by Jennifer Thieme, Ruth Institute Director of Finance and Advancement

This article was first published January 25, 2014 at Ricochet.com.

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A Kansas court ruled that a parent cannot contract away his parental responsibilities in sperm donation, unless a doctor does the procedure. If the doctor does it, the sperm donor will never be considered the father from a legal point of view. That’s the way the law works in Kansas in sperm donation. The court also said this: 

“A person cannot contract away his or her obligations to support their child. The right for support belongs to the child, not the parents.”

The court rejected that this man was simply a “sperm donor” and ruled that he was the father of the child, and did so on the basis of what is just for the child.

Why this matters:

The legal category of “sperm donor” is an interesting one. It’s an artificially constructed legal “wedge” that uses the state to keep children permanently separated from their fathers. It also serves as a “wedge” to keep men and women away from each other by sending a specific type of policy signal: that men and women don’t need to work together to raise the children that come about when their gametes are combined. By developing these artificial “wedges,” the state and the adults involved are all making an implicit assumption about what the child will want in his own future, without ever asking the child.

legal wedge

One of the duties of government is to uphold justice. In my view, the court did its job and upheld justice from the child’s point of view in this case by NOT enforcing the “wedge.” The child’s future is more important than the immediate desires of the adults involved.

  • Since babies cannot give an answer for how they will feel about the artificial “wedge” in the future as they grow up, what is the state’s interest in developing these legal “wedges” between children and their biological origins?
  • For children who feel they’ve been emotionally harmed by this artificial “wedge,” is there any sort of legal remedy that can be developed to help them seek damages from the state for enforcing a “wedge” that they didn’t consent to?
  • From the child’s point of view, is a state enforced “wedge” compatible with the idea of “limited government”? In other words, isn’t the state enforced “wedge” quite a bit of state interference from the point of view of child, who is the voiceless and most vulnerable person in the arrangement?
  • How will these artificial “wedges” be viewed by future generations of children were subjected to them against their will? Some of their stories are here.

Image from learnersdictionary.com

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Addition made on 01/25/2014:

There seems to be a conflation between organ donation and gamete donation. I clarified my thoughts on this conflation in comment #35, which I am copying and pasting here for future readers’ reference:

I would argue that sperm donation is not a net good. I’ll compare it to organ donation to do so.

Setting aside the medical and legal parties, in organ donation there are three parties: the donor, the donee, and the state. The donee is receiving the organ as a life saving measure. The donee’s original organ is failing and must be replaced. The state provides a “wedge” to ensure that the donor doesn’t change his mind and demand the organ back. The organ is an object.

In sperm donation there are four parties: the donor, the donee, the child and the state. Infertility is not a life threatening condition–the donee is receiving the sperm on an elective basis. The state provides the “wedge” to keep the child away from the sperm donor. Morally the child is not an object but from a legal standpoint the child appears to be an object here–the child was never able to consent to the “wedge.”

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