Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pratten v. British Columbia

Olivia Pratten (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
Yesterday and today Olivia and her team are once again back in court battling the province of British Columbia and the College of Physicians in the B.C. Court of Appeals in Vancouver.  Here's a link to the BC Supreme Court case ruling.

A fantastic video featuring Olivia, discussing the case and the issues.  Please watch this video, she discusses so eloquently why she is doing this, what's in it for her, and she takes on some of the most common misconceptions about this case!!

Also, a radio interview featuring me that aired live yesterday on The Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 in Vancouver.  Listen to or download the podcast, here (lead for Tuesday Feb 14th - go to minute 12:26/6:41 to begin my segment).

8:45 –9:00 DONOR OFFSPRING WANT THEIR RIGHTS RESPECTED Should a child conceived by a donor sperm or egg have the right to know about their biological parentage? That question is being looked at once again in the BC Court of Appeal. It’s hearing an appeal of a ruling last year that declared the province’s Adoption Act unconstitutional because it didn’t give people born of donated sperm or eggs the same rights as people who were adopted. Lindsay Greenawalt is a donor conceived adult and she has identified her donor father, though she hasn’t reached out to him yet. Why is it important for her to know this part of her history? And what does she think about the donor’s right to privacy?

Sperm donor children have the right to know their identity
Barbara Kay
National Post
February 14, 2012

Olivia Pratten and Shelley Deacon are the issue of anonymous sperm donors. Both have been seeking information about their hidden bio-history for years. Last year the B.C. Supreme Court granted the women access to their bio-files, and in the process, struck down as unconstitutional provisions of the Adoption Act. The government was given six months to amend the act, and now the government is in court seeking to overturn that ruling.

The government’s main argument is that when Ms. Pratten and Ms. Deacon were conceived, all such procedures were done on an anonymous basis for everyone. But should they have been? And if they shouldn’t have been, why should these young women – and all the other donor children they represent – go through life suffering the torment of knowing only half their genetic identity?

Sperm donation has been with us for a long time. The oldest recorded case in the U.S. took place in 1884. Originally it was meant to help married couples whose infertility was linked to the husband’s low sperm count. There was shame attached to it. In those cases the children usually weren’t informed. But now sperm donorship is probably more widely used by single women with ticking biological clocks, and for lesbian couples, than for married couples. There is no longer any moral stigma attached to it at all.

Just last week, on the popular TV musical sitcom series Glee, a show overtly didactic in educating its viewership on such politically correct subjects as total acceptance for gays, the disabled and the obese, Sue Sylvester, the series’ hilariously acerbic cheerleader coach, announced that she intends to become impregnated by a sperm donor. Her assistant approvingly observes that this is something Sue needs, implying that a child is nothing more than a kind of therapeutic accessory to adult lives.

For another example of liberal attitudes, in the recent movie, The Kids are All Right, a lesbian couple has raised two children from the same sperm donor father. As teenagers, the kids set out to discover their bio-father’s identity. They find him. There is some tension between the women and the kids. Hijinks ensue. In the end the father is amiably ejected from their lives. The message is that once the kids’ curiosity has been satisfied, and civility established all around, life will go on without the father in their lives pretty much as before, if not better.

Are the scenarios posited in sitcoms and movies written by liberals realistic, or are they the wishful thinking produced by commitment to progressive social theories?

In stories posted on, an online story collective founded by a donor child, the picture does not sound quite so rosy.

There is great anguish amongst many donor children about the missing part of their identity.
And research backs up the importance for children of knowing their full biological identity. A few years ago The Commission on Parenthood’s Future released a report: My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived through Sperm Donation. The study belies the politically correct notion that how children are conceived is irrelevant, and that love is all they need.

According to lead researcher Elizabeth Marquardt, two thirds of sperm donor kids agree that “My sperm donor is half of who I am”; half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception; nearly half fear having sexual relations with a possible unknown sibling (some sperm donors have a hundred offspring; unwitting half siblings in England have married); about half have ethical reservations about the propriety of the system.

We hear a great deal about the principle of “the best interests of the child” when parents can’t agree on custody. The “best interests” should always be consulted when courts consider issues involving children’s rights. And it is in the best interests of a child to know his or her biological father’s genetic history.

Sperm donation is not like adoption. Adoption is a well-regulated, non- profit service with service to the needs of a living child as its mandate. Sperm donation is an unregulated marketplace, with service to the wishes of an adult clientele as its raison d’ĂȘtre. Is a sperm donor’s genetic anonymity more important than his biological issue’s knowledge of her own physical identity?

Donor children are not asking for money from their biological fathers; they are not asking for an intimate relationship; they are not seeking to punish their mothers. They simply want to know who they are. And so the court must consider this question asked by a donor child: “If my life is for other people’s purposes, and not my own, then what is the purpose of my life?” They should conclude that it was wrong in the past to deny children the right to their biological history, and children today should not suffer for that mistake.

Sperm donor identity case heads back to court with B.C. government appeal
The Canadian Press
February 14, 2012

VANCOUVER - A woman who scored a major victory last year against laws to protect sperm donors' anonymity is heading to the Appeal Court of British Columbia today to fight the government's stance against the case.

Olivia Pratten will be attending the two-day appeal of the ruling as the Attorney General's Ministry attempts to overturn the judge's order giving the province 15 months to amend current laws.

"I'm disappointed that I'm back in court and that they've appealed it," Pratten said of last May's decision by a B.C. Supreme court judge who deemed the Adoption Act, which covers donor conception, unconstitutional.

Judge Elaine Adair also granted a permanent injunction against the destruction of donor records, saying offspring conceived through donated eggs or sperm have a psychological need to know their genetic background in the same way adopted children do.

Pratten, a Toronto journalist, was born in 1982 through donated sperm because her parents were unable to conceive on their own.

She spent a decade trying to learn her biological father's identity, only to discover that records containing that information had been destroyed by her mother's fertility specialist.

In 2008, Pratten launched a lawsuit against the B.C. government and the provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, saying she and others like her should have access to information about their biological parents.
[read more]

B.C. seeks to overturn anonymous sperm donor ruling
Keith Fraser
The Province
February 14, 2012

The B.C. government was in court Tuesday seeking to overturn a ruling that paves the way for people born through anonymous sperm donors to find out information about their parents.

Two such people born in B.C. — Olivia Pratten and Shelley Deacon — filed affidavits arguing that their rights were violated because they couldn’t get access to the information.

In May last year, B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Elaine Adair struck down as unconstitutional provisions of the Adoption Act.

The judge noted that the law allows adopted children to access information about their birth parents but not those conceived through sperm donors.

Adair suspended her ruling for six months to give the government a chance to amend the Adoption Act.

But instead of passing a new law, the government appealed the ruling.
[read more]


Beatriz said...

I don't understand the worry about donors being asked for money or any type of legal responsibility.

Surely a person who has donated his/her gametes to a fertility clinic or a sperm bank should be able to prove it; the name of the woman using the donated sperm/egg would be in the clinic records. Any child conceived in this way would not have by law any rights to claim financial support/inheritance from the donor.

The discussion if the child would want to ask for money or not is pointless in my opinion.

Robin said...

"The study belies the politically correct notion that how children are conceived is irrelevant, and that love is all they need."

This is the belief that adoptees and donor conceived individuals need to keep fighting. It just doesn't seem to ever go away. Then again, it's never about what is best and right for the child, is it?

marilynn said...

I have helped a whole lot of people locate and contact their missing family members and not 1 has ever mentioned money as a motivating factor.

That being said I believe the law needs to change so that every person is held legally responsible for providing support to their own minor offspring. That obligation to support is what obligates people to be named on the birth certificates of their offspring and what obligates them to follow certain procedures when relinquishing that support obligation in a court approved adoption. Gamete donors are exempted from that support obligation which means that some genetic parents have to support their offspring while other genetic parents don't. When the law has different rules for genetic parents it results in genetic children having different rights. Its not fair to genetic parents and its not fair to genetic children. Also implicit with having different classes of genetic parents is that people who are not parents sometimes get recognized as parents without having to go through the adoption process and that is not fair to people who are not parents but want to be generally. If some non genetic parents can be named on original birth certificates why can't they all be named on them.

Why shouldn't adopted people and donor offspring and quasi marital people who thought their stepfathers were their fathers, why should they not be able to inherit from their father's estates? No they should not get SS death benefits because they were not dependents at the time of their fathers death of course, but inheritance? Why not? And why exactly should your fathers not be obligated to support you? Do we let other fathers choose not to support their children? Does it really erase their debt if someone else takes responsibility? They don't even know for sure that someone else has taken on that responsibility. Its negligent as far as I can tell.
See I think your owed more than a genetic history. I think your owed equality. But that's just me.

I'm looking forward to meeting Ms Pratten (virtually).