Five years ago, Sharon and Terri Arnold solicited firefighter Andy Bathie’s help in starting a family. Under the assurance that he would bear no financial or emotional responsibility for the children’s upbringing, he twice obliged. The women had a boy and a girl, but broke up soon after. And Bathie, who thought he had been doing his friends a favour, now finds himself financially liable for the children. Charity, apparently, sometimes comes with a price. Bah. Humbug.
We don’t mean to suggest that a man who has fathered a child shouldn’t be expected to support that child. But surely there are exceptional circumstances when a man has simply donated his sperm? Why, yes, replies the HFEA: Men who donate through a licensed fertility clinic have no legal obligation to any resulting offspring; but men – and this is our favourite bit – “giving out their sperm in any other way” – Handing it out on street corners! Packaging it up as birthday gifts! – remain legally responsible. Semantics, no?
One also wonders about the gender politics at play here: Why does Sharon Arnold, the nonbiological mother, not share financial responsibility? Because only a recent change in the law gives same-sex partners married in a civil ceremony equal parenting rights. Then why was Bathie not approached to make child maintenance payments prior to the women splitting up? And how would this case differ if Bathie had donated his sperm to a heterosexual couple having difficulty conceiving?
Further complicating matters is biological mum Terri Arnold’s assertion that Bathie was, in fact, more involved with the children than elsewhere described. We’ll leave it to the lawyers to sort out the he said, she said, uh, she said. In the meantime, let’s hope that the law catches up with the times.
Image courtesy of marie II’s Flickr photostream