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A(nother?) tangled surrogacy story

I must be candid.  I am grateful that my two sons, who please me immensely, cannot be called products of an “industry.”

That is, my wife and I never faced the pressure that some must feel, for a variety of reasons, to become ensnared in that tangled-web-we-have-woven called gestational surrogacy.

A writer named Michelle Goldberg has written a thoughtful article for the online magazine Slate describing the mess that one surrogacy case has become.  A woman chose to become a commercial surrogate to augment her income.  She has four kids of her own—including triplets—and had carried one prior surrogate pregnancy.  She agreed to carry a pregnancy for a deaf, single postal worker “who lives with his parents.”  There was a separate egg donor.  They signed a contract.  Three embryos were transferred, and all implanted.  Gender selection was done at the man’s request.  (Ms. Goldberg says the doctor who did the implantation has marketed embryo selection for desired characteristics—hair and eye color, and the like.)  Because of complications, there is pressure on the woman to abort (at least?) one.  There are disputes about who—or whose insurance—pays for the woman’s care.  The intended “father” (forgive me, I feel compelled to use the quotation marks) is running out of money, wants to limit her prenatal care, and worries he can’t afford three babies.   Jennifer Lahl, of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, has gotten involved.  (Follow this link to a page for her video Breeders: A Subclass of Women?)  The story has been reported in the New York Post.  (It’s a couple months old.  I’m just learning about it now.)

This is all going on in California, where the law requires that both parties to these arrangements have their own attorneys, and that, in the presence of a contract, the gestational surrogate surrenders all parental rights.  (Courts cannot consider the best interests of the children in deciding legal challenges to this, Ms. Goldberg writes.)  There is no screening of intended parents.  Adoption it ain’t.  The law is described as friendly to the fertility “industry.”  There is baby selling.  There is corruption.  Surrogates get shafted, financially, when the counterparties to the contract (that phrase sounds so much more apt) can’t afford to pay them.

And this is only one example.  “There are 8 million stories in the naked city,” as the line went.

In her article, Ms. Goldberg argues for greater care in establishing surrogacy arrangements, and greater regulation over the whole practice.  Read the whole thing.

Again, I found this article thoughtful.  And I am sure that most people who enter into gestational surrogacy arrangements do so with good motives.  Why would you do it otherwise?  And I understand that some of these stories end at least apparently happily.

And yet, I cannot resist saying “Hello!  McFly!”  When we rend family and kinship and the begetting of children so radically, dare we be surprised when things go awry?  Dare we pretend we weren’t asking for it?  Dare we be so proud as to believe we can create a happy new human framework in common law, in a thicket of regulations, out of whole cloth?

I am in IMHO territory here.  Yes, I know about Abram and Sarai and Hagar.  I don’t read Genesis, or any other part of the Bible, as condoning such a thing.  Yes, I know that the Christian Medical and Dental Associations countenances gestational surrogacy in limited circumstances.  But I believe I must respectfully dissent.  Yes, I know that childlessness is an affliction, that the desire for children is so strong (I really know that), and that people have a right to their own choices.  But there are limits.

I do not seek to condemn anyone.  But IMHO, gestational surrogacy is wrong.  Period.

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