|Jordan Schnitzer, father of the year. NOT.|
Their son was born in December and they are now embroiled in litigation on whether egg mother Sause can have visitation with her biological son. Schnitzer's position is absolute: He is the sole and exclusive parent. His name alone is on the birth certificate. Biology be damned.
WEALTH AND POWER MAKE THE SON
After the baby was born, Sause expressed the desire to have contact with him.
Schnitzer filed a lawsuit asking the judge to declare him the sole and exclusive parent of the child. In March, the judge agreed with Schnitzer. Last week, another judge denied Sause's request for a re-hearing. Sause has vowed to appeal. If she were to win and the appellate court were to hold that a child is not a mere commodity whose relationships are governed by contract law, the case could impact all such agreements between the genetic parents--mother or father--and the right to have a relationship with their children.
Sause's attorney is Thomas McDermott, who represented the outside parties in the case to uphold Ballot Measure 58 in Oregon, which gave adult adoptees the right to their original birth certificates. McDermott is an adoptive father who understands the need--and right--of all to learn their biological origins. After the court hearing, McDermott said "Ms. Sause is deeply disappointed...and will continue to fight for her son to know that she is his mother and she cares for him."
Schnitzer, a real estate developer, is the son and sole child of one of Oregon's most wealthy and prominent couples, Arlene and the late Harold Schnitzer. He and his parents are also well known for their philanthropy, donating millions to the arts, education, Jewish causes, museums, medical research. Schnitzer divorced his wife, the mother of his daughters, in 2005. Sause also hails from a prominent, wealthy family. Both are law school graduates.
Schnitzer desired a son to carry on the family name. Because "being a divorced dad was was complicated," he wanted to have this son without "complications." Schnitzer says he, his daughters, and his mother look forward to raising his son "in a healthy, loving family relationship." Schnitzer's mother Arlene is 87. Schnitzer will be in his 80's when Baby S. graduates from high school. Thus the actual raising of the boy may well be left to his daughters, who Schnitzer is shunting aside in favor of a male heir.
QUESTIONS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ASKED
|Stories of reunions with mothers|
That thinking changed when it came to accommodating those who could not have biological children or who, as in Schnitzer's case, desired a specific type of child. This shift in the law also appeased the fertility industry, as their customers were the adults desiring embryos to be created in the laboratory. Law-makers cast aside long held assumptions about children and their parents, and passed laws that treated children as objects in a contract, not human beings with wishes and desires possibly separate from the parents.
Since the judges did not ask essential questions leading to a determination of what's best for the child, we'll ask them here. How will Baby S. feel about not being able to know his genetic mother? What will Schnitzer (or his daughters if he is no longer alive) tell Baby S. when he asks who his mother is and why he can't meet her? The truthful explanation that his father paid for him and won him fair and square will certainly ring hollow to his ears.
As a practical matter, when Baby S. is old enough to access the internet, he will learn of his parents' public fight. Will he wonder what kind of man would use his wealth and power to deprive a son of his mother, and a mother from her son?
According to press reports, Schnitzer is proud that his son looks almost identical to pictures of him when he was a baby. But Baby S. is not a clone. What if Baby S. does not share his father's interest in business or the arts? What if he decides to change his name? finding that carrying the baggage of the Schnitzer name too great. Or, for that matter, what if he decides to change his gender? Will he still have a healthy, loving family?
We note that the agreement OHSU had Sause sign is a standard one used in all cases of donated eggs or sperm. Donors are entitled to remain anonymous and children are not entitled to know where their DNA came from. We do not agree with this practice.
Schnitzer's desire for a son after two daughters reminds us that paternalism and male privilege is alive and well. Did Schnitzer give any consideration to how his daughters might feel knowing that they weren't enough for their father? That a boy child was preferable? If Baby S. turns his back on the family business, will Schnitzer allow his daughters to take over? His late father, Harold, had four brothers so surely there are male cousins with the surname of Schnitzer in the wings.
It's also troubling that OHSU's agreed to be part of a process for the sole purpose of creating a male child, using 21st Century technology to re-enforce ancient biases. "Sex selection raises concerns about exacerbating sex discrimination and violence against women and normalizing the 'selection' and 'design' of children."* While sex selection is not a big problem in the US as far as we know, it's a huge problem in India, China, and other countries where the male/female balance is so off kilter, as to cause major social problems. OHSU as a public university should not be a part of it.
LEARN FROM HISTORY OR BE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT
Schnitzer's story reminds us of other instances where prominent, wealthy men insisted on a male offspring. Things did not turn out as planned. Henry VIII defied the Pope so he could divorce his wife and marry a woman to bear him a son. When she didn't, he had her beheaded and took another wife who did give him a male heir. The son, Edward VI, died young and was succeed by his older half sisters, first Mary, and then Elizabeth I. She proved to be one of England's greatest monarchs.
The Brits have finally figured out that primogenitor, the practice of leaving property and titles to the oldest son is wrong. In 2013 when Princess Kate and Prince William were expecting their first child, Parliament passed a law providing that their first born would ascend to the throne, even if she was a girl and had a younger brother.
Russia's last Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra were so anxious for a son after four daughters that they turned to a mystical faith healer, Rasputin. After the desired son turned out to have hemophilia, the Tsar and his wife turned again to Rasputin whose presence and influence played a role in the increasing unpopularity of the Tsar. We know how that turned out: the whole family was executed.
As they say, be careful what you wish for.--jane
Portland developer Jordan Schnitzer wins case to raise baby without genetic mother
Jordan Schnitzer Gets a Son--and a Court Battle
Legacy of Portland's Harold Schnitzer
*Center fror Genetics and Society: About Sex Selection
I Want To Put a Baby in You: The Schnitzer case--Taking Sex Selection to a Whole Other Level
Royal baby girl's right of succession
Egg 'donor' and child unite on Katie
Would-be Egg 'Donor' imagines a child growing up with genetic strangers
Shadow Mothers:Stories of Adoption and Reunion
By Linda Back McKay
Written in an easy style that allows the reader to identify with each mother as their individual recounts unfold on the pages, McKay has opened up the sealed emotions belonging not only to the individuals who tell their stories of reconnecting with their adopted children, but also in the reader. It is a heartfelt collection of pain, hope, joy, and finally, peace. A must-read for any woman who has given up a child for adoption and also for anyone who has adopted a child.--Amazon reviewer
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