Four years ago, William Marotta answered an ad on Craigslist from a lesbian couple looking for a sperm donor in order to conceive a child. They offered to pay him $50 for the service, and he declined, saying that it was just a good deed. He signed a contract with them stating that he was under no obligation to financially support that child during the course of its lifetime.
The couple he donated to, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, split up in 2010. Two years later, when health issues caused Bauer to be unable to work, she filed for welfare benefits. Her application was denied on the grounds that she refused to disclose the identity of the child’s father. She was then ordered to do so, because the State wanted to make him pay child support.
Marotta, Bauer and Schreiner were all opposed to this, but Kansas District Court Judge Mary Mattivi has ruled that he must pay up, citing the fact that the couple did this all on their own, without the help of a physician.
“Kansas law is clear that a ‘donor of semen provided to a licensed physician for use in artificial insemination of a woman other than the donor’s wife is treated in law as if he were not the birth father of a child thereby conceived, unless agreed to in writing by the donor and the woman,’ ” Mattivi wrote.
“In this case, quite simply, the parties failed to conform to the statutory requirements of the Kansas Parentage Act in not enlisting a licensed physician at some point in the artificial insemination process, and the parties’ self-designation of (Marotta) as a sperm donor is insufficient to relieve (Marotta) of parental rights and responsibilities” to the child, the judge concluded.
There are a lot of issues here. First, the fact that Kansas does not recognize same sex marriage, which is why Schreiner was not listed as a parent on the birth certificate in the first place. If the state had recognized their relationship, we wouldn’t even be discussing this right now.
Also at issue–the requirement of involving a physician. Artificial insemination by a physician can cost anywhere from $300-$700 a “session.” Why should anyone have to pay that much for something that can be done with a turkey baster? What about a physician’s involvement makes this more legitimate? It’s patently absurd.
However, the biggest issue is whether or not a man has a right to terminate his rights and obligations as a parent if he chooses to do so.
I do not think parenthood is a thing that should be forced on anyone. If women have the right to choose whether or not they want to have a child, then so should men. I believe that biological fathers who do not wish to be fathers should be able to sign some kind of official document before the child is born (or within a month of a paternity test) that would effectively terminate their responsibilities and rights as a father, sort of like a closed adoption.
I am in agreement with former NOW President Karen DeCrow, who stated that “if a woman makes a unilateral decision to bring pregnancy to term, and the biological father does not, and cannot, share in this decision, he should not be liable for 21 years of support … autonomous women making independent decisions about their lives should not expect men to finance their choice.”
I support child support in the instance where the man has been a parent to the child already or wishes to be a parent to the child. That makes sense. I don’t think either parent should just be able to run out all of a sudden and abandon a kid they’ve been raising. However, as a feminist, I cannot advocate for my own right to choose whether or not to be a parent and simultaneously say that a man should have no choice in whether or not he wants to be one.
Certainly, in a case like this, or in the cases where male victims of rape or statutory rape have been ordered to pay child support, the law is wrong. I understand the impetus that the needs of a child should be put first, but I feel that given the fact the mother had a choice as to whether or not to have that child, the father ought to have the same choice.