We all remember the case a few years back in which a woman used a man’s semen to impregnate herself without his knowledge or consent. The two always used a condom when they had sex, leading him to believe he was taking appropriate precautions against pregnancy. But she used the semen anyway, got pregnant and had a child. The man went to court to contest his child support obligation only to be told that his consent was irrelevant. He was on the hook for a child he never wanted, whom the woman knew he never wanted and who was conceived by fraud.
So Texas, among other states, passed a law saying that a man’s consent was required before an in vitro fertilization clinic could use his semen to fertilize a woman’s egg.
The act says that consent must be given by an unmarried man for his sperm to be used for reproduction, and consent “must be in record signed by the man and the unmarried woman and kept by a licensed physician.”In other words, the state legislature wasn’t kidding when it required consent. It has to be written consent.
But one woman at least just didn’t get the message. Oh, it’s not that she didn’t know the law; she seems to have known it all too well.
It seems that Joseph Pressil moved from New York to Houston to be with his girlfriend, who, amazingly enough, is not named in this article (ABC News, 11/24/11). They met in May of 2006 and broke up in November of the same year. Three months later, she told him she was pregnant.
Now, they’d always used condoms during sex, so I guess Pressil figured one hadn’t done its job, as condoms are known to do. Still, he had genetic testing done, just to be sure, and that proved he was the father of the twins his girlfriend bore. He got a shared parenting order and began paying child support.
Then he got a receipt in the mail from a cryogenic company for semen preservation. He did a little research and learned that in fact, his frozen semen had been used by his girlfriend to conceive the twins, all without his consent and in violation of Texas law. And once he thought about it, a few things started falling into place.
“At the time she was giving me these condoms, and she said because of her fibroids these condoms were not lubricated, and would not affect the fibroid enlargement,” he explained. “Every time she would give me these condoms after the sex she would leave the room. She’d come back, give me something to drink. We always had sex in the morning and she’d say she had to go do something. She would leave about 10 or 15 minutes afterward.”So her malicious deceit is obvious. What’s also clear is that she knew more about the law than most people.
Pressil has sued the clinic and apparently his ex. The clinic claims it has a consent form signed by Pressil, but he says the signature’s a forgery. Hmm. I wonder who might have forged his name. The clinic also claims its bills were paid with his credit card. Hmm. I wonder who might have used his credit card if not him.
For her part, Pressil’s ex doesn’t seem to think she did anything amiss.
Pressil confronted his ex, who according to him said, “Oh you’re not stupid. I thought you knew.”Let’s see. The couple never discussed either IVF or having children at all. Indeed, they were together for all of six months, so it doesn’t look like either of them thought it was a lifetime relationship. More to the point, reread Pressil’s description of her deceit and tell me she thought he understood what she was doing. Nonsense. If you want a child, you tell the other person; you don’t sneak off to the cryo-lab minutes after sex, forge your boyfriend’s signature on a consent form and maybe on his credit card charges.
Pressil’s also going for custody of the children and it’ll be interesting to see how that comes out. After all, here’s a mother whose idea of morality has been well-described. You’d think that (possibly criminal) behavior like hers would militate against her as a parent in the eyes of a family court.
But as we all know, family courts have overlooked far worse than what Pressil’s ex apparently did, so we’ll see what happens. State law seems to be less settled in the area of paternity fraud than in most. The concept that mothers ought to bear some sort of consequences for paternity fraud is one that state courts and legislatures haven’t yet come to grips with.
Whatever the outcome for Pressil, it’ll be yet another indicator of how much or how little progress fathers are making in their bid for justice in family court.