MUNCIE — Ten weeks before her due date, Chanda Fouseridge went into the hospital for what she thought would be a routine checkup.
She didn’t realize that hours later medical complications would bring her close to losing her life while bringing two more into the world.
She had just enough time to call her wife, Cheri, who was at home with their 3-year-old son. Cheri rushed to the hospital and was told immediately to put on scrubs. Their tiny, premature twins were born 45 minutes later.
Chanda was losing blood, leaking spinal fluid and had a headache from a bad epidural that caused exploding pain every time she sat up.
Meanwhile, nurses were saying one baby stopped breathing five times during the night and the other had a hole in his heart. Chanda was in no condition to care for them.
But Cheri was there. She began filling out the paperwork for a birth certificate. All of Chanda’s information was written in the spaces marked “mother,” and Cheri put her own information in the spaces marked “father,” after carefully marking it out and writing in “mother.”
Indiana began recognizing their marriage as legal after the 2015 U.S. Supreme Courtruling, so they assumed both names could be on the certificate, and the problem was just outdated paperwork. Couldn’t the papers just say “parent” and “parent”?
Turns out, it’s not that simple.
Indiana recognizes their marriage now, but state laws relating to marriage and families haven’t yet changed. Here, family laws are still largely based on biology and paternity.
Legally, Cheri was not the twin’s mother. If she lost Chanda, she could lose the babies as well.
Cheri and Chanda obviously could not get pregnant on their own, but Chanda had always wanted a baby. She told Cheri soon after they met, 13 years ago, that she was having a baby with or without her.
Cheri agreed, and they turned to artificial insemination. They went to a fertility clinic and shelled out thousands for sperm from a bank. They chose an anonymous donor so they would never know who the biological father was, and the father wouldn’t know they chose him.
That’s how their first son, Chaney, was born in 2012.
Back then their marriage wasn’t recognized in Indiana, so they figured Cheri would have to adopt. They were right, because Indiana’s state code doesn’t address artificial insemination.
Even heterosexual unmarried couples need the non-biological parent to adopt. Indiana offers a second-parent adoption, which allows a second adult to adopt a baby without canceling out the birth parent’s rights.
Cheri had to do a background check and home study. The process included home visits, physicals and reference checks.
Even though a couple lives together, the adoption process treats the second parent as if they are a stranger, said Indiana adoption attorney Joel Kirsh. The process can cost around $2,500.
It’s a little different if a couple is married.
Cheri and Chanda aren’t the only married, lesbian couple in Indiana who want both names on the birth certificate. A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of state’s law and presumption of parenthood has been filed.
The case involves Marion, Tippecanoe and Vigo counties, and a long list of same-sex couples who were unable to have their wife’s name put on the birth certificate. Attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman is representing eight couples from Indianapolis. Their stories are similar.
To see more, go to USA Today