For such a disturbing and unfair practice to children, surrogate parenthood gets very little attention. Using surrogate parenthood, American society is forming a class of children without biological parents known to them, and nobody seems to care. Deliberately depriving a child of a biological mother and father is a serious injustice. Yet where is the outrage about surrogacy? Where is the concern for the rights of children?
Last week the Washington Post reported on the growing market for surrogate pregnancies — one more outgrowth of a moral culture that could not care less if children have mothers and fathers. According to the Post, “Scott,” a middle-aged gay man, just wanted “somebody to love me” and “somebody to love,” and so began his search for “gestational surrogates.” At a coffee shop, he recently interviewed five prospects to carry his child. After chatting with each one for 90 minutes, Scott found his match. It was surrogacy-at-first-sight.
While we bemoan the culture of broken families and cheapened parenthood, we are enlarging that culture through science. The therapy culture talks about nurturing the identity of children. What could confuse their identity more than the complicating and bewildering starting point of surrogacy?
The twisted character of the surrogacy market illustrates the creepiness of the practice. Want to shop for the ideal donor? Search commercial firms’ databases online, such as donoregg1.com. A quick search for a blond-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian woman pursuing doctoral studies between the heights of 5’4″ and 5’8″ turned up a first-year medical student of Northern European decent who enjoys cooking, camping, and swimming.
Bought-and-sold parenthood necessarily means children get parents manifestly lacking the essential qualities of parenthood. As the Post story explains, the perfect stand-in womb for two Richmond lawyers’ child was Lori Berry because “she was adamant that she wanted no more children.” Tracy Thorne-Begland said, “We were really comfortable that she was going to take care of our children the way she took care of hers.” His partner Michael told the Post, “We had the house, the dog and the white picket fence, and we decided that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.” The child becomes the pièce de résistance of lifestyle decorating.
Surrogacy produces problems all around. Consider one gestational surrogate who in late 2003 found the truths of motherhood painfully evident. Pseudo-parents-to-be James Flynn and his fiancé only visited surrogate Danielle Bimber and her triplets in the hospital once in the week after birth. Accordingly, Bimber deemed them neglectful and took home the boys rather than see them placed in foster care. Earlier this month, a judge denied Flynn and egg donor Jennifer Rice their custodial claims. The judge insisted the decision was about “bad parenting,” not surrogacy. Yet surrogacy is bad parenting — child abuse, really — from the start.
A couple red herrings should not distract from surrogacy’s immoral treatment of children and horrific objectification of human life. The Post article focuses on homosexuality, but surrogacy is wrong irrespective of the parent’s sexual orientation. Homosexual advocacy groups and the surrogacy industry are attempting to shroud this practice under gay rights. Since only half the demand for surrogacy is from homosexuals, attacking homosexual parenting will not truly address the issue. Also, the market is not the primary harm as some states treat it, banning only compensated surrogacy contracts. Prostitution is still wrong without the money. Yet such wrongs are much easier to identify when sold. Procreation must not be reduced to a major mid-life purchase.
This ethical and legal culture needs to be challenged by pro-family organizations and lawmakers. State law should better relate the creation of human life to marriage. According to the Human Rights Campaign, six states permit surrogacy in varied degrees, the District of Columbia and 11 states substantially restrict or prohibit surrogacy, and the laws and case law in the remaining states are unclear. Minimally, lawmakers should prohibit the reproductive market and ban surrogacy contracts. Michigan law would make an excellent model, since it prohibits all surrogacy agreements and even levies fines and jail time on parties to them. No matter what action the think tanks and politicians take, our society cannot continue to allow such disrespect for children and human dignity.