From Coast to Coast, Changing Laws to Protect Our Families

From – May 27, 2014

A new law in Washington, D.C. is drawing lesbian couples from other jurisdictions to give birth there — and a bill making its way through the California legislature could simplify the paperwork and clarify parenting arrangements for same-sex couples in that state.

A new law in Washington, D.C. allows courts to grant second-parent adoptions to out-of-state lesbian couples if their child was born in D.C., even if the parents don’t reside there, reports the Washington Post. This law is leading to an increasing, though unspecified, number of lesbian couples from neighboring states coming to D.C. to deliver their babies. Next-door Virginia, for example, only grants adoptions to married couples, and does not recognize marriages of same-sex couples. Couples have also come from as far afield as North Carolina and Ohio in order to give their children the protection of two legal parents. [Update: Bill Singer, a lawyer in New Jersey who did the parentage order for my spouse and I when we were expecting our son, commented on Twitter that: “NJ has long had law allowing adoption for child born here. My clients from non-recog states call it the underground birth canal.”]

It’s a hassle, indeed, especially since children have a habit of sending our bodies into labor when we don’t expect it. Of course, second-parent adoption is in itself a hassle. We shouldn’t have to adopt children that we planned for with a partner. More states now allow both parents’ names to be on the birth certificate, which is great, and allows for protection from the moment of birth — but other states may not recognize the non-biological parent’s right to be there if they don’t recognize the parents’ relationship in the first place. Second-parent adoption is more secure — but is still a financial and emotional hassle, requiring fees and a home study.

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Australian Government to order fertility clinics to release donor information

Sydney Morning Herald – May 11, 2014 by Nicole Hasham

Fertility clinics will be forced to hand over information about anonymous sperm donors so children can learn about their genetic origins, in a move that has divided doctors and offspring advocates.

The state government will also consider bringing in laws to protect donor records, after an inquiry heard “alarming” evidence that doctors had destroyed information to prevent donors being outed.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner plans to establish a central, government-run register of sperm donor records, allowing offspring to apply for non-identifying information about their donor fathers. This could include medical history, ethnicity and physical characteristics such as eye and hair colour.

The register also raises the prospect that more donors and their offspring would make contact, by offering a linking service if both parties consent. Under a current, little-publicised voluntary system, just 21 offspring and 20 donors are registered.

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Study Sees Bigger Role for Placenta in Newborns’ Health

New York Times – May 21, 2104 by Denise Grady

The placenta, once thought sterile, actually harbors a world of bacteria that may influence the course of pregnancy and help shape an infant’s health and the bacterial makeup of its gut, a new study has found.

The research is part of a broader scientific effort to explore the microbiome, the trillions of microbes — bacteria, viruses and fungi — that colonize the human body, inside and out. Those organisms affect digestion, metabolism and an unknown array of biological processes, and may play a role in the development of obesity, diabetes and other illnesses.

During pregnancy, the authors of the new study suspect, the wrong mix of bacteria in the placenta may contribute to premature births, a devastating problem worldwide. Although the research is preliminary, it may help explain why periodontal disease and urinary infections in pregnant women are linked to an increased risk of premature birth. The findings also suggest a need for more studies on the effects of antibiotics taken during pregnancy.

The new study suggests that babies may acquire an important part of their normal gut bacteria from the placenta. If further research confirms the findings, that may be reassuring news for women who have had cesareans. Some researchers have suggested that babies born by cesarean miss out on helpful bacteria that they would normally be exposed to in the birth canal.

“I think women can be reassured that they have not doomed their infant’s microbiome for the rest of its life,” said Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, the first author of the new study, published on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine. She added that studies were needed to determine the influence of cesareans on the microbiome.

Previous studies have looked at bacteria that inhabit the mouth, skin, vagina and intestines. But only recently has attention turned to the placenta, a one-pound organ that forms inside the uterus and acts as a life support system for the fetus. It provides oxygen and nutrients, removes wastes and secretes hormones.

“People are intrigued by the role of the placenta,” said Dr. Aagaard, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. “There’s no other time in life that we acquire a totally new organ. And then we get rid of it.”

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Utah Supreme Court Grants Stay In Gay Adoption Rulings

By Carlos Santoscoy
Published: May 18, 2014

The Utah Supreme Court on Friday granted a stay in several lower court orders requiring the Department of Health to issue birth certificates in adoptions involving married gay couples.

According to Salt Lake City’s Fox 13, the stay was granted in response to a Utah attorney general’s office request for clarity in the cases.

“Enforcement of the district court orders mandating or authorizing Petitioner to issue birth certificates is stayed until the Court can address the petitions for extraordinary relief,” the court wrote.

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Does ‘Sperm Donor’ Mean ‘Dad’?

By BROOKS BARNESMAY 2, 2014 – New York Times

LOS ANGELES — He is a movie star who shot to fame on a motorcycle in “The Lost Boys.” She is a California massage therapist from a prominent East Coast family. Four years ago, with his sperm, her eggs and the wonder of in vitro fertilization, they produced a child.

From there, the tale gets very, very messy.

For the last two years, Jason Patric and Danielle Schreiber have been waging what has become one of the highest-profile custody fights in the country — one that scrambles a gender stereotype, raises the question of who should be considered a legal parent and challenges state laws that try to bring order to the Wild West of nonanonymous sperm donations.

Played out on cable news, dueling “Today” show appearances, YouTube videos and radio call-in talk shows, this rancorous dispute, which heads back into a California courtroom next Thursday, serves as cautionary tale for any man considering donating sperm to a friend and any woman considering accepting it from one, experts say.

“The resonance here is enormous because of the increasing number of families being formed today outside of traditional marriage,” said Naomi R. Cahn, a family law professor at George Washington University and the author of “Test Tube Families.” “Single heterosexual women, lesbian couples, men who donate sperm expecting to be part of a child’s life — they had better be paying attention.”

Is this a case about a desperate dad who is being maliciously prevented from seeing his son, as Mr. Patric insists? Or is it about a woman’s right to choose to be a single mother and have that choice protected from interference, as Ms. Schreiber’s lawyers assert? Is it both?

And exactly how did these two end up as the public faces of a complicated debate that exposes America’s increasingly fuzzy definition of what constitutes a family?

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New York Couple Defend Their Adopted Son in Ohio

Gay City News, May 2, 2014 by  Paul Schindler

It was only in the immediate aftermath of finalizing the adoption of their infant son, Cooper, on January 17 of this year that Joseph Vitale and Robert Talmas became aware that a significant — and unwelcome — legal hurdle lay ahead.

Nine months earlier, the two men, who live in Manhattan and married in September 2011, on the 15th anniversary of becoming a couple, spent the legally required 72 hours in Ohio so they could adopt Cooper, at the time he was born, from the birth mother with whom an adoption agency had made them a match.

The woman originally said she did not want to meet the adoptive parents, but when Vitale and Talmas arrived in Cincinnati for Cooper’s birth, they learned she had changed her mind. They were told to meet Cooper’s birth mother at a local Catholic hospital.

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