Peele: Look before you leap
In 2009, in Kansas, William Marotta, 46, read an item in Craigslist that interested him. A lesbian couple, Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer, wanted a sperm donor so they could have a baby. He thought, “They can’t have children by themselves. Its something I could help them with.”
He answered the ad, and agreed to be the sperm donor. First, Marotta required the lesbian couple to sign an agreement that they would not sue him for child support. Then he delivered a container of his sperm to the home of the couple. The couple did the procedure privately. No doctors or clinics were involved.
As a result, Schreiner had a baby girl.
Subsequently, Schreiner and Bauer separated. Schreiner then sought and received child support from the State of Kansas.
The State is seeking to hold Marotta responsible for the child support they have paid to Schreiner. They argue that because Marotta didn't use a doctor or a clinic, as required by Kansas law, that he can be held responsible. Marotta argues that he and the women signed an agreement waiving all his parental rights, and they agreed not to sue him. Kansas argues that the agreement prevents Schreiner from suing Marotta, but it does not prevent the State from suing him.
The child is now 3 years old.
Kansas and 10 or other states have laws that free a sperm donor from liability if a doctor or clinic is involved in the insemination.
Recently, Marotta spoke to a TV station and said he didn’t receive any payment and signed away any parental rights.
“They very much wanted something in place that said you’re doing this for us but you don’t have any claim to this child,” he said.
In October 2012, the Kansas Department for Children and Family Services informed Marotta he had to pay the money that Kansas was paying Schneider for child support. Then they brought suit against him.
Marotta was shocked and frightened: “At which point I’m going, wow, no good deed goes unpunished!”
Marotta said although the couple had split up that both of them were acting as the child's parents. He said that Schreiner "was pressured, coerced in essence to give my name.”
He also said that he had already paid 10 percent of his income for attorney fees.
Linda Elrod, a law professor at Washburn University, said the law seems clear: Sperm donors who don't want to be held liable for child support need to work with a doctor.
"Other than that, the general rule is strict liability for sperm," she said.
After Marotta went on TV, there was a groundswell of people that were shocked that Kansas is seeking restitution from Marotta. They felt that Kansas was being entirely unfair.
Many of them felt strongly that Kansas should sue Bauer (Schreiner’s former partner), and not Marotta. They felt that Bauer should be considered the same as if she were a man and married to Schreiber and was the “father.”
On the other side of the question, Kansas senator Terry Bruce has no sympathy with Marotta. He said, “Don’t do stupid things on Craigslist. If you are going to create another life, even if it’s a good intention, that’s a heck of a responsibility.”
A hearing is set in April.
Those that use artificial insemination need to think deeply about what they are doing. Those that agree to be donors need to do likewise. Whether or not to be a donor is a profoundly deep question. Marotta thought he was doing a good deed. Many would argue that he was short-sighted.
If you were the judge, how would you rule on the case?