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The Child Listener™ (Emma Hartnell-Baker) speaks out about sperm donor birth certificate case, Australia
AT A time when the problem of fatherless children has been rammed home by feral youth rioting in London, we saw last week an example of how one Australian state has actively sought to exclude fathers from their children's lives.
If you are interested in the issues surrounding private sperm donation arrangements and how donor conceived children are affected by adults decisions then you will be well aware of the recent court ruling that the sperm donor's name be removed from the birth certificate of a child raised by a lesbian couple who have now split up. It wasnt a case of them wanting his name off the birth certificate but, rather, that the name of the ex partner be added as without this she had no legal standing in the eyes of Australian law because of the way in which we use birth certificates.
Rather than focus on those issues the press have apparently decided to further insight homophobic propoganda and put the donor in the light of 'devoted dad' and the ex partner as someone trying to deny the child in some way. This could not be further from the truth, and yet the general public are being encouraged to believe this. In this article (article by Miranda Devine for the Herald Sun) she inaccurately states that this was 'an example of how one Australian state has actively sought to exclude fathers from their children's lives
.' And yet again I am left wondering how editors can allow for this blatant inaccuracy..
In fact the NSW judge suggested allowing for three parents to be on a birth certificate. Judge Stephen Walmsley said that he had no choice after a 2009 retrospective law gave the birth mother's former partner - they separated in 2006 - legal parenting status and state law allowed for only two parents to be registered. Given the choice he would have recognised all three. He was NOT seeking to exclude the father. He was simply following our laws. Rulings are often not what is 'right' or 'fair' they are about what the law dictates. So change the laws- dont condone the judge, or anyone in this particular case. This link http://www.letsgetequal.org.au/news.php
gives an overview of why the social parent can now have this recognition- but we need to move on, and also consider how to recognise all parents, or re-think what a birth certificate is really for. At present it has enormous standing legally- but should it be simply a record of birth, biologically- or should it be changed to recognise who is to have what legal responsibility? What is a birth certificate supposed to represent?
I myself have experienced 'sensationlist journalism' with Jane Hansen apparently having to change the title of her article about me as her editor preferred to lead with 'Illegal Trade In Babies'- http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/illegal-trade-in-babies/story-e6frewt0-1225980107940
rather than tell the story that I urge people to make arrangements that enable the child to have information about their origins and ideally a relationship with them. There is nothing illegal is anything I do and I most certainly do not 'trade in babies' however this title was chosen, regardless of the true story I had been telling her for weeks, regarding my campaign 'Children Deserve to Know Where They Come From'. Editors in Australia it seems are allowed to print inaccuracies, to sell a story., regardless of the facts. It is a sad state of affairs and I feel for those who have to then face the consequences as Ive been there myself. The FSDW couples who had spoken to Jane Hansen, about choosing to involve the donor in the lives of their children were horrified to also be involved in an article supposedly about something 'illegal' - as they had thought they were speaking out for children. That was what upset me most as I do what I can to support and protect FSDW members and donors. I can only imagine what this lesbian couple are going through.
Why do I promote private arrangements (such as this one) through FSDW, and try to faciliate contact with the donor, as did this couple? Recently, in a large-scale study of donor-conceived people (751 in total) - with about half of the respondents coming from the general public -82 percent of respondents indicated a desire to be in contact someday with their donor (3). Top reasons for searching were 'To see what he looks like';'To learn more about my ancestry' and 'To learn more about myself'.
Participants in the study claim 'I am angry that I am denied the basic right of knowing who my father was and what ethnicity I am'; and: 'Angry and frustrated that I can¹t get information about my heritage, genetics, looks, and medical history' (please see research on the Donor Sibbling Registry site)
This is why- and more. The lesbian couple wanted more for their child than offered at a sperm bank.
Within this recent 'story' Miranda Divine admited that the social mother had told the donor "I am not wishing for your relationship with (the child) to change in any way. You always will be her biological donor." Instead of embracing this he chose to take offense at her wording. Instead of Miranda making it clear that the couple want the child to have this relationship and that it is the donor who has chosen not to see the child in four months, she instead raises him to 'hero' status- comparing the riots in the UK (insinuating this was because those teenagers are fatherless) and encouraging the readers to wonder at how anyone could deliberately do the same to this child. Even though she knows they havent. Let us not forget however that this man started the journey by stating that he wanted to donate, he did not place an advert asking for joint custody of a child he would help to bring into the world. He made it clear that he was willing to be involved, however did not make it clear that he wanted to play 'Daddy'- and be recognised as more important than the non-biological parent. The couple were clear with regards to what they wanted. "Lesbian couple seeks donor, view to being 'uncle' figure to child. No financial obligation."
Both of their intentions regarding the child should have meant that his name should never have been put on the birth certificate in the first place, however at the time none of them would have envisaged this, or considered what would happen if the couple split up- or really looked at the laws in this regard. If he had donated to a straight infertile couple this wouldnt have been a problem as the social father's name would have been put on the certificate in the first place. The social parent would have been recognised socially as well as legally as being the other primary parent, and the donor would have a different status. Why do the press report this differently because the social (primary) parent just happens to be a woman?
All three realised that 3 parents loving the child was in the best interest of the child and went with the flow, all playing a part in raising and caring for the child. The donor chose to financially support the couple - as any father does for the child and eepecially when choosing to play the 'Dad' role. He didnt donate and leave. And so he also supported the child financially. The financial support was for the child- and he had offered this even before conception. And the arrangement worked well- according to all- until the couple split up and were forced to realise the legal implications are in Australia of raising a child as a social parents when not legally recognised by law as the legal guardian. The journalist in the story I refer to also clearly states 'But it was the law that came between them.' And yet she implies otherwise.
The social mother was the one raising the child as a married couple. When the couple split she had no legal protection, no legal recognition as the other parent as not on the birth certificate. This man is now speaking as though he has been wronged but he CHOSE to donate sperm, and be involved but NOT to have joint custody, and certainly not to have 'greater' rights than the social mother. They let him have the relationship he wanted, for the child, and now wants to be recognised as a joint parent at the expense of the social parent who has raised her in a joint household since birth, until the split?
When you actually hear him speak you also realise that it is he causing problems as he refuses to have anything to do with the couple. They told him they didnt want it to affect the relationship and he is now acting like a spoilt child and refusing to 'have anything to do with them'. The lesbian couples are her parents- the ones who have raised the child from birth. His relationship doesnt have to change and he should focus on his relationship. HE will allientate the child- a certificate is just a piece of paper. And if he recognises that piece of paper as important then he should also recognise why the ex partner wants her name on it??.
Apparently, 'after last week's court decision, he feels he has been banished from her life.'. But in practice he hasnt. The parents doing the hard 'parenting' work have simply been recognised on the certificate.
The article reports that 'The amendment to the Status of Children Act that quietly passed through Parliament three years ago was social engineering at its most potent. What it said, for the first time, was that in defiance of biological reality, the legal rights of a non-related lesbian in a relationship with the child's biological mother trumped the rights of the biological father. "
And so it should. If a biological father was to ask to be recognised as such - trumping a social father who had adopted a child and raised her from birth would we put his wants first? No, we would put the rights and needs of the child and the active primary carer first. Biology has nothing to do with good parenting even though I agree 100% that he should be recognised as important.
The child thinks of all 3 parents as her parents however if he carries on like this to be 'right' and to continue adding fuel to the fire by speaking to to the press like this- who are so one-sided in their reporting anyway- the child will be the one not wanting the relationship. Not because of a birth certificate, but because of his actions. Grow up and behave like a 'real' father if thats what you want- which means doing what you can to have a relationship with the child. He hasnt seen her since April.
I absolutely support the right for donors to share information about themselves with the child and to have a relationship and it is the foundation for the Children Deserve to Know Where They Come From campaign and why I am so against commerical assisted reproduction. It should in theory be easier in the case of single women and lesbian couples to have these private arrangements as there is no 'male' competition for status. And if the laws were to change then this could have been the perfect example of how we can use assistance and still meet the needs of children born through donor sperm. I am vehemently opposed to using sperm from a sperm bank unless both parties have chosen each other and are able to make their own arrangement. Use the sperm bank to test and quarantine the sperm and for assistance if there are difficulties conceiving. However other than that I am opposed to a third party making an arrangement that strips all parties, especially the child- and does not recogmise that donating sperm is not like donating blood. The sperm donor matters. This donor matters. And until the laws created difficulties it was working well for these individuals, and especially the child.
Because of the way the press has been reporting this story I worry that women and infertile couples will choose not to involve the donor, incase their donor wants to be recognised as 'trumping' the social parent as in this case. This couple should be appluaded for seeking to involve the donor, not written about as if 'denying a devoted father' anything. They havent. If they had used a sperm bank then they would have done so. All would be tied up neatly legally- however the child would have suffered, not knowing of her biological father.
There is much to learn from this, but the 'real' story is not yet being told by journalists such as this who prefer to put sensationalist, homophobic slants on situations like this and twist the facts to suit their purpose. I have tried to write comments on many of these, and somehow they are not published. Comments supporting the 'poor dad' are! So open your eyes and see what is really happening, and focus on what is important. This man has the chance to continue being a 'dad' - he has never been treated as just a 'donor'. Because he has sex on his side- he is male- he will still be 'valued' as more of a parent than the social mother in this society of ours, where policiticans openly condemn anyone who does not fit in with their idea of 'normal' or 'traditional'. A kinder and more acccepting and loving society would support all 3 of these parents and do what they can to enable this little girl to have a relationship with all. Only the law can change that- and until then all 3 must do what they can to faciliate a positive relationship. This man can either choose to keep fighting, or go see his daughter and make amends with her parents. Anyone how has been divorced knows how hard this is, but it has to be done - for the child.
Send Emma an email with your questions!