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Buying Babies And The Industrialization Of Parenthood

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“How am I supposed to get a baby?”

There are many people who cannot get pregnant and have a child. Some are infertile. Some are single and have no one that wishes to parent with them. Gay couples cannot naturally have children. So how are these folks supposed to get the baby that they want?

This is the question Alana S. Newman was faced with while speaking at the Bonds that Matter conference. It’s not the first time Newman has dealt with the idea that children are possessions to be had, and that relationships are irrelevant. A child’s needs are irrelevant also.

Newman is herself the product of donor insemination. She never knew her father, but did know a succession of men that she was supposed to accept as her father.

After a wrenching divorce, I never again saw that “dad” of mine. My mother remarried, and I was given a new “dad.” But neither the first nor the second man ever made me feel safe in my own home. It was clear to me that all men were evil and vile. I truly thought that either they lacked the capacity to love, or else there was something wrong with me; I was not worthy of love.

Newman’s response was that, as a young woman, she donated her eggs in an “open” donation program. That way, no child would be wondering who “mom” really was; they could find her. It did not have the desired effect: “I’ve been treated as an object many times by men in my life, but never so intensely as by the female fertility industry personnel who managed my egg harvest.”

What Newman sees in the surrogacy industry is that it IS an industry. It is meant to make money. Children are the products that are sold – commodities, not people. Relationships lose out to the desires of adults, who can then do what they wish with their purchase.

Mitsutoki Shigeta is a Japanese multi-millionaire who recently made international headlines for commissioning sixteen children born via Thai surrogates. He housed the surrogates, along with his children and nannies, in several condos that functioned as holding camps. He apparently has a great deal of sperm stored and was planning to commission at least a dozen pregnancies every year for as long as he could. A family member of one of the surrogates reported that in the surrogacy contract it was stipulated that if the woman were to bear an “imperfect” child, she would be required to pay $24,000 to him, Mr. Shigeta, and raise the baby herself. She would be paid just under $12,000 for carrying and giving birth to a healthy, normal child.

Newman also mentions Nadya Sulemon, whom the press dubbed “Octomom” after she gave birth to octoplets via surrogacy, and had six other children. No one knows what Sulemon’s motives were, but sadly, she had this to say about her experience: “I hate babies, they disgust me . . . Obviously, I love them—but I absolutely wish I had not had them.” Imagine the impact of that on her children.

But what’s the difference between surrogacy and adoption? Isn’t it basically the same thing? You want a child, so you go get one: either one that is already here (adoption) or you buy one (surrogacy.)

As an adoptive mother, I can tell you: adoption is good, but it’s not great. The premise of adoption is to find homes for children who, for whatever reason, do not have one. Their parents are either deceased or are incapable of caring for them. Adoption is built on loss; the child has lost their biological family and that is always sad. But adoption is child-centered: how do we find good, appropriate homes for children that need them? Surrogacy is adult-centered: how do I get a child that I want?

The surrogacy industry knowingly creates grief for children. And it profits from it. Ms. Newman:

The overwhelming majority of donor-conceived people do not have photos, video tapes, or letters from their missing parent. Yet we are told we should be grateful. We’re told that if our biological parents had been forced to have a relationship with us, then they would never have agreed to give us life.

Since donor-conceived people are not allowed to grieve, we have few safe outlets for talking about our loss, and especially for talking about the inherent shame in how we were conceived. There is an ugly side to our conception: the masturbation, the anonymity, the payment. It’s shameful to say, but my father was paid roughly $75 to promise to have nothing to do with me.

And if children are okay to purchase, why not a liver or a kidney or a heart? Folks with money should be able to buy whatever they wish, right? And those who profit from it are simply good business people. That’s the lesson that surrogacy is teaching us.

Read “Children’s Rights, or Rights to Children?” at Public Discourse.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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