Jack Ohman editorial cartoons and blog

In the California Legislature, a seminal moment in parenting...

Published: Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 - 5:40 pm

Growing up in the 1960s, we had very simple families. If you were a kid, you had your mom and dad and that was it. Your parents were married. You weren't the product of a couple just living together, and if any sperm was involved, it was your father's or the milkman's. To my knowledge, none of my friend's parents were divorced. In fact, divorce was really a stigma (see also: Divorcee', Swinging). Liz and Dick got divorced; people in Minnesota sullenly stared at each other over rapidly cooling cups of coffee and almost-done cigarettes (now, of course, a husband has a video game to slip into). If you didn't like your wife or husband, take a number and a martini. Everyone just gutted it out, mostly. I'm not saying it was better, it was just the generally accepted cultural norm.

Note how I got through an entire paragraph about this without invoking Ozzie and Harriet.

In the California Legislature, a bill defining a sperm donor's parental rights passed the Senate and stalled in the Assembly. Being California, a Celebrity Testifier was involved. In Oregon, we didn't have Celebrity Testifiers, unless you count a guy in a Smokey Bear costume showing up at the Oregon House Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Remember, only you can prevent celebrities.

The celebrity in question, Jason Patric, star of "The Lost Boys" (first and perhaps last major joke in this column I will walk away from), is trying to assert his parenting rights for his young son, a product of his sperm and his then-partner, and I do not blame him a bit. He and his partner tried to have a baby, they did, and now she won't let him see it. OK. I side with him here.

On KQED this morning, I believe I heard the phrase "Sperm Donor Bill of Rights," which may have been a result of having just taken my blood pressure med, which makes me feel a bit...light-headed. I kept thinking, is this where we are? We're discussing a Sperm Donor Bill of Rights?

That used to be called being sued for paternity.

So, what would a Sperm Donor Bill of Rights look like? How can you define fatherhood, legally? Would it be:

1st Amendment: Right to yell at teenager about missing car keys, again.

2nd Amendment: Right to keep and bear revoked privileges, such as giving them a debit card instead of a credit card.

3rd Amendment: Quartering of dirty children who will not just, for God's sake, one time pick up a towel, and would it kill you to not drink milk directly from the carton? Huh?

4th Amendment: Allows legal search and seizure of premises of room that may harbor vermin because you hid your dirty plate of spaghetti under the bed and threw 134 used popsicle sticks behind the headboard.

5th Amendment: Allows fathers to deny self-incrimination when discussing what they may (or may not) have done in 1977 that was precisely what the teenager was presently doing.

And so on. I can't remember the rest because:

A). My daughter is texting me for money.

B). My youngest son is texting me for money.

C). My eldest son is texting me on an unrelated, non-irritating subject.

I'm not sure how all this is going to play out, but I know that Ozzie and Harriet (damn it, sorry) would probably say something like, "you put the word 'sperm' in my family newspaper."

Hey, Jason Patric, good luck. You'll need it. 

That sperm learns to text for money really fast.

Read more articles by Jack Ohman



Editorial Cartoonist Jack Ohman

Jack Ohman Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award, the national SPJ Award, the National Headliner Award, the Overseas Press Club Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. He has written and illustrated 10 books, many of them about fly fishing. Jack has three grown children.

Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com.

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