What’s Wrong With the Raffle?

In the last few days I’ve seen a lot on the web about this story:  A clinic in the US is “raffling off” an egg (from a donor of the winner’s choosing) and accompanying fertility treatments.   Estimated retail value, over $25,000.   Needless to say most of the coverage has been sharply critical (which is probably putting it mildly.) 

I suppose there are (at least) two ways to approach this.   First, here’s a story from Salon.    One point made here is that this wasn’t, strictly speaking, a raffle.  No one walked around selling tickets–$25 each, five for $100.  Instead, the sponsor (Genetics and IVF Institute) offered free services to one couple, chosen at random, attending a seminar the clinic held in London.    Seen this way, it’s just part of the clinic’s marketing program which includes, if you look at the website, a money-back guarantee if you don’t take home a baby on your first try.  (It’s on the webpage–one of the messages in the rotating box on the right.)  

Now the first question, I suppose, is whether it makes one (me?  you?) feel better to understand that strictly speaking this isn’t a raffle, it’s more like a door prize.   Perhaps it is slightly more palatable, but ultimately I think this is a distinction without a difference.   Raffle or door-prize, there’s still something vaguely unsettling about it. 

Which brings me to the second way of approaching it.   Isn’t this just a logical extension of the commercialization and commodification found in ART (particularly in the US)?  

The package being offered has two components:  services and a donor egg.    I want to think about the separately first. 

It seems to me that the offer of free fertility-related services shouldn’t particularly bother me.    It’s like offering a free spa treatment to one lucky person who attends a presentation about some new spa technique.    Surely if you can sell fertility services (and I don’t think anyone things that’s wrong generally, do they?) you can give them away?  

Does it matter that it is medical care?   I suppose we wouldn’t want people raffling off (or offering as a door-prize) necessary medical care.   But I think this is said to be elective or optional care.   Could a doctor offer free Botox injections to one attendee at a seminar she or he was holding on modern cosmetic surgery techniques?   I bet that’s actually happened.    

The other part of the package is a donor egg.   Of course, if you object to the commodification of human gametes–that is, if you think buying/selling eggs is itself wrong–this is likely to seem a horrible extension of this practice.    Condemning it would simply be consistent and logical. 

But I’m not generally opposed to commodifying gametes, which means I have to think about whether offering one as a door-prize is meaningfully different from simply offering one to someone who pays for it.     My visceral reaction is that it is different, but frankly, I’m having a hard time articulating why it is different. 

One obvious thing is that offering the door-prize adds an element of chance to the equation.  There will be one lucky winner.   By contrast, offering it for sale (and practically speaking, for sale in unlimited quantities in the US–I don’t think we have an egg shortage, though they are pricey) means anyone who can pay for it can have it.   Yet that is still true–even after the door prize is awarded, anyone who doesn’t win and can pay for it can buy their own egg.   

I suppose the door-prize approach also turns the egg into a kind of advertising gimmick.  This is, after all, a for-profit clinic.  They aren’t in the habit of giving things away.   The reason this offer makes sense from their point of view is that it encourages larger attendance at the seminar.  People will come in order to have a chance to win that egg.   Nevermind that the odds of any one person winning are small (one egg vs. however many attendees).   

Maybe it’s this–the use of the egg as a lure–that bothers me.   Though again I must ask myself, if it could be sold, why couldn’t it be offered like this?   I suppose I still haven’t worked this one out.

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39 responses to “What’s Wrong With the Raffle?

  1. Interesting question. Of course, in the US bodily organs are free, but imagine hypothetically speaking, would you feel the same way about an organ transplant clinic advertising livers, eyes, and kidneys in the same way?

    Another suggestion is the idea of the clinic, a third party, making a profit from the donor egg. Certainly fertility is a big business, but perhaps there is a difference between a clinic trying to profit from their own services, and trying to profit from someone else’s body parts. Perhaps it is akin to the difference between a prostitute and a pimp.

    • If you start with something that cannot be bought and sold (human organs in the US) then it seems to be fairly clear that they cannot be given away as door prizes, either. Although I suppose if you have an insufficient supply of organs you could organize a lottery system to distribute them. (I think some states (Oregon?) have used lotteries for health care resources.) And you can certainly take the position that gametes should not be bought or sold.

      I am not generally opposed, however, to gametes being bought and sold. That being the case it is harder for me to figure out why the door prize seems troubling. Is the difference the element of chance in the outcome?

      I think the point about who is making the profit is a good one. It’s one that is faced, I think, in adoption, too. You cannot buy a child. But adoption agencies can charge quite a bit of money for facilitating the adoption. What to make of that?

      • Perhaps we discussed this before, but why is it that you differentiate on the ethical acceptability of gamete sale vs. organ sale?

        • and regarding adoption agencies, perhaps I’ m naive, but I thought adoption agencies were required to be not-for-profit?

          • Not everyone who provides adoption services is not-for-profit. Some entities are. These days, though, I’m not sure how much the not-for-profit category means. Some not-for-profits (I’m not particularly think of adoption agencies here) pay their CEO’s such extraordinary salaries I’m not sure it’s a meaningful category any more.

        • It seems to me that there are lots of ways that gametes are/are not like organs, and indeed, we might even want to distinguish between sperm and eggs. For example, as I recall (not checking my facts here) men produce sperm throughout their lives. Women have a fixed number of eggs. So giving sperm is more like giving blood–you can generate replacements. Then again, sperm and eggs are unlike any other organ in that they are combined to create a new person. Kidneys, while precious, remain kidneys.

          None of this addresses your question directly. All it means is that there are many different things to think about when choosing the proper analogy, or figuring out where to draw the line.

          I confess that I am uneasy with the sale of blood, although I think it is generally permitted in the US. That’s true even though I think that donating blood is a fine and public-spirited activity. So I do see that permitting the sale of something is different from permitting donation (in its true sense.)

          One critical difference for me is the impact on the donor. From a donor’s point of view, giving up a kidney has very serious health implications, both short term and long term. To me giving up some sperm does not have any of these implications. You are not risking your physical health, either short term or long term. Eggs are a little bit harder. I don’t think egg donation or egg sale poses the same level of risk as kidney donation does. While each woman’s supply of eggs is limited, you have more than 2 and they are not necessary to the continuation of your life. And while the procedure used to gather the eggs is intrusive, it is not surgery comparable to that used to harvest (if that’s the right word) a kidney.

          Maybe I’ll come back to this in a main post, but that at least is an outline of what I’m thinking.

  2. In an extension of the great Maimonides commentary above, imagine if a commercial company recruiting kidney donors in North Korea, advertised that a raffle would be held supplying a free kidney for one of the people attending their kidney transplant information seminar in New York about their North Korean kidney transplant program at $25,000 a pop. Hmmm, frankly I see nil difference. People can do without one of their kidneys just as women can do without some of their eggs.

    • It seems to me this is more about whether an item can be bought/sold at all rather than whether it can be used in this fashion.

      On that broader questions, perhaps there is a continuum of sorts. On the one end are bodily products (if I can call them that) which are least controversially bought and sold. Perhaps hair? I don’t think I’d be troubled by the sale or purchase of hair. Is that controversial?

      At other end, are those that are those where banning the sale is least controversial. Children, perhaps? Or maybe organs needed for survival? (I think it is pretty widely agreed that you cannot sell your heart, etc.?)

      Then there are things in the middle–eggs, sperm, kidneys for example. All sorts of questions could be raised here. For example, if you look at it from the providers point of view, sperm and eggs are not so very similar. What is involved in sperm donation is considerably less taxing and while women have a limited supply of eggs, I don’t think this is the case with sperm. But you could also label both sperm and eggs “gametes” and treat them the same because of the analogous roles they serve in the creation of a child.

      Kidneys are different from gametes in this regard, of course. But perhaps kidneys can be analogized to eggs and Sandy May has done.

      These are all difficult questions, but it seems to me they are aimed at the broader question of whether sperm and eggs should be sold at all. Let’s assume I’ve answered that question–for me in the affirmative. What I’m trying to figure out here is whether the door prize offer is morally or ethically different from the flat-out offer for sale.

  3. Core Ethics has a commentary addressing your question:
    http://www.corethics.org/index2.php?d=press&item=35
    Raffling motherhood on mother’s day : will it be buy one, get one free next? (14 March, 2010)

    ‘The capacity of the IVF industry to commodify human life reaches a new low with this latest deplorable initiative,’ said Josephine Quintavalle, who directs CORE, a think-tank organization which confronts the many ethical issues associated with assisted reproduction.

    ‘Imagine a child one day finding out that he or she came into being thanks to such a blatantly commercial initiative? Won in a raffle?

  4. It seems to me that the objections raised at the Core Ethics site are objections to the commodification of eggs or perhaps gametes generally. It seems clear to me that if you think it is wrong to buy/sell eggs, then it is certainly wrong to offer one as a prize.

    But I don’t think it is necessarily wrong to buy/sell eggs and yet still, the door-prize/raffle format bothers me. Am I being inconsistent?

    I know that someone opposed to the commodification of gametes might say to me that the unease I feel arises from the commodification itself and so it suggests that not only should eggs not be raffled, they should not be sold. I’m trying to assess the force of that argument.

  5. I think the public relations people for the family building industry really wants the world to focus on the ethical debate of whether or not its ethical to buy and sell eggs. If they keep everyone talking about the egg nobody will notice the elephant in the room. That money back guarantee, its for going home with a baby on the first try. If these people were really just buying an egg they wouldnt be so damned concerned with the condition of the chicken – height, where she went to graduate school, what her hobbies are. You wouldnt care about that stuff if you were buying a lung. They are not buying an egg. Its not even like they buy the egg and it gets put into the infertile persons body and stays for ever like a lung would. Removing the egg from the fertile woman contracted by the clinic is the only way the fertile male customer can mate with her to conceive offspring without having sex with her. In another senario the resulting embryo/fetus might be put back into her own womb to grow, you know because its hers and everything. In this senario the her fetus gets put into what is essentially the womb of its step mother, the wife of the fertile male progenator and the female progenator signs away her right to raise her offspring once born. The women they contract with will be artificially mated with anyone willing to pay the $25K fee and will also allow their fetus to be gestated and given birth to by the male progenator’s wife and will also sign over all rights to their progeny so that her offsprings step mother can put her name on the birth certificate.
    They are selling the illusion of being a normal family related by blood. Nobody needs to know if they don’t tell them themselves. Records are not kept identifying people’s origins prior to birth. If your slick enough to get in there with a kid before its born you can make that transfer and nobody will ever know the true origin of male progenator’s child. Its almost as good as the real thing.

    Living organisms reproduce naturally in the wild for their own purposes . Gathering the seeds of the best of those living organisms, planting them neatly, watering them and tending to them on your own property, so that you can reap the harvest for yourself at will – thats called farming. Gathering the seed is just part of the process, they are not even planting the seeds in their own back yard they are planting seedlings. Dig it? They are not selling eggs.

    I love this blog. I reunite kids with their progenators that were anonymous through clinics and vice versa. I do it for free.

    • I don’t think there’s necessarily any “illusion” of being a normal family, though I confess I’m not sure what “normal” means. That said, I think parents ought to be honest with their kids, and to the extent that means they used donor gametes, I think they ought to tell them, at an appropriate time and in the manner they choose. But I don’t see that they have any particular obligation to tell the neighbors or the schools or anyone else, for that matter.

  6. and they are not providing any fertility treatment for that 25K. The husband is fertile already and the wife who was infertile does not become fertile and conceive her own offspring as a result of having her husband’s offspring with another woman put into her womb so that she can experience what its like to give birth. So no fertility problems are treated.

    • Interesting point, though I’m not sure where it takes one. I’ve always wondered about whether a single woman has an infertility problem. Assuming she is herself fertile, what she really has is a lack of sperm problem. Ditto lesbian couples. Their position is different from that of a woman in a heterosexual relationship who may not be ovulating. This could matter a good deal if you think medical problems ought to be treated, perhaps with the cost paid by insurance.

      Still, while it is perhaps true that a donor egg does not “cure” infertility, it does solve the problem infertility creates. That being the case, why does the language matter?

  7. This type of marketing equates ART with things like Plastic Surgery which are often associated with the rich vain and spoiled, a kind of extra frill to life. In the long run, if they thought about it, this should most ART users and practitioners.

    Are there any other essential medical services that are treated like this?

  8. The thing that is wrong about the “Raffle” is the violation of human dignity. Human dignity is difficult to define positively, but most people sense when it is being violated. When “Rons Angels” auctioned away eggs and sperm from models on the internet, people sensed that the limit of human dignity had been reached. Similarly there were strong public reactions to the planned reality shows “Make me a Mum” and “The sperm Race” by Endemol.

    Once we have accepted commercial reproduction, we should not be surprised that it also pops up in the entertainment industry. Ethics is difficult to discuss, but maybe it is easier to relate to this question: how much human dignity does a child, conceived in the TV show “The Sperm Race”, owe to us in our old age?

  9. Language matters because it creates a situation we see something distasteful going on but are no longer able to articulate it because, well they’ve taken the words right out of our mouths. “What’s wrong with offering fertility treatment for free?” Certainly nothing. I think it would be lovely (if in this senario) the clinic to helped a woman become fertile, for free. And why exactly does the language matter? Because string enough incorrect words together and you have yourself a little lie. String enough little lies together and you’ll have people believing that what they do is reverse infertility by selling eggs.

    We are in an era where an infertile surogate can give birth to her own stepchild and somehow be referred to as that child’s birth or biological mother because she intended to be the woman named as mother on the birth certificate. And by intend, I mean paid. So I think the rampant misuse of commonly known words to describe this and other situations is very much at the heart of why you yourself said you cannot quite articulate what you find so disturbing about an egg as a door prize.
    Straying slightly off topic – while we all debate the ethics of commodifying gamets, and while we all debate what and what does not constitute a real or natural mother, father or parent; there are actual people who don’t care who there mother their father or there parents are anymore.

    They just want a piece of paper that identifies them positively as the offspring of a male and female proginator. They just want to know where the rest of their progenators offspring is so that they can maybe have a chance at having – I’m going to say it- a real family.

    As long as we keep redefining the words mother and father and using the wrong words to describe various situations it keeps everyone from getting to the heart of the matter. Someone needs to say that nobody cares if a bunch of infertile people want to consider themselves parents. They are irrellevant to the identities of over 1,000,000 million people born of anonymous progenators in the past 30 years. Most of those people have no idea that their parents are not their progenators. How much you want to make a bet there have only a couple hundred thousand anonymous progenators in those same thirty years.

    No I strongly believe that language and choosing the correct words is the only way that people will ever stop this institutionalized and sanctioned lying. You might be surprised that the act does not necessarily offend me so much as filling me full of the wrong words so that when I mean sell I have to say donate. When I mean step mother I have to say intended mother. When I mean mother I have to say egg donor. When I mean abandon I have to say donate. When I mean surogate I have to say intended mother. Why does the language matter – I can’t believe you even said that.

    • “string enough incorrect words together and you have yourself a little lie. ”
      “Language matters because it creates a situation we see something distasteful going on but are no longer able to articulate it because, well they’ve taken the words right out of our mouths.

      Thank you Marilyn for articulating this statement, which is relevant far beyond this topic, to all areas of our lives. You are so right, Accuracy in language is so important because otherwise we lose clarity on what we are doing altogether.

    • I totally agree language matters. I can think of at least two ways in which it matters.

      First, if words don’t have an agreed upon meaning, then we cannot be sure that we are actually communicating. Thus, we need to have some agreement about what “mother” means before we can intelligently discuss whether a person is a mother. (Of course, we can also have a conversation about what “mother” does mean.)

      Second, language has power. If I tell someone who has adopted a child as a newborn and raised that child for a number of years “you are not a parent” I would probably generate a pretty strong reaction. I suppose that is at least in part because there is a roughly agreed upon meaning of parent to begin with. Most adoptive parents would (I think) hear that statement as one that attacked or invalidated them.

      The third thing I’d observe is that the meaning of many words changes over time and across cultures. And some words have mulitple meanings–“family” is an obvious one.

      All of this makes discussion of the issues raised here difficult and sometimes painstaking. It takes a long time to be clear about what I mean, or to understand what others mean, and to make sure I have a clear enough understanding to think about it.

      I understand you to suggest that we have two different categories of important people: 1) the people who provide genetic material and 2) the caretakers/child-raisers. I think you’ve suggested that we use different names for these two categories of people and that we move away from names with lots of baggage like “parent” or “mother.”

      I think this would be useful ,though it is certainly easier said than done.

      But I think some of your subsequent comment run into the difficulties that language presents. So, for example, you refer to an infertile surrogate giving birth to her own stepchild. I’m assuming here you mean a woman giving birth to a child to whom she has no genetic relationship. I don’t think it would ever occur to me to call that her “stepchild.” I’m not sure what you are suggesting by using the term. And while I wouldn’t call her a biological mother (it’s a term I try not to use at all) she is the woman who gave birth and thus, it doesn’t seem crazy to me that you’d put her name on a certificate that initially documents who gave birth. (I know other disagree on this, but I think my view is at least somewhat reasonable, even if you disagree.)

      Perhaps it would be useful to take the terms, one at a time, and think about them. There are too many things going on all at once for me to really respond here. I fear I’ve gone on way too long already.

      • I would take the opposite strategy. I would refer to all of them as parents without ascribing legal status to all of them. There would be different qualifiers in order to differentiate between the different types.

        • That’s also workable and perhaps avoids some issues because multiple people can get the “parent” label. Might lead to some confusion if folks used the term “parent” unmodified, but I suppose that would then mean all of the folks in all of the categories?

  10. grinning ear to ear kisarita. And if you are really Rita Kiss – we went to middle school together.

  11. marilynnhuff, you are right about the importance of language. It is encouraging though, that people are not so easily fooled. People are starting to call “dead beat dads” for “sperm donors”, because they realize that the word “donor” in the context of ART means: “not to accept your responsibilities, but leave them to others”. Single women who have used donor insemination are unhappy about this derogatory use of the word “sperm donor” and are instead using the word “donor dad”. So now a “dad” is a man who sits in a clinic with a porn magazine and is payed for evading his responsibilities.

    • Ugh. No a “dad” is a man who unconditionally loves and raises a child and is legally responsible for that child’s welfare. “donor dad” is just as a misconstrued term as “sperm donor” is. There just is no such thing as either term and is simply a way to justify the intentional disconnects associated with this process. The only term that I would deem accurate and truthful is “biological father” – which comes with inherent responsibilities UNLESS he legally abdicated parental responsibilities through an adoption process – with identity release.

      These words, “sperm/egg donor/vendor/dad”, “surrogate” etc. is just a head game to help justify/make all involved parities (except the offspring) feel comfortable with the dehumanizing, intentional, commercialized disconnects. I heard some one recently make an excellent analogy to how the repro-tech industry uses words in a dehumanizing way just as the Nazis had to be conditioned to think of the Jews as less than human in order to justify their actions.
      No matter how the law tries to find ways to justify these dehumanizing actions, natural law and order will continue to challenge and I have faith, will ultimately prevail.
      Mothers and fathers (genetic/biological/social) all matter to many/most people. We cannot wish or reword their importance or meaning way through the law.

  12. Nelly you’re cracking me up. I just got word that the OHSU andrology clinic contacted my dear friend at noon today. She reuited with her brother (another of donor 46’s kids) on Oprah 2 years ago . Her dad wants to know her! I spent two years helping her search and today is an ubelievable day for her. She changed my life and my interests from just reuniting adopted kids/parents for free to being a champion for Bioethics and donor kids everywhere. Langauge is a bitch isnt it?

  13. Marilyn, your posting about why language matters is a gem, especially the last paragraph. I think it so aptly sums up the bizarre newspeak which is so much a part of the cultural dress-up of the gamete sales industry.

  14. good grief Newspeak – orwell! For sure Sandy! Its exactly like that. Its subtle but it renders people speachless since the words dont mean what they mean anymore. Its so disconcerting. I’m trying not to participate in using the wrong words but its so hard since the wrong words are so commonly used now. I suppose thats the goal. Amazing that even those of us who want to be free thinkers get taken up in the under toe.

  15. And I think the parading around of the euphemism and falsehood in such Madison Avenue fashion is part of what is so disconcerting about this scenario.

    It is one thing when people consciously realize that they are making the decision to have someone else’s child, and the potential difficulties that entails, and another when such a rah-rah shameless cover up is going on.

    Of course there are many people who would say that it is like buying and selling a living child. I don’t personally see it that way, but I understand some donor offspring do feel commodified, so I assume when done in such a crass manner it just makes them feel worse.

    (On the other hand a money back guarantee if you don’t come back w a baby, even to me seems to skate a bit to close to comfort to the buying a child line)

    (unfortunately Marilynn I don’t think I’m the person you’re thinking of…)

  16. Nope you missed the point Julie. I am saying there ARE two different types of legally recognized child custody. I can no longer use the word biological because surogates believe they are biological mothers now so thats out the window. Sheesh. So I’m left with Progenators with automatic custody of their offspring and Adopters with transfered custody of other peoples offspring. The new quasi-biological mothers that are really just surogates don’t have legally recognized custody of the children their raisisng because they did not adopt them and they are not their own offspring which is why alot of this legal “who is the mother” stuff is happening. Their custody is totally under the table so its being challenged.
    What do I mean by stepmother? If the child in your womb is someone elses offspring you are a surogate. You may be a paid surogate or you may be a paying surogate. I think its ridiculous for a woman to think she’s the biological mother of her husband’s children if he conceived those children with an anonymous progenator at a fertility clinic. If your spouse has offspring that are not also your offspring you are a stepmother, should I be saying step progenator?
    Do you see why I want to get rid of the words mother and father. Not using those words highlights the fact that she is just the wife of a progenator with no legally recognized custody of the child. Certainly there are many cases right now where there are custody battles going on over this very issue. I’m so outraged that a woman where I live, SF can’t have custody of her own kid because she conceived a child in a dish and let her girlfriend give birth. Her girlfriend was listed on the birth certificate which is Bullsht – she’s nothing to that kid. Then she took off with the kid. I’ve even heard of people having to adopt their own children their own flesh and blood from the surogate. DNA indicates who has the first responsibility then if they give their child up for adoption fine. Step mother is married to the progenator of somebody elses offspring.

    • I think you might be offering some generalizations about how language is currentlyl used that I disagree with. For instance, I think many people call a woman pregnant with a child where there is no genetic connection a “gestational surrogate” and call the woman who provided the egg used to create the embryo a “biological mother” rather than calling the surrogate a biological mother. As I understand this deployment of language, it is in part to remove the reference “mother” from the pregnant woman’s designation. (I’m not sure this is something I am happy about, but it is something I observe to be happening.) More generally, I think people typically use the phrase “biological mother” (or “biological father” or “biological parent”) to identify the people who are genetically linked to the child–which is, I think, what you are using “progenitors” for?

      I like the term “progenitor” by the way. I think it is helpful. But I think you and I disagree about what the legal status of the progenitor ought to be. As I understand it, your position is that the progenitors should always be presumed to be the first set of legal parents. I do not agree. I think this disagreement might lie at the heart of all the other disagreements we have. (It’s worth being clear that apart from what the law ought to be, this priority to the progenitor rule is not the law in many places. To point to one nearly-universal and very old exception, the husband of a woman who gives birth is generally understood to be a legal parent of her child even if he is not the progenitor. )

      I also think you are using “surrogate” in a somewhat unusual and interesting way. As I understand its standard usage, a surrogate is woman who becomes pregnant (whether with a genetically related embryo or not) with the intention of turning the child over to someone else after it is born. (I think the term “surrogate” has become popular because the pregannt woman is understood to be standing in for the woman who is intended to be a parent to the child.) I think you are using it to include a woman who becomes pregnant using an embryo created with some other woman’s egg where the pregnant woman does intend to raise the child. It’s not common to call this second pregnant woman a surrogate, perhaps in part I’m not sure who we’d say she is a surrogate for.

      But of course, whatever we call these people, the major question is the same–which of these women is legally recognized as a parent and why? Again, I think I understand your answer to be that in all cases the woman who provides the egg is the first legal parent, although those rights can be transferred to other people? I understand your view to be that the intentions of the people involved cannot alter the initial legal recognition of the progenitor, although in time the second woman could adopt the child, thereby taking the place of the progenitor as a legal parent?

  17. I do not agree Marilyn with your definition of the word surrogate and stepmother. The fact is, our language does not have the right words for a woman pregnant with someone else’s genetic child because such a possibility didn’t exist until recently, nor does our language have a word for a female progenitor who does not gestate her genetic offspring. The word mother, in the biological sense, refers to both those things.

    The reason we end up prefering the genetic mother over the gestational mother is by analogizing the female parent to the male parent.

    We are not talking about the correct use of language in this case; talking about creating new langauge for new situation.

  18. Yes. Your last sentence is what I’m saying. I’m not actually against ART surogacy or adoption. I’m against using words that imply progenator-offspring relationship. Mother for instance implies a progenator-offspring relationship unless you say “adoptive mother”. The means by which a person came to have custody should be implicit in the terms the law uses to describe a person.

    All these legal battles over who is a real mother, father or parent seem to have a common denominator – someone is holding another persons offspring out as their own without having legally adopted the child from its progenator(s). I think that concept was originally meant to obtain child support from people who acted like a parent to a child for a short while. To me absurd because a person that really wants to hold a child out as their own would have sought to adopt from the progenator.

    ART and surogacy creates situations where people end up holding progenator’s offspring out as their own without any formal transfer of custody once the child is born. They do it on purpose to avoid the adoption process so that it looks like its their own offspring and they get burned for it when their right to the child is challenged. If we could never legally recognize “holding out as ones own” then people would have to adopt from the progenators after birth in ART / Surogacy situations and there would be no further custody battles about who a real parent is.

    • It’s not just ART that has complicated these questions. For centuries it was essentially impossible to figure out who the male progenitor was. As a result, the law developed all these little devices to assign the legal status of parent to some man. Might be the husband of the woman who gave birth, or a man who held out the child.

      Now, of cousre, we have DNA testing. And there are also strong claims for gender equity–to treat similarly situated men and women similarly. And then of course there is also ART.

      All these developments layered on centuries of law about fatherhood have made for some very difficult questions.

  19. Kisarita
    If I have another woman’s offspring put into my womb and I give birth to that child a maternity test would show that the baby was the offspring of the other woman, not me.
    That means that I have no biological relationship with the child once born. To look at the test result no one would have any idea that I even exist. I’m irrellevant to the child’s identity. I could just as well have been any other female.

    If I want to to take custody of that child why should’nt I have to adopt the child from the progenator? What if I’m a paid surogate and the progenator intended to raise her offspring and I just took off and gave birth in a hospital out of the area. Would that be right to pretend to be the child’s mother on the birth certificate? What if I was a surogate for my same-sex partner and after I gave birth to her offspring I pulled up stakes and moved away pretending that the baby was my offspring because my name was on the birth certificate?

    I think the rule needs to be the rule regardless of who pays who. In the instance where women agree to artificially conceive their own offspring with any man for a fee – the surogate for their offspring is typically a paying customer of a fertility clinic. I don’t understand why paying suddenly makes a person a biological mother. A surogate really is not a mother right? She’s just an unrelated care giver. Maybe I don’t understand the definition of surogate. I’m going to look it up.

  20. The thing is that DURING the time of pregnancy, she is biologically and physically a mother. Her body responds exactly as to her own fetus and vice versa. She gets enough oxygen, so does it etc.

    I can see this viewed as caregiving. But because they are biologically one body, I view it as more significant , paid or not. Especially since giving birth has always. been the quintessential act of motherhood before we knew about genetics or had the ability to splice things up.

    You are right, however, that the signficance of this fades quickly after the birth, especially if the baby is removed from her immediately.

    Thus I would place the genetic parent first, but the gestational carrier second in line for parenthood. I think someone else wrote as suchg on this forum.

  21. Kisarita
    Certainly the genetic carrier would be next in line to take custody of the child if no other relative of the child, say its grandparents, aunts uncles or adult siblings was seeking to obtain custody. If I was locked in a custody battle with a genetic carrier or adopters of my offspring – even if I was a crack-head that just woke up and got my self together after my kid was with them ten years, I would fight and fight and fight for custody. I would not throw in the towel and sacrifice the opportunity to be with my child day in and day out even if I only had 1 year of their childhood left. And if my child did not want to go with me they would have the peace of mind of knowing that I wanted to be with them that badly once I realized the error of my ways. They’d get over being seperated from the other people, but not from me. You know?

  22. On the other hand you might traumatize the kid by showing up suddenly threatening to rock the boat. I’d say a gradual reconnaisance period would be more in order, according to the kid’s pace, not yours. Your guilt should not become your child’s burden.

    (I use the generic “you,” not aimed at you personally.)

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