This story–a fairly recent one–typifies the conflicting attitudes towards genetics that I think are often on view in public discussion and within families. I don’t mean to offer any particular judgment about the actions detailed here. I just want to point out what I think is an essential tension at the heart of this story.
Geromy Moore “always knew he wanted to be a parent.” I don’t actually know whether that means that Moore always knew he wanted to raise a child–that is, to be a psychological parent–or whether that means he always knew he wanted to pass his genetic material on to the next generation. Probably both? Certainly for many people these two things are deeply intertwined.
In any event, it appears that the genetic connection part mattered to him. As the article concludes: “having a child that has his genes was worth the time, money and legal wrangling.”
To accomplish this goal, Moore used gestational surrogacy. (For more discussion on that, check out the tags on the right.) As the article makes clear gestational surrogacy is an expensive and somewhat complicated route to parenthood. Moore went to a California surrogacy center (since defunct) that in turn sent him to a surrogacy center in India.
But of course, Moore couldn’t create a child using his sperm alone. He needed an egg. Continue reading
I consider this a continuation of the last few posts about the darker sides of surrogacy. (Just as a reminder, I don’t think surrogacy is inherently bad or wrong, but I do think it subject to abuse. The recent stories illustrate the sorts of abuse I worry about.)
As I read about the Thai case one thing I noticed is that the focus of concern seems to be either Gamay (the infant boy who remains in Thailand) or Pattaramon Chanbua (the surrogate). There isn’t much concern about the infant girl, who is presumably with the intended parents in Australia. But the girl is who I want to think about here for a bit.
I suppose I should start by saying that I don’t have universal concerns about the well-being of children born of surrogacy. I think the evidence gathered thus far shows that they, like children conceived/born other ways, are mostly just fine. This is important because it means I don’t see the well-being of children as a general objection to all surrogacy.
But this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to think about. Continue reading
There’s a story that has been all over the media the last few days involving an Australian couple who used a Thai surrogate. I’m sure you can find a dozen different versions of the story, but I’ll start with this one from the Washington Post. One of the reasons I’ll use this one is that it makes it clear that a lot of the details are unknown and/or unclear.
That said, here’s the bare-bones account. (I’m trying to stay to the facts we know, but I think I have to make some assumptions, too. I’ll try to identify them.). An unnamed (and presumably heterosexual) Australian couple went to Thailand to hire a surrogate. (While it doesn’t say this, I think we can assume that part of the reason they went to Thailand is that compensated surrogacy is prohibited in Australia.)
Pattaramon Chanbua is a 21-year-old Thai woman. She is food vendor and earns $622 per month. A surrogacy agency offered to pay her somewhere between $9300 and $16,000 to serve as a surrogate. She agreed to do so. Continue reading
There’s something weird about the ebb and flow in the media attention to surrogacy. You seem to get a blast of positive coverage and then, a few weeks later, a corresponding blast of negative coverage. Right now we are clearly in negative territory, as this article nicely shows. It’s about the black market for surrogacy that currently exists in China–and apparently exists on a pretty large scale. (The article quotes an estimate of “well over 10,000 birth a year.” That is a pretty huge number (though of course, China has an enormous population.)
No one could mistake this for a positive article. As with most black market enterprises, black market surrogacy is rife with abuse and exploitation. While the surrogates employed by one agency (Baby Plan) are (to my mind, anyway) surprisingly well-paid ($24,000), the conditions under which they operate seem nightmarish to me: Continue reading
I’m sure many of you saw and read this story that was in the NYT a couple of days ago. The headline (“Coming to US for a Baby, and Womb to Carry It”) doesn’t really do it justice. While it is, in fact, a story about the US as a destination for what is sometimes called reproductive tourism, it isn’t only that. It’s full of interesting little points about surrogacy and many of the hard questions surrogacy raises. From my point of view, this makes it hard to know where to begin. So I guess I’ll just dive in……
The article does a nice job of at least touching on some of the issues that can arise with surrogacy. So, for example, the question of compensation is raised. Do you pay a surrogate? How much and for what? Perhaps it isn’t clear that even within the US there’s enormous variation on the approach to compensation–from making compensation illegal to facilitating it.
Does the exchange of money mean that surrogacy exploits women? Continue reading
There’s a new opinion from Texas that serves as a bit of a cautionary tale. Marvin McMurray and his partner wanted to have children. A friend of Cindy Close agreed that she would become pregnant via IVF using embryos that were created from McMurray’s sperm and an egg from an unknown provider. Close gave birth to twins–twins she was not genetically related to.
I think what I’ve said so far is what everyone agrees about. But if that looks like an odd telling of the story, it’s because at the core of the story is a fundamental disagreement and so I haven’t recited it. Instead I’ll give you two versions–keeping in mind that I have NO IDEA what’s true here.
McMurray version: Close was a friend helping out McMurray and his partner by serving as a surrogate. She wasn’t going to be a parent to the children. (It says she would play “no role” but I assume this might mean “no special role” since if she’s a good friend she’d like be around some.).
Close version: McMurray was aware of Close’s desire to have children and they agreed to coparent. (This of course makes me wonder about why the third party egg, but there could be reasons for that.) Continue reading
I’ve been working on a piece of writing–something a good deal more extensive than the blog generally allows–about surrogacy. It’s an effort to look back and think about how views on surrogacy (and the practice of surrogacy itself) have changed over the years. Imagine my surprise when this video appeared on the NYT website early this week. It’s worth a look.
It’s nearly 30 years since Mary Beth Whitehead entered into a surrogacy contract with William and Elizabeth Stern. Baby M is grown and has children of her own. And the world has changed in oh-so-many ways. Does any of this matter in how we think about surrogacy?
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Baby M shaped how we (as a legal culture) thought about surrogacy in a lot of ways, even though it was a decision binding in only one state. But it was generated in a different time, against a different background. That doesn’t mean that it is meaningless, but it may mean that our understanding of it has or will change. Continue reading