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Australia's Attorney-General argues sperm donor's case as parent

11 March 2019
Appeared in BioNews 990

The Australian High Court has heard a case concerning the legal parentage of a child born following sperm donation. 

Susan Parsons, who gave birth to the child, entered into an informal arrangement with a friend, Robert Masson, to conceive through home insemination. Parsons met Margaret, now her wife, while she was trying to conceive using Masson's sperm. The Parsons went on to conceive a second child using an American sperm donor, and both children currently live with the couple.  

According to the New Zealand Herald, both children refer to Masson as 'daddy', and that he only agreed to father a child if he could act as a co-parent. 

In 2015, the Parsons applied to court to remove Masson's name on the first child's birth certificate and replace it with Margaret's, which would enable them to move to Parsons' native New Zealand. Masson then reportedly obtained a travel ban on both children to prevent the family from relocating. 

In 2017, a court ruled that Margaret was the intended parent of the second child but that Masson was the father of the first. Under state law in New South Wales, to be considered a legal parent of the child, Margaret and Susan must have been in a 'de facto' relationship at the time of conception. However, the court felt that at the time, their relationship was only 'developing'. 

The Parsons are appealing that decision, asking the High Court to determine the definition of a legal parent in the Australian Family Law Act, and its relationship with state laws – a ruling that may have significant implications for donor conception in the country.

The Attorney-General, Christian Porter, is reportedly calling for sperm donors to be considered legal parents under Australian Law, but the Parsons argue that the previous ruling does not give effect to the intentions of the parties at the time of the child's conception. 

The Australian High Court, the country's supreme court, heard submissions in the case in December 2018 and is due to give a decision on the matter.

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1 October 2018 - by Sarah Pritchard 
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5 March 2018 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
The UK court of appeal has upheld the right of the parents of a sperm donor to spend time with their biological grandson...
29 January 2018 - by Dr Sam Sherratt 
A New York appeal court has ruled that a man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple has no legal right to demand a paternity test for the resulting child...
2 December 2016 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
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