Kansas is suing a sperm donor to pay child support for the child born via his donation to a lesbian couple. While this might sound like a rare case made for Jerry Springer, the legal loophole that prompted the Kansas lawsuit also exists in Minnesota law. And one local attorney said the potential for a similar case exists locally, because there are plenty of infertile or lesbian couples willing to bend the laws to obtain donor sperm and have children.
First, the background on the Kansas case that made national news this week: In 2009, William Marotta answered an online ad to donate sperm to partners Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner. Under Kansas law, a donor isn't the legal father if the transaction is made through a doctor. But no doctor was involved. So when Bauer and Schreiner split up -- and Schreiner needed welfare assistance for her child -- the state decided that Marotta was the legal father and had a financial responsibility to pay about $6,000 of those costs and child support as well.
Legal experts said it is clear that a doctor's participation is required in Kansas in order for a sperm donor to be exempted from parental responsibilities. But the law in this case creates a financial hardship, because the role of a doctor in artificial insemination transactions can cost thousands of dollars, said Steve Snyder, a Maple Grove attorney. So couples seek do-it-yourself options instead, despite the legal risks, said Snyder, who is chairman of the American Bar Association's group on assisted reproduction technology
"It is happening a lot," Snyder told the Associated Press. "Go on amazon.com, home insemination kit, $29.95. A lot of LGBT couples use them. I have a lot of cases involving those types of kits or people who intend to use them."
A handful of states have changed their laws to remove the required role of a doctor. But Minnesota has not done that. Here is the exact wording of Minnesota's statute on the issue:
"The donor of semen provided to a licensed physician for use in artificial insemination of a married woman other than the donor's wife is treated in law as if he were not the biological father of a child thereby conceived."
So not only does a donor need to provide the semen under the direction of a licensed physician in Minnesota, he needs to provide it to a married woman if he doesn't want to be at risk for being considered the biological father at some point. Snyder said there was some language added to Minnesota's parentage statute to address this, but it was inadequate. And there are some complicated ways for sperm donors and recipients to get around this, but Snyder said it can be unfairly expensive for the couples or single women trying to have children. Minnesota and many other states need to update their laws, he said.
Expect more on this fascinating issue in the Star Tribune this weekend!