Faculty Scholarship: Professor Naomi R. Cahn

Family Law Expert Publishes Two Books in 2013 on Cutting-Edge Donor-Conceived Family Issues; Numerous Articles on Emerging Topics Involving Parenthood, Digital Assets

Professor Naomi R. Cahn

Prolific researcher and author Professor Naomi R. Cahn published two books and numerous articles in 2013 on evolving and emerging family law and reproductive technology topics such as donor-conceived families, parenthood, and digital asset planning.

Professor Cahn is also the author of Test Tube Families: Why the Fertility Market Needs Legal Regulation (2009), a co-author of Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture (2010), and a co-author of On the Frontlines: Women, Gender, and the Post-Conflict Process (2011).  She and co-author June Carbone have been working on Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family, due to be published in 2014, where they examine how economic forces are transforming our most intimate and important spheres, and how just like health, education, and seemingly every other advantage in life, a stable two-parent home has become a luxury.

This year, after having previously served as the John Theodore Fey Research Professor of Law, Professor Cahn was named the Harold H. Greene Professor of Law.  Her scholarship on digital estates and assets lead in 2012 to her service as the reporter for the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws' new model act on fiduciary access to digital assets.

Read more about Professor Cahn's latest books as well as links to just some of her many recent articles on these timely family law topics: 

 The New Kinship: Constructing Donor-Conceived Families  |  NYU Press, 2013

No federal law in the United States requires that egg or sperm donors or recipients exchange any information with the offspring that result from the donation. Donors typically enter into contracts with fertility clinics or sperm banks which promise them anonymity. The parents may know the donor’s hair color, height, IQ, college, and profession; they may even have heard the donor’s voice. But they don’t know the donor’s name, medical history, or other information that might play a key role in a child’s development. But the secrecy surrounding the use of donor eggs and sperm is changing. And as it does, increasing numbers of parents and donor-conceived offspring are searching for others who share the same biological heritage. When donors, recipients, and “donor kids” find each other, they create new forms of families that exist outside of the law. The New Kinship details how families are made and how bonds are created between families in the brave new world of reproductive technology. Naomi Cahn, a nationally-recognized expert on reproductive technology and the law, shows how these new kinship bonds dramatically exemplify the ongoing cultural change in how we think about family. The issues Cahn explores in this book will resonate with anyone— and everyone—who has struggled with questions of how to define themselves in connection with their own biological, legal, or social families.

For more information, reviews, or to order The New Kinship, please visit the book's Amazon page.


Finding Our Families: A First-of-Its-Kind Book for Donor-Conceived People and Their Families  |  Avery Press, 2013

The first comprehensive book that offers invaluable step-by-step advice for families with donor-conceived children.

With an estimated more than one million donor-conceived children in the United States and the numbers continuing to rise, donor conception is more common than ever before, yet many still face the bewildering uncertainty of not knowing their origins.

Professor Naomi R. Cahn publishes with co-author Donor Sibling Registry (DSR) website creator Wendy Kramer, Finding Our Families: A First-of-Its-Kind Book for Donor-Conceived People and Their Families, the first-ever, all-inclusive guide for donor-conceived people, parents, and donors. Citing studies that show that children who seek out their genetic relatives report having richer lives and stronger relationships with the parents who have raised them, Cahn and Kramer offer valuable insights and practical advice to families on how to tell their children the truth, establish and maintain contact with donors and half-siblings, and manage expectations and outline goals for a relationship. Finding Our Families includes inspirational stories from donor-conceived individuals, an overwhelming number of which stress the importance of being honest with your child from day one. Sample letters and emails to donors and half-siblings will encourage and guide you on your quest to connect with your or your child’s genetic relatives. Most of all, Finding Our Families offers support, understanding, and openness to a growing community that is redefining what it means to be a family in the 21st century.

For more information, reviews, or to order Finding Our Families, please visit the book's Amazon page.


Student Co-Authors Paper with Professor Naomi Cahn on Digital Assets Estate Planning  |  July/August 2013

This past academic year, 3L Melinda Dudley, JD ’13, worked as a research assistant for Professor Cahn, getting the opportunity to work on emerging issues such as the laws behind our digital assets, which Professor Cahn has been at the forefront of helping to decipher. Among other work, Dudley co-authored with Professor Cahn an article titled “The Virtual Estate: Part I: Planning for a Client’s Digital Assets” that was published this summer in Wolters Kluwer’s The ElderLaw Report (Vol. XXV, Num. 1, July/August 2013).







Boston University Law Review  |  "Who's the Father?"  |  2013

Professor Cahn co-authored this article with June Carbone, the Robina Chair of Law, Science and Technology at the University of Minnesota Law School, as part of Boston University Law Review's "Perspectives on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl."

When couples manage to be close enough to conceive a child, but not close enough to determine the child's future, who gets to decide when they disagree: mother, father, state courts, or a tribe? The litigation that produced the Supreme Court decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl demonstrates why we are no closer to a definitive resolution of what to do when parents do not share assumptions about how to raise their child.

To read Professor Cahn and Carbone's complete article, please visit the BU Law Review website



Boston University Law Review  |  "The End of Men or the Rebirth of Class?"  |  2013

This essay argues that much of what has been described as the “end of men” is in fact the recreation of class. Greater inequality among men and women has resurrected class differences and changed the way men and women relate to each other and channel resources to their children. While women have in fact gained ground in the workplace and acquired greater ability to live, work, play, and raise children without men, a mere relative move toward sex equality only masks the more fundamental changes occurring in American society and the continuing existence of patriarchy.

With co-author June Carbone.  To read the complete article, please visit the BU Law Review website.


Los Angeles Times  |  "Leveling the Field for Human Egg Donors"  |  July 13, 2013

A bill before California Gov. Jerry Brown would make it legal for research programs to pay for human eggs, as they do for sperm. But the issue is complicated.

In the United States, there is a competitive market in human eggs provided for reproductive purposes. An "extraordinary" egg donor can earn as much as $50,000 when she offers her eggs to an infertile couple. In California, however, that same "extraordinary" individual would receive nothing, aside from payment for her direct expenses, if she provided those same eggs for research purposes. That could change soon.

Written with co-author University of Minnesota Law School Professor June Carbone. To read the entire editorial, please visit the Los Angeles Times website.


Los Angeles Times  |  "Assisted Reproduction: When Does a Father Become One?"  |  August 12, 2013

When does a man become a father — the legally recognized parent of a child, responsible for support and eligible for custody? Historically, parenthood has involved something more than simply a biological connection. In some eras that meant the law recognized only fathers who married the mothers. Today, recognition extends to unmarried parents who raise a child together.

The new question on the table is whether it extends to a man who donates sperm to a woman and establishes a relationship with the child. Does he become a father if the child calls him "Daddy," or does it require something more?

Written with co-author University of Minnesota Law School Professor June Carbone. To read the entire editorial, please visit the Los Angeles Times website.


Slate  |  "A Digital Afterlife: How Do You Handle A Loved One's Online Accounts?"  |  September 16, 2013

You’ve thought about a funeral. You’ve thought about a will. But have you thought about what to do with the Facebook account?

Written with co-author Amy Ziettlow, affiliate scholar with the Institute for American Values. To read the entire editorial, please visit the Slate website.




The Huffington Post  |  "Is the Movie Delivery Man Plausible?"  |  December 2, 2013

In Delivery Man, Vince Vaughn stars in another one of his endearing, yet slightly slobbish, roles. This time, he has just found out that his decades-old anonymous contributions to a sperm bank have resulted in 533 children...This remake of the 2011 French Canadian film Starbuck (yes, that's the real title, presumably with all puns intended) falls nicely into the genre of romantic comedy. For many people, it might also seem to fall into the genre of science fiction: how could one man's sperm create more than 500 children?

But it's not science fiction.

To read the entire editorial, please visit The Huffington Post website.


Open Source Family  |  "Two Moms and a Dad"  |  December 13, 2013

When a young boy’s sperm donor is an involved father, can the new wife of his mom and his donor both have the privileges of parental rights?

To read the entire article, please visit the Open Source Family website.


Professor Cahn in the News

Forbes . November 21, 2013
Naomi Cahn
is quoted in an article about the social media dangers faced by modern caregivers. More

TIME . July 27, 2013
Naomi Cahn
comments on Virginia's law regarding digital assets after one passes and what states can do to create the best laws in this emerging field. More

The New York Times . May 25, 2013
Naomi Cahn
comments on digital estate planning and what some companies are doing to help customers in this area. More