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Alameda Resident Drives Introduction of Fertility Equality Legislation in Sacramento

Last Friday, California 14th Assembly District representative Nancy Skinner introduced assembly bill AB 2356 into the state legislature. The bill would ensure that single women and same-sex female couples using a known sperm donor would have the same access to fertility services as heterosexual women seeking to conceive using a male partner, and the idea for the bill originated with an Alameda man.

Leland Traiman, 59, a licensed family nurse practitioner and the principal of Rainbow Flag Health Services, an Alameda fertility practice focused on the LGBT community, initiated the legislation.

The proposed law would modify the California health and safety code, and strictly for artificial insemination purposes, clarifying the meaning in existing legislation of the term “sexually intimate partner.” Mr. Traiman told Action Alameda News, “This doesn’t change what already exists, what this does is clarify the situation.”

Under current law, a woman could try to conceive a child via artificial insemination using “fresh” sperm – sperm that has not been frozen, tested for disease and quarantined – from a male donor with whom she has been “sexually intimate.” The current language is interpreted by fertility doctors fearing liability to mean that heterosexual women having sexual intercourse with their male partner are candidates for fresh sperm insemination, but same-sex female couples, and single women, with a fresh sperm donor they haven’t had intercourse with, are not, meaning they have to seek out more expensive artificial conception procedures.

According to Traiman, who has been offering fertility services for 20 years, freezing and quarantining sperm significantly reduces the chances of successful artificial insemination; fresh sperm offers the best chance for conception.

Traiman says that some same-sex female couples and single woman often attempt to conceive using fresh sperm from a known, trusted, male donor, at home, or otherwise on their own, potentially exposing themselves to the health risks the current legislation tries to mitigate. Fertility clinics wash the sperm and separate it from ejaculatory fluid, thereby reducing the risks of sexually transmitted diseases passing from the fresh sperm donor to the recipient.

Women who have attempted at-home self-insemination with fresh sperm, the new law argues, have already been “sexually intimate,” from a public health perspective, with their donor partner, because they have already been exposed to their donor’s sperm and ejaculate. As a result, they are at no greater health risk than a heterosexual woman exposed to her partner’s bodily fluids as a result of sexual intercourse. Under current law, these two groups of would-be moms are treated differently; AB 2356 attempts to correct that.

“It gives doctors piece of mind that they are not putting themselves at risk by offering fertility services to same-sex female couples, because they are not increasing anyone’s risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease,” Trainman said.

The hard part, he said, was navigating the legislative process in Sacramento. “In California, no matter how good the idea is, unless the bill is being introduced by a legislator who sees political advantage in doing so, or the bill advances a social cause the legislator believes in, it doesn’t have a chance unless there is a sponsoring organization and lobbyists.”

Traiman was able to get the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Equality California to back his idea for the bill, but even then, there was work to be done.

“During the summer recess last year, I spent a lot of time in Sacramento visiting legislative offices, educating them about my bill,” he said. “I did this because many legislators primarily rely on their staff to advise them what to do, particularly with the current term limits. An assemblymember can sit for only six years, but they might have aides with twenty years of experience in the capitol.”

Leland Traiman who conceived of the idea behind AB 2356.

Traiman said that by socializing his bill during the recess, he was able to get his idea established in the minds of capitol staffers, so that it was already familiar when the new legislation session approached, and legislators filled their quota of new bill introductions.

Even then, that wasn’t enough. “Last Friday at 5pm was the deadline for submitting new bills for this session,” Traiman said, “and we thought we had a legislator, an ‘author,’ willing to introduce the bill.” However, 48 hours before the deadline, that legislator backed out, leaving NCLR and Equity California scrambling to find a new legislative sponsor. “They really pulled a rabbit out of a hat,” he said, of securing Assemblymember Skinner’s support at the last minute.

Traiman is optimistic about his team navigating the bill through the various committees in the Senate and Assembly and ultimately having it signed by the governor, who may need to be lobbied as well. He says he’s been successful four times in Sacramento negotiating new legislation regarding fertility legislation, two of which involved shooting down legislation backed by large corporate tissue bank operations seeking to shut down little guys like himself.

AB 2356 should come before the assembly health and safety committee later this year.

“Now we wait,” he said, “it’s an exhausting process.”

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