Articles Posted in Assisted Reproductive Law

IVFAccording to a report by the U.S. Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), roughly one million babies have been born with the use of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) or other assisted reproductive technologies. The report stated that there was a positive trend in using different techniques, such as only implanting one embryo rather than multiple. By implanting more than one embryo, it frequently leads to twins, triplets, and dangerous complications arising from giving birth to multiples, thus decreasing the risk of premature deliveries and pregnancy complications. SART reported, “Fewer embryos transferred leads to lower incidence of multiple birth: 80.5 percent of babies born from 2015 cycles were singletons; 19.1 percent twins; and fewer than one-half of one percent were triplets (or higher order).”

In 1981, the first American baby was born using IVF, and as of 2015, around every one in every 100 babies born in the US is born using IVF or other treatments. With IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies becoming so popular, laws are changing to catch up with medical advances and provide the same legal rights to parents that have children through assisted reproduction as other parents. Read our other blog posts to learn more about changes in reproductive law that are happening in the US and around the world.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

Attorneys Michele Jackson, Clarissa Finnell, Christine Douglas, Katherine Schwartz, and paralegal Amy Mitchell recently attended the American Bar Association Family Law Spring CLE Conference in Savannah, Georgia from May 3rd to May 6th.  Our Adoption and Reproductive Law Group sponsored the welcome reception on the first day of the conference. We also had a sponsor table throughout the conference where attendees could pick up gift bags containing several goodies and information about our practice.

Michele, Katherine, and Amy attended the assisted reproductive technology (“ART”) CLE sessions, and Clarissa and Christine attended the family law CLE sessions. Aside from learning a lot, we had a great time connecting with our ART and family law colleagues who practice throughout the country. We also enjoyed a variety of activities during our time in Savannah, including a riverboat cruise, a community service project on Tybee Island, and of course, a ghost tour or two!

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(Left to Right) Michele Jackson, Christine Douglas, Amy Mitchell, Katherine Schwartz, and Clarissa Finnell at the Welcome Reception hosted by Harden Jackson’s Adoption and Reproductive Law Group.

ME_23_00_sm-150x150Earlier this year, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the Rockland District Court’s decision that found a de facto parentage relationship between Jessica Lisio’s two biological children and her transgender domestic partner, Tammy Thorndike. Lisio and Thorndike, who identifies as male, began a relationship and decided to have a child together. In 2009, Lisio and Thorndike registered as domestic partners and later Lisio gave birth to their daughter. Their relationship began to fall apart a few months later, but Thorndike and Lisio maintained their existing parental roles. Thorndike finally moved out and two years later, filed a complaint for a determination of paternity and parental rights and responsibilities, which Lisio opposed, arguing that Thorndike had no parental rights. The Court found that “Thorndike undertook a permanent and responsible parental role in the children’s lives”, and that the children would be negatively affected if Thorndike was removed from their lives.

This case is a prime example of how the laws and court system are delayed and could have been avoided had the two parties taken proactive steps to establish their parental rights and responsibilities. In this case, a second-parent adoption lets the non-biological parent adopt a child without the biological parents losing their rights. Also, if the relationship ends, it still allows the adoptive parent to have custody and visitation rights. It’s important to keep in mind that Indiana has become one of a handful of states that now puts both biological and non-biological married same-sex parents on the birth certificate. Therefore, a second-parent adoption is not always necessary in this scenario. Meet with an experienced adoption and reproductive law attorney to learn more about when a second-parent adoption may be required.

In the many states that don’t recognize second-parent adoption, there is the option of a co-parenting agreement which lays out the intentions of the parents regarding the care of the children. This will help protect the intent of the non-biological parent toward the care of the child in the event that the relationship ends. This decision also strengthens the case for establishment of parentage in non-biological parents that use donor egg, which can sometimes arise in a gestational surrogacy. Many states don’t have clear laws on whether parentage can be established using donor egg, so taking intent into consideration fortifies the argument for establishment of legal parentage in non-biological parents.

missouri-state-flag-150x150In late 2016, The Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the decision that pre-embryos were “marital property of a special character” and could not be used to have a child without the consent of both parties. The parties to this case are Jalesia McQueen and then husband Justin Gadberry, who decided to freeze Gadberrys’ sperm just before he was deployed to Iraq. While Gadberry was overseas, the couple discussed In Vitro Fertilization (“IVF”) and just months later two of the four embryos were implanted in McQueen’s uterus. McQueen gave birth to twin boys and froze the other two embryos at a cryobank facility. The couple later divorced and a dispute regarding the disposition of their frozen embryos arose during their divorce proceedings. This dispute quickly turned into a legal case to determine when exactly life begins and the legal status of frozen embryos. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision that frozen-embryos cannot be used without the consent of both McQueen and Gadberry. The Court further ruled that frozen embryos are not considered persons. Rather, they are considered the property of the two parties involved.

Judge Robert M. Clayton III wrote the majority opinion, stating that awarding joint custody “subjects neither party to any unwarranted governmental intrusion but leaves the intimate decision of whether to potentially have more children to the parties alone.” The court made it clear in the decision that they were not determining when life begins, but just interpreting the legal status of embryos in Missouri. The Court ruled that embryos have no legal claim to the same protections as a human being under Missouri law, and that forcing the husband to have a child that he doesn’t want to have violates his privacy rights. McQueen is planning on appealing the decision. After the ruling was issued, she stated “It’s part of me, and what rights do the judges or the governments have to tell me I cannot have them?”

Tim Schlesinger, Gadberry’s attorney, commented “I think today’s ruling is a victory for individuals against unjustified government intrusion.” Schlesinger hopes that this case will provide guidance to other states that are facing similar issues. This issue will likely arise in numerous states at some point, as IVF becomes more prevalent. Click here to read our blog post about the legal status of frozen embryos to learn more about where several states stand on this question.

capitol-820611_1280-150x150Indiana Representative Robin Shackleford recently introduced House Bill 1059, which would require insurance companies to offer coverage for fertility treatments. This bill was inspired by a local woman‘s public fight to shine light on the fact that infertility affects one in eight women. In virto fertilization is used to help families who struggle with infertility, but with such a high price not all families can afford the service.  Shackleford commented, “I’ve heard a lot of stories where women have literally drained out their 401K. We need to see how we can level the playing field and let it be affordable for everyone.”

One local family, Cher Kimbrough and her partner Samuel traveled out of state to get more affordable fertility treatment. “I found the place in New York and it was $4,000. Right away I thought it was a catch because they are charging $4,000 for the same thing they’re charging 20 grand for in Indy,” Kimbrough commented Even though this family had a happy ending, there are many families that can’t afford this treatment. According to Shackleford, the next step is getting both constituents and insurers together to come to a consensus before the bill is heard by the house insurance committee. Stay tuned to our blog for updates on the developments of this bill.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients in all areas of family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy, and other areas of reproductive law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

In late 2016, thekansas-flag-medium-150x150 Shawnee County District court in Kansas issued a significant ruling in November 2016 concerning sperm donors’ responsibility for child support. William Marotta of Topeka, Kansas answered an ad on Craigslist to donate sperm to a same-sex couple, who used the sperm to have a child. The couple later separated and then reached out to the state Department for Children and Families for help when one of the mothers lost her job. The department then filed a suit claiming that Marotta wasn’t paying child support and sought to hold him liable for $6,100 in child support expenses since the child’s birth in December 2009.

Shawnee County District Judge Mary Mattivi ruled that Marotta does not have to provide child support. The department argued that Marotta needed to pay the child support because the two women did not use a physician and Kansas law states that one must be inseminated by a doctor.  Marotta’s attorneys, Tim Schlesinger and Charles Baylor, further argued that the laws are antiquated and have not been updated. Baylor contended, “If the presumptive parent, in this case the non-biological mother, had been a man, they never would have gone after the sperm donor.” Marotta’s attorneys countered that he never had the intentions of being the child’s father nor has he tried to make contact with the couple. The state Department for Children and Families is thinking of appealing the court’s decision.

A key element of Mattivi’s holding is the reasoning that the woman who didn’t give birth to the child is considered the child’s second parent, and the sperm donor is therefore not financially responsible. This ruling is especially meaningful for married same-sex couples, as courts continue to follow the growing trend of extending legal parentage to the non-biological parent. This case also provides guidance on issues surrounding sperm and egg donation, as laws in this area are often lacking or have not yet caught up with the rapid growth of reproductive technology. Stay tuned to the blog for updates on this decision as well as other similar decisions, as the position that non-biological parents in married same-sex couples are considered the child’s legal parents gains traction in courts throughout the United States.

Spain
Last month, the Supreme Court of Spain issued a landmark ruling that recognizes the right to paid maternity leave for parents of children born through surrogacy. Although gestational surrogacy is illegal in Spain, the Court held that the need to take care of children outweighs any legal barriers set forth by Spain’s surrogacy ban. The decision also extends various rights to mothers of children born through surrogacy, such as a reduced workday for nursing mothers and the right to take one year of unpaid leave after the maternity leave. Spaniards who seek to build their family through surrogacy must go abroad, and two such scenarios, one involving a surrogacy arrangement in the United States and the other in India, set this case in motion.  In October, Spain’s congress also voted to equalize paternity and maternity leave, awarding fathers the same sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave that mothers receive.

The decision comes at a time when the issue of maternity benefits is in the spotlight in the United States.  A New Jersey woman is suing her former employer, Verizon Network Solutions, for denying her paid maternity leave when she had children through surrogacy in 2013. Various arguments exist for both sides of the issue. For example, some posit that since mothers of children born to a gestational surrogate did not give birth, they do not need time to recover physically. This argument is often used to justify the denial of extended paternity leave for fathers. On the other hand, proponents of maternity benefits for mothers of children born through surrogacy contend that a new mom needs time to bond with the baby, especially when she did not carry the child.

Although the Verizon lawsuit is one of the first of its kind (there was a federal lawsuit to claim benefits for paid leave by a woman who had children through surrogacy in 2011, but the case was ultimately dismissed), this issue is likely to become more prevalent as gestational surrogacy continues to grow as a family-building option. Stay tuned to our blog for more discussions on emerging reproductive law issues.

Phone App
The London Sperm Bank just launched the United Kingdom’s first sperm donor app, nicknamed by news outlets as the “Tinder for Sperm Donors.”  Individuals can use the app to search for sperm donors and order sperm on their phones. The free app , considered the first of its kind, displays donor profiles that describe physical characteristics, medical history, the sperm bank’s staff impressions, and other information (check out this Cosmopolitan article for some examples). Users can set preferences for characteristics such as eye color, hair color, education, and personality, and receive an alert when a donor matching their criteria is available. In contrast to dating apps like Tinder, donor profiles are anonymous and do not contain photos. Donors are vetted by the London Sperm Bank and pay a fee to be listed on the app.

The app has been approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (“HFEA”); the UK’s regulating entity that oversees IVF research, clinics, and procedures. However, the app has also generated some ethical debate. A representative of the Comment on Reproductive Ethics group stated that the app constitutes “trivialisation of parenthood,” equating it to “reproduction via mobile phone.” Meanwhile, the London Sperm Bank issued a statement assuring that “Ordering sperm from an online catalogue or an app does not trivialise treatment, and every step meets the requirements of the HFEA.” Additionally, the scientific director of the London Sperm bank stated “you make all the transactions online, like you do anything else these days. This allows a woman who wants to get a sperm donor to gain control in the privacy of her own home and to choose and decide in her own time.”

We are curious to see the impact of the app and whether other sperm banks follow suit. Has this app revolutionized gamete donation as we know it? Only time will tell. Stay tuned to our blog for more updates on the app as it gains traction among individuals seeking sperm donors.

8-10-09-193-thumb-667x1000-60849As gestational surrogacy continues to increase in the United States, so do opportunities to observe its trends and outcomes. Many states presently permit gestational surrogacy, although the laws vary by state and are rapidly evolving. Researchers from the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility compiled information regarding the below trends arising from the continued practice of gestational surrogacy in the United States:

  • In the past 15 years, the number of gestational carrier cycles has grown by more than 470%.
  • Almost 70% of fertility clinics throughout the country now offer gestational surrogacy.

IVFThe American Society of Reproductive Medicine (“ASRM”) recently issued an Ethics Committee opinion regarding the appropriate terminology for the donation of embryos. The opinion is consistent with the modern sentiment that “embryo donation” is the proper term, rather than “embryo adoption”. The Ethics Committee asserts that using the term “embryo adoption” is inaccurate and misleading, as it “reinforces a conceptualization of the embryo as a fully entitled legal being and may lead to a series of legal proceedings associated with the adoption of born children.”Although the legal status of embryos varies by state, the ASRM affords embryos a “special significance compared with gametes because of their potential to become persons,” but does not consider embryos persons. The committee contrasts embryos with children in an adoption, which relates to the establishment of parentage in “existing children.”

The Committee reasons that conferring embryos the same status as an “existing child” is harmful and can impose unnecessary burdens on embryo recipients. For example, adoption elements such as home studies and judicial proceedings are “appropriately absent” from embryo donation, which is first and foremost a medical process. Additionally, for the last fifteen years, the Committee has taken the position that embryo donation more closely resembles human reproduction than it does adoption. The Committee perceives embryo donation as a “fundamentally medical procedure intended to result in a pregnancy,” thus warranting its distinction from adoption.

Although embryo donation is a medical procedure, it involves legal elements as well. For example, an embryo donation agreement is highly recommended and encouraged. Therefore, it’s imperative that Intended Parents consult with an experienced reproductive law attorney before embarking on this journey.