From the Desk of Laura Bunker:
From the light bulb to jet engines to smart phones, the expansion of technology has been a great benefit to humankind. But can it go too far? Science fiction movies are filled with spine-chilling examples, but today’s truth may be even stranger than fiction.
Today’s Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) may be a blessing for infertile couples, but it has also made it possible for women and babies to become a commodity, especially in developing countries.
Women have a right to be treated with dignity, and children have a right to a mother and a father. Unfortunately, ART and surrogacy are being used to take away both.
We invite you to read today’s alert by UFI writer Elise Ellsworth, who helps us better understand this growing trend. As Elise summarizes, “ART has the potential for tremendous impact on the future of the family. Those responsible for legislation and policy changes should carefully consider the legal options – with concern for the impact on children, who are the future of our nations and societies, at the forefront.”
No matter how fascinating, new technology should never overtake the critical role of the natural family that has stood the test of time.
United Families International, President
“One Child, Excellent Genes – For Sale to the Highest Bidder”: Assisted Reproductive Technology and the Redefinition of Family
by Elise Ellsworth
In today’s world of hot button family topics, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) often seems a back burner issue. Most think of ART in terms of the beneficial arrangement whereby couples who participate in traditional artificial insemination – implanting an embryo created by the fertilization of the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg – are able to parent their own offspring.
However, less traditional forms of ART – including using egg or sperm donors or surrogate mothers – are at the forefront in forging a new family landscape. In this landscape a dizzying array of “family” arrangements are being created – with little regard to the welfare of the children involved.
One Mom, One Dad No Longer the Standard
Recently, a gay couple in Adelaide, Australia made headlines when they hired two Thai women to carry separate boy and girl embryos to delivery. The children were the product of the fathers’ sperm and eggs from a single Caucasian donor woman. The couple spent $80,000 to obtain the children.
In this case, the children have no legal “mothers.” The women who carried the babies are simply referred to as Surrogate 1 and Surrogate 2. The two men are “Biological Fathers.” The woman who donated the egg is simply a “donor.”
Expendable fathers are also common. Some of the largest donor banks – where parents can choose from donors with a variety of attractive features – have a clientele composed of 80 to 85% single women and lesbian couples. Women who want to be mothers are choosing in increasing numbers to do so without a father at all.
Children have a right to both a mother and a father, but unfortunately ART is being used to take that right away from them.
ART also makes possible an even scarier “no man’s land” grey area where a child becomes an unwanted entity – a product of a test tube with no one claiming parentage. Such was the case when a British surrogate mother recently sued California intended parents for breach of contract. The California couple had asked the woman to perform a “selective reduction” when it was discovered she was pregnant with twins. When she refused, they no longer wanted the children. These children became essentially a “test tube experiment” – unloved and unwanted by any party.
Children of Surrogacy Arrangements are Struggling
Recently released studies have released troubling data about the effects of less traditional forms of ART on children.
A study recently released by the Commission on Parenthood’s Future, found that donor offspring are significantly more likely than those raised by their biological parents to struggle with serious, negative outcomes such as delinquency, substance abuse, and depression, even when controlling for socio-economic and other factors. Donor offspring are twice as likely to report problems with the law before age 25 and 1.5 times as likely to have mental health problems.
One child of a sperm donor summed it up when she wrote: “My existence owed almost nothing to the serendipitous nature of normal human reproduction, where babies are the natural progression of mutually fulfilling adult relationships, but rather represented a verbal contract, a financial transaction and a cold, clinical harnessing of medical technology.” She furthermore stated, “[M]y mother viewed me more as her personal property [rather] than seeing my existence as a serendipitous piece of good fortune.”
These children often yearn to learn more about their heritage and to have a relationship with an absent or anonymous parent. “I think that deep down, all donor-conceived people want to know that their parent is proud of them and accepts them,” says donor child Alana Newman – whose own experience prompted her to become an opponent of all donor conception and creator of the website Anonymous US where donor children can share their experiences. Donor children seem to be hurting because they see themselves as a product of a rather selfish, commercial process rather than as the offspring of a mutually fulfilling and loving adult relationship.
Interestingly, a recent study showed that young children of surrogate mothers also have more adjustment problems in their younger years than those born in other family arrangements. These problems include aggressive or antisocial behavior or emotional problems, such as anxiety or depression. Few, if any, large scale studies have been done on children of surrogate mothers when they reach adolescence.
The impact on children must be an important consideration in the making of laws and regulations regarding assisted reproductive technology.
Surrogacy Creates a Complex and Confusing Legal Landscape
Countries have responded to the legal challenges regarding ART in a variety of ways. Most countries, including those in the Muslim world, allow some forms of ART. However, more controversial forms of ART are outlawed in many countries but receive more broad recognition in others. Also problematic are countries like Thailand and India which have few regulations of ART and surrogacy arrangements. This has resulted in the proliferation of “baby farms” where poor women are coerced into giving birth as “affordable” surrogate mothers for women in wealthier countries.
In the United States, state laws vary widely on the enforceability and legality of gestational carrier or surrogacy agreements. Some states have chosen to adopt the provisions of the Uniform Parentage Act. Other states have made their own laws – ranging from allowing ART to making using some forms of ART a criminal offense. The majority of states have no laws at all. And as is occurring on the international landscape, this has made for increasing difficulty in the enforcement and legality of various types of ART.
Need for More Regulation
ART has the potential for tremendous impact on the future of the family. Those responsible for legislation and policy changes should carefully consider the legal options – with concern for the impact on children, who are the future of our nations and societies, at the forefront.
Elise Ellsworth graduated from Brigham Young University with honors in English Education. She attended BYU Law School until the birth of her first child. She and her husband, Kyle, are the parents of seven children – six boys and one girl.