9 Dec 2007

Sperm donor ordered to pay child maintenance

A man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple is being made to pay maintenance by the Child Support Agency (CSA). Andy Bathie, 37, from Enfield, north London, claims he was assured by the couple he would have no personal or financial involvement for the children. He donated his sperm as a friend rather than go through a fertility clinic. This is a common arrangement due to limted access to assisted reproduction in clinics for lesbians. The couple though claim differently and say that Bathie did have some involvement and in fact behaved as a full time father and therefore should take some financial responsibility.

The CSA said only anonymous donors at licensed centres are exempt from being treated as the legal father of a child born as a result of their donation. Bathie, a firefighter, said he cannot afford to have children with his own wife due to the financial implications. The lesbian couple, who approached the couple five years ago after they married in a civil ceremony, have a boy and a girl. They said that they were put under pressure from the CSA to reveal the identity of the Father otherwise their Income Support would be reduced.

Mr Bathie said he reacted with "shock, anger and despair", when he was contacted by the CSA in November. He said: "I don't have any particular ill will. It's the fact that I still even now don't see why I should have to pay for another couple's children."

A spokesman for Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said: "The law says that men donating sperm through licensed fertility clinics are not the legal father of any child born through that donation. "Men giving out their sperm in any other way - such as via internet arrangements - are legally the father of any children born with all the responsibilities that carries."

A spokeswoman for CSA said: "Unless the child is legally adopted, both biological parents are financially responsible for their child - the Child Support Agency legislation is not gender or partnership based." Ministers have drawn up fertility reforms giving equal parenting rights to same-sex couples who "marry" in a civil partnership. This means they will be recognised as the legal parents of children conceived through sperm donation.

However, this just shows how much pressure the CSA put on women to name the father of a child and the narrow exceptions when the Father cannot be named. This is truly discriminatory to lesbians and gay men who twenty years ago would not have any access to fertility clinics and even now still have limited access. The law still requires that access to assisted reproduction needs to take into account the child's need for a father which deters lesbians from accessing such services or even being refused services. However, it is likely that a same sex partner's resources would be taken into account if the other partner was being assessed to pay child support for chldren from a previous heterosexual relationship which is the irony of the situation.

The changes in the law if they do happen will come too late for Mr Bathie, although he is pushing for the law to be retrospective. However these changes are meeting with attacks from anti-gay peers and there have been amendments submitted to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to prevent the changes that Mr Bathie is calling for. The amendments are likely to be debated at the next reading of the bill in House of Lords Committee on the 10th December 2007. Following committee stage the bill will proceed to the Commons.

For more on the bill read previous
post. Also see analysis in Pink News.

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