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A Legal Perspective on Donor Insemination

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Donor insemination has been performed for decades so those choosing this method of family-building are not charting new territory. In all fifty states, if a woman or couple uses a sperm bank for donor insemination, the donor will not be able to assume any parental responsibility or rights.

Identity Release

However, in more recent times there are some newer options for parents to decide from such as identity release. This is where a sperm donor at the time of the donation signs paperwork indicating his willingness to have contact with children conceived from his sperm once the children have reached adulthood. This option will remain in the control of the grown children of DI, but the initial decision must be made by the parents and the donor. For some mothers or couples, this is a middle ground solution between anonymous and known sperm donors. If a child born through DI grows up and has questions about the biological father, he or she will have an opportunity to find out more about those family roots.

Lesbian Couples

For lesbian couples, the legal ramifications of donor insemination are murkier. If the couple resides in a state which allows second parent or co-parent adoption, they should definitely pursue this option to protect the parental rights of the mother who did not bear the child or supply the egg. In states where these types of adoptions do not exist, the couple should definitely speak with legal counsel, particularly one well-versed in gay and lesbian rights and donor insemination or adoption.

Known Donors

While donor insemination performed through a sperm bank and using anonymous donors are simple legally speaking, inseminations performed with sperm from known donors are much more complicated. There are laws in Colorado and New York which can upheld parental rights for such donors. In California, Wisconsin and Ohio a known donor can protect himself from parental responsibilities or rights if the procedure is done through a physician's office. No other states have specific laws regarding known sperm donors.

Since most states have no legal statutes specifically dealing with known sperm donors, everyone involved should seek out appropriate legal counsel prior to the insemination. A contract should be written up that is clear and direct about the state of parental rights and responsibilities and issues of disclosure.

However, the tricky aspect is that while contracts may be written up by lawyers and agreed to by all parties, a contract is not the same as the law. Any legal statute will supersede a contract so families should proceed with caution. While you may be asking a dear friend or relative to help you for a family, the legalities are not so clear.

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