Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Saturday, June 5, 2010

World Bank's Loans for Reproductive Issues

The World Bank is lending money to 58 countries to address worldwide fertility rates and high maternal deaths in third world countries.

 From Medical News Today:

During the release of its five-year plan to help drive down high maternal death and fertility rates in low-income countries, the World Bank on Tuesday said “that family planning and other reproductive health services have fallen off the radar of many governments, donors and aid agencies,” Reuters reports.

Under its Reproductive Health Action Plan (.pdf), the World Bank will increase its lending in 58 countries to help expand access to contraceptives, prenatal visits, educational programs for women and girls, and training for health workers on common causes of maternal death (Wroughton, 5/11).

Read news coverage here or the report here.


June 5, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fox: "Choosing Your Child's Race"

Dov Fox has posted "Choosing Your Child's Race" (forthcoming Hastings Women's Law Journal) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This short essay refects remarks presented at a symposium on "Regulating Reproductive Technologies" at Hastings College of Law. My topic was the practice by which sperm banks separate donor catalogs according to race. We should care about the race-conscious design of decisionmaking frameworks like donor catalogs, dating websites, and election ballots, I suggest, because the reinscription of race within meaningful spheres of life such as politics, romance, and reproduction can rectify or reconstitute racially-defined ways in which we understand ourselves and relate to others. I argue that variously salient means of racial disclosure can communicate more or less acceptable ideas about the role that race should play in the decisions that parents who use donor gametes make about what kind of child to have.

There is a spectrum of salience-varying approaches that sperm banks could adopt to manage information about donor race. I consider four: race-indifferent, race-sensitive, race-attentive, and race-exclusive. Race-indifferent means of disclosure withhold the racial identity of donors altogether. Race-sensitive means, by contrast, identify racial background as one donor characteristics alongside others, thus enabling prospective parents to choose a sperm donor on racial grounds, but only if they scroll through the catalog and at least glance at each donor profile one by one. A race-attentive approach not only reveals race but places emphasis on it, by designing donor catalogs and online search functions in ways that make it easy for prospective parents, if they wish, to view just donors of a certain race, or to omit donors of another. Race-exclusive means differentiate donors by racial information only, thus according race a presumptively decisive role in customers’ decisions about which sperm donor to choose.

I argue that the race-attentive partitioning of donor catalogs along racial lines is a pernicious practice we should resist because it sends a message that prospective parents should select donors on the basis of race and because it credentializes assumption that single-race families are preferable to multiracial ones. The close analogy to dating websites gives reason for skepticism. If people should have access to dating services that facilitate partner searches with an eye to race, why not to provide the same measure of assistance to infertile heterosexual couples, lesbian couples, and single parents seeking to find a sperm donor of a particular race? The primary reason I give is that the market in donor insemination mediates the practice of reproduction to eliminate the intimacy (and with it the relational autonomy interests) that marks in sexual reproduction and romantic dating. Parents and donors transact at arms length through a corporate broker who doesn’t permit either party even to learn the name of the other, let alone to have intimate contact. Dating websites deal in the union of people; sperm banks deal in the union of gametes. What’s present in the romantic matching context that’s missing in the reproductive matching context is meaningful interface between the parties on either side of the exchange. So there are lesser interests of relational autonomy at stake in assisted reproduction by comparison to those in sexual reproduction or romantic dating.


June 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Religion & Fertility Treatments

The Wall Street Journal recently printed a fascinating editorial discussing Judaism and the children resulting from egg donation:

What does a Jewish child need most from a mother? Forget about the chicken soup—it's all about the eggs, say a growing number of prominent rabbis. Several recent rabbinic rulings on fertility treatment dictate that a child conceived in vitro is Jewish only if the egg came from a Jewish woman.

The issue is most pressing in Israel, in part because tight restrictions on egg donation have long compelled infertile women to procure eggs abroad, where most donors are not Jewish. But decisions in Israel favoring the genetic mother over the gestational one are also likely to increase the already high demand for Jewish eggs in the U.S., and could call into question the religious status of thousands of children born to Jewish women around the world.

Read more here.


June 4, 2010 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Would-Be Child Brides Publicly Beaten

From the New York Times:

The two Afghan girls had every reason to expect the law would be on their side when a policeman at a checkpoint stopped the bus they were in. Disguised in boys’ clothes, the girls, ages 13 and 14, had been fleeing for two days along rutted roads and over mountain passes to escape their illegal, forced marriages to much older men, and now they had made it to relatively liberal Herat Province.

Instead, the police officer spotted them as girls, ignored their pleas and promptly sent them back to their remote village in Ghor Province. There they were publicly and viciously flogged for daring to run away from their husbands.

Their tormentors, who videotaped the abuse, were not the Taliban, but local mullahs and the former warlord, now a pro-government figure who largely rules the district where the girls live.

Neither girl flinched visibly at the beatings, and afterward both walked away with their heads unbowed. Sympathizers of the victims smuggled out two video recordings of the floggings to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, which released them on Saturday after unsuccessfully lobbying for government action.

The ordeal of Afghanistan’s child brides illustrates an uncomfortable truth. What in most countries would be considered a criminal offense is in many parts of Afghanistan a cultural norm, one which the government has been either unable or unwilling to challenge effectively.

According to a Unicef study, from 2000 to 2008, the brides in 43 percent of Afghan marriages were under 18. Although the Afghan Constitution forbids the marriage of girls under the age of 16, tribal customs often condone marriage once puberty is reached, or even earlier.

Flogging is also illegal.

The case of Khadija Rasoul, 13, and Basgol Sakhi, 14, from the village of Gardan-i-Top, in the Dulina district of Ghor Province, central Afghanistan, was notable for the failure of the authorities to do anything to protect the girls, despite opportunities to do so.

Forced into a so-called marriage exchange, where each girl was given to an elderly man in the other’s family, Khadija and Basgol later complained that their husbands beat them when they tried to resist consummating the unions. Dressed as boys, they escaped and got as far as western Herat Province, where their bus was stopped at a checkpoint and they were arrested.

Poverty is the motivation for many child marriages, either because a wealthy husband pays a large bride-price, or just because the father of the bride then has one less child to support. “Most of the time they are sold,” Ms. Naderi said. “And most of the time it’s a case where the husband is much, much older.”

She said it was also common practice among police officers who apprehend runaway child brides to return them to their families. “Most police don’t understand what’s in the law, or they’re just against it,” she said.

In some ways, the two girls from Ghor were among the luckier child brides. After the floggings, the mullah declared them divorced and returned them to their own families.

Two years earlier, in nearby Murhab district, two girls who had been sold into marriage to the same family fled after being abused, according to a report by the Human Rights Commission. But they lost their way, were captured and forcibly returned. Their fathers — one the village mullah — took them up the mountain and killed them.

Read the full story here.


June 3, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Low European Fertility Rates

New statistics show continued low fertility rates in European countries, where some laws aim to increase fertility.  No doubt, there are many modern forces contributing to a difficult environment for child-bearing and -raising, including rising costs to doing so.


IRELAND HAD the highest fertility rate in the European Union in 2007, according to new data published by the Central Statistics Office.

Women in Ireland had an average of 2.05 children in that year, compared to 1.98 in France and 1.92 in Britain.

In Poland, which was ranked lowest in terms of fertility rates in the EU during 2007, there were just 1.31 children per woman.

A value of 2.1 is generally considered to be the level at which the population would replace itself in the long run, ignoring migration.

Read more here.


June 3, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Marriage Therapist Sued for Encouraging Affairs!

Marriage therapists, or perhaps therapy-seeking couples, beware:

A young couple are suing their therapist for $8 million - insisting he almost destroyed their marriage by encouraging them to have affairs.

Guido Venitucci, a TV star in Rome who also appeared in The Royal Tenenbaums, and his wife Heather Aldridge-Venitucci are seeking $4 million each from New York couples' counselor Jeffrey Mechanic.

According to their lawsuit, Mechanic came up with a series of wacky tips that almost destroyed their marriage rather than helped strengthen it.

And most spectacularly, their legal papers insist the counsellor encouraged them to bed lovers because they were not being satisfied in the marriage.

Venitucci, who moved to New York in the 1990s, admits that he "caved in" and had an affair - and insists his therapist approved.

Venitucci claims Mechanic, a state-licensed social worker, was determined to get him and other men in a group session to play around with women outside their marriages.

'For 10 years, I was faithful. Then I just caved in and had an affair, and he said there was nothing wrong with that,' Venitucci said.

He said the affair left them "on the verge of divorce" - and they only managed to salvage their marriage by dumping the counsellor and going against everything he said.

Venitucci, 44, and his 39-year-old wife say they paid Mechanic $150,000 for his services.

The couple's suit accuses Mechanic of "manipulating the emotions of Venitucci in order to gain control over him" during their $300 weekly sessions between 1997 and 2008.

Mechanic's lawyer Charles Gayner rubbished the couple's accusations as "absolutely frivolous", adding: 'We deny all the allegations. We are disappointed to see they are going this route.'

However another patient said she had similar problems - and called Mechanic a "predator".

Blair French, 38, a lifestyle guru, said Mechanic regularly urged her to detail her sexual fantasies and shocked her with unprofessional comments.

Read the full story here.


June 2, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Interracial Marriage Statistics

From CBS News:

(AP)  Melting pot or racial divide? The growth of interracial marriages is slowing among U.S.-born Hispanics and Asians. Still, blacks are substantially more likely than before to marry whites.

The number of interracial marriages in the U.S. has risen 20 percent since 2000 to about 4.5 million, according to the latest census figures. While still growing, that number is a marked drop-off from the 65 percent increase between 1990 and 2000.

About 8 percent of U.S. marriages are mixed-race, up from 7 percent in 2000.

Broken down by race, about 40 percent of U.S.-born Asians now marry whites - a figure unchanged since 1980. Their likelihood of marrying foreign-born Asians, meanwhile, multiplied 3 times for men and 5 times for women, to roughly 20 percent.

Among U.S.-born Hispanics, marriages with whites increased modestly from roughly 30 percent to 38 percent over the past three decades. But when it came to marriages with foreign-born Hispanics, the share doubled - to 12.5 percent for men, and 17.1 percent for women.

In contrast, blacks are now three times as likely to marry whites than in 1980. About 14.4 percent of black men and 6.5 percent of black women are currently in such mixed marriages, due to higher educational attainment, a more racially integrated military and a rising black middle class that provides more interaction with other races.

Read the rest here.


June 2, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mom Finds Her Kidnapped Kids on Facebook

From Fox News:

A father is behind bars, arrested for allegedly kidnapped his own children from California 14 years ago, and bringing them to Central Florida to live.

For years, investigators have been searching for him, but it was the social networking website Facebook that delivered the break it took more than a decade to get, MyFoxOrlando reports.

Faustino Utrera is now charged with two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of violating child custody orders.

According to the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, Utrera was at a bus stop on Wednesday at about 2:30 in the afternoon, waiting to pick up his 16-year-old son from school, when he was taken into custody.

Faustino's 16-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter had been attending celebration high school. Investigators said the family of three had actually been living in the palm key mobile home park in Polk County.

Investigators said that in 1995, Utrera took his two kids from the family's San Bernardino, California home and disappeared.

Then just last march, investigators said the mother of the children was on Facebook and found her daughter. When she began conversing online, her very own daughter, who hadn't seen her since she was 3 years old, told her mom she wanted nothing to do with her and deleted her Facebook page.

Read the full story here.


June 1, 2010 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Markel, Leib, & Collins: “Rethinking Criminal Law and Family Status”

Dan Markel (Florida State University College of Law), Ethan J. Leib (University of California-Hastings College of the Law), & Jennifer M. Collins (Wake Forest University-School of Law) have posted Rethinking Criminal Law and Family Status, 119 Yale Law Journal 1864 (2010) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

In our recent book, Privilege or Punish: Criminal Justice and the Challenge of Family Ties (OUP 2009), we examined and critiqued a number of ways in which the criminal justice system uses family status to distribute benefits or burdens to defendants. In their review essays, Professors Alafair Burke, Alice Ristroph & Melissa Murray identify a series of concerns with the framework we offer policymakers to analyze these family  ties benefits or burdens. We think it worthwhile not only to clarify where those challenges rest on misunderstandings or confusions about the central features of our views, but also to show the deficiencies of the proposed alternatives. While we appreciate and admire the efforts of our critics to advance this important conversation, we hope this Essay will illuminate why the normative framework of Privilege or Punish remains a more helpful structure to policymakers assessing how family  status should intersect with the criminal law  within a liberal democracy such as our own.


June 1, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day


May 31, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Parents with Autistic Children Not Likelier to Divorce

There have been many suggestions over the years that parents with autistic children were more likely to divorce, perhaps due to an added strain on the marriage.  However, new research reports that 64% of children with an autism spectrum disorder have married parents, compared with 65% of children without the condition.  Read more here.


May 31, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

McClain: "Marriage Pluralism in the United States: On Civil and Religious Jurisdiction and the Demands of Equal Citizenship"

Linda McClain (Boston University School of Law) has posted "Marriage Pluralism in the United States: On Civil and Religious Jurisdiction and the Demands of Equal Citizenship" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

“Legal pluralism” is hot, particularly in family law. As family law and practice in the United States have become global due to the globalization of the family, some argue it is time for U.S. family law to embrace more legal pluralism so that civil government would cede jurisdictional authority over marriage and divorce law to religious communities. They point to forms of pluralism already present in U.S. family law, such as covenant marriage (available in three states) and New York’s get statutes. They suggest the U.S. should learn from how many other nations allocate jurisdiction over marriage and divorce law (for example, systems of personal law, in which religious tribunals have such jurisdiction). In this chapter, I argue that an exercise in comparative law does reveal many different ways of allocating jurisdiction over family law, but does not answer the normative question of whether these are good models for U.S. family law. Challenging the call for a “multi-tiered” marriage, I analyze what form of marriage pluralism in the U.S. is sought and what might be motivating this demand. I examine differing views about whether there should be congruence between religious and civil marriage, illustrating with the controversy over same-sex marriage. I raise a normative concern over tensions between religious doctrines and key commitments, values, and functions of civil family law, illustrating with how state courts in the U.S. now navigate those tensions when asked to enforce terms of religious marriage contracts and other religious law. I am also skeptical as to whether a more pluralistic legal system can adequately protect the equal citizenship of women. Nearly every foreign example that proponents of jurisdictional pluralism in family law offer raises troubling question about how to reconcile sex equality with religious freedom. Feminist scholars highlight the importance of claims of national and constitutional citizenship as a strategy for redressing sex inequality, even as they affirm the value of membership in religious and cultural groups. Finally, I ask what lessons we might learn about legal pluralism from the recent controversy over religious family law arbitration (or “sharia arbitration”) in Ontario.


May 30, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)