There’s a story from a few weeks ago that I’ve been thinking about. A young Japanese man, Mitsutoki Shigeta, hired a series of Thai surrogates. He became a genetic father to at least 16 children this way, spending something like $500,000. While is motives remain obscure, he apparently wanted to continue at something like this pace for as long as he could, presumably creating hundreds of children.
Now the obvious thing to talk about here–and one that has gotten a lot of attention–is what this says about the Thai surrogacy industry or surrogacy more generally. Surely there is a lot to think about. But I am not going to add to the welter of comments on that topic you can already find.
I want to think about this more broadly. Continue reading
I know I’ve been quite sporadic here–this semester seems a good deal more absorbing than others have recently, particularly because I am in the editing process for a piece on surrogacy that I wrote. (I’ll let you all know when it is out.) But today’s New York Times brings a story worthy of comment. So here I am.
The story is here. I don’t have a link to the actual decision, which was a few weeks back, I believe. The basic structure of the case will be familiar to those who read the blog, though as always the details are different. I’m sorry to say that this seems like a particularly sad iteration of an already-sad story. It’s worth noting at the outset that most of what we know is from one party’s point of view as the other didn’t talk to the reporter. For this reason, and also because even when you have both sides you don’t really know what happened, I’m going with a fairly bare-bones version of the story. I’m not interested in arguing about specific facts when none of us know what they are.
Jann and Jamie were a lesbian couple. Neither of their lives had been easy. Jamie wanted to have a child, which Jann wasn’t sure was a great idea given their relationship. They decided to go forward and Jamie gave birth to a boy in November, 2011. (It appears that they did home insemination, which is something else to discuss, but I’m not sure it matters as the case played out.) The women were married in, I think, January 2012. (Order is critical here. I think it fairly clear that if they had married two months or so earlier, Jann’s legal rights would have been secured.) Continue reading
Add another case to the sadly long list of lesbian parents behaving badly. This one comes from Oklahoma and it also raises an argument that does arise from time to time–an argument that provides and opportunity to think about gender neutrality and the definition of parenthood.
You can read the actual opinion here, but I will summarize the facts. I remind you, however, that I have no special knowledge of the facts and am merely repeating what the court says.
Ami Dubose and Tracey North began to live together in a lesbian relationship in 2001. North gave birth to a child in 2007. This child was planned by the couple and conceived via assisted insemination. (No information is provided about the source of sperm and I’m guessing anonymous donor.) The couple lived together, coparenting the child, until 2012. (By then the child would have been five or so.)
Dubose never adopted the child and Dubose and North didn’t formalize their relationship. While I’m not sure what exactly they could do in Oklahoma, the reason they didn’t take these steps is that both women were in the military. Given the then-applicable “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, any action to recognize their relationship of the relationship between Dubose and the child could have endangered their careers. (This is actually a fairly common situation and one of the lesser known but more serious consequences of that now-changed policy.) Continue reading
I have an extremely erratic internet connection just now, so I guarantee you this will be short. That’s if I can get it posted at all. There’s a short story in today’s paper about Thai surrogacy–the fallout of the Baby Gamay story I already blogged about. The main point is that Thailand is not letting intended parents leave Thailand with the children Thai surrogates gave birth to at the moment. It’s a drastic remedy when you think about it. No question in my mind that Thai surrogacy needs reform, but keeping the children (and through the children, the intended parents) in Thailand hardly seems an answer. On the other hand, it surely a deterrent. Who would choose Thai surrogacy knowing that the risk was you’d be living in Thailand. (Nothing against Thailand–but if you didn’t plan to move there, it would be rather a complication.)
What really moved me to write, though, is the last sentence of the story in the Seattle Times. It is by Rod McGuirk who writes for AP. I cannot find a link to this anywhere–but as I say, my access if really spotty.
So here is what it says:
Scores of Australian biological parents are currently pregnant through surrogates in Thailand.
This, to my mind, is newspeak–the language of George Orwell’s 1984. There may be biological parents in Australia (though remember I prefer “genetic?”) But there is no way they are pregnant. And I haven’t the slightest idea what it means to be pregnant through another person. It is (to my mind) bad enough when a non-pregnant person with a pregnant partner says “we’re pregnant.”
Pregnancy is personal. The surrogates are pregnant. The providers of genetic material are not. It’s a terrible thing to twist language to suggest otherwise.
Gonna go now while the connection holds…..
I’m detouring from surrogacy to write about an important new decision from New Jersey. The opinion, issued by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, is here. I’m going to take a bit of time to lay out the facts before discussing the issues raised and resolved. Do note that the case is subject to further appeal in New Jersey as well as subsequent proceedings in the lower court should the appellate opinion stand.
KAF and FD were a lesbian couple. They began living together in 1999. They decided to have a child together. They used sperm from a donor and Arthur was born in 2002. They relationship did not thrive and in 2004 they split up. However, unlike many lesbian couples who show up in court cases, they got along well enough afterwards and in 2005 FD adopted Arthur. (She did so with KAF’s approval, which I’m quite sure was required.) Continue reading
I consider this a continuation of the last few posts about the darker sides of surrogacy. (Just as a reminder, I don’t think surrogacy is inherently bad or wrong, but I do think it subject to abuse. The recent stories illustrate the sorts of abuse I worry about.)
As I read about the Thai case one thing I noticed is that the focus of concern seems to be either Gamay (the infant boy who remains in Thailand) or Pattaramon Chanbua (the surrogate). There isn’t much concern about the infant girl, who is presumably with the intended parents in Australia. But the girl is who I want to think about here for a bit.
I suppose I should start by saying that I don’t have universal concerns about the well-being of children born of surrogacy. I think the evidence gathered thus far shows that they, like children conceived/born other ways, are mostly just fine. This is important because it means I don’t see the well-being of children as a general objection to all surrogacy.
But this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to think about. Continue reading
There’s a story that has been all over the media the last few days involving an Australian couple who used a Thai surrogate. I’m sure you can find a dozen different versions of the story, but I’ll start with this one from the Washington Post. One of the reasons I’ll use this one is that it makes it clear that a lot of the details are unknown and/or unclear.
That said, here’s the bare-bones account. (I’m trying to stay to the facts we know, but I think I have to make some assumptions, too. I’ll try to identify them.). An unnamed (and presumably heterosexual) Australian couple went to Thailand to hire a surrogate. (While it doesn’t say this, I think we can assume that part of the reason they went to Thailand is that compensated surrogacy is prohibited in Australia.)
Pattaramon Chanbua is a 21-year-old Thai woman. She is food vendor and earns $622 per month. A surrogacy agency offered to pay her somewhere between $9300 and $16,000 to serve as a surrogate. She agreed to do so. Continue reading