CBC Network August 2014
I’m no fan of third-party reproduction. Anybody who reads my writings or who has watched any of the three documentary films I have produced on the topic knows that these arrangements in my view are fraught with medical, ethical, and legal problems that affect women and the children they produce in negative ways.
Take the breaking news of Baby Gammy in Thailand: The surrogate mother was carrying twins for the intended parents and did not know until late in her pregnancy that Baby Gammy had Down syndrome; allegedly the parents did not want the disabled child and asked the surrogate mother to abort the disabled fetus; the surrogate mother refused, carried the fetus to term, and is now parenting that child. Or consider the story breaking in Italy about an embryo mix-up, in which a woman just gave birth to the twins of the wrong couple; or the case of the wealthy young Japanese businessman who has fathered 13 babies via surrogacy. These stories should wake the world up to the gross human-rights abuses of women and children in the surrogate-mother industry. Even here in America we have our own surrogacy story gone very badly wrong: The estrangement of Sherri Shepherd, a former host of The View, from her husband, Lamar Sally, has left the future of their baby, conceived using egg donation and surrogacy, very uncertain. The couple is involved in a heated dispute over whether Ms. Shepherd has a legal obligation toward the child.
In the wake of the Baby Gammy scandal, industry stakeholders came forward immediately to offer their assessment of the problem as well as suggestions for its solution. To no one’s surprise, they proposed regulation as the solution to stopping these kinds of atrocities. If only Australia allowed commercial surrogacy, they say, infertile and same-sex couples would not have to go to Thailand to have a baby. Bring surrogacy home, clean it up, get rid of the extremely bad actors, and all will go well in the end. Contracts, enforceable and clearly spelled out, will deal with mix-ups and changed minds. Informed consent will be the ultimate protection. In other words, you signed up for this, so let the cards fall where they may.
An Australian law professor, recognizing the unequal status of surrogates and egg donors in relation to wealthy intended parents, made this audacious statement: “Yes, there are massive disparities of wealth, and education and information, but why does that mean in a reproductive endeavour that a [third-world] woman can’t make a decision of her own?”