Lawmakers, advocates renew push for updates to RI parentage laws


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Lawmakers are renewing a push for legislation that would allow same-sex parents using assisted reproductive technology to have legal rights to their children as soon as they’re born.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, would repeal current state law on paternity and replace it with “Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act,” which would detail legal procedures for establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

Sara Watson and Anna Ford have been advocating for the legislation for three years, beginning when their son Eli was born.

More: RI woman had to adopt her own biological son; bill to change that failed »

The couple said a medical procedure allowed them to use Watson’s eggs, while Ford carried the baby to term.

But as an unmarried, same-sex couple, the hospital told them they couldn’t legally put Watson’s name on their son’s birth certificate.

“One would never tell a man, whose son was born through donor sperm, that he’s not the parent of his kid,” Watson explained.

After a months-long process, Watson was eventually able to adopt her son. Now they’re hoping updating current law will prevent this from happening to other couples taking the same route to parenthood.

“A secure parent-child legal relationship is core to a child’s security and well being,” Kate Weldon Leblanc of RESOLVE New England said.

The proposed legislation has already been approved by the Senate, and on Wednesday evening, it will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee.

Lawmakers backing the bill say that both Vermont and Maine have updated similar laws and Rhode Island has fallen behind, adding that it’s as simple as matching the current legislation with what’s now medically possible.

“Our parentage laws are over 40 years old, they were enacted long before marriage equality, they were enacted long before assisted reproduction was so prevalent,” Sen. Erin Lynch Prata said.

This is not the first time the bill has been considered. In the past, a family court judge raised concerns regarding the language in the bill, saying that it needed to be clarified.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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