Bill 28 will soon make it legal for men to completely absolve themselves from their parental role prior to impregnating a woman by signing a pre-sex waiver. The Ontario government is currently amending Bill 28, the All Families are Equal Act, to make this act legal.
According to the Toronto Sun, the bill states that “the biological father of a child conceived without the use of assisted reproduction is, and shall be recognized in law to be, a parent of the child,” with the caveat that “this section is deemed not to apply to a person who provides his own sperm for use in conceiving a child without the use of assisted reproduction if, before the child is conceived, the person and the intended birth parent agree in writing that the person providing the sperm does not intend to be a parent of any child conceived as a result.”
In other words, the father of the child who is conceived without the use of assisted reproduction will not legally be the father if he and the intended birth parent agree in written communication that he does not intend to be the parent of the child prior to conception.
According to Dr. Denise Whitehead, assistant professor in Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies at St. Jerome’s University, “It doesn’t mean that all men can absolve themselves of parenting, and I think that that is the most important point to take out of this. What this legislation is proposing is that where some individuals, most likely the case being two lesbian women who want to have a child, and want a man to directly deliver his sperm to them, as opposed to going through a clinic. In those circumstances, there can be a very formal agreement, preconception, so this is all very well thought through, that they the couple are going to be the parents of that child. He is solely there to provide his biological material.”
This bill is of benefit to the individuals or couples who are unable to naturally have a child, and wish to go through a more direct and natural way of conception as opposed to an indirect method such as artificial insemination.
This process is not a new one. According to Whitehead, signing a pre-consent waiver is no different from adopting a child, going to a clinic, or having a sperm donor. In those cases, the sperm donor or biological parents of the child have no legal rights or obligations to that child.
Some concern this legislation could potentially raise is the idea of a “nuclear family” — one mother, one father, and biological children — changing.
“We know when we look at Statistics Canada data around family formation, families don’t look like that any more … We aren’t doing two parents and two biological children anymore. We already have about a 40 per cent divorce rate in Canada … we already have a lot of single women raising children; we have a lot of parents doing co-parenting, but in different households. We are not at risk of society devolving into some type of chaos because we have the opportunity for people to become parents without having to have a partner,” Whitehead said.
Children produced as a result of this bill will be raised without knowing their biological father and could be raised in a single parent home.
“These are decisions being made by adults for children without the children having a voice in terms of how it affects them,” Whitehead said.
The legislation does not address the potential concerns raised by offspring such as them inquiring about their biological parents.
“That is something that I think is not part of this legislation that I think we should be thoughtful about,” said Whitehead.
According to Whitehead, children need a minimum of one really good, thoughtful, responsive, caring parent. It’s about the quality of parenting, and not necessarily the quantity of parents. She said the legislation is really directed at couples and individuals who are seriously considering a child, but cannot do so naturally, rather than absolving fathers of responsibility.
“I think this really just speaks to the people who are making very conscious choices about family formation. That, I think, is the really important piece to take out of this,” Whithead said.