Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Law professors are facing off in a Kansas Supreme Court case that could decide the parental rights of sperm donors. The suit argued on Monday before the court concerns a Shawnee County man who donated sperm to a friend. The woman underwent artificial insemination and delivered twins in May 2005. The man argues that he always intended to act as a father to the children. No agreement was put into writing, however, and a judge later decided the man had no rights as a father. Kansas law denies parental rights to sperm donors unless they have a written agreement with the mother specifying that they will act as father. The 1994 law was designed to protect children conceived through artificial insemination from frivolous custody disputes, as well as to safeguard donors from child support lawsuits.
The Kansas City Star reports that:
Family law experts have lined up on both sides of the case. Linda Henry Elrod, a family law professor at Washburn University, filed a legal brief in which she sided with the donor. Elrod argues that to require a man to have a written agreement before he has parental rights over his biological children is to violate his constitutional rights. The law, she wrote, “cannot take away a constitutional right to be a parent” without due process. But 21 other family law experts across the country filed a brief supporting the woman. They argued that the Kansas law in effect protects the interests of children created through sperm donation, as well as the mothers and the donors, by requiring any agreements to be set down in writing. One of those professors, Nancy Polikoff, a family law professor at American University, said “biology is not enough” to give the man parental rights. The law assumes the mother (and any husband or partner she might have) will have custody when it comes to children of sperm donors. Without the Kansas law, she said, women could face custody battles from donors, or donors could find themselves being asked to support a child they never intended to know. Both professors agreed that the case, the first of its kind in Kansas, is blazing new legal territory. “It’s the Wild West out there,” Elrod said. “The advances in technology are just way ahead of where the law is.”
December 4, 2006 bgf