Designating Male Parents at Birth
Parness, Jeffrey A.
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It is becoming increasingly difficult to determine the legal parentage of newborns and infants. Although it may be clear who bore a child, whose sperm was involved in conception, to whom a new mother was married at the time of conception, pregnancy, and birth, and which medical personnel helped to facilitate a pregnancy, it is unclear how these facts should affect the determination of a child's legal parentage. Recently, a great deal of national debate has centered around the parenting consequences of births involving surrogates and same-sex marriages. This Essay addresses a topic less frequently discussed-the legal designation of male parentage as of the time of birth. Although much attention recently has been focused on the termination of male parental rights and designations of new male parents at some time after birth, the laws on designating male parents at birth have remained stable and largely removed from public debate. This Essay, which examines laws concerning the designation of male parentage, is warranted not only because of the burgeoning new methods by which pregnancy and birth are accomplished, but also because of new technologies that permit more accurate assessments of biological paternity. Public policy supports the view that a child's male parentage as of the time of birth should be designated early in life. This policy should apply even to children born to women who are not married to the biological father at the time of conception or birth. Thus, mothers, husbands, and biological fathers, as well as children, have significant interests in the early designation of male parentage.