Who’s the daddy? Genetics and parental identity HI269 Week 4
Who’s the daddy? Family identities in perspective I. Defining the family: shaping the history of ‘kinship’ A. In law B. In culture C. In ‘nature’? II. ‘Family’ and technology in the genetic age A. ‘pater semper certas est’? B. DNA is thicker than water? C. Old kinship for new ‘families’?
In Law (Social) Paternity is basis for inheritance; Traditionally, paternity determined by marriage; Traditionally, maternity determined by gestation/birth; Legal code privileges culturally-rooted norms of family (‘normative family’ and ‘in the interests of the child’) Changes post genetics/NRTs Increasing focus on biological paternity and ‘rights’ to be associated with it Inconsistencies in law which privilege social over biological fathers (eg their rights in cases of AID) being removed ‘fact of birth’ now must be reassessed In Culture (Social) Paternity basis for many forms of social status; ‘Blood is thicker than water’ Structural and cultural preference for specific family structures: eg, in West, a blood-based kinship, nuclear, heterosexual, with at least one breadwinner Changes post genetics/NRTs Use of genetic testing to confirm/affirm parentage -> diminished focus on social parenting? Availability of biological kinship to populations previously excluded from this privileged social form? Defining Family
Family in ‘nature’? “There is of course the distinction dictated by nature between a bastard and his mother and a bastard and his father; and this distinction has both an evidential and a familial aspect. Nature permits that a man may produce more bastards more secretly. Facts dictate that it must be far more difficult to establish the paternity of a bastard than his maternity; blood tests can sometimes deny an alleged paternity but at present cannot to any significant extent establish it; the facts of birth normally establish maternity.” Report of the Committee on the Law of Succession in Relation to Illegitimate Persons (Russell Report), 1966.
Status of the human embryo in ‘nature’? Law? “A human embryo cannot be thought of as a person, or even a potential person. It is simply a collection of cells which, unless it implants in a human uterine environment, has no potential for development.” OR “the embryo of the human species [must] be afforded some protection in law” Warnock Report, 1985
NRTs and the Law: UK timeline • 1930s AID comes into common (but unpublicised) use in US/UK • 1943-5 publication on frequency of AID cases in BMJ produces popular AND medical outrage, calls for bans in Parliament, Church • 1958 Divorce case alleged use of AID w/o husband’s permission as grounds for divorce on basis of adultery; • 1959 Feversham Committee established to determine bastardy of AID children • 1966 Report of the Committee on the Law of Succession in Relation to Illegitimate Persons (Russell Report) • 1975 Adopted children gain right to see original birth cert at age 18. • 1982 Warnock Committee formed to debate ethics of ‘assisted reproduction’ and rights of genetic parents over children produced by them (for other non-biological families)
NRTs and the Law: UK timeline • 1982 Warnock Committee formed to debate ethnics of ‘assisted reproduction’ and rights of genetic parents over children produced by them (for other non-biological families) • 1985 Warnock Report published recommending strict regulation • 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act: established HFEA; limited time limits in Abortion Act to 24 weeks; Established that Surrogacy arrangements not legally enforceable. Only regulates donated gametes, so DOES NOT regulate GIFT or IUI from partner’s gametes.
NRTs and the Law: UK timeline • 2001 Human Reproductive Cloning Act Prohibition of human cloning • 2004 Amendment of the HFEA Act to remove the right of new donors to be anonymous once the child has become 18. Donors are still protected from legal claims for economic support/parental responsibility. • 2006 European Tissue Directive comes into effect as UK law, regulating gametes as well as other tissues • April 2007 UK bans sale/provision of fresh (therefore previously unregulated) sperm over the internet
Pater semper certas est? ‘Thomas Beatie, a married man who used to be a woman, is pregnant with a baby girl’ TimesOnline March 26, 2008 Junior, Universal Pictures, 1994
‘male pregnancy’: a case study • "I have a very stable male gender identity. I see pregnancy as a process, and it doesn't define who I am. It's not a male or female desire to want to have a child…it's a human desire … I'm a person, and I have the right to have my own biological child." • "We've had a really hard time finding doctors to treat us and to help us get pregnant … We got rejected by our first doctor because he said that his staff felt uncomfortable working with someone like me." • "Unfortunately, they don't make man-ternity clothes, so I'm kind of stuck. I have no idea what I'm going to wear in the future when I get bigger." Thomas Beatie, Oprah Winfrey Show, 04/03/2008
The ‘icky’ factor? • “the pregnant man would become a father. Or rather, a mother. And here's the thing. We find this unpalatable, but not because of the dangers involved, the strange technology, the cutting-edge operations. It's because it changes something fundamental about the way we see the world. Or rather, about the way we feel. Thinking about a pregnant man is difficult on an emotional level, because our emotions are formed, according to evolutionary biologists, by one crucial factor. And that's whether we have the brain chemistry of, on the one hand, a sperm shooter, or, on the other, an egg protector. These are the two halves of our emotional world. Even if you're gay, say the evolutionary biologists, you're either a sperm-shooter or an egg-protector at heart.” William Leith ‘Pregnant Men’ Seven Magazine, Sunday Telegraph, 10/04/2008
But will it sell? Commercialising the ‘fatherhood experience’ or selling celibacy? The ‘Empathy Belly’
Advantages and disadvantages of forms of sperm donation Science and Technology Parliamentary Subcommittee Report on Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law, 2004
Old kinship for new ‘families’?Or old ‘families’ for new genetic kin?
OR: does egg donor + sperm from dad A + sperm from dad B + plus test tube + gestational mother + adoption and immigration lawyers … = The new ideal nuclear family?
New options for non-traditional families? • Do the NRTs allow people to form families more flexibly, or in novel formats? • Or do they simply allow new groups to reproduce the culturally preferred nuclear family norm?