An article in The New York Times a few weeks ago caught my attention. It was about an effort to legalize commercial surrogacy in New York state, the process whereby people who wish to be parents pay a woman to rent out her womb to grow a baby.
It was titled "And Surrogacy Makes 3" and it was very sympathetic to the two men highlighted in the story who successfully paid a surrogate mother in California to bear a child they would eventually bring into their New York City home.
In addition to the many troubling issues raised by the topic, I was deeply offended by the placement of the article in the "Fashion & Style" section of the newspaper. Fashion & Style? Really? Are children merely fashion accessories that we venture out to purchase like handbags or shoes? Can we return them if they don't measure up to our expectations? Are there discounts for those that are less than perfect?
Equally disturbing was the article's complete denial of motherhood. The surrogate mother is called a "carrier" and a baby broker is quoted as saying that instead of bonding with the baby, "the gestational carrier bonds to the intended parents, and that's what we want to happen."
I don't know about you, but this topic makes my head spin. I keep thinking of that old Chiffon margarine television ad: "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."
The New York legislation that would legalize commercial surrogacy offers us a whole new language: any egg, sperm and uterus can now be combined to make a baby, and it's called "collaborative reproduction." A child could literally have five parents: the egg donor, the sperm donor, the two intended parents, and the surrogate mother. In the case of the men in the Times article, they don't even know which of them is the biological father of their daughter.
How sad for that little girl. She will apparently never know who her biological mother is either, because it was an egg donor, not the surrogate who bore her. She's only three now, but I'm guessing she'll have lots of questions when she grows up. Donor-conceived children are riddled with questions. Take a look at the "Anonymous Us" website at www.anonymousus.org. The project was started by a donor-conceived child who wanted to provide a place where those born of artificial reproductive technologies could share their stories. They reveal all kinds of questions, challenges and struggles. They share anger, abandonment, confusion, and most of all, a yearning for some biological connection to the parent or parents they never knew.
And what about the women who sell their bodies as incubators for others to gestate a child? While baby brokering agencies like to portray surrogacy as a selfless altruistic act, the fact is that poor women are often intentionally targeted to be surrogates through the lure of money. These agencies carefully screen potential surrogates to see who can deliver the best "product." Check out the huge dollar amounts they promise in the classified ads of newspapers found on college campuses, military bases and poor neighborhoods. Women in desperate situations may not be fully aware of the health risks, nor be prepared to relinquish a child after nine months of physical and psychological bonding.
The lawmakers pushing the bill to legalize surrogacy call it the "Child-Parent Security Act." Don't be fooled; it is anything but. Commercial surrogacy deliberately and completely separates children from at least one of their biological parents. It denigrates and exploits women, reducing them to nothing more than "hosts." It offends the dignity of women, children and human reproduction.
Children are priceless gifts from a loving God, not fashion accessories.
Kathleen M. Gallagher is the Director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference in Albany.