The High Court of Australia has upheld the claim of a 'sperm donor' that he is the legal parent of the child born by artificial insemination.
Masson had donated his sperm to his 'close friend' for the purpose of artificial insemination. A child was born as a result and his case before the court was that he believed that he was fathering the child and that he would, as the child's parent, support and care for her. His name was entered on the child's birth certificate as her father and he played his role in financial support, health, education and general welfare of the child. He filed case against the mother of the child before the Family Court seeking to restrain her from relocating herself and the child to New Zealand.
The High court rejected the submission that the term "parent" excludes a "sperm donor" and observed that the Section 60H of the Family Law Act is not exhaustive of the persons who may qualify as a parent of a child born as a result of an artificial conception procedure. It added:
"The ordinary, accepted English meaning of the word "parent" is a question of fact and degree to be determined according to the ordinary, contemporary understanding of the word "parent" and the relevant facts and circumstances of the case at hand. To characterise the biological father of a child as a "sperm donor" suggests that the man in question has relevantly done no more than provide his semen to facilitate an artificial conception procedure on the basis of an express or implied understanding that he is thereafter to have nothing to do with any child born as a result of the procedure. Those are not the facts of this case. "
The court said that, in this case, the man provided his semen to facilitate the artificial conception of his daughter on the express or implied understanding that he would be the child's parent; that he would be registered on her birth certificate as her parent, and that he would, as her parent, support and care for her, as since her birth. Accordingly, to characterize the appellant as a "sperm donor" is in effect to ignore all but one of the facts and circumstances which, in this case, have been held to be determinative, it said.
The court, however, did not decide the general question whether a man who relevantly does no more than provide his semen to facilitate an artificial conception procedure that results in the birth of a child falls within the ordinary accepted meaning of the word "parent".