The “Chaos” Sired by Sperm Donation

by Wesley J. Smith

A biological father named William Marotta is resisting being held responsible for his child conceived privately–by answering a Craig’s List ad, as opposed to using a medical clinic–by artificial insemination. From the Topeka Capital Journal story:

Representatives for Marotta and the Kansas Department for Children and Families recently filed motions in a case the DCF filed in October seeking to have Marotta, a Topekan, declared the father of a girl Jennifer Schreiner bore here in 2009. Marotta is fighting the action. He says he did not intend to be the child’s father, and signed a contract waiving his parental rights and responsibilities while agreeing to donate sperm in a plastic cup to Schreiner and Angela Bauer, who was then her lesbian partner.

Marotta made a big mistake making the transaction privately instead of through a licensed provider, according to the state’s legal brief:

The state contends their contract was moot because those involved didn’t follow a Kansas statute enacted in 1994, which the state says requires a licensed physician to perform the artificial insemination in cases involving sperm donors. The statute, KSA 23-2208(f), says: “The 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.”

The state notes that because Marotta donated directly to the mother–with the intention of siring a child–allowing him off the hook will lead to a ”culture of chaos” in matters paternal:

The response included a statement that: “To adopt the interpretation of KSA 23-2208(f) purported by the other pleadings in this case would create a culture of chaos in the arena of establishing paternity. The court is certainly aware of the thousands of cases in Kansas alone where the ‘father’ who ‘delivered’ the semen to a mother in the ‘traditional method’ — i.e. through sexual intercourse — and who did not intend to be a father to the potential child that could come from the sexual intercourse. Yet, Kansas and every other jurisdiction pursue those donors of semen for support obligations despite their lack of intent or desire to be a father.’”.

I guess the point is that many biological father’s sire children in transactions about as meaningful emotionally as the litigated situation–without intending to contribute to a pregnancy.  If those fathers can be held responsible, why not Marotta? It seems hard to argue that point.

On the other hand, it seems a little late to warn against a reproductive “culture of chaos.” Most norms and personal self restraint in the field were abandoned years ago

In any event, here’s a safe bet: If you don’t want to be a real father, keep your sperm to yourself. 

(For more on the downsides of artificial insemination, see the CBC’s documentary, Anonymous Father’s Day.)