California’s state Legislature is preparing to battle over a bill that could redefine the family unit and the parental rights of sperm donors – a move that has split gay and lesbian advocates and has some women’s rights groups up in arms, reports today’s San Francisco Chronicle
“State law now holds that, unless parties make an agreement in advance, a sperm donor is “treated as if he were not the natural father” and the mother is the sole legal parent.
“But under Hill’s proposed SB115, a sperm donor who “receives the child into his home and openly holds the child out as his natural child” could be declared a legal parent. Hill said his bill would better protect children – but critics suggest it could reshape thousands of families by opening the door for sperm donors to claim parental rights.
“The proposed legislation has set off a round of celebrity-fueled coverage because it showcases the case of actor Jason Patric, 47, the star of the film “Lost Boys,” who is in a legal battle with former girlfriend Danielle Schreiber over custody of their 3-year-old child, Gus. Her attorney, Fred Heather, said Patric agreed to be a sperm donor and wanted his role kept secret. Patric said he has had a “loving” relationship with the child and said a video in which the mother and child call him “Dada” is evidence of that bond. Hill, who has appeared on national shows like “Katie” to argue for the bill, said his bill tries to “bring laws up to modern relationships.” In disputed cases like this one, Hill said, “a parenting relationship should be up to a judge to decide – and not one partner.”
The debate underscores the latest effort in California to test the definitions and boundaries of parenthood, with some observers saying it raises political questions about whether the Legislature has fully addressed the complexities of reproductive technology, a field where California has been a vanguard.
“We call California the wild West of the reproductive world,” said Jennifer Lahl, founder of the conservative Center for Bioethics and Culture, which has examined issues raised in reproductive technologies.