Here’s an essay that I think is a nice complement to the last couple of posts. It’s from the NYT Motherlode blog and is part of a series by Amy Klein. In this one (published a week ago) she considers whether using a donor egg would matter to her.
There are several things about the essay that I think are noteworthy given the recent discussions here. Most obviously, this is an instance of an individual making precisely the sort of calculation I think one needs to make–weighing the pros and cons before proceeding with something obviously serious.
You can also see consideration of both sides of the balance. On the one hand, apparently the odds of successfully bearing a child are apparently much better with the third-party egg. That’s obviously a plus. On the other, she worries about her own connection to the child–how would she feel knowing the child had a genetic link to her husband and someone else–someone not known to her–but not to her?
But notice, too, that her concerns about this are individual and not categorical. What I mean is it isn’t that she thinks “this is a bad idea for everyone.” She’s thinking (as I believe she must) about what it means for her. Again, there aren’t categorical reasons not to do it–it isn’t necessarily bad. The question she asks–as I think she must–is whether it is right for her.
Then notice the things that weigh on her mind–the things that make her really pause: First (and it turns out to be less importantly) is the stance of the US government on citizenship:
The State Department requires that “a U.S. citizen parent to have a biological connection to a child [born abroad] in order to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child at birth. In other words, the U.S. citizen parent must be the sperm or the egg donor in order to transmit U.S. citizenship to a child conceived through ART [Assisted Reproduction Technology].” Solomon is an American citizen, but reading that information felt like a stab in my uterus: a government agency was saying the baby wouldn’t be “mine.”
Second, the view of Orthodox Judaism about whether the child will be a Jewish child. (The views here are split.)
What’s important to me here is to notice that these things–the view of the US government and the view of the rabbinate–are changeable. The US could, if it wanted to, adopt a different view of US citizenship. If it did so, it wouldn’t be saying the baby wasn’t hers and that would, or at the very least might, make a difference in how she feels. Same thing with the rabbinate. If it wasn’t split–if there were a clear consensus that all that matters is the religion of the woman who gives birth–that might change how Ms. Klein weighs things in the end.
This is social construction in action. Our ideas about who is and who is not a real parent are shaped by institutions we interact with–the US government, religious authority and so on–and also by the culture in which we live. (Ms. Klein has friends who have similar experiences and I’m sure this contributes to her view, too.) These things are subject to change over time. And one could argue that they should change–that, for example, the US ought to change its view on citizenship for children conceived via third-party gametes.
The last thing I want to note is the conclusion Ms. Klein reaches here: She’ll try a few more times with her own eggs, saving the third-party gamete option as a last resort. In the end, though, she says:
I know one thing: in the end, it will be our baby either way.
That, it seems to me, is most crucial–it is where it has to end. Whatever path one chooses (and I think each person has to choose her/his own path) this is the conclusion you have to reach before going forward. If you think it won’t be “your baby” then really–that way lies sadness.