Precinct 333

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Theft Of Sperm?

We always hear the tired old -- and misleading -- cliche about "a woman's right to choose" when dealing with anti-life advocates of abortion. The right of a man to choose is not given any consideration under the law, even if the woman has deceived him, placing him completely at the mercy of someone else's choice. Well, this case might be useful in establishing some rights for a man, though the circumstances are pretty outrageous.

A south suburban doctor accused of secretly stealing her illicit lover's sperm to inseminate herself can be held liable for inflicting emotional damage on the unwitting father of her child, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The ruling from a three-judge panel of the Illinois Appellate Court reinstated part of a lawsuit brought by Chicago physician Richard Phillips against fellow doctor Sharon Irons of Olympia Fields. The lawsuit accused Irons of perpetrating a "calculated, profound personal betrayal" of Phillips after a brief tryst they had six years ago.

When Irons and Phillips started dating in early 1999, Irons claimed she was recently divorced, according to court papers. The pair quickly got engaged and even talked about having children — but both agreed they would marry first.

The pair allegedly never had sexual intercourse during the four-month affair, but did engage in oral sex three times. The lawsuit claimed that after one of those encounters, Irons kept some of Phillips' semen without his knowledge and later used it to impregnate herself.

Soon afterward, the relationship ended when Phillips found out that Irons was still married to her husband, who is also a doctor, according to the appellate ruling. But nearly two years later, Phillips was slapped with a paternity lawsuit, alleging he was responsible for the child Irons delivered after their "sexual relationship" nine months earlier. Court records show DNA tests have since proved Phillips is indeed the father.

Well, it seems very clear that the woman in question is a lying, conniving witch. She deceived him about her availability, and then she acted in a manner designed to circumvent his clear intent of not impregnating her by avoiding sexual intercourse. Her actions are patently abusive, and we wn't even get into the breach of ethics involved.

The judges did toss out a pretty interesting argument that Irons "stole" the sperm she used to impregnate herself. I love the way this is put in the decision.

They also rejected an attempt to sue Irons for stealing the sperm, concluding that her lawyers correctly noted in court filings that Phillips had never asked for it back.

"She asserts that when plaintiff 'delivered' his sperm, it was a gift — an absolute and irrevocable transfer of title to property from a donor to a donee," the decision stated. "There was no agreement that the original deposit would be returned upon request."

Wouldn't you have loved to be in chambers as the judge -- or some poor law clerk -- was trying to come up with a formulation that had even an ounce of dignity to it? I can only imagine the jokes that went with that drafting process.

But this case also brings up interesting questions, ones that I believe merit some consideration. What parental responsibilities does Phillips have in this case, and what parental rights? If Phillips is indeed a victim here, does he have any obligation to support the child? If he does, has his "right to choose" been violated by what the opinion refers to as "outrageous" conduct on the Irons' part? Does he have standing to seek and gain custody based upon maternal unfitness, given the nature of her actions (which I would argue is akin to rape)? Or does Irons' "right to choose" allow her to saddle an unwilling father with all the responsibilities he actively sought to avoid, despite her having been judicially determined to have "deceitfully engaged in sexual acts, which no reasonable person would expect could result in pregnancy, to use plaintiff's sperm in an unorthodox, unanticipated manner yielding extreme consequences."

UPDATE: I found an additional article on the case. It appears that the courts in Illinois saddled Phillips with $800 a month in child support. That is outrageous and disgusting. Apparently there is no action by a woman that is so outrageous as to prevent her from imposing the legal burdens of fatherhood upon him.


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