not as shocking as it once was.  Single motherhood has become acceptable and many couples feel that marriage is becoming obsolete.  Despite these radically shifting social views, the laws in the U.S. governing what makes up a “family” are slow to keep up.  And the people impacted the most by these legal doctrines are sometimes the least aware of them.

Take Chukwudera Okoli, who married his wife, Blessing, in 1991.  Despite years of trying to conceive, the couple remained childless through the years – including when they separated in 2001.  However, in 2003, Blessing became pregnant with twins through the use of in vitro fertilization, using donor sperm and a donor egg. On March 6 2012, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed a decision by a judge from Probate and Family Court  requiring Okoli to pay child support to the twins.

Usually, there would be nothing unusual about a married parent being required to pay child support.  Massachusetts, like New York, has a legal presumption that a man is the legal father of any child to whom his wife gives birth to, in addition to a law aimed specifically at artificial insemination, which recognizes the husband as the legal father of children his wife has conceived through artificial insemination.  Though Okoli and his wife were separated, they were not divorced (i.e. they were still married) at the time of the birth of the twins and neither of the parents is genetically related to the children. … <Read More>

FDA Regulation of Sperm Donation


An article in the February 13, 2012 Issue of New York Magazine titled “The Virgin Father” by Benjamin Wallace brings to light several legal and ethical issues surrounding proper regulation of “Do It Yourself” sperm donations. Trent Arsenault has been labeled The Virgin Father.[1] Although Trent never had sex with a woman, he has fathered 15 children to date. Trent is “part of a growing movement of peer-to-peer sperm donation that bypassed regulated banks”, by conducting his own sperm donation business through a website. [2] Trent is very pragmatic in his daily regime to keep his body healthy in order to produce the healthiest and most fertile sperm possible.

The FDA learned about Trent and his private sperm donation business, and launched an investigation against him, filing a “cease manufacture” order. “Although sperm is neither a food nor a drug, the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research has the power to  regulate those who traffic items that can possibly spread communicable diseases and genetic disorders.”[3] Historically, the FDA has only regulated traditional sperm banks, not private donors. However, because Trent was so public about his actions, the FDA contacted him and Trent signed a document confirming he was “an establishment”.[4] The FDA used this as a means to issue a cease-manufacture order that Trent wasn’t screening for diseases enough. Trent responded by claiming his celibacy, unusually healthily diet, and disease free lifestyle was enough to safeguard his DNA. A public interest group, Cause of Action, took Trent’s case, appealing the FDA’s order, claiming that they were overreaching into Trent’s “intimate” relationships with people, (for which he is receiving no compensation).… <Read More>

It’s Complicated: The Modern Family

Technology-assisted births have made the definition of “family” pretty abstract as compared to the nuclear family model most of us are familiar with.  Some families have two moms or maybe two dads.  Some parents are not genetically related to their children; or they are, but the mom was not the woman who gave birth to them.  People can even opt to be a single parent without even sleeping with someone else.  And then there’s George Russell, who describes young Griffin as, “my nephew.  But biologically, he’s my son.”… <Read More>

A Mother Should Have Chosen Anonymous Sperm Donor Or Different Neighborhood Instead

In child custody battles, the notion of “the best interests of the child” is quite abstract.  What is considered “best” for one child is not necessary “best” for another; and generally each case is decided on its own particular facts.  Regrettably, sometimes these decisions are based not only on unsubstantiated facts, but arguably reflect the judge’s/referee’s emotions or feelings.  Furthermore, it can have a very disparaging effect on other people’s decisions to become parents.… <Read More>