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A friend sent me this news blurb. I do not go looking for trouble. But when it shows up in my inbox, I’m not going to hide. I’m going to march my ten paces and prepare for battle.

According to WMC Action News, Senator Joey Hensley and his Tennessee representative counterpart, Terry Lynn Weaver, are proposing a bill that will repeal the legitimization of children born through artificial insemination. 

The current ruling, TCA 68-3-306 “provides for the child to be considered the legitimate child of a husband and wife if the child is born through artificial insemination and with the consent of the husband.” So children born through methods like in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination are considered legitimate children of consenting married adults.

This new bill, HB 1406 (https://openstates.org/tn/bills/110/HB1406/) and its Senate equivalent, SB 1153, would repeal such legitimacy and “label the child as illegitimate despite the couple being married and both consenting.”

I’ve marched my ten paces. Now let’s face the facts. I have three children. Three children conceived in love between my husband and myself. My oldest is almost five and has special needs. His name is Charlie and he will blow you kisses if you so much as look in his direction. My twins, Cora and Jonas, are two and wild and lovely and often smell like dirt and Nilla wafers. It took two years’ hard labor before getting pregnant. The labor was both ours and our fertility clinic. Because yes, these three children are IVF babies. They are our genetic offspring, sprung, however, from the embryologists and reproductive endocrinologists in a lab, rather than our conjugal bed. Cora has my blue eyes and left-handedness. Charlie and Jonas have my husband’s nose and attention span.

To Senator Hensley, I would like to pose a few questions. How could these three people not be legitimate? We were married and by governmental nomenclature, these babies are lawful. Is the location of conception the determining factor? If so, where, if you don’t mind me asking did you conceive your children? Too personal? So is this. Why now? Why this? What is the angle here? Artificial insemination was once feared for its tampering with the natural system, but the process has been refined and rules and regulations have been put in place. Why disrupt a system that has given hope and helped to create families for those who would not otherwise have that option?

Legitimacy does not play as pivotal role as it once did in our society or societies of yore. Children may take whatever name they like. Inheritance does not depend on verifying the legitimacy of heirs as it once did. We are no longer playing the “Game of Thrones.” We are, however, playing with matters of the mind and the social perception of artificial insemination. If this bill passes into law, my children will forever be set apart. They will be categorized in a new box separate from their peers. As a couple fighting infertility amid a sea of fertile friends, my husband and I already know that feeling. We do not want that for our children. We want what every parent wants. We want them to be happy, healthy and loved. We want them to find and know their place in the world. We do not want Senator Hensley and HB 1406 to tell them what that is.

Right now this proposed bill is just a blip on the screen. It is a blurb in the news and a thing to be scrolled past in favor of bigger ticket items. But it’s the blips that become battering rams within the governmental system. They seem innocuous enough until you see the force of what’s behind them. The world is changing at a whiplash pace, but in this one way, I cannot sit idly by. I will fight for my children and for their place in this world, because I am a wife and a mother and that is what we do. If knowledge is power, let us not let this agenda pass us by unacknowledged and unfought.

Jamie Sumner

Jamie Sumner is the author of the middle-grade novel, Roll with It. Her second and third middle-grade novels with Atheneum Books for Young Readers will be coming out in 2020 and 2021. She is also the author of the nonfiction book on motherhood, Unboundand the forthcoming bookEat, Sleep, Save the Worldfor parents of children with special needs. She is also mom to a son with cerebral palsy and she writes and speaks about disability in literature. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Connect with her at Jamie-Sumner.com   

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