Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Man Wins

If a man donates or sells sperm to a clinic, does he later have the right to go back and withdraw his sperm from circulation?

Does a man have a right to force his sex partner to have an abortion if he does not want a child?

The answers are no and no, after embryos are created.

Yes, men have the right to choose too. But pregnancy is not a 50/50 experience, and nor is termination. A man's right to choose is sometime around the time he "donates" his sperm. If he doesn't want to be a daddy, he should not walk into the clinic and pick up that magazine, and he should not have unprotected sex with a woman. Regardless of her fertility status or use of contraceptive, if a man does not want to be a parent he should always, always, always wear a condom. It's not 100% perfect, but it's the best he can do. And there's no such thing as perfectly safe sex, for anyone.

This rant brought to you by my frustration at this news story out of the UK: UK woman loses appeal over embryos.

In summary, a woman and her partner "sought fertility treatment" and she underwent IVF. Later, they broke up and he "withdrew consent" for her to use the remaining embryos created from her eggs and his sperm.

It's irrelevant to the legal situation, but further exemplifies what a jerk this guy is that the woman was diagnosed with a precancerous condition in her ovaries and had to have them removed. These saved embryos are her last chance to conceive a baby.

I think he might have a case regarding whether or not he's financially responsible for any resultant children, but these embryos are already created. It's a little too late for him to back out now, and no way should he be allowed to decide that this woman can't have any more children.

My argument is this. IVF and accidental pregnancy aren't perfectly analogous. After a woman becomes pregnant, any decisions made about the embryo (to allow it to develop or to terminate the pregnancy) directly affect her body, not his, so after that point the choice is hers.

With IVF, I believe that each partner has rights to the embryos until they're emplanted. Niether should have the solo right to have the embryos destroyed. Either should have the right to use them, if the other partner doesn't want them. Before embryos are created, either partner should have the right to withdraw consent for use of their eggs/sperm.


Paper Whore said...

His demands that she not use the embryos probably has a lot to do with the whole child support thing. Women and the children are both winning court cases left and right to force "sperm donors" to pay child support or even estates when "daddy" dies. Until the courts set a new precedent, I can't blame men for wanting to pull their goods out of circulation.

However, they should also take your advice of not being stupid about where they leave their junk.

Sarahlynn said...

He could just ask her to sign a contract clarifying that he isn't financially responsible for any resultant children.

thistle said...

I don't know the precedents at all regarding child support and donor sperm, but in ordinary family law cases, women can't waive the right to child support. Because theoretically, the money is for the children, not for them. It's a good rule in a lot of situations--for example, in domestic violence cases, where there are real risks of coercion.

Sarahlynn said...

Thistle, that makes a lot of sense. However, IVF is a different situation than other situations in which there are children not wanted by a parent. (I don't believe than an embryo, pre-emplanted in a woman's womb, is the same as a living child or even a developing fetus.)

I think it makes sense that different rules apply for IVF situations, where either parent can state before the embryo is emplanted that he or she doesn't want to be a parent (emotionally, financially) to the resultant children. Then if one biological parent or the other decides to go ahead and have the embryos emplanted, it's with that understanding.

There's still a risk of coercion, so perhaps there should be some oversight, rather than a hard-and-fast rule?

Orange said...

I am completely undecided about this issue.

So you say that if the woman didn't want to use the embryos, he should have the right to have them transferred into a surrogate. Hmm. I don't know.

Sarahlynn said...

Orange, I think so. That's my first reaction, anyway. I do tend to believe that eggs are more valuable than sperm, I suppose, both because they're in much shorter supply (not continuously generated) and the process by which they're donated is far more involved/risky.

The more I think about it, the grayer this area seems.

Philip. said...

The UK law says that it has to be a joint decision all the way through IVF.

As much as one feels sorry for the lady, he had the right under law to change his mind.

thistle said...

I feel like it's a pretty gray area, too. I keep thinking, how would I feel if my partner and I created embryos planning to use them together--and then, say, we broke up and I no longer planned to use them but he wanted to use them with his new wife? Not that it's likely to be a common scenario, but I think I'd feel like I should have some right to keep him from using them in a situation that isn't what we planned on.