Annals of Health Law
THE CURIOUS CASE OF TRENT ARSENAULT
rests entirely upon the recipient and that any contact or communications
between Arsenault and such children are also at the sole discretion of the
recipient. Although agreements between biological parents cannot trump
the legal rights of an actual child (and Arsenault posts links directing
readers to the relevant California Family Code provisions, 111 which do not
protect him from liability), the agreement’s terms clearly establish that
Arsenault sees his role as that of a gamete donor, not a parent. 112 However,
Arsenault’s commitment to provide information about his life and health, as
well as his openness to establishing contact with children on the recipient’s
terms, differentiate him from many other donors accessible through semen
Other unusual circumstances also distinguish these donations from the
assistance conventionally offered by banks or fertility clinics. First, no
money changes hands. Arsenault is not compensated for his donations in
any way, nor is he reimbursed for any of the many costs associated with the
donations, such as his regular medical tests, purchases of sterile packaging,
or even travel to the drop-off location. Second, no medical intermediary is
involved. Fresh semen can be used for artificial insemination
intracervically by the recipient or her partner with no more than a syringe,
allowing for conception to take place privately and without the presence of
a medical professional. Third, Arsenault offers only his own semen.
Fourth, the contact between donor and recipient is direct. If a woman
seeking donated semen discovers Arsenault’s website, she can review the
full slate of information and then contact him directly. Only after an in-person meeting, a contract signed by both parties, and a meeting of the
minds can a recipient receive Arsenault’s semen. Compared with the
common practice of requesting a physician’s approval, selecting an
anonymous donor from a brief catalog description, and receiving a drop-shipped sample of frozen sperm via Federal Express, donations from Trent
Arsenault are significantly more private and personal.
111. Trent Arsenault, California Family Law, http://trentdonor.org/law (last visited June
13, 2012); CAL. FAM. CODE § 7613 (2012).
112. Under California law, legal parentage is determined by examining the intent of the
parties; “the legal parents are those who intended to bring about the birth of the child.”
Emily Zapotocny, My Two Moms: California’s Supreme Court Decision in K.M. v. E.G. and
Why Gay Marriage Offers the Best Protection for Same-Sex Families, 21 WIS. WOMEN L.J.
111, 117-18 (2006) (discussing the California Supreme Court’s ruling in Johnson v. Calvert,
in which a gestational surrogate was ruled not to be the legal mother of a child produced
using the egg and sperm of a married couple, where the egg-donor wife intended to create
the child, and a California appellate court’s ruling in Buzzanca v. Buzzanca, which held that
a then-married couple’s intent to create a child using third-party gametes of both types
trumped the divorcing husband’s lack of genetic connection to the resulting offspring.
Calvert has since been superseded by statute, as stated in Chatterjee v. King, 2012 NMSC
19, 21 (NMSC 2012)).