|Unwilling mother Sherri Shepherd|
Shepherd, a former co-host on The View, entered into an agreement with her then husband Lamar Sally and Jessica Bartholomew to have Bartholomew carry a child created through Sally's sperm and a donated egg. By the time the baby boy, Lamar Sally, Jr., was born eight months ago, Shepherd had filed for divorce, disclaiming responsibility for the child and refusing to pay support, leaving Bartholomew whose name was on the birth certificate on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical bills. "Not so fast" said a Pennsylvania court. "A deal is a deal. You signed on the dotted line and you're a legal mother, like it or not. Pay up!"
CHILDREN AS PROPERTY
Loeb wants the court to ignore the agreement. He is offering to absolve Vergara of financial responsibility for any resulting children--but he cannot absolve her of any psychological responsibility. As a Catholic, he believes that keeping the eggs frozen is "tantamount to killing them." He also desperately wants to be a father, a condition he has dreamed about for as long as he can remember, and previous relationships did not lead to children. Loeb appears not to have considered the effect on the children, if he prevails, of having a mother who fought in court to keep them from being born. Perhaps he doesn't see the need for a mother, since he was raised by a nanny after his mother largely disappeared from his life when he was a year old and he did not see her again until he was nine.
Loeb, in a New York Times Op-ed yesterday, had already equated the frozen embryos to children, writing his right to force Vergara to be a biological mother had: "...nothing to do with the rights over one’s own body, and everything to do with a parent’s right to protect the life of his or her unborn child." But there is no child. There are a few small cells held in liquid nitrogen at -320 degrees Fahrenheit. And by trying to grow those cells into children, he is controlling her decision to procreate children or not, and treating her eggs as property that he is entitled to because he wants them, despite their signed contract that the embryos would not be implanted without both parties in agreement.
Cases of unwilling assisted reproduction partners are resolved by the laws of contract; it is discomforting that the fate of a child or embryo is decided by laws designed to resolve commercial disputes. Other areas of family law, divorce and adoption, give at least some recognition to the notion that children are more than property. These two cases turn the children into property, just as women and children were considered in previous centuries, and are still in some parts of the world.
The media is full of stories about the unfortunate or tragic consequences of creating or attempting to create children artificially: embryos implanted in the wrong women, women impregnated by the wrong sperm, intended parents abandoning disabled infants, mentally unstable or sadistic people becoming parents, protracted custody fights between bio parents and her partner. Fathers of dozens of children have already been the subject of comedies. We wonder if the jokes are lost on the children of said fathers. We understand that many fine people become parents through technology such as in vetro fertilization, or IVF, and even, at times, surrogacy.
It's tempting to argue that commercial surrogacy should be outlawed. Although some surrogates are motivated by the desire to help a deserving couple have a child, others, particularly those in foreign countries are forced into surrogacy by poverty. They sell their bodies, the only thing they have. We recognize that commercial surrogacy in some form will continue. The instinctual and necessary drive to procreate is how the life survives, and if people before who might have been left out of the possibility of procreating can use science to accomplish that, they will. Surrogacy is not going away.
Still there is the sad fact that some of these children born through science--purchased eggs and sperm, the building blocks of human life--will never know where their DNA came from, and to whom they are genetically related. A part of their identity will always be missing.
In Israel where surrogacy is illegal for gays or single parents, a thriving business has grown up arranging births for them. A recent birth went like this: The sperm came from Israel; it was flown to Thailand, where it fertilized the egg of a South African egg donor. Then it was implanted in an Indian woman in Nepal. In this case, the child was born prematurely around the time of the recent earthquake. The baby survived, as did three others in Nepal who were born with similar back stories.
Instead of making surrogacy illegal, we need stronger laws which focus on the well-being of the children to be born. Of utmost importance is granting the child the right to learn the full identity of his biological parents. Laws should require the intended parents fit to be parents. Those who donate eggs should be made to be fully aware of the health risks, and they are great; those who donate eggs or sperm should be made to be fully aware of the psychological impact of knowing they may have a child "out there," as well as the impact of the genealogical bewilderment of any child they might create with their sperm or egg. There is already a growing movement of children born of outsider sperm trying to find and connect with their biological fathers or any siblings.
Finally, those seeking children through purchased eggs or sperm must be fully informed about the psychological difference of raising children who are not biologically related to them.
Science has made it possible for people who previously would not have been able to have children to do so, and that genie is not going back in the bottle. But society must proceed with all caution to avoid situations such as the Sherri Shepherd one. She may pay child support all her life for an intemperate decision involving the DNA of a former partner, but she will never be a mother in any sense of the word. Little Lamar Sally will in fact be a motherless child, knowing that his biological mother helped create him for the money and his legal mother wants nothing to do with him. Vergara might be absolved of all financial considerations involving children that might result from her eggs, but her child will be motherless as well. Creating a child whose mother does not want him to satisfy the emotional needs and religious beliefs of the father is simply cruel.--jane and lorraine
Sherri Shepherd Shaken By Legal Bombshell
Riben: The Sherri Shepherd Case: One More Reason to Ban Commercial Surrogacy
Sofia Vergara's Ex-Fiance: Our Frozen Embryos Have a Right to Live
Israeli Dads Welcome Surrogate-Born Baby in Nepal on Earthquake Day
Baby M - Wikipedia
Assisted Reproduction ignores the best interests of the child
Botched embryo garner sympathy; Birthmothers? Fugheddaboutit
Embryo 'adoption' just creeps us out
Creating children without full identity is a crime against humanity
Even in 'modern families' the need to know biological heritage
Thailand's booming business in surrogacy is an ethical swamp
Exploiting first mothers: then and now
Surrogacy: The American Way
by Annette Baran and Rueben Pannor
"Lethal Secrets" takes a long-range view of donor insemination by interviewing donor offspring, donors and parents years after the fact. Taking a hard look at the ramifications of secrecy and donor insemination is not the norm, nor is advocating for openness. Many, if not most, doctors, patients and sperm banks continue to advocate for secrecy, blithely ignoring the psychological dangers of this widespread practice. Baran and Pannor are ahead of their time. They support donor insemination, yet argue persuasively for openness: not only is it every child's right to know the truth of his or her genetic heritage, it is healthier for the parents and the donors, as well. If you are considering using donor insemination or even donor egg to have a child, this book is invaluable. I only wish the authors would write a book specifically about the psychological aspects of using donor egg."--Amazon reviewer