An Australian eight-year-old named Abbey is desperate to see her gay uncles, Gregory and his partner, Michael, legally married. She’s taking her cause all the way to the prime minister.
According to her uncle’s blog, every day for a week Abbey has written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott asking him to change the law and make same-sex marriage legal.
As Abbey mentions in one of the letters, Storer and Barnett are on a reality-TV show called Living With the Enemy in which they share a house with a virulently homophobic Anglican minister.
Whether the little girl’s letters are a publicity ploy for a strange reality show, a genius strategy in the quest for same-sex marriage rights in Australia, or the genuine outpouring of love for an uncle (or all of the above), it’s got to be hard to say no to this drawing of Abbey with uncles Gregory and Michael.
All parents know that having a baby can put a strain on the strongest of marriages. But now, new research suggests struggling to have a baby can make divorce or separation even more likely.
Danish researchers found couples who have a rocky patch because of failed IVF treatment are three times more likely to end up separating than those who do become parents.
The researchers, who published their findings in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, found that within 12 years of failed fertility treatment, 27 per cent of women are no longer living with their partner.
They studied 47,000 women with an average age of 32 from the Danish National Patient Registry and the Danish In Vitro Fertilization Registry, Medical Daily reports. The women studied all sought medical help for infertility between 1990 and 2006.
Seven years later, 43 per cent remained childless and they were three times more likely to have separated from their partners than those who had children.
‘This research is important because although earlier research has shown that fertility problems and its treatments are major stressors…especially if the treatments are unsuccessful, we did not know how many of these couples actually decide to split up if they did not get a child,’ lead researcher Trille Kristina Kjaer told Medical Daily.
She added: ‘Now that we know that there is a higher probability of divorce if you do not get a child after a fertility evaluation the individual couples, and also the medical staff that work with these women, can initiate proper interventions earlier and hopefully prevent some of the break ups.’
IVF patients have claimed the treatment is as stressful as any other major life event, such as divorce or the death of a family member. For people having the treatment privately, there can be significant financial stresses involved which can put a strain on relationships.
The treatment can also cause significant disruption to family, work and social activities which can also cause marriages to become strained. While IVF is very stressful, there is no guarantee it will be successful.
For women under the age of 35, there is a 32 per cent chance of each cycle of IVF resulting in a live birth. For women who are 40, there is a 13 per cent chance of the IVF being successful.
Article: 31st January 2013
Drinking during pregnancy causes more harm to the unborn child than tobacco smoke or cannabis, according to senior doctors.
They want Government guidelines to be changed to tell women to avoid alcohol altogether rather than once or twice a week.
Paediatricians – who specialise in the care of children – say as many as 1 per cent of babies born in England suffer behavioural or developmental problems due to alcohol exposure. There are 730,000 births in this country a year meaning as many as 7,000 could be affected. One consultant said that if women must have one bad habit while pregnant, it would be safer to smoke tobacco or cannabis than drink alcohol.
Dr Neil Aiton, a paediatrician at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘If it is a choice between a drink, a smoke or a spliff then ‘don’t drink’, would be my recommendation.
‘We have firm evidence that drinking alcohol regularly is damaging. ‘Cigarettes cause babies to be born a bit on the smaller side. ‘There is other evidence but it is minor compared to the long-term neurological and psychological damage that alcohol causes to the nervous system.’
Doctors are calling for government advice to be changed to state that women should not drink alcohol at all either while pregnant or trying to conceive. The current guidelines state that women should avoid it – but if they do choose to drink to limit it to one or two units a week.
But there are concerns this is misinterpreted by women who assume they can safely have one or two glasses of wine once or twice a week. A large 250ml glass of wine contains about three units of alcohol and doctors say that women are unwittingly putting their foetuses at risk.
Baroness Sheila Hollins, head of the British Medical Association Board of Science, said: ‘That is quite difficult advice to follow. People don’t know what a unit is.
‘The BMA’s advice would be that the elimination of drinking during pregnancy is safest because of the uncertainties of drinking at low to moderate levels.’ The chief medical officer for England Professor Dame Sallie Davies is currently reviewing the guidelines and may change them later this year.
Dr Raja Mukherjee runs for a clinic children and adults with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), a range of symptoms caused by alcohol damage in the womb, which is part of the NHS She says that although many children are diagnosed as having foetal alcohol syndrome – which has clear physical characteristics – foetal alcohol spectrum disorders are rarely picked up.
Her clinic estimates that between 1 per and 3 per of the population is affected by FASDs but many grow up unaware of the cause of their condition.
Article: 26th January 2013 www.dailymail.co.uk
As surprising as it seems, about half of women of reproductive age have not talked to their health care provider about their reproductive health, according to a new study. As a result, the researchers, from the Yale School of Medicine, found that women between ages 18 and 40 weren’t aware of some the important factors that influence fertility and their ability to get pregnant, as well as about basic prenatal practices once they were expecting.
Among the most notable findings, which were published in the journal, Fertility & Sterility :
•30% of the women reported that they only visited a reproductive health provider less than once a year or not at all.
•50% of the women did not know that taking multivitamins and folic acid are recommended to avoid birth defects.
•A little over 25% of women did not know that things like STDs, smoking and obesity impact fertility.
•20% did not know that aging can impact fertility and increase rates of miscarriage
•50% of the women thought that having sex multiple times in a day increased their likelihood of getting pregnant
•Over 33% of women thought that different sex positions can increase their odds of getting pregnant
•10% did not know that they should have sex before ovulation to increase the chances of getting pregnant instead of after ovulation
The significant gaps in the women’s knowledge about their fertility may also explain why 40% reported that they had concerns and questions about their ability to get pregnant. The researchers believe that as women put off starting families — the latest CDC report showed women between 25 to 29 years old have the highest pregnancy rates, compared to women aged 20 to 24 in earlier years — doctors, particularly reproductive health specialists, should have more opportunity for improving women’s education about fertility and pregnancy so they know what to expect when they are finally ready to have a child.
Article: 27th January 2013 www.healthland.time.com
A federal judge’s decision to overturn Utah’s same-sex marriage ban allowed Matthew Barraza and Tony Milner to do more than just get married. It opened the door for Milner to become legally recognized as the parent of their 4-year-old son.
The couple moved quickly to get adoption paperwork started so that Jesse, their blue-eyed, cowboy-boot-wearing little boy, could have both of his parents recognized, not just Barraza. But those plans were frozen after the U.S. Supreme Court brought gay marriages to a halt and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert instructed state agencies to stop granting gay and lesbian couples new benefits.
Now, Barraza and Milner are among hundreds of newly married gay and lesbian couples in Utah stuck in legal limbo. The couple is one of four in a new lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union suing Utah over its decision not to recognize the gay marriages, which the ACLU claims has created wrenching uncertainty.
The state’s decision prevents the couples from getting key protections for themselves and their children, the lawsuit says.
“Heaven forbid, if something should happen to one us, Jesse would have the security of having the other parent take care of him,” said Milner, 34. “Now, because of the state’s refusal to recognize our marriage, this peace of mind is once again out of reach.”
The other couples in the lawsuit cited a range of concerns that include emergency medical decision-making and health insurance.
Marty Carpenter, the Utah governor’s spokesman, responded by saying that Herbert “has said throughout this process that his responsibility is to follow the law. That is exactly what the administration is doing, and we respect the rights of those who disagree to take their grievances before a judge.”
More than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples rushed to marry after a federal judge in Utah overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban on Dec. 20. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that the ban violates gay and lesbian couples’ constitutional rights. Those weddings came to a halt on Jan. 6 when the U.S. Supreme Court granted Utah an emergency stay, something two lower courts denied.
After the Supreme Court issued the stay, Herbert told state agencies to hold off on moving forward with any new benefits for the couples until the courts resolve the issue. Agencies were told not to revoke anything already issued, such as a driver’s license with a new name, but they are prohibited from approving any new marriages or benefits. More recently, the state tax commission announced that newly married gay and lesbian couples can jointly file their taxes for 2013.
The state made clear it was not ordering agencies to void the marriages, saying instead that validity of the marriages will ultimately be decided by the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is weighing an appeal from the state.
John Mejia, legal director for the ACLU in Utah, disagreed with that assessment, saying the marriages performed during the 17-day window when gay marriage was legal are valid no matter what the court rules. He said the couples have vested rights in their new unions and should be able to move forward with efforts to make partners legal guardians of children or add their spouses to their health insurance or pension plans.
It could take more than a year for the courts to rule on Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, especially if it moves to the U.S. Supreme Court, Mejia said.
“They’ve put a giant question mark over the lives of all these people that have married,” Mejia said. “We’re seeking a declaration that these valid marriages must be recognized.”
Utah has 20 days to file a court response to the suit, said Salt Lake City attorney Erik Strindberg, who is working with the ACLU on the lawsuit. The state could ask a Utah judge to put the case on hold until the federal appeals court rules, Strindberg said. But the ACLU would fight such a request, he said.
The ACLU believes the federal government has taken the correct stance on the new marriages. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came out days after Herbert’s decree and said the federal government will honor the gay marriages and grant benefits. That means that same-sex couples who were married in Utah can file federal taxes jointly, get Social Security benefits for spouses and request legal immigration status for partners, among other benefits.
There are currently 17 states that allow gay marriage, with Utah and Oklahoma in limbo pending decisions by appeals courts.
Article: 22nd January 2013 www.washingtonpost.com
Mikayla told the Tulane Hullabaloo that she first made contact with Emily last summer while searching for a possible roommate on Facebook. ‘There was an online survey, and we were both interested in Wall [Residential College],’ Mikayla said. ‘I was looking at the survey, and I was looking at Emily’s answers and I saw that we had a lot in common.’
By then, Emily had already secured a roommate but the two continued to talk and became fast friends when they met in person on the New Orleans, Louisiana campus this fall. Both quickly figured out that they were conceived by a donation from an anonymous donor. But neither thought much of it, even when they figured out that both of their donors were Colombian. Mikayla’s lesbian mothers Heidi and Debra Stern-Ellis used an anonymous sperm donor to have their daughter two decades ago.
When the girls went home for winter break, Mikayla told her moms about her new friend with whom she had so much in common. Mikayla’s mother Heidi remembers looking through the donor list two decades ago and while there were some 1,000 donors on the list, she doesn’t remember any others with Colombian ethnicity. After seeing pictures of Emily, and remarking on how much she looked like her own daughter, she told Mikayla to text the girl asking for the sperm donor’s number.
Emily sent the number and it was a match, completely taking the two girls by surprise since they had been joking to schoolmates that there was a ’25 per cent chance we’re sisters’. Following the life-changing realization, the interests the girls shared before make much more sense.
Both will perform in Tulane’s upcoming production of the Vagina Monologues which means they may be taking after their father who listed drama as one of his interests on his donor profile. They also share the same mind when it comes to fashion, both buying the same fleece sweater without the other one knowing on Black Friday. For Mikayla, finding her half-sister in a college friend is proof that she’s at the right school.
‘For me Tulane just felt right, and this is one of the many things that proves I made the right decision,’ Mikayla Stern-Ellis said. ‘We thought [going to Tulane] she’d just find an education, but she found a sister,’ mother Debra Stern-Ellis said.
The two have since changed their Facebook profile pictures to an image of them hugging. After posting the picture on her profile, Mikayla wrote: ‘An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, and circumstance.’
Article: 21st January 2013 www.dailymail.co.uk
Read more about known sperm and egg donation at www.prideangel.com
The High Court has suspended an emergency order authorising sperm to be collected from a man in a coma.
The man unexpectedly suffered a cardiac arrest late last year, which put him in a vegetative state from which he was unlikely to recover. An application was made by his partner to a High Court judge on an emergency basis by telephone on Christmas Eve. She sought permission to retrieve and store his sperm to allow her to conceive his child through fertility treatment in the UK or abroad. She says they planned a family together, and that this is what he would have wanted if he could consent.
The court initially ordered that she could harvest his sperm. However, the man’s condition has since improved and he is no longer in any immediate danger. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (which oversees fertility treatment in the UK, including the law on consent to the storage and use of sperm in fertility treatment) therefore applied this week for the order to be re-considered.
Mrs Justice Carr has now ruled that, as the man is no longer in immediate danger of dying, more time should be taken to consider things carefully, and the case should be heard over two days in February, addressing first and foremost what is in the man’s best interests. She said that if his condition worsens, his partner can apply for another emergency decision.
We will continue to watch the case with interest. It follows two previous decisons of the High Court (including the well known Diane Blood case) allowing widows who had already collected sperm from their husbands in similar circumstances to export that sperm abroad to allow treatment. However, this is the first case to rule on consent to sperm retrieval. Since these rules are separate from those concerning the use of stored sperm, this will be an important case.
There is more information about gamete storage and consent on our website.
Some of those fighting marriage equality these days, want you to believe that there is only a single possible right way to create a “real” family. The way they suggest is by means of unprotected, unplanned, procreative sex. Or, as Nan Hunter observes, “accidental procreation” which then warrants 1500 protections and benefits by means of a “bribe (for) heterosexuals “ to get married. Only the biologically created family deserves marriage, they argue, and all the rewards to stay together.
The notion is insulting and absurd, not only for same sex coupled families, but for opposite sex families as well. Real families come together in a variety of ways, the best of which is when all the members love each other and deeply desire a lifetime bond.
That is what happened in my family.
My partner and I had pursued various options to expanding our family beyond the two of us. We explored surrogacy, and we explored private adoption. All potential routes to family have pitfalls. As we were going through our evaluation process, I remember discussing the options with a total stranger at an airport. She saw me pouring through literature and shared stories of her numerous miscarriage heartbreaks on her way to having a family. “Whichever way you choose, just know it can be hard, but it will be OK and worth it,” she stated as we said goodbye.
My partner and I ultimately chose fostercare/adoption. Having come from recovery experiences ourselves, it was a great fit. We understood the situations of the birthparents without judgment, and we understood the real need of the children as well as the obstacles they might face. We committed, trained and waited for the call for a placement.
We got numerous calls for toddlers on temporary care. Those were great experiences. Then, we got a call about a newborn baby, born six weeks prematurely to a heroin addicted mother. He weighted 4 lbs, and had heroin exposure himself. He was to be ours for the foreseeable future.
I carried him on a sling on my chest for the next few months. We had to make sure he got a sufficient amount of nourishment in each feeding to avoid brain damage as we went through the process of supporting his birth parents through possible reunification. When those efforts failed, we went on to full adoption. We named the baby, now ours, Jason.
As Jason passed his one year birthday, we opened up our home for the potential of adding a sibling. We got a placement. She was a beautiful baby girl, and she looked just like Jason did when he was a newborn.
We had warm feelings to keep her, but were equally enthused that her birth mother was responding well to the recovery program. We supported that momentum and looked forward to a safe mother and daughter reunion.
Meanwhile, good friends of ours, another foster family, had a 10 month old little boy placed with them. He had been discovered abandoned in a trailer. My partner often did play dates with them, and the little boy in their care and our son Jason became very close and attached.
They seemed to speak a common language, playing well together. My partner called me at work one day, “You have to come see this little boy and how he and Jason are. I told the other family that if anything was a problem with their placement, to let us know and we would love to take him.” I was alright with this, but a little guarded as our plan had been to have a boy and a girl—not two boys. Plans change and life takes over.
When I got home that evening, the play date was still going on. I will never forget the moment that I first saw Jesse. He was crawling around the corner headed toward the dishwasher as I was headed the other way… and we locked eyes. It was one of the most profound moments of my life. Here I was with direct eye contact with this toddler and the look between us said it all… “Hi Dad, I am your son. Hi Jesse, I am going to be your Dad.”
A week later, it happened. The fostermom called and asked if we were serious about our offer. It turns out that her family had to move into very tight quarters temporarily and she was much better equipped to care for the baby we were nursing, than Jesse, the rough and tumble toddler . So, we called the authorities, and made the switch. Jason and Jesse, new best friends, were now on the way to potentially becoming brothers.
I was worried however, being the working Dad, that I might not get to bond with Jesse as I had with Jason. I did not get to carry him on me for months, and saw him in the mornings before I left for work, and in time for a kiss goodnight when I returned. He was exposed to my partner, other fostercare providers and others more than he was seeing me.
I wish I could say that road to brotherhood was trouble free. It was not. Jesse was still on a unification plan with a birth parent, and it looked like things in that regard might be successful, until one horrible weekend. Jesse came back from an overnight visit battered and bruised. We called the social worker immediately and the reunification attempts were closed.
I slept by his crib for the next two weeks, and although he was normally a through-the –night sleeper, he awoke nightly screaming and crying. Controlling my own anger and pain, I grabbed him and held him, as nightly the reaction grew less and less until he was again able to sleep through the night.
I don’t know if being there for him in that way was the factor, but our bonding was not an issue. As he has grown, we are lock step and almost able to read each other’s minds. As I look at my sons, I am filled with the awareness of a love for each that I could never fathom in my wildest imagination previously. The love I have for each is unique, each powerful in its own right, but its own “color” if you will. Jason is the son of my heart, Jesse is the son of my soul.
Today they act as twins. Since he is physically bigger, they have decided that Jesse is the “big brother”. Since he was born four months earlier, Jason has been dubbed, by mutual consent, as the “older brother”. We do not have a “little brother” in the family.
That is how two little best friends became brothers. It is how my gay family came together. We have a unique story, but we are not unique. All same-gendered parent families have a story. While my friend at the airport was right, “all ways can be hard”, all ways can also be miraculous, loving and intensely wonderful. How our families come together is being judged today, and in the next few months. It will be judged by the US Supreme Court. Our families are likely to be judged long after that as well, no matter what the results. And, no matter what the judgments on our value, I will always know the truth. I know how thoroughly REAL we are. I live it and I have seen it. I saw it as I looked into a little boy’s eyes for the first time in front of a dishwasher.
Article: 15th January 2014 www.goodmenproject.com
Another contraction. I crawled out of bed. When Sally found me, I was on the bathroom floor, doubled over as one nauseating contraction followed another. She phoned the birth centre, and after ten minutes, someone finally answered, by which time I was vomiting.
I had been dreading the ten-minute, knee-to-ear backseat Yaris journey to the hospital but, despite three contractions, sick-bucket to hand, out in the cool of the night-time air, I felt a sort of purposeful excitement. And then horribly self-conscious as I hobbled through the main-entrance of the hospital in my pyjama bottoms, Bagpuss wheatpack clenched to my abdomen, Tens machine wires trailing. Suddenly it was all an episode of ‘One-Born-Every-Minute’; the next clip would be the pregnant lesbian being ushered back out again past a crowd of onlookers, in disgrace over inadequate dilation. But the corridors were dimly-lit and deserted.
In the soft lights and quiet of the night, the birth-centre was even more spa-like than we had remembered. I located a coffee table over which to contract while the midwife went off to get a birthing ball. The mood was of excited relief – we’d been determined to avoid the labour ward and, while transfer due to complications was not out of the question, now my bath was running, surely they’d let me stay? Initially, I refused to be examined, for fear of being sent home again, but with a little persuasion from our midwife, I relented – eight centimetres dilated already; only two to go.
Lowering myself gingerly into the pool, I felt the relaxing effects of the water. I knelt, leaning on the side where Sally held my hands. And the contractions continued. I tried gas and air, which didn’t seem to have much effect, but it gave me something to focus on. Having brought with us enough food to feed a small village, Sally was munching on ‘Thai Bites’, the smell of which I will always associate with the later stages of labour. At some point, things reached a peak – transition – and sometime afterwards, I was pushing, kicking my legs back through the water with the exertion. The presence of our midwife was reassuring – he hovered, sometimes just watchful in the shadows of the room, sometimes offering encouragement, checking progress with a mirror in the water. I remember a point where I wanted to ask “how much longer?”, but didn’t.
And then after one of the pushes there was a release, and suddenly my insides were stilled; it was over. The midwife was passing me the slippery warmth of a baby and it was already incredible that it was this that had been inside me, this creature, this tiny girl, so real and wriggling and wholly new.
Article: by Lindsey, West Yorkshire 14th January 2013