August 13, 2022

A donor or a father?

A Virginia ‘sperm donor’ has been granted custody of his genetic child after deciding he wanted to be a father.

A Virginia man has been granted custody and visitation rights after changing his mind about the relationship he wanted with his genetic child. The man had supplied sperm to a friend seeking to have a child without a partner.

Robert Boardwine agreed In mid-2010 to provide sperm for his friend Joyce Bruce, who in turn impregnated herself using a turkey baster. Joyce wanted to raise the child on her own, and Boardwine agreed to this. By the time the child was born, however, Boardwine had changed his mind and wanted to be a part of the child’s life. Bruce refused, and the matter ended up in a Virginia appellate court. 

In their ruling, the three appellate judges found that Boardwine was entitled to custody and visitation rights, as the conception “did not result from artificial insemination or any intervening medical technology”. Commenting on the statutory terminology, the judges said that “the plain meaning of the term “medical technology” does not encompass a kitchen implement such as a turkey baster.”

The decision has prompted some bioethicists to call for a revision of gamete donor law.

“Since legal parenthood is a morally weighty designation that has an enormous impact on the wellbeing of many people, it should track the morally relevant facts as much as possible”, said Dr. Reuven Brandt, an ethicist at Lancaster University. “The type of equipment used and the involvement of licensed medical professionals seem irrelevant to the moral facts”, he said. 

Sperm donor claims paternity rights after deciding he wants a child
Xavier Symons
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