There’s no debating the fact that reproductive science has come a long way in recent decades. These advances have allowed children to be conceived and born to couples who previously could not have biologically related kids.
But reproductive technology is also creating some tricky legal issues, especially when it comes to matters of child custody, child support and fathers’ rights. A recent case did not occur here in Missouri, but it is a situation that men might face nearly anywhere in the country.
Way back in 2002, a man named Layne went to a fertility clinic with his girlfriend at the time, a woman named Katherine. The two had already had a child together and wanted to save a sperm sample so that he could have a vasectomy but keep the option open to have more children later on. Layne and Katherine were the two people listed with the clinic as having controlling authority over the sample. The couple eventually parted ways.
In 2006, Layne started dating a woman named Tobie. They had an “on and off” relationship, according to news sources. At some point in 2009, Tobie had gone to the clinic and was given part of Layne’s sperm sample without his authorization and without being listed in the clinic’s records. She was inseminated with this sperm and later gave birth in July 2010.
The man filed a lawsuit against the fertility clinic and against his former girlfriend (Tobie). After recently completing a jury trial, both defendants were found liable. Layne and his first girlfriend (Katherine) were each awarded $250,000 from the clinic (for breach of contract) and $125,000 each from the second ex-girlfriend for mental anguish.
Reproductive rights are often thought of as a woman’s issue, for obvious reasons. But men have reproductive rights as well, including – and especially – the right to deny access to their own genetic material for purposes of insemination. Hopefully, this court ruling will set an important precedent for future cases involving the use of reproductive technology.