Archive for July, 2009

Adoption advocates up in arms over Orphan movie

Posted on July 21st, 2009 in Adoption, Popular Culture | 1 Comment »

In this movie, a husband and wife lose a baby and adopt a nine-year-old girl who is “not nearly as innocent as she seems.”

The social work and adoption advocacy community have reacted to the trailer (the movie does not open until Friday, July 24) by calling for boycotts of Warner Bros.  There is little doubt that this film does not cast adoption in a positive light, though I don’t believe it is as reprehensible as they are making it out to be.  It’s a simple summertime horror film, not some incisive documentary about the dangers of adopting an older child.  In fact, the protagonist herself is the one who issues the taunt on the trailer (see below).

Michael Jackson’s Children and the Battle for Custody

Posted on July 6th, 2009 in Assisted Reproduction, Egg Donation, Popular Culture, Surrogacy | 1 Comment »

Claims have been made that Michael Jackson was not the genetic father of his children Prince Michael I and Paris, and that Debbie Rowe, his ex-wife who gave birth to them, was not the genetic mother [click for more] . That is, Debbie Rowe was a gestational carrier, implanted with embryos created with donor sperm and donor egg. Whether the donor material came from known or anonymous donors is a mystery, along with the rest of these questions.

All seem to agree the children were created in vitro, opening the possibility that donor material was probably used , at least in part. Just think of all the possible scenarios:

  • Michael Jackson sperm; Debbie Rowe’s egg
  • anonymous donor sperm; Debbie Rowe’s egg
  • anonymous donor sperm; anonymous donor egg
  • Michael Jackson sperm; anonymous donor egg
  • known sperm donor; Debbie Rowe’s egg
  • known sperm donor; known egg donor
  • etc!

Debbie Rowe insists that she is the genetic mother and wants custody; DNA tests will prove this one way or the other eventually. But she already forfeited custody to Jackson: does she have any legitimate claim (if she is the genetic mother or not)? And what if the children are not related to Michael Jackson genetically? Does this strengthen Debbie’s Rowe’s claim for custody? And what if the sperm donor was known (his identity was known to Michael Jackson)? Does the donor have any claims?

Here’s what we do know: the State of California is arguably the most progressive in the US regarding surrogacy; more surrogacies take place in California than in any other state.  California case law shows that courts consider the intent surrounding the conception as the primary factor in determining custody. So if Debbie Rowe basically agreed to bear Michael Jackson’s kids for him, with the intent of his achieving full custody eventually, a court may very well rule in favor of Jackson’s estate, no matter the source of the genetic material.

However, it is unknown whether any parentage proceedings during the course of the pregnancies (if eggs to form embryos did not come from Rowe) culminated in Orders allowing the original birth certificates for the children to list only Michael Jackson as parent.  As Rowe and Jackson were married at the time of the births, absent such proceedings, Rowe’s name would be listed as mother on the birth certificates and she could not have voluntarily terminated her parental rights without an adoption and another parent stepping-in to assume them.

There may have been a surrogacy contract as well as sperm and egg donor contracts; we would assume that these would have been drafted by Jackson’s lawyers and that Rowe and any donor(s) would have had independent review by competent counsel. But we cannot know for sure at this point.

ACARAL will keep a close watch on these fascinating developments.