What Rights Should Sperm Donors Have?

August 13, 2013  |  

When we think about sperm donors, we tend to think about women flipping through a binder of code numbers with stats–this disease runs in his family, his SAT scores fell within this range. It’s anonymous and medical. But a big debate in California is asking us to think of sperm donors, both known and unknown, as people and, perhaps even fathers.

The question first came before California courts when actor Jason Patric sought parental rights when it came to his 3-year-old son, Gus, reports NBC. Gus was conceived through in vitro fertilization when Patric was still with ex-girlfriend Danielle Schreiber. After they split up, Schreiber insisted Patric relinquished all paternal rights and agreed to be an anonymous donor, while Patric said he had always planned to be involved in Gus’ life. Patric then took his case to state lawmakers after a judge ruled he would be just a sperm donor and couldn’t have any rights as a a father. The decision was based on a 2011 California law that said sperm donors have no paternal rights.

Now state senator Jerry Hill, who wrote the original law, introduced bill SB115 which would grant sperm donors paternal rights so long as they can prove involvement in the child’s life. The bill has met no resistance in the Senate but organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women, who says the law would have a negative effect on single mothers or gay couples who rely on sperm donors to build their families.

Family law attorney Deborah Wald told NBC says the law won’t harm gay families or single-parent families but instead help fathers who do want to be a part of their children’s lives.”The law will continue to say that man is a sperm donor, and that he would have to establish as a matter of evidence that he has actually parented the child. If a man can’t do that, he’s a sperm donor. The question is should a man be given the opportunity to try.” Still, others worry that the bill isn’t specific enough about what exactly involvement in a child’s life is or how much makes a man eligible to be recognized as a father.

For men like Patric, the bill will let them have a family, regardless of their relationship with the child’s mother. And while there are only two people in a relationship, it does seem that his having fought for involvement in his child’s life for the last two years shows that he cares, that he wants the messy parts as well as the fun parts of being a father.

Have you used a sperm donor? How much does a man have to do to be considered a father?

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