I think we are rightly sensitive to issues of gender equity in parenting, but it seems to me it is also necessary to think critically about them. This was brought home to me by this story in the newspaper today. Does equality give a genetic father the right to be present at the birth of his child, just as the genetic mother will be? Or does the different between being the one giving birth and not being the one giving birth justify different treatment?
For anyone who thinks hard about parentage gender equity is a difficult topic. There are so many levels of sameness and difference that figuring out what amounts to equal treatment can be tricky.
On the one hand, men and women each contribute genetic materials to a child. On that basis one could determine that they are similarly situated and so principles of equality would suggest equal treatment is appropriate. But on the other hand, women are pregnant and men are not. If in this regard they are not similarly situated, then equal treatment is not warranted. How does one fit together the sameness and the difference? Continue reading
This is spurred by a substantial article in this morning’s NYT. I haven’t talked/written about surrogacy for quite a while and so perhaps it is time to circle back to the topic. I’m well aware that there is some extensive discussion under the last post (the one about birth certificates), but I lost track of that while I was travelling and this seems timely. I can only hope I’ll get back to the birth certificates shortly.
So surrogacy. There are so many things to say about it, so much to discuss. I’m going to pick a few points that leapt out at me reading the article. There are many others.
1. Surrogates prefer working with gay men than with straight couples (or I assume with single women.) Continue reading
I have some hesitation about returning to the general topic of birth certificates as I know many people get quite wrought about it. But there’s a bunch of different stories out there on the topic so I’ll have a go on it. However, I want to try to set the stage first.
Birth certificates—at least in the US–are rather peculiar documents. Some of what is on them at least looks like a historical record. So for example, birth certificates routinely list the time of birth. That would seem to be in the nature of a historical record–a formal noting of a particular thing happening at a specific time and place. (Place is also in that category.)
But then there are some other things on birth certificates that, though they look like the stuff of historical records, aren’t. One–and the one that has been discussed the most extensively here–is “parents”–or as it sometimes appears “mother” and “father.” US birth certificates do not necessarily list the name of the woman who gave birth–which it seems to me would be the most obvious historical fact they might reflect. Continue reading
Some time back I wrote about a documentary I wanted to see called “Stories We Tell.” It was made by a young woman named Sarah Polley and it is autobiographical. I’ve now had a chance to see it and it made me think.
Polly is the youngest of five siblings. (I use this term loosely as you will see.). Her mother, apparently a quite dynamic figure, died some years ago, For many years there was a family joke that her mother’s husband–the man who Sarah Polley referred to as her father–was not in fact genetically related to her. For whatever reasons, Polly decided to investigate. The film is not so much the story of her investigation as it is the story of what all the players involved make of it all.
Actually, it isn’t really what all the players make of it. Continue reading
You may recall that just before Thanksgiving I blogged about a custody dispute between Bode Miller (famous US skier) and Sara McKenna. They had a brief relationship during which she became pregnant. Since there really wasn’t much of a relationship between the two, it’s probably not surprising that a custody fight followed. But the particular course of the custody fight was somewhat remarkable. (I’ll just link to the first of a string of earlier posts so that you can catch up if you want.)
The key thing was that one judge in NY seemed to think that McKenna had behaved badly because after she and Miller broke up and after she realized she was pregnant, she moved to NYC to take advantage of an educational program at Columbia University. The decision, originally made in the spring, lead that judge to kick the custody case back to CA, where a judge awarded custody to Miller–I’m not sure on what basis. Eventually a NY appeals court reversed the trial court in a scathing opinion–essentially recognizing that McKenna did have a right to travel even if she was pregnant. Continue reading
This post grows out of an exchange in the comments on an earlier post. Ki Sarita (not sure about how I should capitalize that) and I have been having an exchange about whether I (or perhaps more narrowly, my opinions?) are anti-male. In fairness, I think Ki Sarita’s views here are based on far more than that one posting as she is a long-time reader/commenter here. But I’m going to focus on that post (which is about a case involving a doctrine called “de facto parentage”) in order to make a few points. I realize they may not address the full scope of Ki Sarita’s argument but I want to make what is perhaps a subsidiary point. I’m also going to have to cover some background before getting to my point, so some of you may wish to skim ahead.
The idea in de facto parentage is that the law should recognize and protect existing psychological/social parent/child relationships. De facto parentage is probably most important where a legal parent co-parents with someone who, for whatever reasons, doesn’t gain status as a legal parent in any other way. Continue reading
This piece was in yesterday’s NYT. I’m in no position to comment on the science so, for the moment, I’m going to assume it is sound, though I do know there is plenty of bad science out there. The essay (it was on the op-ed page, so I think of it as an essay rather than as news) is about diet in the very early stages of a child’s life and how it has lifelong effects–at least according to the study the essay is considering.
But the studies aren’t only about the effects of diet after the child is born. Here’s the part that leads me to write here:
Mothers who were fed foods like Froot Loops, Cheetos and Nutella during pregnancy had offspring that showed increased expression of the gene for an opioid receptor, which resulted in a desensitization to sweet and fatty foods. “The best way to think about how having a desensitized reward pathway would affect you is to use the analogy of somebody who is addicted to drugs,” Jessica R. Gugusheff, a Ph.D. candidate at FoodPlus and the lead author of the study, wrote in an email. “When someone is addicted to drugs they become less sensitive to the effects of that drug, so they have to increase the dose to get the same high,” she wrote. “In a similar way, by having a desensitized reward pathway, offspring exposed to junk food before birth have to eat more junk food to get the same good feelings.”
(One thing I think I should clarify first: that passive voice thing at the very beginning– “mothers who were fed….’– I think read carefully in context it is actually about rats in a lab study. Continue reading
I am totally strapped for time this AM but want to put up at least a little bit of a post. (A postette?) I’m continuing the discussion from the last post (which was itself continued from the post before that) and if you’re just joining us, you might want to go back and read those.
First the news: The McKenna Miller custody case was back in court yesterday. According to this account (there are many to choose from), the judge awarded custody to McKenna (the mother) until the next hearing (December 9). No indication of the basis for the award. It’s also the case that after starting in the NY Times the case has become the subject of much wider discussion. As is always the case, some of it is interesting/useful and some (to my mind, anyway) not so much. I liked this essay, which I think makes some broader points.
There are many directions to go with the discussion at this point, but with little time I will just content myself with a couple of observations. Continue reading
There’s a lively conversation in the comments of the most recent posts here–one I mean to pick up and move along shortly. But I feel that I need to take time out to blog about this story, which I must confess is one that I’m really bothered by. It’s from the NYT, which means that for some of you it may be on the wrong side of a pay wall. I’m sorry about that, but it does seem to be their story.
I’ll start with a summary. It’s obvious that there are facts in dispute and I’ll try to note specifically where that is the case. Most of what seems to me to be important is actually not in dispute.
Bode Miller and Sara McKenna met via a high-end dating service. They both lived in California. Miller is an Olympic skier. McKenna is a former Marine and firefighter. He’s now 36 and she’s 27, but I think they were dating in April/May, 2012.
They dated for about a month-and-a-half. When they split up, McKenna was pregnant, although obviously she wasn’t very far along. Continue reading
Yesterday the prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, issued a formal apology to thousands of unwed mothers who were forced to give up their children for adoption in post-World War II Australia. I’m sure that the reaction of many people is “it’s about time” and indeed, that is the case. But there are also a couple of other points that strike me.
First, tying back to yesterday’s post, this is something like a logical consequence of the emphasis on how important marriage is. It looks to me like the problem with these unmarried mothers is that they were unmarried.
Unwed mothers were pressured, deceived and threatened into giving up their babies from the second world war until the early 1970s so they could be adopted by married couples, which was perceived to be in the children’s best interests, the Senate committee report found. Continue reading