I may come to regret the title of this post, as it could be seen as a wee bit inflammatory, but perhaps it got your attention. I want to pick up on the discussion on my last post about surrogacy. I’d like to try coming at this from a different direction.
I’ve consistently (I hope) argued against using genetic linkage as the determinate of who gets recognized as a parent. In that last post, I pointed out that if one takes this view, then one (in this case, me) ought not to distinguish between gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy. After all, the thing that defines the difference between them is the presence (in the latter case) or absence (in the former case) of a genetic connection between the surrogate (the pregnant woman) and the fetus. If the genetic linkage is irrelevant to parental status, then the two practices should be seen as essentially similar.
I think the question of giving weight to the genetic linkage can be viewed as a feminist issue, though I acknowledge the breadth of feminist views and hardly think that all who identify with feminists would agree with me. But I don’t think being feminist means being anti-male, anti-father or anti-child and I don’t think I am any of those things. I thought I’d take a little time to lay this out more fully than I did in the replies to the last post.
I have no argument with science–every child is created using genetic material that comes from a man as well as genetic material that comes from a woman. So if the mere fact of genetic linkage gives one the entitlement to claim parental rights, then every child has a legal father.
This does not mean the child has a social father, of course. It doesn’t ensure there is a man to play any particular role in the child’s life. It simply means that there is a man with legal rights.
It’s obvious those legal rights give that man power over the child. It is perhaps less obvious, but equally true that parental rights also give that man power over any other legal parent, which is typically to say they give him power over the mother.
Of course there are countless situations in which it is perfectly appropriate to give a man who has a genetic relationship with a child recognition as the child’s legal parent. I would never suggest otherwise. I would not disqualify a man from parenthood because he was genetically related to the child.
But I also would not give him legal authority over the child and, practically speaking, over the mother, based merely on the genetic connection. That’s giving too much in exchange for too little.
I don’t think this is bad for or disrespectful of men. Men can be terrific and sustaining parents–not by giving up some gametes, but by giving fully of themselves. I think we sell men short–and we sell children short—when we say that all it takes to be a father is showing a DNA test.
For those who object, I want to ask a different question: must all children have a legal (or a social) father? And if the answer is yes, then why?
I suspect one answer that I might get is that because it is in the nature of things. I’d like to push on that a bit. Granted it is in the nature of things that there needs to be a biological father. (That’s for Kisarita–I’m trying out the terminology). But must that same man have either a legal or a social role? Why?
On one level it seems to me that it is obvious that he need not be. I know of a number of fine families where the man with the genetic link is not a legal or a social father. So apparently he isn’t actually necessary as social father or legal father.
But beyond that admittedly anecdotal evidence, thinking generally–what is it that he alone can do or that he can do better than anyone else?
It’s true that making the biological father the legal father ensures that all children have legal fathers, although sometimes we might not be able to find them. Is that enough of a reason to attach such a substantial and important role on such a minimal basis? Which brings me to the question: Must all children have a legal father?
I realize there are other questions to ask. For example-does there need to be any man involved? Must every child have a mother? Must every child has some parent? Maybe I’ll take on some of those. But you have to start somewhere.