Imagine that you are a married woman who wants to have a genetically related child with your husband. Your doctor tells you that you are infertile, and therefore you and your husband go to XYZ fertility clinic to receive in vitro treatment. You have your eggs harvested, your husband supplies sperm, and ten embryos are created. Five embryos are implanted in your uterus and five are frozen and kept by the fertility clinic for your later use. You successfully conceive and give birth to twins. You notice that the children you give birth to are of a different race than you and your husband. After further investigation, you discover that other patients are claiming that their embryos were taken without permission at XYZ.
What would you do if faced with this situation? Would you feel that the children, either those that you have given birth to, or those that are genetically related to you are "your" children no matter what? What would you do if someone said that your children are genetically theirs?
Would you make a custody sharing arrangement? Would you want your children to have a connection with their other parents? What does parenthood mean?
Traditionally, "parents" are viewed as two people, a man and a woman, whose sexual intercourse resulted in a child. According to traditional definitions and modem-day usage, "mothering" and "parenting" revolve around care and love, but do not specifically relate to genetics or biology. However, "fathering" implies a biological/genetic connection, without implying care and love. The Supreme Court therefore has constructed two views of parents: those who are genetically related to a child, and those who have a relationship with the child, either a relationship constructed by tradition or a relationship constructed by the "parent." A relationship based on tradition is based on both statute and patriarchal views that the father of a child is the husband of the mother.
New reproductive technologies have blurred the line between traditional definitions of genetic parents and parents as caretakers; but as with most new technologies the law has not adequately evolved to take into account these new definitions and their consequences. The lack of clearly defined parents leaves adults with ambiguous roles when the child produced to have has different genetic ties than intended. Racial differences between parents and children further confuses traditional perceptions of parenthood.
Issues similar to the hypothetical situations above have impacted people who have attempted to use new reproductive technologies to have children. This paper will discuss the issues confronting families whose attempts to use new reproductive technologies to have genetic children have been thwarted by errors, leading to children being born to the "wrong" parents. I argue that parenting is more than a genetic connection to a child, yet should be a starting point for determining parenthood, considering the emotional consequences for those that consider themselves to be "parents."
This paper includes background information on reproductive technologies, the Supreme Court's views on the rights of parents and who is considered to be a "parent," and on the impact of race on new reproductive technologies and the definitions of parent. I then discuss case studies about "wrong" genetic material, both gametes and embryos, being used to create children, and how this affects all of the people who wish to be considered parents. I then discuss policy implications, stating how issues of conflicting parents could be resolved. I conclude by stating how pervasive the problem of children being born to the wrong parents might be.
Raizel Liebler, Are You My Parent? Are You My Child? The Role of Genetics and Race in Defining Relationships after Reproductive Technological Mistakes, 5 DePaul J. Health Care L. 15 (2002)
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