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Lesbian woman in US who donated eggs to ex-partner granted parental rights over child

9 January 2012
Appeared in BioNews 639

A Florida court has granted equal parental rights to two lesbian women who created a child using the eggs from one of the women, while the other carried the baby to term. It ruled that egg donors may acquire parental rights to children resulting from their gametes under the Florida and US Constitution.

The couple, who have now separated, were involved in custody proceedings over the child, born in 2004, after the woman who provided the eggs sought legal parental status. The birth mother – who under Florida law was automatically considered to be the child's legal mother – reportedly left for Australia with the child, before returning to the USA. The sperm was provided by an anonymous donor who waived all his rights over the child.

A circuit judge initially made a ruling in favour of the birth mother, but the decision was later overturned by the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal in December last year. The court said that Florida law, which grants parental status to the woman who carries the child only, is out of date and violates the US Constitution.

According to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, the court said: 'This is a unique case, and the appellate courts in Florida have never before considered a case quite like it'.

Under UK law, the birth mother – who carries the child - is considered to be the child's legal mother even if she has no genetic connection to the child. The law was recently updated to recognise same-sex couples as legal parents of children. The partner of a lesbian birth mother in a civil partnership can now be considered in law to be the child's second parent, if the child was born after 6 April 2009, and can be named on the child's birth certificate. The situation is, however, more complex where the couple is not in a civil partnership.

Speaking about the Florida case to the Sentinel, Professor Nancy Polikoff, who specialises in family law at the American University Washington College of Law, said: 'Any ruling that supports the right of a same-sex couple... is important for its willingness to recognise that these families exist and a child raised in this environment shouldn't be forced to give up a parent'.

The case has reportedly been passed back to the trial judge to determine details of custody, visitation and child-support.

11 November 2013 - by María Victoria Rivas Llanos 
The Florida Supreme Court has recognised the parental rights of non-birth, biological mothers in same-sex relationships, under both the Florida and US constitutions....
19 August 2013 - by Cait McDonagh 
The Governor of California, Jerry Brown, has vetoed a bill that would have allowed women to sell their eggs for medical research...
24 June 2013 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
An Australian man has been granted shared parental responsibility by a federal judge over a child born through IVF using sperm he had donated to his former partner....
30 April 2012 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Thirteen vials of sperm are to be divided between two women after their relationship ended, a Canadian court has ruled. It ruled the sperm should be treated as property and divided between the former couple as other joint assets were upon separation....
20 February 2012 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
The state parliament in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, is considering whether sperm and egg donors' details should be mandatorily recorded on their children's birth certificate....
8 November 2010 - by Natalie Gamble 
A lesbian couple who had conceived a child together through donor insemination at a UK clinic recently ended up in the High Court after their relationship broke down. Their dispute involved a ten-year-old child, and the issue was whether the non-birth mother (who the court had already given legal decision-making status as a parent) should be ordered to make financial provision for her child...
19 April 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
A lesbian couple have claimed to be the UK's first to be both named on their child's birth certificate. Natalie Woods and Betty Knowles signed the certificate after the birth of Lily-May Betty Woods, who was conceived using donor sperm....
29 March 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens 
New legislation allowing same-sex couples to become the legal parents of children born following surrogacy will come into force next week. The change to the law means that couples using surrogacy no longer need to be married to be named on their child's birth certificate and is intended to afford unmarried and same-sex couples using any form of assisted reproduction the same rights to legal parenthood. It forms the final stage of the implementation of the UK's Human Fertilisati...
6 April 2009 - by Julie McCandless and Professor Sally Sheldon 
The new 'status provisions', regulating who shall be treated as the parent of a child conceived via donor insemination and/or IVF, come into effect this week. In this commentary we outline how the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (2008) has reworked these provisions and raise a number of issues...
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