My last post asked this same question about fathers. It’s only fair to switch the genders around and ask about mothers. I’d suggest reading that other post first as it clears up some confusion that might arise about my willingness to accept science. I think of myself as a pro-science sort of person and am not making any claims at odds with the general understanding of DNA and reproduction.
So–must every child have a mother? Mostly what I would say would perfectly parallel what I said about fathers. Surely there are many children who are raised without social and/or legal mothers. This may be the result of planning by a single man or gay male couple or it may just be happenstance. I believe that a man (or men) are fully capable of raising children without mothers. And so to a large extent I’d say just what I said in that other post, just switching round men and women.
But then there is this one stark, undeniable difference between men and women and the roles they play in children’s lives. Every person is carried in utero and then born to a woman. Only women (though not all women, of course) become pregnant and give birth.
What difference does this difference make? Well, it depends on how you think a person becomes a parent. For example, if you think legal parental status should be conferred on the basis of DNA, then difference just cited makes not difference–you’d still treat men and women precisely the same. If you think parental status should be conferred on the basis of intention–who intended to create and parent this child–then again, I think the difference makes no difference–you’d treat men and women the same.
But I don’t accept the genetic link and I’m at best a wavering supporter of intention. If you’ve read this for a while you’ll know that I’m generally supportive of something like recognition of de facto or functional parents. (Use the tags in the tag cloud if you want to poke around under those topics.) And from this point of view, I think pregnancy very likely matters.
It seems to me that a woman who is pregnant has an ongoing relationship with the soon-to-be child that is clearly parent-like. All the needs of the developing fetus are met, 24/7, for nine months. Thus, when a woman gives birth, she is a mother of that child. And so yes, every child must have a mother.
Do I want to say this? Do I want to revise my view before doing so? There are obviously implications for surrogacy here. It doesn’t necessarily mean surrogacy is impossible or impermissible, it just means that the surrogate is in a much stronger legal position than she is in many states today. (I don’t raise this because I think everything should be decided by considering it’s impact on surrogacy, but rather because there’s an obvious impact there.)
That’s all I’ve time for just now. I think I’ll try and pick this up again next time, though I have several other open tabs clamoring for my attention.