some problematic thoughts on surrogacy, liberalism, and sex differences
I feel conflicted about surrogacy, but I don't believe we can or should end it. While no one has the right to a baby, infertility is devastating and life-ruining. I think it's too easy for fertile people to say "Sorry, you just need to accept it" when their own kids bring them so much joy and meaning. I suspect a lot of the people who judge surrogacy (and adoption) would feel differently if they weren't able to conceive.
But I believe anyone who brings a child into the world has an obligation to put the baby's needs first. The best way to do this in third-party reproduction is to respect biological bonds.
For example, I feel differently about the following scenarios: A) A woman carries her sister's baby, is present after the birth, and stays involved as a loving aunt. They are open with the child about where he came from. B) A paid surrogate hands over the baby and then everyone pretends she doesn't exist.
I'm a lesbian with a sperm donor baby. I believe it was ethical to have him (he's a happy, loved child) but I also believe it's important to acknowledge that not being raised by his biological father is a loss. When he was about 3, he told me he wished he had a dad. I didn't say "You don't need a dad. Two moms is just as good." I validated his feelings. We also have an open arrangement where he has met his sperm donor (a family friend), and they are free to build their own relationship as he grows up. (Right now he's a preschooler so I facilitate everything, but one day it will be his choice).
With surrogacy, I hope to see more arrangements that are more than a transaction. I cringe when I see gay men announce "they" had a baby, but I feel differently when the mother stays in the child's life as a third parent. (I know someone who did this. My gay friend inseminated his straight female friend who wanted kids but never found the right man. Now they happily co-parent.)
If these kids have secure, happy homes, I can't say it's bad that they were born. But we owe it to the kids to acknowledge their biological bonds, and to respect that they matter, and to give them access to their bio and birth parents when it's possible.
There are so many variables in a surrogate situation. I think it can be beautiful or exploitive, depending on the circumstance. I have had more babies than most – four! Each pregnancy was as different as each child, but I always felt a profound bond beginning around the four month mark that felt like sharing my body/mind/feelings with another human. It's hard to explain without sounding weird.
When I was in my twenties I probably would have been a surrogate for my sister or someone very close to me, but I couldn’t have done it for money. It would have messed me up emotionally for a long time. Maybe forever.
"Our biological limitations do not constrain us, they are us."
Yes. The idea that everyone should be equal rests on a sort of bizarre abstraction of what a "person" is, in which your physical nature is considered somehow extraneous to your identity. It's mind-body dualism taken to extremes, combined with (at least in the Western world) Christian ideas of spiritual equality.
On the other hand, the idea that we "are" our biological limitations could be seen as an argument against transgenderism (i.e. you were born female, so you're a woman, end of story), but I would resist taking things quite so literally without more careful examination. Gender dysphoria is a real thing (though very likely over-diagnosed these days), and pending a better scientific understanding of its nature and origins, I think we should keep an open mind on the question of whether someone who is physically one sex can "really" (in some sense) be of the other sex, or whether surgical transformation is in at least some cases the best way to deal with it.
I think this all basically boils down to, yes, we and our biology are the same thing, but let's be careful about what inferences we draw from that.
Wow. What a great piece. This is a very delicate subject, and I am happy to not be on twitter to see the hate going on on this. I had a very long comment but erased it, because it did not bring anything good. However, the chances of blowback are as high as your level of rightfulness.
I don’t have the biological or medical knowledge with which I could add intelligent comment, but I think two things should be mentioned. First, it’s important that medical and biological research continue without constraints based on fear or ideology; no one can assume there is a final word about anything in the physical universe, including mammalian reproduction. Second, it’s important that we all keep talking in good faith about this and other subjects that can be difficult ones. Shutting down communication regarding any subject decreases available knowledge about that subject and, thus, decreases the ability to make better decisions about how to live our lives. Obvious? Goes without saying? Not these days.
"This is the world’s first artificial womb facility – and you can choose your baby’s characteristics from a menu. EctoLife, which can raise 30,000 babies a year, is said to be based on over fifty years of groundbreaking scientific research."
Is this even real?