A thin pasty-faced tattooed teen-aged girl knocked on Ed Green’s Salt Lake City, Utah, condo door one day a couple of springs ago. She looked strung-out and exhausted and burst into tears the moment she opened her mouth and sputtered, “You’re my father.” Much to Ed’s surprise, the image of a girl he’d had a somewhat casual relationship with in college came back to him. Her eyes the same steel blue as the tattooed girl’s. Immediately he wondered, why had the girl he’d slept with in college never told him she was pregnant and that she’d given birth to their daughter? Over the next few hours he learned the tragic story of his daughter and the tumultuous life she’d lead since her birth. After giving birth, her mother realized she didn’t really want to have a baby and half-heatedly mothered her until she put her up for adoption as a toddler. Her adoption family broke up and she was thrust into bouts of poverty and depression and early experimentation with hard drugs and left with an overwhelmingly constant feeling of abandonment and rejection.
A bit shocked but full of paternal love and desire to be the father Tiffany wanted and deserved, Ed welcomed Tiffany into his world with open arms. She moved into Ed’s condo and almost immediately bonded with Ed’s mother and 12 year-old daughter. By the following fall she was enrolled in her first semester at community college and thriving. While on the one hand Ed was thrilled and grateful he could fill a void and have some positive influence on Tiffany’s life, he was also angry and hurt that Tiffany’s mother could have given birth to his baby and put her up for adoption without legally having to notify him. It took him awhile to let go of the idea that if only he’d known about Tiffany from the beginning, her childhood would have been less traumatic.
However, even if Ed had known that Tiffany’s mother was pregnant and wanted to put Tiffany up for adoption, Ed would have had to jump through impossible hoops to assert any rights to decisions regarding his daughter. In fact, Utah has become to go-to state for pregnant women who want to exclude biological fathers from the decision making process.
In the state of Utah a birth mother may consent to an adoption or relinquish an infant after giving birth. She does not need the consent of the unmarried father unless he has done the following: filed a petition to establish paternity in a Utah court with an affidavit stating he is “willing and able” to have full custody and will pay child support, pregnancy-related and childbirth expenses (it also must detail a plan for the child’s care); filed a “notice of commencement of paternity proceeding” with the Office of Vital Statistics; and has offered to pay for a reasonable share of the mother’s pregnancy-related and childbirth expenses, unless he is able to show he did not know about the pregnancy, or was prevented from paying the expenses, or the mother refused his offer to pay.
Under Utah’s law Ed would not even be entitled to notice of the mother’s proceedings unless he complies with the above as an unmarried biological father. By virtue of the fact that he is engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman, a man is considered on notice that a pregnancy and adoption proceeding regarding the child may occur. Utah imposes upon the father a duty to protect his own rights and interests.
This is archaic and sexist and heartless and downright ridiculous. Just because a man doesn’t have a uterus doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about what happens to his biological offspring. Just ask Ed Green who, two years after reuniting with his long-lost daughter, Tiffany, still shakes and shudders when he thinks about all the years Tiffany lived feeling abandoned, without knowing her father was more than willing to love and nurture her.