I’ll have more on this developing story and the ramifications of the proposed legislation soon:
An unprecedented measure gaining momentum in California could redefine parenting. The California State Assembly passed a parental rights bill Monday requiring sperm donors, surrogate mothers, their partners, and those with whom they’re working with to complete paperwork identifying each individual’s rights and responsibilities — or lack thereof — of the children. The bill, backed by actor Jason Patric, applies to both same-sex and heterosexual couples, and will be used to streamline the parental rights process across the state.
“The science behind having families has advanced more quickly than the laws,” Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) told Reuters. ”This bill is just an attempt to catch up with the realities and help these couples enjoy their modern families.”
Sperm donor and surrogate mother rights are complicated — there are currently zero laws that protect donors or surrogates who want to be a part of their biological children’s lives. In California, sperm donors who go through a licensed medical professional automatically lose their parental rights and obligations of the child. If the mother is married, the father automatically becomes the legal parent if a consent form was signed beforehand. Anonymous sperm donors are also protected from parental responsibility in California due to the California Uniform Parentage Act, which states that the anonymous donor is treated “as if he were not the natural parent of a child thereby conceived.”
According to Ammiano, most fertility clinics in California that practice in vitro fertilization already require their patients to fill out a series of forms outlining the rights and obligations of everyone involved. However, these forms can change from clinic to clinic, thus creating an uneven framework throughout the state.
The push for this new legislation came from an unlikely source: actor Jason Patric, of Speed 2 fame. The 47-year-old became entangled in a legal battle with his partner of 10 years, Danielle Schreiber, after she denied him paternity rights to their son, who they conceived through in-vitro fertilization. The couple never married, and Patric told Schreiber that while he wasn’t ready to be a father, he was willing to give up his sperm.
A lower court ruled in favor of Schreiber, stating that Patric had no parental rights because the law considered him a sperm donor at the time of insemination. But just last week Patric won an appeal from a California appellate court, which ruled he could establish parentage over his 4-year-old son even though he was conceived through in-vitro.
Patric testified before the California Assembly’s Judiciary Committee in 2013, telling the legislators:
I don’t know what the threshold here is for how many children have to be in this situation… to make this an urgent clause. This is not about an easement, it’s not about a trash bill, it’s not about transportation. It is a child sitting daily wondering about what happened in the most severe form of alienation that one can imagine.
According to Ammiano’s spokesperson Carlos Alcala, this new bill may lessen the number of lawsuits over parental rights. The bill has already cleared the state Senate, and now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.
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