Was Unplanned Pregnancy Tantamount to “Theft of DNA”?
An interesting recent case considered a novel legal argument by a 23-year-old man who unexpectedly found himself the father of a child he didn’t plan to have, after a brief relationship with a 38-year-old woman he met a music festival.
The father, an apprentice iron worker, was in an intimate relationship with the mother for several months. After learning from the mother that she was pregnant, he decided that he did not want to be involved and they ended their relationship before the child was born. The mother had sole custody, and the father essentially had chosen to have no contact with the child whatsoever.
Nonetheless, the mother brought an action against the father for child support. He resisted, claiming that under the “strict terms of their sexual engagement,” he made had it clear to the mother that he did not want to become a parent. Although they did not use condoms or other physical birth control, they engaged in the “withdrawal method” to prevent conception. He also claims the mother told him she was “medically infertile.”
Essentially the father asked the court to recognize a new civil claim in tort, one that featured a “hostile sexual act” of the theft of the DNA contained in his ejaculate. The court described the father’s stated position this way:
The father argues that he is not legally obligated to pay child support because the mother engaged in a “premeditated theft of the father’s DNA” during “a hostile sexual act of DNA theft” leading to the birth of the child. According to the father, he was a victim of the theft of his DNA by the mother “to satisfy the [mother’s] motive to bear a child prior to the [mother’s] biological reproductive expiration.”
The mother brought motion for summary judgment, asking for an immediate court order requiring the father to pay child support, and dismissing the father’s claim outright, on the basis that there was no genuine issue requiring a trial.
The court granted the mother’s motion, and ordered the father to pay. There was simply no legal basis for the father’s attempt to create a new defence against the mother’s child support claim. Not only did the court not recognize the tort of a “hostile sexual act of DNA theft”, but even if it existed it did not relieve him of his legislated obligation under the Ontario Family Law Act to pay child support. There was no dispute as to the child’s paternity.
The man and woman had engaged in consensual sex, and had not used birth control (except for the unreliable “withdrawal method”, which the court found was actually evidence that the father did not rely on the mother’s own birth control methods, or on her self-proclaimed infertility). In short, with their decision to have unsafe sex came with inherent risk of unwanted pregnancy, and with it came child support obligations in law.
In assessing the amount of support the father had to pay, the court noted that the father’s income suddenly dropped significantly when the mother started her court application for child support. He was currently unemployed, was not looking for work, and had provided the court with no persuasive medical or other evidence on why he was not working despite being capable. Under Ontario law, he had an obligation to earn at whatever level he capable of doing so. Based on the undisputed evidence, the father would be able to earn $35, 000 per year, and his support obligation and arrears were calculated accordingly.
For the full text of the decision, see: