January 4, 2013

Kansas case reveals legal issues for sperm donors

A man may be liable for child support because no doctor helped with artificial insemination.

By JOHN HANNA The Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. - A state law being used by Kansas officials trying to force a sperm donor to pay child support is outdated, the man's attorney argues. But experts agree that he put himself in a precarious legal position by getting involved in a lesbian couple's do-it-yourself artificial insemination.

click image to enlarge

William Marotta, who is being asked by the state of Kansas to pay child support after providing sperm to a same-sex couple, talks about his case at his attorney’s office in Topeka.

The Associated Press

Kansas law states that a sperm donor is not the father of a child if a doctor handles the artificial insemination.

But the law does not specifically address the donor's rights and obligations when no doctor was involved.

That was the case in 2009, when William Marotta answered an online ad for a sperm donation from Angela Bauer and her then-partner, Jennifer Schreiner. Schreiner became pregnant, and the three signed an agreement that they believed severed Marotta's parental rights.

But since the three didn't go through a doctor, the state argues, Marotta is the legal father and should reimburse the state for about $6,000 in public assistance that Schreiner received to help care for the child after she and Bauer broke up. The state also wants him to pay future child support, even though neither woman is asking for money.

"I don't fault the state for this," said Corey Whelan, who runs workshops for lesbian couples interested in having children as a program director for the New York-based American Fertility Association. "I don't think this is a homophobic issue. I think this is a financially driven issue."

Whelan said her group has a long-standing practice of advising single women who want a child to work with doctors and attorneys.

She said avoiding professionals is "a buyer-beware proposition."

"The problem is the guy exposed himself to a situation that made him potentially liable because he had no legal protection," said Dr. Ajay Nangia, an associate professor of urology at the University of Kansas Hospital and the former ethics chairman of the American Society of Andrology, a national medical group for male reproductive health.

Still, Marotta's attorney said his 46-year-old client cannot be declared the father of the now 3-year-old child because of the written agreement with the two women.

Attorney Ben Swinnen also noted that nine states have laws saying a sperm or egg donor is not the parent of a child conceived through artificial reproduction. "The state of Kansas is lagging behind in following the trend," he said. "It is a freeze, in my opinion, on artificial insemination and alternative family settings."

But the state argues in its latest court filing that at least 10 other states require a doctor's involvement in artificial insemination for a sperm donor to be protected from having to pay child support.

"It's a common-sense law," said Washington state-based attorney Mark Demaray, past president of an organization for attorneys who handle assisted reproduction legal issues.

"It's very common for them to have to go through a doctor's office and get a sworn statement from the doctor that he or she performed this procedure," he said.

The Associated Press left a phone message Thursday seeking comment at a number listed as Schreiner's in public records. Listings for Bauer were incorrect or were out of service.

Previously, the women told The Topeka Capital-Journal that they're backing Marotta in his fight.

 

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