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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Thursday, April 28, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published at The Blaze on April 28, 2016.
On Wednesday, Dr. Morse testified against the Louisiana surrogacy bill in Baton Rouge. Surrogacy is a social and medical experiment, with great risks to children. This is her prepared text.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my concerns about HB1102. I am the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization, with offices in San Diego, Pittsburgh, and now, Lake Charles, Louisiana. Our organization is dedicated to creating Christ-like solutions to the agony and injustice of family breakdown.
We oppose surrogacy on principle. We consider it a form of family breakdown. Surrogacy breaks down motherhood itself, reducing it to a series of functions. The genetic, gestational, care-giving and even the legally-recognized mothers could all be distinct individuals. The full impact of these divisions cannot be fully known at this time.
We do know that infants attach to their mothers in the womb. Neonatal research has found that newborns can recognize their mothers by sight, by voice and even by odor. Research strongly suggests that prenatal infant attachment is correlated with secure attachment between mother and infant after birth.
We have no idea how surrogacy affects this. Does a secure attachment between the gestational carrier and the infant translate into a secure attachment with the genetic mother? Does a disruption of the bond between the gestational carrier harm the child? We just don’t know.
The practice of surrogacy amounts to a social experiment using babies as subjects. The adults involved, surrogates, donors and commissioning parents, can give meaningful consent, at least in principle. But children, in the nature of things, cannot consent. We have a responsibility to protect their interests, which they cannot protect themselves. Experimenting on small children is morally objectionable, even if it turns out tolerably well. The burden of proof should be on those who claim surrogacy is harmless, not on me to prove specific and identifiable harms.
The Ruth Institute has produced a brochure entitled “Children and Donor Conception and Assisted Reproduction. This is one in a series of pamphlets outlining the risks and harms associated with various forms of family breakdown. I present a copy for the record. I also present a copy of the 16-page report that details the scientific studies supporting the brochure.
On the inside, you will see a chart detailing the medical risks to children from IVF and ICSI procedures. These risks include low birth weight, pre-term birth, cerebral palsy, and a variety of genetic imprinting disorders. One study finds that IVF babies on average, weigh almost one full pound less, and have a 5 times greater risk of being very pre-term, compared with naturally conceived infants. These risks are relevant to this bill, because every surrogacy procedure involves the use of medically-assisted fertilization outside the body.
The inside flap of the pamphlet allows donor-conceived persons to speak for themselves.
I realize that HB1102 limits surrogacy to married couples, using their own gametes. I appreciate this. The drafters of the bill evidently recognize the potential harms posed by third party reproduction.
However, in the post-Obergefell world, I doubt these limitations will survive judicial scrutiny. Some legally married couples in Louisiana will be same sex couples. Some of them will want to use third party gametes to meet their reproductive goals. Excluding them, even indirectly, will certainly be declared unconstitutional.
Hence, this bill opens the Pandora’s Box of third party reproduction, whether you intend it or not. These problems must be weighed in the decision of whether to pass HB1102.
The study of the psychological impact of donor conception is preliminary. But these anecdotes are heartbreaking. One donor-conceived person said, “The words, ‘I’m not your real father,’ will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Surrogacy is illegal in many countries, including Finland, France, Italy and Hong Kong. Other countries that permit surrogacy, such as India and Thailand are tightening their laws because of abuses and problems.
I moved to Louisiana because I was impressed by the prudence and wisdom of its people. Let other states and countries run the surrogacy experiment. The decisions we make today will affect Louisiana citizens for generations. Let us watch for another ten years and gather the evidence we need to make a truly informed judgment.
As a woman who experienced four miserable years of infertility, I am well aware of how urgently people sometimes feel about these issues. However, no public health crisis demands immediate action on this bill. Cooler heads must prevail.
Do not legalize surrogacy contracts in Louisiana.
Posted on: Friday, April 22, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published April 20, 2016, at The Blaze.
Sperm donation, egg donation and surrogacy: Third party reproduction seems to be a “done deal” in Western society. Even ardently pro-life people do not seem to see the problems. Hey, these techniques are making babies, not killing them. So what could possibly go wrong? A lot of things can go very wrong. Let me describe just one: making the choice of your child’s other parent into a commercial transaction.
A recent story from Canada in The Star illustrates the problem. The profile for Donor #9632 from the Xytex Corporation seemed particularly attractive to many women. His sperm has been used to create 36 children: 19 boys and 17 girls from 26 families. But through an inadvertent breach of confidentiality, one mother discovered the identity of Mr. 9632, and did some internet sleuthing:
The donor was nothing like the perfectly healthy man — aside from some color blindness on his dad’s side — touted on the sperm bank’s website. Nor was he working on a PhD in neuroscience engineering en route to becoming a professor of biomedical robotics at a medical school.
Instead, Chris Aggeles, a now 39-year-old man from Georgia, has struggled with serious mental illness for much of his adult life. In addition to schizophrenia, court documents show he has had diagnoses of bipolar and narcissistic personality disorders, and has described himself as having schizoaffective disorder.
He has a history of run-ins with the law, has done time in jail, dropped out of college and struggled in the past to hold down jobs.
When confronted, the company referred the distraught mothers to the fine print in their agreement:
The donor underwent a standard medical exam and provided extensive personal and health information. He reported a good health history and stated in his application that he had no physical or medical impairments. This information was passed on to the couple, who were clearly informed the representations were reported by the donor and were not verified by Xytex.
Think of it: A man can get paid to masturbate into a jar. He can sire children for whom he has no legal responsibility whatsoever. He can write up his own advertising copy for the catalogue given to prospective mothers, with no verification whatsoever of his self-description.
What could possibly go wrong?
Let me spell it out: This arrangement attracts people with a narcissistic personality disorder. I have talked personally with a number of donor-conceived persons who, as adults, found their biological fathers. Narcissism is not an unusual component of the personality profile.
What about the mothers?
Some of the aggrieved mothers, understandably upset, have a whole list of things they want the industry to do, in order to be more accountable, such as requiring the company to verify the information and requiring the company to keep up with the donors and report any changes in their health status to the customers, I mean, mothers. They want them to establish a fund to help the mothers of the children of Donor #9632. And so on.
But anonymous sperm donation separates a child from his or her genetic origins, and the parents from each other. This is so wrong you cannot paste enough band aids over it to make it right.
One of the mothers said she feels cheated: “I felt like I was duped by Xytex and I failed my son for having chosen Xytex. In hindsight, a hitchhiker on the side of the road would have been a far more responsible option for conceiving a child.”
I agree with her: She was cheated. But not just by the corporation. She was duped by Modern Family and The Kids Are Alright and all the other Hollywood propaganda for “alternative family forms.”
She was duped by the legal system that declares anonymous gamete donors to be “legal strangers” to their children. The state gives unambiguous parental rights to the “commissioning parents.” Yes, that is what the adults who may or may not be biologically related to the child are called: “commissioning parents.”
She was duped by the social scientists who have been whitewashing the fact that children need both of their parents. Divorce and single-parenthood are tough on kids. Data shows this beyond doubt. Widespread experience confirms it. Some social scientists try to explain it away.
She was duped by the culture that says that we can do anything we want sexually, and the kids will be fine. As a society, we disregard the impact on children, their health, their relationships, and their sense of identity. Adults get the sex lives they want: kids have to accept whatever the adults choose to give them.
What could possibly go wrong?
As for the mothers’ suit against the sperm bank, I don’t know what to say. Suing a commercial entity is the logical response to a situation in which the entity does not perform in a satisfactory manner. But a child is a human being, not a product. Donor #9632 is not an abstraction: He is the biological father of these children, genetically, half of who they are.
The aggrieved mother continued: “Who would have thought that an industry that makes people would be like this?”
On the contrary: this is exactly what I thought an industry that makes people would be like.
We don’t need an industry that makes people.
Because a whole lot can go wrong.
Posted on: Monday, February 01, 2016
What is IVF? In vitro is Latin for “in glass,” and during IVF, egg follicles are removed from a woman and mixed with a man’s sperm in a petri dish with the aim that they will fertilize. Upon fertilization, one or more of the embryonic children created are then transferred into a woman’s uterus in hopes they will implant. Because there is only a 29.4 percent success rate of implantation*, doctors usually create several children “in glass” at once to have more on hand for further implantation attempts.
What about these embryonic children “in glass”? Did you know they are genetically whole human beings—they are no longer their father or their mother but have a material composition and behavior pattern distinct from both parents—yet they have no legal rights of their own in this country? That is, they have the right to be created but not the right to live. At the whim of a parent, a doctor, a technician, or a divorce court judge, these children can be:
These children also, because of a complete lack of regulation in the fertility industry, have no legal right to know who their biological parents are, nor do they have any legal access to their genetic medical history. At the very least, IVF disrespects the personhood of these children created “in glass.”
The Office of Population Affairs currently estimates there are more than 600,000 of these children frozen in the United States today. That number does not take into account all of the IVF children who have died from failed implantation, being selectively terminated in the womb, being disposed of at the hand of a technician, or not surviving the thawing process.
How did this happen? How did we as a culture begin creating extra human beings and then freezing and disposing of them for our own advantage? Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute explains in an interview with Todd Wilken on the radio program “Issues, Etc.”:
[N]obody ever sat down and said to themselves, ‘You know, I think it would be a great idea if anyone with money could do anything they want as far as bringing a child into being…’ We just kind of drifted into this position, and the in vitro fertilization industry is pretty much unregulated…[P]eople seem to think that as long as the adults get what they want, they don’t really have to think through what they’re doing to the individual child…I think it is really quite appalling that what we’ve got is a system that is being driven by two things…One, it’s being driven by the passions of the infertile woman, and, two, it’s being driven by the greed of the infertility industry…There’s nothing built in to in vitro fertilization and the industry around it that stops people from going too far. Absolutely nothing.
IVF also now lists third-party reproduction among its top abuses. With enough money, American citizens can purchase every ingredient needed to produce a child—sperm, egg, hormones, womb, you name it.
In a recent article by Tamar Lewin in The New York Times, Dr. Earnest Zeringue of Davis, California, admits to buying eggs and sperm “from donors whose profiles are likely to have broad appeal” then using them to create embryonic children which are then distributed to three or four families at a time.
Besides the obvious concerns raised about the eugenic leanings of such a practice, doctors, lawyers, and other conscience-stricken citizens struggle against the real fear that these farmed children may, unawares, grow up to someday marry their own siblings.
There is no question these children are vulnerable and in need of protection, but Alana S. Newman writes in the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse that “the rights of children are in direct conflict with the agenda of the fertility industry and its clients.” They are also in direct conflict with the abortion industry, and any attempt to legalize the personhood of these children and to defend their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will meet great resistance.
Yet defend them we must, because IVF and third-party reproduction is human trafficking, only on a much bigger, legally sanctioned scale.
*The success rate for implantation rises and lowers in correlation with a woman’s age and health.