Sperm Donor Bill on Hold
A state bill meant to protect some sperm donors’ rights has raised concerns about consequences for same-sex couples, especially lesbians, and is on hold.
On Tuesday, August 13, the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted 5-2 to hold Senate Bill 115, authored by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), and not release it to the full chamber for a vote.
Hill’s proposal would amend state law to clarify that the rules governing the treatment of a man who donates his semen for use in artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization of a woman other than his wife "was never intended to preclude the opportunity to prove the existence of the presumed father and child relationship" pursuant to other relevant sections of the state’s family code, according to a summary on Hill’s website.
"The bill is not dead," said gay Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park), who’s not on the committee but chairs the California Legislative LGBT Caucus. "We are in a two-year legislative cycle. Senator Hill could attempt to move the bill" and possibly "get a vote on floor" in January, said Gordon.
He said he didn’t know whether Hill would make any changes to the bill to get it out of the committee, which he could do in the interim period from mid-September until January. A spokesman for Hill didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In a June 27 letter, gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) asked Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), who is chair of the judiciary committee, to postpone a hearing on the bill.
"The true policy intent appears to really be focused on what should happen with a donor [who] changes his mind after the conceived child is born and wants parentage rights against the consent of the legal mother and possibly in defiance of the agreement made prior to conception," Ammiano wrote.
He said what he found "most troubling" was that SB 115 "is being pursued by the losing party in a family law dispute that is now going through the normal appellate process. Given that posture alone, I believe it is inappropriate for the Legislature to weigh in now on an ongoing case - as the courts should be given the chance to get this right through the judicial process."
Ammiano was referring to a lawsuit brought by actor Jason Patric, who’s in a custody battle with his ex-girlfriend over the boy to whom she gave birth. Patric donated the sperm through a medical procedure, according to news reports.
In his letter, Ammiano also warned of "unintended consequences that could harm parents" and children and raised numerous questions about the bill.
"Does this policy affect the thousands of single parent, same-sex parent and infertile families by placing a higher status on biological connection to a child conceived through alternative reproductive technology (ART) over the legal status of the non-biological legal parent?" he asked.
As for how he would vote, Gordon, whom Ammiano copied on his letter, said, "I had not yet decided on whether I could support this specific measure," but "I do think there needs to be some ability" for the "small number of relationships" where two people have agreed to co-parent but haven’t signed the required legal documents to at least have their agreements considered in court.
"I’m not sure Mr. Hill has quite hit the mark, but I think there’s a core of what he’s attempting to do that does make some sense," said Gordon.