Sunday 25 January 2015

Commercial surrogacy is a disaster and must be banned

Published 29/08/2014 | 02:30

Baby Gammy, surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua and older brother Game
Baby Gammy, surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua and older brother Game

Are we morally and legally obliged to raise our own children? It's an odd question, but the answer isn't always 'Yes'.

If you are married and have a child, by virtue of being married it is assumed you are in a position to raise your child. Both morality and the law then oblige you to do so.

This shows, by the way, the close link we make both legally and socially between the institution of marriage and child-rearing, a link many people today want to pretend doesn't exist.

It's different for an unmarried mother. She has an opportunity to give up her child for adoption at first. If she decides not to do that, then she must raise the child herself.

Now, consider what happens when you separate the mother of a child into two people, a birth mother and a genetic mother. This happens in the case of "contract pregnancies", that is, when you use a surrogate mother to have your child for you.

Two cases which very dramatically illustrate the hugely problematic nature of contract pregnancies have just come to public attention.

The first has been widely publicised and involves an Australian couple who hired a surrogate mother in Thailand to give birth to a child who would be genetically theirs. In the event, the surrogate mother gave birth to twins. One was a healthy baby girl and the other a boy with Down's syndrome named Gammy.

The case went worldwide when Gammy's birth mother said his genetic parents in Australia didn't want to raise a child with Down's syndrome. They have denied this but, on the other hand, have said they would have preferred an abortion to take place.

If there was only one mother to Gammy, that is, if the same woman was both the birth mother and the genetic mother, she would be obliged to raise the child providing she was married. And if she was unmarried and gave up her right to have the child adopted, she would also be obliged to raise the child.

But when you split motherhood in this way, all bets are off. Who is morally and legally obliged to raise the child? It's not a bit clear.

The second case has only just made the news and involves a British couple who also used a surrogate mother to have a baby for them. Again, she ended up having twins and, again, one of the twins turned out to be disabled.

The commissioning couple have refused to raise the disabled child, according to the surrogate.

She said they told her: "She'd be a ***king dribbling cabbage. Who'd want to adopt her? No-one would want to adopt a disabled child."

Some commentators have suggested that the case of Gammy simply illustrates the problematic nature of commercial surrogacy, that is, when someone makes a living by giving birth to children for other people.

But commercial surrogacy is banned in the UK. All you can do is pay the surrogate "reasonable expenses", which in the above case came to £12,000. So whether surrogacy is commercial or not, huge problems can arise.

In most places that allow surrogacy, the contracts between the surrogate and the commissioning couple or individual are unenforceable. This is the case in the UK and it will also be the case in Ireland if and when we pass the Children and Family Relationships Bill.

This means you can't force the surrogate (birth) mother to give up her child, and you can't force the commissioning couple to raise the child either.

If you were to make such contracts enforceable, then you would be faced with the scenario of pulling a child out of the arms of a birth mother who had changed her mind about giving it up.

So basically surrogacy is a disaster area, which is why many countries ban it in every form - and it's why we should do the same.

But the two cases mentioned above illustrate something even more awful, which is that the pursuit of the perfect in the form of eugenics is flourishing in Western societies.

When atheist high priest Professor Richard Dawkins last week told a woman that there was a moral obligation to abort a baby with Down's syndrome when you could have another child in the future, he provoked a storm of controversy. He was attacked by pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike. That must have been a unique occurrence in all human history.

The pro-choice objection was to his contention that there is a moral obligation to abort a child with Down's syndrome. That would take away the element of choice which is all-important to them.

But they can't really object to the aborting of a child with Down's syndrome in principle, can they? If they don't object to healthy babies being aborted how can they object to babies with disabilities being aborted? They can't.

And lots of babies are aborted when the parents discover there is a disability. This is eugenics and we completely and utterly tolerate it.

Had that Australian couple become pregnant themselves, discovered Gammy had Down's syndrome, and then had him aborted, few would have cared.

The same goes for the English couple described above.

In fact, according to NHS figures, about 1,000 babies with Down's syndrome are aborted in England and Wales each year, and only 750 are born.

So yes, eugenics is very much alive and well in the name of "choice". Those 1,000 babies with Down's syndrome who are aborted annually are killed in the name of 'choice'. And surrogacy with all its pitfalls is permitted in the name of "choice".

It's time we woke up to the fact that the ideology of choice is making victims of untold numbers of children.

Irish Independent

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