Last night I was editing a chapter that will appear sometime in the future in a scholarly volume. Because of word limitations I had to cut some material. I’ve retrieved from the cutting room floor one brief section, below, that I’d like to see the light of day. Interested in reactions!
How Redefining Marriage Redefines Parenthood–Links Between Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage and the Mainstreaming of ARTs
There are affirmative, early reports that use of third party donors (that is, sperm and egg donors, the latter sometimes combined with “gestational” surrogates) to conceive children does appear to be increasing in jurisdictions that have recognized same-sex marriage or similar arrangements, as couples with new legal protections now seek assistance from fertility clinics to achieve pregnancies.
A report out of Britain in 2007 claimed that “Lesbians and single women in Britain are increasing their share of donor insemination, accounting for 38% of such treatment last year compared with 28% in 2003 and 18% in 1999.”[i] What is especially noteworthy is that this trend, if the numbers are verifiable, was occurring before 2008. For decades, even after civil partnerships were legalized in Britain in 2004, British fertility law has said that the child’s “need for a father” must be taken into account when offering fertility treatments. Despite that clause, rates of lesbian and single women inseminated by clinics have been rising. In May 2008, after a long and heated national debate, the fertility treatment authority dropped the “need for a father” clause, removing the last policy barrier for lesbians and single women to access donor insemination services in the nation’s clinics.[ii]
In Massachusetts, a news report from December 2007 read: “Since the legalization of same-sex marriage there has been a marked increase in the number of gay couples seeking assisted reproduction, a medical center specializing in in vitro fertilization said Friday. ‘Each year we’re seeing an annual increase of about 50 percent in the number of same-sex couples coming to us for IVF to have their children and build their families,’ said Dr. Samuel Pang, Medical Director of Reproductive Science Center of New England. RSC has eight locations throughout New England…and is the seventh largest medical practice of its kind nationwide. ‘I don’t know how much equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples has affected the upward shift, but it seems to be the trend over the last three or four years.”[iii]
And in Denmark in 2006, their parliament passed a law allowing lesbian couples and single women the right to obtain free artificial insemination at publicly funded hospitals. Mikael Boe Larsen, chairman of the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians, said “…people are almost euphoric, people are crying, and especially the lesbians are extremely happy since it is a governmental approval of their family form.”[iv] Denmark passed a law in 1989 allowing gays and lesbians to enter registered partnerships.
In other nations, too, there is evidence that marriage rights and rights to ARTs are seen to go hand in hand. In Victoria, Australia in 2005, the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby released a survey of 652 gay and lesbians persons which revealed, among other things, that 98 percent of those surveyed wanted same-sex marriage to be made legal in their nation, and that more than 90 percent felt that gay and lesbian couples “should have access to assisted reproductive technologies such as clinical insemination of donor sperm and IVF.” Moreover, the survey revealed that “77 percent supported altruistic surrogacy as a right.”[v]
In Norway, in the new law affirming the right to same-sex marriage, passed in 2008, there is also affirmation of the right for lesbian women to have access to artificial insemination.[vi]
In nation after nation, the right to marriage is interpreted also as a right to access reproductive technologies that deny children a relationship with one or more of their biological parents, often but not always their father. And once that right is guaranteed in law for gay and lesbian persons, it can hardly be denied, now or in the future, to heterosexual persons.
[i] Family Edge Weekly Newsletter 1 August 2007 number 115 http://www.mercatornet.com
[ii] In summer of 2008 the newly enacted law was tabled until the fall, so that further debate could be had, after a public outcry ensued over the law’s passage.
[iii] “Mass. Gay Marriages Lead to Increase in IVF,” 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff, Dec 7, 2007, www.365gay.com
[iv] “Insemination rights for lesbians,” Reuters, 2 June 2006, posted at www.news.com.au
[v] “Attacks on gays and lesbians ‘high’” Vic News, Aug 3, 2005, http://news.ninemsn.com.au
[vi] The Associated Press notice which ran in the New York Times on June 18, 2008 read “Gay men and lesbians in Norway will be granted the same rights as heterosexuals to marry and to adopt children under a law approved by the upper house of Parliament. It replaces a 1993 law that gave gay men and lesbians the right to enter civil unions, but did not permit church weddings or adoption. The law also allows lesbians to have artificial insemination. Individual churches and clergy members may perform weddings for gay men and lesbians, but will not be legally obligated to do so.”