“Motherhood itself is now on trial.”

A leading constitutional lawyer, and one of the leading attorneys (if not the leading one) involved in high profile surrogate parenting cases in the US, made that claim, and not lightly nor without deep knowledge of the issues involved. Harold Cassidy was chief counsel in the first contested surrogacy case in the United States that struck down surrogate mother contracts as unenforceable, the ‘Baby M’ case. Decades later, he’s now sounding alarms about the issue of surrogacy and where it’s headed. In New Jersey especially now, but far beyond ultimately.

Some fervently believe that if gestational surrogacy laws were to be widely accepted they would irreparably change human civilization. Gestational surrogacy is now front and center for debate, not only in New Jersey, but across the nation. It demands attention…

The Baby M court made the following observations: private adoptions are disfavored; the surrogacy arrangement places a child without any regard for the child’s best interests; it circumvents all laws that require counseling of the mother before she surrenders her rights; and the compulsion of the contract makes surrender of the child after birth not truly voluntary or informed. Beyond that, the arrangement exploits women as a “surrogate uterus” or an “incubator” and expects a mother to act as an inanimate object, which denigrates the woman in her role as mother.

Back at that time, Cassidy made the prescient observation of the corrupting influence of money in the purchase of babies. Here he cites one of New Jersey Chief Justice Wilentz’s remarks in the court opinion.

There are, in a civilized society, some things that money cannot buy. In America, we decided long ago that merely because conduct purchased by money was “voluntary” did not mean that it was good or beyond regulation and prohibition. . . There are, in short, values that society deems more important than granting to wealth whatever it can buy, be it labor, love, or life.

That would prove to be a powerfully prophetic statement.

Cassidy went on to become the attorney for a different high profile surrogacy case, this one gestational surrogacy (not the biological mother carrying the child). The mother was Angelia G. Robinson, “AGR” as she would later be known in court papers. It’s a case study in how surrogate parenting can be fraught with problems.

Robinson felt that the girls were her responsibility and that she was the only person in the world who could protect them. The bond and love for the girls who had developed by then and in the ensuing months was far more powerful than anything she ever anticipated. The growing sense of moral obligation to her daughters increased as she realized that her daughters needed their mother.

Read the whole thing, it goes from bad to worse.

Which people involved in the industry of ‘making babies’ knew, all along. Alana Newman was a ‘donor child’, and has devoted herself and her time to both warning of and healing from the impact of reproductive technologies that favor the adults at the expense of the children. The calculus is off, she says.

All of the virtues play into our fertility or marriageability. And if virtues and trustworthiness are too slow to develop, we may miss out on our natural fertility window. If a certain amount of virtues education is not observed after the wedding day there will be more divorces—which I’ve come to understand increases the use of egg donors and surrogates as divorced women in their 40s and 50s seek to remarry and bond their new relationship with a child, or remedy loneliness as single mothers by choice.

Or same-sex couple wanting children, the situation at the heart of longstanding debate. George Weigel puts it bluntly here, in this piece on ‘Children As Commodities.’

Moreover, in their determination to deny reality ”or perhaps reinvent it” the proponents of the D.C. surrogacy bill have adopted a species of Newspeak that would make George Orwell cringe. You can get a flavor of it in a letter written by a friend of mine to his D.C. councilman:

“ . . . in reading the bill I was struck that nothing was said about the child to be born out of the surrogate agreement. Much is said about the rights and responsibilities of the ‘gestational carrier’ (a very strange expression) and the ‘intended parent,’ but nothing is said about the child. The child is treated as a thing to be used as the gestational carrier and intended parent wish. This is the most troubling feature of the proposed law. It gives no indication that one is dealing here with a human person who will have feelings, thoughts, and memories. These are all swept aside as though the child to be born will have no interest in how he or she came into the world, who his or her parents are, and all the other things that are so fundamental to our identity as human beings.”

“Gestational carrier”? The D.C. bill not only treats the child as a thing, a commodity that can be bought and sold; it treats the woman bearing the child in the same way.

Where are the laws regulating these things, asks Margaret Datiles Watts, a DC area attorney who writes on legal issues of bioethics and the family.

Michael Cook called it early, that surrogacy would become “one of the big human rights issues of the first half of our century”.

I hope that the Nobel Peace Prize committee is listening. But I fear that it is not.

The reason is simple: it would offend supporters of same-sex parenting. Every Nobel Peace Prize needs both an acclaimed hero and a despised anti-hero. If the Swedish Women’s Lobby or Jennifer Lahl’s Center for Bioethics and Culture or Alana Newman’s Anonymous Us Project, were the hero, who would be the anti-hero?

The UN Commission on the Status of Women heard Jennifer Lahl just days ago, on Egg Trafficking and Rented Wombs, and How Not To Make Babies.

Some cases of surrogacy go beyond coercive to exploitive. One woman describes her twin children being taken from her at the hospital and given to the father. Until that moment, she had expected to raise her children in shared arrangement with the father, with whom she had a platonic friendship. She was not aware he was using her as a “breeder” for him and his male partner.

“How do we promote reproductive justice for all in these third-party arrangements?” Lahl asked…

“For science to serve rather than hurt us, we must always link what we can do to what we should do,” said Archbishop Auza, the Vatican’s representative to the UN.

Alana Newman is speaking out again on that subject, after the flap between Dolce & Gabbana, and Elton John.

This past week has seen the outrage generated by parents of donor and invitro-fertilization children following a now-infamous Panorama magazine interview conducted with the fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana, wherein Domenico Dolce proclaimed, “You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be. I call children of chemistry, synthetic children.” Immediately, Elton John advocated a boycott of the designers’ products in retaliation for the perceived offense against his two sons, who were conceived via an egg donor and surrogate mother.

Speaking as two donor-conceived young women—alive because of reproductive technologies—we felt an urgent need to respond…in support of Dolce and Gabbana.

So they go on to say

(Elton) John’s children were commissioned in partnership with his spouse, David Furnish, and it is not yet public information which man is the biological father, or if they both are and the children are not fully genetically related…

It is important to note, however, that infants, toddlers, and all of these “miracle” beings are too young to protest their own objectification. We however, are now of age and in a position to speak for ourselves. “Synthetic” indeed is a harsh and inaccurate description of us offspring born by third-party reproduction. Dolce’s word choice was a mistake. But there is much underlying truth in what he said: “life [does] have a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.” Emphasis ours.

Those of us conceived non-traditionally are full human beings with equal capacity in every regard—no one need question our humanity. It is not our individual, case-by-case worth as humans that is debatable; rather, it is how we value human beings in general that warrants discussion. Has anyone asked John for how much he purchased his kids? How much money he and Furnish paid the boy’s genetic and birth mother for their absence and invisibility?

It’s not brave, this new world of technological capabilities.

Some suggest that spending more money on making children means that they are more loved. Our children are definitively wanted, they say.

“The baby doesn’t care anything about the money,” says marriage and family therapist Nancy Verrier, regarding the issues surrounding surrogacy. “That’s not what hurts the baby. The baby is hurt by the separation, by the loss of that mother that it knows.” This ever-present realization of loss remains with both mother and child throughout their lives. Nature has ensured that mothers and children attach to one another, as it is a trait necessary to our survival; without motivation to love or instinctively care for her child, why would a mother protect her children from potential danger? She wouldn’t, and that would have heralded the end of our species. With this biological connection so immediate and meaningful, why doesn’t society view maintenance of that connection as more imperative?…

Growing up donor-conceived, it has been a great struggle to comply with the commandment “Honor thy mother and thy father,” because in order to obey the desires of one parent we must agree to the obliteration of the other. We plead, we beg: let us honor both our mothers and fathers as essential and irreplaceable.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....