Qualifying for Parenthood

In the discussion about surrogacy and adoption that evolved from the posts about baby-selling, Alana S. raised an interesting point.   There’s a difference between surrogacy and adoption that I didn’t mention:  People who become parents via adoption are screened for suitability as parents.   People who become parents via ART (which includes those using surrogacy aren’t.

Assuming the screening of prospective parents is done well, we have reasons for confidence that qualifying adoptive parents are indeed suited for the job.   There’s no equivalent reason for confidence with those who use ART.   Their qualification is having the overall wherewithal (which includes the money) to use ART.   This, then, might be a reason to treat surrogacy (and ART generally) quite differently from adoption.

All this is true, but there’s another piece of the picture which must be considered.   People who become parents via intercourse (which is undoubtedly the majority of all people who become parents) aren’t screened either.   The only thing we know about them is that they had the capacity to engage in sex.   This does not seem to me to shed any light on their suitability as parents.

I’ve written about this before in a slightly different context, but I cannot help but think about it here.   I can see why adoptive parents are screened.  We, as a society, are going to hand them a baby–a real, living human being.   Maybe we need to check and make sure that they are going to be able to care for that.  Maybe we owe that much to a person who has no ability to protect themselves.

There’s no similar line of reasoning (in my view–I suspect others will differ) for those who are going to have children via ART or intercourse.   They are not being handed a baby.   They are at most being allowed to obtain sperm and eggs (or perhaps a frozen embryo).   None of these items are entitled (again–in my view–others can speak for themselves) to the same degree of care and concern that a child is.   Which means I can see that there is a rational for treating adoptive parents differently from people who will become parents by either ART or intercourse.

That said, there may well be a societal interest in ensuring that parents (generally) are up to the job.  After all, we as a society may be responsible for the well-being of our collective young.  And perhaps we’ll be the ones who pay for it (one how or another) if this go very badly for a child.    So maybe we should pre-screen all potential parents.    And here I would emphasize the word “all.”

I cannot see any reason why we would (in theory) be justified in screening those who would become parents via ART and not those who would become parents via intercourse.    The only issue I can see is one of practicality.  Practically, it may be easier to screen those who will use ART (because they often (but perhaps not always) will be engaging with some professional bureaucracy) than those who will use intercourse.   But if the only objection is to screening those who would conceive via sex is practical, then it isn’t hard to imagine technological advances that might fit the bill.  (I’m just sure I’ve read a science fiction story or two that covers this point.)

My suspicion is that there are other objections–but I’d actually like to see them carefully articulated.   There is something about conceiving naturally that might seem like it is just the way things are supposed to be.   But I don’t think that explanation really does hold up.   There are many things that are natural that aren’t optimal.   (I find myself thinking here of birth control–not natural, but to my mind a substantial advance as it does allow people (at least some of the time) to make their own decisions about when they are up to parenthood.)


51 responses to “Qualifying for Parenthood

  1. Julie, you may be interested to know that in the state of Victoria here in Australia all people/couples undergoing ART have the have a police check. Not a popular decision on behalf of that state government but interesting none the less.

  2. there’s a big difference between ART and intercourse. Intercourse is a natural human function much like eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom. ART is both a medical procedure as well as a business transaction. We could definitely discuss whether ART should be regulated or not but comparing it legally it to regulating intercourse is not conducive to intelligent analysisi in my opinion. You might as well discuss whether the government has a right to regulate who can go to the bathroom.

    • I think your analysis has slipped. First off, going to the bathroom is essential to life–as is food and water. So denying it is tantamount to a death sentence. I don’t think people die of lack of intercourse. I will grant you, however, that the US Supreme Court has affirmed the existence of some right to engage in consensual and private sexual conduct and that would include intercourse.

      But I actually don’t mean to suggest that the government should regulate intercourse–just child-bearing. And here I think the analysis is simpler.

      The state can assert an interest in the well-being of possible children–that’s exactly the interest that would support screening people pre-ART and that supports screening people for adoption. It cannot be that the state has less of an interest in children concieved via intercourse than it does those conceived via ART. They are all children, after all.

      On the other side of the equation you have the interests of the potential parents. But here again, there’s a lot of similarity. Everyone has some sort of interest in becoming a parent.

      Of course, it is much harder to screen those who would conceive via intercourse. That’s the practical problem I identified. But it isn’t impossible to imagine solutions. My question is whether we should try.

      • “But I actually don’t mean to suggest that the government should regulate intercourse–just child-bearing.”
        Same thing for most people.
        ART advocates sometimes for get this in their drive to make ART the legal prototype for ALL reproduction.

        • I don’t think it’s the same thing at all. I’m sure it is true that most children are created via intercourse, but that runs the logic the wrong way. I’m also pretty sure that most intercourse (and more generally, most sexual activity) doesn’t lead to procreation. Further, many people engage in sexual activity for reasons that have little or nothing to do with procreation. It’s certainly possible to engage in sex without procreation. So limiting procreation doesn’t necessitate limiting sexual conduct. Were the technologies available (something akin to a reproductive “off” switch) people could have sex however and wherever they wished and the government could still limit procreation.

          • so Julie are you suggesting that a scenario in which the government install some kind of switch onto peoples bodies or other wise monitor their sexual activities to see whether or not they are reproducing, and penalizes them accordingly, is the same scenario in which the goverment enacts criteria for whether people may undergo elective medical procedures???? (not even talking about purchasing OTHER peoples body partns here because that’s even less comparable).
            I personally am ambivalent for another consideration; about the second but “equalizing” it to natural reproduction is not one of them. Face up to it, it aint the same thing.

            • I am not unsympathetic to your concerns. I guess I am really conducting a thought experiment. And maybe I read too much science fiction in my youth.

              Imagine that a combination of chemicals we are all exposed to rendered us sterile. This sterility could be reversed through administration of a course of medications. Then it seems to me the government can screen anyone who wants to come and get the medications and assess whether they’ll be a good parent–just as with adoption.

              As it stands now, it’s only the accident of whether you happen to be capable of reproducing without assistance that determines whether you are screened. It’s nothing to do with your suitability as a parent or your merit by any measure. If you have the capacity to reproduce on your own–you’re good to go. If you don’t–well then, we might assess your suitability. This doesn’t make any sense to me at all. And that’s what I’m wrestling with.

              • Oh now were’re talking massive sterilization. The scenarios just keep getting better and better. Face it; there is no way to equalize the fertile with the infertile with regard to reproduction without massive violation of rights. You can’t make two different things the same. To risk repeating a cliche; mother nature is a bigot. Get over it.

                • No, I feel like you are just not listening to me. I DO NOT propose massive sterilization. I’m just thinking here–it’s a “what if.”

                  What if reproduction as a result of sex didn’t just happen–what if you needed to turn on some switch some how. Then I take it we would feel okay about regulating it to the same degree we feel okay about regulating ART? If that is so, then what’s so different about the way things really are? Practially we cannot regulate conception via intercourse, but if we could, is there a reason to leave that alone and at the same time regulate ART? Or maybe there’s no reason to regulate ART either.

                  • Seems like the point is that there is no way to create a scenario in which ART should be treated equally to natural reproduction, unless we create a fantasy science fiction world in which human biology is totally different.

                  • Why? Why does the manner in which the child was conceived matter all that much? Actually, those who assert that parenthood should be grounded on DNA would be with me on this, right? If there’s a genetic link, there’s a genetic link. Who cares how exactly it came about? And indeed, for most of the principled arguments on how we should define parenthood (intention, function), the manner of conception shouldn’t matter. It is, in a sense, a historical accident that it does matter in law in some states (but not in all states).

              • “It’s nothing to do with your suitability as a parent or your merit by any measure.” There’s something subtle but disturping about this statement – “suitability.” Being a parent is being cast as a job, a skill that requires particular “criteria” for suitability. In fact this is not the case. Parenthood; like sonhood, daughterhood, sisterhood and brotherhood is neither a job or a skill; it is a relationship first and foremost. I cringe when I hear people saying “good “or not good” at parenting”. More so, it is kin relationship.
                Now perhaps there are certain skills that people could learn that would improved there realtionshipships. perhaps not. But that doesn’t change the essence of the thing.

                • Fair point, but I’m not sure I’m persuaded. We do screen people before adoption–we check to make sure there are suitable (or some other word?) to form that relationship. Some would say we should do the same for those using ART. What about everyone else?

                  I do think being a parent is about having a specific relationship with a child. That’s why I think DNA has nothing to do with it–it doesn’t give you the relationship. And it seems to me that some people having sex are simply incapable of forming that relationship at the particular time in their lives and hence, though they can concieve children, they cannot be parents.

  3. I didn’t know that. What happens if the police check turns up some sort of criminal record? Is it automoatic disqualification? And is this justified as an effort to protect potential children? Can you say a bit more about this?

  4. That’s a really amazing story–at least to me, sitting in the US. I’m surprised that they’ve banned access to ART for a bunch of people and there’s no record of why they’ve done that. Makes me wonder what the scope of their discretion is. It’s clear from the story you’ve linked to that the fact of a conviction doesn’t automatically preclude you from ART. There’s some consideration of specifics. But I’m not sure what guidance there is about which specifics.

    And there’s my original point–if this is such a good idea–protecting children and all that–why not do it for everyone? It’s just happenstance that some potentially dangerous would-be parents need to use ART. What about the one’s who don’t?

    • My understanding of the Victorian legislation is that when access to ART was opened up for single women there was a fair bit of legislative horse-trading behind the scenes and the police checks were introduced as a kind of sop to the conservatives who didn’t want to liberalise access. It was a last minute concession to get the legislation across the line.

      Interestingly in Victoria while the laws surrounding ART are repressive they have an amazing and very effective system around registering donor conception and facilitating contact between donors and recipient families and between recipient families (where desired).

    • http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=14379
      2006 Cal. Stats., Chap. 806 requires a person who causes conception through assisted reproduction to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts of CA. Permits the court to enter an order or judgement based on that action before the birth of the child and to consider a parent’s criminal record prior to the felony conviction in making a finding that a parent is unfit to have future custody or control.


  5. I think what you say about the difference between donor conception and adoption is true, if we’re talking about regulating the circumstances under which people can get pregnant and have children: determining whether a child should exist is a different determination, with a rightly different standard, than determining who should raise it.

    But there’s another question that that argument doesn’t handle as well: once the child exists, who should count as the legal parents? We could ask this, of course, about any child: why not put all children up for adoption, why not, at least, require a “best interests of the child” determination in every case? In the case of children raised by biological parents, though, we have at least the argument that the biological relationship gives them some particular legitimate interest in raising that child, an interest that would be disregarded if we took away “their” (prima facie) children. I think the same is true of the intentionally causal role the intended parents have in the surrogacy context, even if neither of them have any biological relationship with the child. But this depends on a specific judgment about the significance of arranging for a child to be born, one that reasonable people can disagree with; I don’t think it follows from the distinction we generally make between children being raised by their biological parents and children put up for adoption.

    If I’m right, then this also helps clarify what went wrong in the baby-selling case: because there were no intentional parents prior to conception, there was no one who had a legitimate claim on the child once the biological parents renounced theirs, so the proper course was for the children to go through the adoption process.

    • Well said and very intriguing. You are so right about the importance of the “who is a parent” question–that question is really the main driver behind this blog. And I do struggle with who gets to be a parent from the get-go. If you’ve read the blog, you’ll know I’m a big fan of a functional or de facto definition. Is someone puts in all the time/effort, establishes the relationship, really is the parent from the child’s perspective, then I think the law ought to affirm and protect that relationship. But that is necessarily backward looking. It leaves you with the problem of where a parent comes from to begin with. And here, as you suggest, there are arguments that might lean towards either genetics or intention or both.

      That said, I am resistant to these arguments. It’s not entirely clear to me what the source of my resistance is, but I can offer two thoughts. First, if you let these ideas solve your initial parent problem then you make it harder to get away those same arguments at other points, and I’m not ready to accept them generally. Second, there’s something about the logic of them I find unconvincing. It’s akin to tort causation, I think–your actions caused this child to exist. I’m not happy importing that concept to this context. But there is a great deal to think about here.

  6. I made another comment to this post this morning but it did not stick. Well here is a different one. I do agree with you that reproduction and gestation and child bearing are not an indication that a person will take good care of the child they produced and or gestated.

    So you are thinking that the government should collect all children at birth and hand them out to whomever has the best qualifications? Would the government confirm the identity of the child’s biological parents and gestational carriers prior to absconding with them or commandering them? You know for the sake of accurate medical records for the child and to keep track of who is reproducing and gestating?

    Of course, like you said above the government could do some sort of mass sterilization when they give children their immunizations…say around 10 years old right before they hit puberty. By that age the child will have demonstrated the types of characteristics that most intended parents find desirable in a child such as good grades, good deportment, exemplary attendance (I sure sign of good health and vitality) and their features and bodies are fairly well developed at 10 years old to determine if they will be aesthetically pleasing adults. The very best children could have their genetic material harvested for government embryo production. Those chosen children would then be sterilized like all other children. Adults wishing to become parents would submit their applications and people without criminal records who were in good physical and financial health would be allowed to move on to the second phase of elimination which would be psychological health and relationship status. Those who passed that test would have to prove that they had relevant experience in taking care of an infant they’d need letters of reference from babysitting jobs, that sort of thing. Anyone making it to that stage of the game would then have their aesthetic appearance and family medical histories evaluated – anyone judged suitable for reproduction at that point would be de-sterilized and allowed to procreate. Those who at that point were determined to have unattractive features or poor family health histories would be given one of the embryos created with the superior children’s genes. Embryo’s would not be available for implantation until both of the biological parents (superior children) had died to avoid any confusion about who the parents of the child would be at birth. Problem is almost no one would be de-sterilized and they’d start running out the dead children’s embryos – The government would start knocking off the superior little kids early one by one to free up their little snow flakes for implantation.

    Is that the horrid kind of sci-fi scenario you wanted to bandy about with commentors?

    • No, this isn’t at all what I had in mind. Perhaps I wasn’t clear.

      I was suggesting screening before the children were conceived for those who will be obtaining children via conception. (I’ll include both those using ART and those using intercourse in this category. It sounds to me like they presently do something of this sort for ART in Victoria, AU.) If you are approved, then go ahead and conceive. And when the child is born, it’s yours. If you are not approved, you do not get to concieve. No reallocation of children. Nothing of the sort.

  7. I’m going to try and post a similar comment to the one that did not stick this morning. Delete this if it ends up as a duplicate.

    For every person that becomes a legally recognized, but non-genetic, parent through an ART scheme, there is a biological parent who produced offspring for sale.

    Its pretty simple, a biological parent has to not take responsibility for his or her offspring in order for someone else to become a non-genetic parent via ART. Much like you said yourself about the Erickson scandal the other day…“Its a way of creating children who can be placed for…” black market “…adoption-because it is clear from before conception htat the…” biological parent “…doesn’t want to raise them. In other words, children are produced for sale. That’s pretty apalling” I quoted you above but added the words “black market” in front of adoption and replaced the word surrogate with the words “biological parent”. Its still pretty appalling that people are paying others to reproduce so they can buy their parenthood from them.

    In thinking about all people having to qualify before assuming parental responsibilities, I think you are overlooking that the very first part of determining whether or not people are suitable adoptive parents is establishing that the child is available for adoption. That entails establishing the identity and whereabouts of the child’s parents and the legitimacy of the placement ie have the parents been cooerced or is the placement in return for any sort of consideration?

    The hallmark of black market adoption is that the biological parents are never named as parents on the child’s birth record; not being legal parents means the State won’t seek to document their identity or consent to an adoption. Black market adoption makes it like the child was born to the non-genetic parents. Its like there are no biological parents the non-genetic parents appear to be biological parents but its all artifice or artificial reproduction, pretend reproduction.

    In black market parenthood, and black market parenthood’s offspring ART and quasi-marital parenthoods, the first legal parents of the child are not actually related to the child as parents. The identity, consent, proof of non payment and lack of coercion of the people related to the child as parents is not documented in a court of law as it is in adoption.

    • Sorry it didn’t post the first time–no idea what that’s about.

      I think we part company right at the beginning. In my view (and not in yours) the people who provide the biological material aren’t parents. You can call them “biological parents” if you like, but I’d prefer “progenitors.” There’s nothing about providing the biological that automatically makes you a parent in my book. Thus, the resulting child isn’t “yours” in the first place and you’re not selling the child. IF you had parental rights, THEN it would be selling a child, but IF you do not, THEN it is not. It’s the same disagreement we’ve had in the past, isn’t it?

      • “IF you had parental rights, THEN it would be selling a child, but IF you do not, THEN it is not.”

        So the only people that can be guilty of baby-selling are legally recognized parents? The only people that can be guilty of selling parental rights are legally recognized parents? What troubles me about what you are saying is that once you are a legally recognized parent its not really possible to sell your parental rights because the law already knows who you are and has documented your connection to the child. The whole black market baby trade is about buying the right to be the first legally recognized parents of a child. They have bought the ability to put their names down on the birth certificate from the biological parents or from people who are representatives of the biological parents or have some control over the biological parents behavior and are able to make the promise that the biological parents won’t be stepping forward to claim their offspring or to challenge the false paternity or maternity claims by the persons who are willing to pay.

        So I guess what I’m saying is the biological parents don’t have any parental rights because those rights have been sold to the people who purchased their gametes and the offspring produced by those gametes. The gamete provider is the only person that signs anything that says they won’t assert their parental rights over their own offspring. The doctor does not sign saying he waives his parental rights, the Lab does not waive their parental rights, the non biological parent certainly does not sign giving up their parental rights. Someone is giving up their parental rights to their own offspring and its the Biological Parent. Now, if someone pays for that to happen, its kind of hard to say that a child was not produced for sale.

        • There use to be and still probably are private obs that specialize in delivering babies of unwed mothers. They also facilitated private adoptions and for a little extra money the doctor would enter the name of the adoptive female and her husband on the birth certificate rather than the names of the child’s mother and father. The entire exchange would be handled off the books making it a black market exchange.

          If the mother and father got a percentage from the Dr I would think they’d be guilty of selling their parental rights even though they were never legally recorded as the child’s parents. Also I would think the physician would be guilty of the same thing and he would under no circumstances ever have been considered the legal father of the child. So Julie help me understand why it is your saying that you can only be guilty of selling children or parental rights over children if you are the child’s legally recognized parent, The FBI said Erickson was part of a baby selling ring and she had no parentall rights nor would she. (Although I do think she was an intended parent because she was orchestrating the whole thing – she was in that position any way since she paid for the eggs and ivf )

          • Okay–I just wrote this in reply to another comment of yours, but I think you’ve made a fair point. You can sell a baby that isn’t yours and be guilty of baby-selling. But I think the sperm/egg provider thing quite different. Of cousrse, there is no child at the time of the transaction. But let’s suppose that they have no legal relationship to any child created with the material they provide. If that is so, then whatever it is they are selling, it isn’t parental rights. They’re not giving up parental rights because they don’t have any. And no one else is giving them up either.

            I really did just write this, but I think it is only if you start by saying they would have parental rights that you come the problematic point of babyselling. And thus, we’re right back to the beginning questions–do they have parental rights by virtue of the genetic connection. If yes, then it looks like baby-selling. If no, then it doesn’t. And we still need to answer the original question. This whole excursion doesn’t really throw much light on it all (for either of us).

            • People have parental obligations by virtue of a genetic connection, but it isn’t a right that can’t be taken away or lost.

              • This is a strong statement of a kind of natural law. You don’t offer a justification for why they should have such rights, you simply assert that the rights exist. It’s a perfectly plausible position to take, mind you–I don’t mean to dismiss it. But I want to point out that it isn’t an argument–one either accepts and believes this or one doesn’t. Further, there’s no assertion about whether this is a good thing or not. Thus, it is rather like a statement about the earth going around the sun–it’s offered as a statement of a natural fact.

                Finally, we should all be clear that as a matter of law it isn’t an accuarate statement, nor has it been accurate in the past. What I mean is that it does not describe the way the law is or the way the law has been. I say this just for clarity. In this regard it is not like the statement about the earth and the sun, which is demonstrably true.

                • I think you misread what I wrote: I said it ISN’T a right that can’t be taken away or lost (or given up). You seem to have read me as saying the opposite.

                  I think it is a natural fact and a legal principle that people have an obligation to their offspring. Child support are based on that principle.

                  • It was the first part I was responding to as well–people have a right because of the DNA connection. As you say, you think it is a “natural fact.” That’s the kind of natural law reasoning I meant to comment on. You’re just asserting that things are that way and that no justification is needed. There’s nothing persuasive about that if you don’t already believe it.

                  • Look again, I said it isn’t a right, there is no right to parent a child, DNA connection or not. You constantly argue against this straw man.

                    I said people have an obligation to their offspring, which is a natural fact that can be easily verified by looking at child support laws and culture. Though it is true that is eroding now that people can drop their children off at fire stations, but even that still carries the obligation to find a fire station.

        • You’ve made a fair point here–I could sell a baby I do not have parental rights to. I could snatch a baby off the street and offer to give it to someone for money and there you are. So I guess I’ve overstated my point, or perhaps I just haven’t said it very well.

          If you were to agree with me for a moment that genetic linkage is not what gives you parental rights, then selling sperm or eggs wouldn’t be selling parental rights. If on the other hand you insist that genetic connection is what gives you parental rights then selling the gametes is indeed the equivlant of selling the child. (Can I get you to suspend your belief in the importance of DNA long enough to agree to this logical analysis?) So there’s really no separate baby-selling question–there’s only that one core question about the importance of DNA. Once you make DNA central, then it is hard to see how you can accept the sale of sperm/eggs as anything less than a transaction involving parental rights.

          • Ok I can suspend my belief that DNA is central but I think if you truly follow the bouncing ball we land back at the same place of child/parental rights selling, which is why the fact that its legal is so confusing to me. So if you’ll humor me I’ll lay it out without saying DNA makes a person a parent (cause you hate that and I care about not irritating you hard as that may be to believe)

            Thanks for agreeing a person does not need to be a legally recognized parent in order offer parental rights selling. Thought I was loosing my marbles. So we know a person does not need to be a legal parent to be in a position where they can offer a child and parental rights for sale; they just need to be in a position of control over the biological parents behavior though. People paying to raise someone else’s biological child want to be assured the bio parent won’t try to contact or seek custody or visitation of their offspring. They want to raise that person’s offspring without contact or interference from them. If the transaction is black market they also want to be assured the bio parent will never challenge their claims of maternity or paternity with DNA evidence. Lawyers, doctors, clergy, grandparents are all examples of people who, as middle men can keep the purchaser and the producer from learning each other’s identity and by virtue of that be able to exert some level of control over the bio parent’s behavior. Obviously bio-parents are in a position to control their own bio-parent behavior, and that is why these transactions are scrutinized so carefully in adoption proceedings. Clearly one does not need to be a bio parent or a legal parent to offer to restrain the bio parent from making his or her pretense known to the child and interfering with the buyers exclusive enjoyment of legal parental or legal adoptive parental rights.

            Next up…can you sell a baby and parental rights before the baby even exists? I think the answer is yes, and one does not need to be a legal parent or biological parent to do it either. Again, they just need to be in a position to make promises about what the bio parent will and will not do. The law does say that its against the law for expectant parents to accept money in exchange for promising to relinquish their child at birth even in official on the book type adoptions and its of course more illegal to accept money to handle the transaction off the books so that the buyer will be the first recorded legal parent as if the bio parents never existed. There can be middle men making a profit in those senarios as well. The actual payment happens prior to the child’s birth, but the terms of the agreement involve post-birth performance of duty by the biological parent and that is they have to not have any contact with their child (abandon their offspring) from at least birth until the age of 18. So I think what I’m seeing here is maybe DNA does not give a person parental rights but DNA does give the prerequisite control over the behavior of the bio parent that would be necessary in order for them to make a promise not challenge maternity or paternity with DNA evidence, or not to attempt to contact their offspring. The behavior of the bio parent matters to the people that want to raise that person’s offspring, it matters to them that the bio parent not take responsibility for their offspring as they would be required to do by law with very few exceptions. Those exceptions confuse me. This exception confuses me. People say that selling sperm is not selling a baby and they are correct, look closer at the forms they sign and you’ll see that they are not just agreeing to give up their sperm they are agreeing to reproduce themselves and they also agree to never try to contact their offspring when and if they are born and to never try to take responsibility for them which I’m only assuming means while their offspring are minors. DNA may not make a person a parent but it sure makes them the person that holds all the cards.

            I have a friend that produced a low budget movie and they hired real actors but did not pay them. The actors agreed to be paid a certain amount if and when the film makes money. So my friend received their labor now in exchange for his performance of a duty if and when the film earns money. So legal parental rights be damned, the donor is paid on spec for his performance of an 18 year duty not to care for his offspring if and when they are born.

            Just saying Julie, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck yet for some reason everyone wants to call it a chicken so pluck it I give up.

          • Rising to John’s defense here – he did not say people had rights to the children they create he said they have an obligation. He reiterates that below. He also correctly points out that you tend to respond to statements about that obligation by using the word rights as if the person your responding to used that word when they did not. He called that a straw man. He also correctly points out that child support obligations fall to genetic. The only time that support does not fall to either a genetic or adoptive parent is when someone has skirted the law and becoame a legal parent by virtue of an incorrect presumption of paternity or maternity. If that incorrect presumption was deliberate on the part of the man whose paternity is actually false then I consider it fraud and I wonder where is the male who is suppose to be taking care of this child that is is offspring? Did he abandon the child or was the child concealed from him by the mother? If one of the genetic parents is not supporting his or her child a crime is being committed by someone at least in my eyes.
            Are you, Julie, saying you do not believe state and federal law should hold people accountable for the results of their own actions? Its not about conception, gestation or childbirth its about identifying the people who the child originated from and making them be responsible for the child’s care. Its the logical thing to do. Raising children would be a financial burden to the state. If you have a problem in your house (like government with a problem in the country), you will clean it up if you have to because it needs to be dealt with, but first you will look for the person that made the mess and try to get them to clean it up. There are times when I bet the wrong kid got punished for making a mess or putting an empty Juice container back in the fridge – betcha…and that sucked for them. That is like paternity fraud.

            The thing about kids is that really they are only a burden to the State; despite the expense of raising a child they are a joy which is why people who attach to children as people and love them see past the burden and want desperately to hold on to them. But as far as the law goes we need people who reproduce taking care of the children they produce. If they fail to do so we have backup plans.

    • “For every person that becomes a legally recognized, but non-genetic, parent through an ART scheme, there is a biological parent who produced offspring for sale. ”

      Marilynn, in Australia both surrogacy and gamete donation are only permitted on a truly altruistic basis. There is no such thing as commercial surrogacy or gamete donation. So I think your statement is more than a little totalising and is factually incorrect.

      • Well I guess what I’m trying to convey is if I were to donate some eggs anonymously and refused to be compensated for my time, I’d still sign a form agreeing to reproduce and agreeing to give up my parental obligations to any child born of eggs taken by the clinic. I am agreeing to reproduce myself – to produce my offspring for others who will pay for the right to raise my offspring without my involvement. Even if I am a patient at the clinic and my eggs were misappropriated by unscrupulous clinic staff, I would be a biological parent if a child was produced from my misappropriated eggs or embryo and the people raising that child would have paid for that ability to give birth to and raise someone elses offspring without having to adopt.

        Not that people who adopt don’t also pay for the ability to raise someone else’s offspring, they do, but Julie was saying that she was outraged that Erickson’s case involved children specifically produced for sale. And of course it makes no difference whether you pay for someone else’s offspring as a direct buy from the person who reproduces or if you pay a middle man like a doctor or a lawyer or a andrology lab or a developer who produced a stock pile of embryos for sale.

        Its important to remember that ART does not produce children, people produce children by reproducing themselves and somewhere someone is making money off of it or it would not be being done. Maybe the people who provided their eggs and sperm are not directly proffiting off the sale of parental rights and their offspring but someone is. One does not give birth to an unrelated child for free.

        Excuse me if I made it sound like they as parents were going home with stacks of cash for selling their offspring. I know that is not always the case and there are people out there who provide eggs and sperm out of a desire be nice. Their children will still be produced specifically for someone in exchange for money, you just cannot get around the fact that some people have to pay to become parents and other people don’t. Which is why adoption and the procedures to document everything matter and it would be great to do it in ART situations as well. You want to make sure that eggs and sperm are not being misappropriated, you want to make sure that a child is really the offspring of the donor that gave the consent with a DNA test, you want to make sure that the donor did not profit from reproducing and relinquishing their child for adoption by the unrelated birth mother and her husband or by the genetic father and his wife or by the husband of the genetic mother. You want to make sure that if money is being exchanged it follows that adoption facilitator kind of guidelines where its as close to ethical as possible.

  8. Oh. Your not letting my twice posted comment stick. Not a technical error on my part. Hmm. Ok then.

  9. Ask the donor-conceived and the adopted who their real parents are. There’s way too many of that say our BIOLOGICAL parent, for you to ignore us.

    People have the right to have sex with whatever consenting adult they want.

    Sometimes, when men and women have sex, someone gets pregnant (always the woman btw). People have the right to raise THEIR child.

    If one or both partners are infertile, they don’t have the right to SOMEONE ELSE’S child (3rd party reproduction). Just like adoption, they should be screened and allowed to APPLY. Any exchange of money by definition makes this baby-selling.


    The Cinderella Effect: a very well-documented phenomenon that tells us children are 50% more likely to die in the care of a non-biological guardian, and the fact that the #1 predictor of child abuse is a child living with a non-biological male.

    Ignoring this, is inviting children to be abused… but I doubt that holds much weight with people using ART since they already clearly support human trafficking through baby-selling.

    • I don’t mean to ignore you or anyone else. But I’d say that there’s a diversity of opinion on this. Some who are adopted or donor concieved would identify the birth parents or the gamete providers as their real parents, but some would not. Some (the person who wrote Red Dust Road–see other post) explicitly talk about why the adoptive parent is the “real parent.”

      I don’t think either having had sex with a woman or contributing the DNA gives a right to a man to claim the child as “his.” This is just one of those big points that you and I disagree on. (And yes, many others agree with you.) There’s a ton of reasons I can give to support my view, though I doubt they will persuade you. You could find some working off of this earlier post https://julieshapiro.wordpress.com/2008/02/25/gearing-up-again-the-sperm-donor-and-the-one-night-stand-guy (These is old and perhaps I should revisit it.)

      I think I should probably devote some time to the Cinderella effect point. There is some research to support some of what you say (though I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that it is “very well-documented.”) But there’s a lot of different family configurations there. They roll all sorts of non-biologically related families into one pool in some of those studies. People who engage in ART and deliberately choose to use third-party gametes are not in exactly the same situation as your classic step mother/step father. Thus, putting them in the same stastistical group is problematic. I don’t think the conclusion you reach from the research cannot be supported because the researchers didn’t purport to study those using third-party gametes in particular. As I say–I’ll try to do more on this at another time.

      • What situation do you think gives a man a right to claim a child as “his”? I’m guessing only those weirdos who contract with a surrogate and an egg donor to give them a child? That’s probably the most unethical situation to create a child in that’s in use today, but it seems the only way for a man to have children he can claim as his own. That’s why most men are unhappy and quitting work and marriage, and waiting for the country to fall apart so respect for men and fatherhood can be restored.

        Julie, you really did read too many “planet of women” utopian science fiction books, and hold that fiction too close to your heart. Kisarita pointed it out too, that mother nature is a bigot, she makes women get pregnant and only men do the impregnating.

        The idea of stripping procreation rights from marriage and issuing “parenting licences” and contracepting the population is not new, it was a key plank of Eugenics 100 years ago. Google “Sanger American Baby Code” You are the expected result of their post-WWII strategy of “liberal eugenics” or “crypto-eugenics.”

        I have been working really hard to preserve the right of marriage to pprocreate offspring, with no additional separate tests. Merely finding someone eligible to marry who consents to marry is enough of a bar on irresponsible birth, and all marriages should be allowed to commence procreating. It’s ridiculous that you think the right of marriage is to have sex, as if sex didn’t make babies. No the right of marriage is to have PROCREATIVE sex and procreate offspring. It is not to parent, we remove children from married households and rescind legal parenting rights all the time.

  10. To establish that a child is available for adoption the court needs signed parental consent of the parents. If there is no legal father the court requires that certain procedures be followed to locate the natural father, confirm his identity through DNA testing and secure his consent to the adoption. The intent of the court is to identify both biological parents and obtain their written consent to their child’s adoption. Also the court won’t let the adoption go through if it appears that the parents were coerced into giving their consent or if their consent appears to have been given in exchange for money or services past present or future.

    Prospective adopters and biological parents will be able to pass this test but people who wish to obtain custody of other people’s offspring will not be able to pass the test.

    • What you say is generally right. But you have only to look back at that recent Utah case to see that it is a bit more complicated. https://julieshapiro.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/harsh-rules-for-unmarried-fathers-in-utah/ The man involved there had a genetic connection (let’s assume) and did not give consent but that didn’t matter because (in the eyes of the Utah court) he was not a parent. Thus, his consent isn’t required.

      What this reflects is a broader legal reality–although you may not like it, DNA alone is not always enough to put a person in the category of “parent.”

      • Right I know. I was thinking about that case when I wrote that actually. I checked my own state code and Washington and Florida, just the ones that googled first. They are all pretty consistent in that they all do look for fathers to obtain their consent even if those fathers have not been recognized as legal fathers. I personally object to the time limits states have in their rush to get someone else to take financial responsibility for the child. I mean no consent is no consent. My friend’s dad was at war when her mom up and did that to him, it really tanks he had no idea she was pregnant. Anyway point is that even though the time limits and little loopholes are unfortunately alive and well, States have to at least try to find the biological parents to get their consent before approving an adoption, after all they do need to do their do diligence to make sure the bio parents were not paid or coerced and its best you know if you can get their names and signatures right? The child deserves that effort to be made on their behalf they cant speak for themselves.

  11. My issue is that I don’t think a person has rights before they are born. So I can not see how it can be legally justified to prevent people from carrying out whatever activities they please on the basis of the welfare of future children. Then agian, we don’t want to allow people to create children who will eventually have rights that will be violated.

  12. John’s return reminds me of a nother point.
    The assumption underlying this post is that becoming a parent is some sort of specialized endeavor , requiring qualifiication, self screening iat least, or “lots of prior thought, . This is a view shared by many; that parent hood chosen after and planned is somehow better than that which happens by chance.
    I would like to challenge that by saying that all other thinkigs being equal; being conceived without too much thought or emotional investment is better. Because a child who means inordinately much to its parent, is a child born having to absorb that baggage. Unlike John, I do not think that is always wrong; it is also impossible to tell people NOT to think about something- that’s a surefire way that they will think about even more.

    • What do I think is “always wrong”? Intentional conception? I don’t think it is wrong to hope for children and have sex with a desire for pregnancy, as long as the couple treats the baby as a miracle blessing that came to fulfill their dream, rather than a successful material product of their actions.

  13. I forgot to say, good point about the baggage, and how it is better to be conceived without too much thought or emotional investment. I don’t think I disagree with you enough to warrant the “unlike John” thing, I think you got the wrong impression.

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