Who is the ParentA recent article in the NY Post shows the growing legal complications of assisted reproductive technologies when it involves third party parenting.  The focus is on same sex couples and specifically when the relationships break up. Ironically the gender bias for custody is complicated if not ironically gone. The child traditionally going to the mother? Not so fast! Which one?  Which dad? The legal situation of custody can get more complicated when 4 people are claiming parenting rights.

While the focus on same sex couple is warranted, the article is correct in saying the legal outcomes will influence heterosexual couples as well. The article identifies three types of parents: biological parents, legal parents, or parents through the “assumption of legitimacy,” or in other words the person who is doing the parenting. Multiple categories are always the case for same sex couples, but are also the case with heterosexual couples any time third party reproduction is involved.

Judaism also has a similar spread of parenting definitions although they have different implications. In recent Jewish legal rulings, terms such as “intended parents” before the birth and “social parents” after the fact have surfaced to try to capture the on-the-ground “legitimacy” of parents who assume that role by living it. It is complicated enough, and sometimes sensitive enough, to be reminded of the definitions when one is not a biological parent whether a Jewish or a secular issue. Things are certain to get tricky when the legal system has to make the judgement of “legitimacy” without explicit predetermined definitions and multiple people are claiming the legitimacy.

One item missing from the article is the ability for same sex couples to adopt a non-biological child they are parenting. The article implies that this would solve a lot of problems. However, some couples do not adopt because it is/was legally difficult or impossible. The difficulty is usually not the case for heterosexual couples, although the laws are unclear and vary between states for third party reproduction.

Hasidah often gets asked about criteria for choosing a fertility clinic. Considering the clinic’s legal coverage is an answer that surprises people when we say it should be a consideration. Often the intentions seem obvious and the legality seems unnecessary to people when they are going through the process of insemination or IVF with a donor.   The “intended parents” for sure have true intentions and complications down the road can seem to distant or hard to believe in the midst of a dealing with infertility and focusing so much on just trying to have a child.

True intentions may be the case at the start, but life happens and people change their minds.

This article points out an important lesson: if a third party is involved in the reproduction process, make sure the legal aspects are considered and addressed. Before the fact.

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Breaking news in the infertility and pregnancy loss world: Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and his wife Pricilla Chan are expecting a baby girl after having endured three miscarriages. Almost unanimous support came pouring out for their impending parenthood and for their speaking out on the issue. The story has been getting traction across the media world from CNN Money, and Forbes (with an amazing list of stories to share) to Time (focusing on men!). And there are many more.

A couple of these articles cite a research study that indicates 28 percent of women who had experienced a miscarriage and learned about a celebrity’s pregnancy loss felt less isolated with that knowledge. All the more so, when learning about a friend’s miscarriage, 46 percent felt less isolated.

For many of us who have been through it, this is no surprise. Letting the world know about pregnancy loss – and Mark Zuckerberg did an amazing job of making that happen – is a tremendous gift.

Stigma is sometimes attached to infertility and pregnancy loss.  Even when stigma is not externally imposed, the experience leaves people feeling like something is wrong with them. On top of the sadness and loss they may feel deficient, defective, disgraced even. With the advances in technology that tell us that the experiences are normal, the outcome is often the same – a feeling of isolation. Many people are isolated by feelings of guilt.  Could I have done something to prevent this? Others think that nobody else can understand the pain, which can be physical, emotional and spiritual. This is so painful how can I cope with this? Nobody else must have been through it like this or I’d know. Surely I’d have heard about it. I should just get over it. It must just be me…

The feelings are all terribly normal. Doubt, guilt, fear, pain and sadness are common and one important form of treatment for moving through them is removing the stigma and the resulting isolation. Sharing stories let’s people know that our experiences, as horrible as they feel, are possible to survive. The stories build awareness in general about this important issue. They build a culture that encourages seeking help and supporting others. For that we are immensely grateful to Mark Zuckerberg for coming forward and sharing his story.

Besha’ah tova to Mark and Pricilla – in good time, may they be blessed with a healthy baby girl.

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Sharing your story can make a difference. If you have an infertility or pregnancy loss story, please consider writing about it to help Hasidah in our missing to support those struggling to build their families. You can submit here or contact us at info@hasidah.org. 

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