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Debate over assisted reproduction and parental rights raging in CA

A very interesting debate is taking place in the state of California, where legislators are currently considering whether to advance legislation that would grant parental rights to men who have otherwise contributed to assisted reproductive techniques.

Senate Bill 115, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), would clarify existing law by permitting men whose sperm was used to conceive a child via artificial insemination to request parental rights if they can demonstrate a certain level of involvement in the life of the child.

The legislation, which passed through the state Senate with ease last Spring and is now before the Assembly Judicial Committee, has gained the support of many fathers' rights advocates, including actor Jason Patric.

Patric, star of such films as "The Lost Boys" and "Narc," was recently involved in his own bitter legal dispute with his ex-girlfriend concerning custody of a now three-year-old boy the couple conceived via IVF.

At trial, Patric's attorneys indicated that he had not only signed an "intended parent" document but that he had also spent considerable time in the boy's life until his relationship with his girlfriend soured. The girlfriend's attorneys, however, argued that Patric's involvement with the boy was never as an intended parent, but rather merely a byproduct of their relationship.

The judge ultimately found that Patric clearly met the criteria for a sperm donor outlined in a 2011 state law, and therefore had no parental rights to assert.

Sen. Hill, the original author of this 2011 state law, decided to draft SB 115 to help clarify his existing legislation after listening to the plight of Patric and several other men.

"This is truly about the modern family, and it has raised questions and issues for the courts that haven't kept up with the changing times," he said.

Many groups -- including Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women, and the Academy of California Adoption Lawyers -- are adamantly opposed to SB 115.

They argue that the legislation's standards for involvement in a child's life are simply too broad, and that it would unduly harm the parental rights of both single mothers and same-sex couples who used sperm donors to conceive.

In particular, these critics say it could subject women to unnecessary litigation in the event a sperm donor has a sudden change of heart.

"Parents, reliant on a sperm donor's agreement not to parent, could have allowed the donor to develop a close relationship with the child, without thinking that he could later come in and demand paternal rights," wrote Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) in a letter to Judiciary Committee members.

It should be interesting to see how this situation unfolds. Stay tuned for developments ...

Source: The Washington Post, "Actor's custody case sparks legislative battle over parental rights in assisted reproduction," August 13, 2013

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