Father or sperm donor? Jason Patric's custody plea prompts California hearing.
'Lost Boys' actor Jason Patric, who lost a battle for custody of a son conceived using in vitro fertilization, urges California lawmakers to change the law to afford such men greater consideration in court. Many women's rights groups are skeptical.
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“There’s a fundamental contribution that men make,” but it's being tested by an emerging view among some mothers, or would-be mothers, that “’I want your sperm because you’re good-looking, you have a high IQ, and you do OK on personality tests, but basically I don’t want you around," he says.Skip to next paragraph
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Day cites the unknown effects of what he calls “intergenerational confusion,” in which traditional roles such as fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are upended in part by government policies such as welfare but also by changing cultural mores in which women hold increased power over child-bearing and in determining family structure.
Worry that women would see their parental rights erode is why the National Organization for Women and some other feminist groups oppose the bill considered Tuesday by a panel of the California Assembly. Giving judges greater discretion on custody cases involving in vitro fertilization, they argue, would whittle away at women’s autonomy by ceding some power to sperm donors who suddenly want a greater-than-planned role in raising the child.
"Parents, reliant on a sperm donor's agreement not to parent, could have allowed the donor to develop a close relationship with the child, without thinking that he could later come in and demand paternal rights," warned Assemblyman Tom Ammiano in a letter to the Assembly Judiciary Committee in June.
Assemblyman Jerry Hill, who introduced the measure in the lower chamber after it passed the state Senate without opposition, says the tweak is succinct enough to give judges options only in cases where fathers have made a significant and involved contribution to the rearing of the child.
"This is truly about the modern family, and it has raised questions and issues for the courts that haven't kept up with changing times," he told the Associated Press. Last month, Mr. Hill told Ms. Couric that some groups fear “sperm donors will be coming out of the woodwork, flooding the courts to test parenting rights with children that they have created.” But the reality, he suggested, “is that there’s only a small universe of individuals that this [California bill] really affects.”
The committee voted 5-to-2 Tuesday to hold the bill in committee for further discussion. Hill said after the hearing that he will continue to work with various parties to reach agreement on the legislation.
Anthropologist Peter Gray of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, author of “Fatherhood: “Evolution and Human Paternal Behavior, agrees that the number of men affected by the suggested tweak in California law is probably small. But he argues that the issue is nonetheless important. “This [bill] is conceptually important, because it’s trying in a sense to lay out a framework that will accommodate men who want to be involved in quite variable genetic or social backdrops.”
The case also resonates because it contradicts social and even biological stereotypes about men, says Mr. Gray.
“More broadly, we’re often surprised if men want to stick around beyond sperm donations when they have the opportunity to leave, which is part of what makes this [Patric-Schreiber] case so interesting,” he says. “This guy wants to be involved, even though it’s an uphill battle.”
Material from Associated Press was used in this report.