(Originally published in World News Group)
Recently, a picture of two men heading home from Canada to Europe with their surrogate-delivered child garnered a great deal of attention on Twitter. Some objected to the fact that the baby would have no mother, others by the fact that one of the men referenced the baby as his “hand luggage.”
Our news feeds are increasingly peppered with stories of single or coupled gay men procuring children via surrogacy. From the left, the overwhelming response is celebration: “gender doesn’t matter, kids just need loving parents.” And further, in the name of “equality,” Democrats are pushing a national subsidy for third-party reproduction, including surrogacy. The response from the right runs the gamut of surrogacy being a blessing for infertile couples, to “it exploits women,” to “wait, what is that again?”
I’ve been writing about how surrogacy harms children for years. While Christians generally disapprove of single and same-sex men using the practice to procure children, there is much less consensus on whether we should condemn surrogacy in other cases.
But on the question of reproductive technologies in general, and surrogacy specifically, Christians don’t have the luxury of being agnostic or incorrect. We must examine surrogacy not as a means of fulfilling the desires of hopeful parents—be they infertile or same-sex—nor as primarily a matter of women’s autonomy or exploitation. Surrogacy is, in 100 percent of cases, the violation of children’s rights—namely, every child’s right to his or her mother.
Surrogacy splices what should be one woman—one mother—into three purchasable and optional roles: the genetic mother who contributes the egg, the birth mother who carries the child, and the social mother who provides daily maternal love and care.
The genetic mother furnishes children with something humans need—biological identity. So innate is our longing to know our origins that genealogical platforms rival pornography for most trafficked internet sites. Movies and stories of children searching for their parents (think Tangled, Pericles, Guardians of the Galaxy) tap into the universal longing to understand our identity. Few parents dispute how wondrous it is to see our features reflected in our children. Likewise, children delight in seeing themselves in their parents and often struggle without it.
And yet, the baby-making industry routinely violates a child’s right to know his or her genetic parents and siblings. Children conceived through “donor” sperm and egg often suffer identity issues. It is very difficult to answer the existential question “who am I?” when you do not know “whose am I?” Intentionally separating a child from their genetic mother is an injustice, and it’s commonly employed within surrogacy.
The birth mother is a child’s singular relationship for the long months of pregnancy, forming a relationship that results in a bond to which those of us with biological children can attest. So powerful is that bond that should a threat to that hours-before-unseen little human arise, even timid women are transformed into mama bears. We moms develop this fierce bond despite the fact that we have many other relationships in our life.
Imagine then how strong the bond from child to mother must be when the baby has only one relationship. Answer: strong enough that maternal separation is a major physiological stressor for the infant, and studies have found that even brief maternal deprivation can permanently alter the structure of the infant brain. Surrogacy purposefully inflicts that infant distress.
We have generally regarded scenarios when a child must be removed from his or her mother as tragic and have sought to mend the child’s wound by placing the baby in a family that can restore what she has lost. But a sense of loss remains. The Primal Wound, sometimes known as the “Adoptees Bible,” explains how the severing of the maternal bond manifests as depression, issues of abandonment/loss, and emotional problems throughout life.
Babies are not magnets that easily detach and reattach to whatever shirtless adult cradles them. It is the birth mother’s voice that soothes her, the mother’s milk she craves, and the mother’s smell which lowers the baby’s cortisol level. The maternal bond is critical to child well-being and should never be intentionally or commercially severed. Yet the surrogacy contract is predicated on that severance.
And of course, in the case of single and double dads, many surrogate-born children will be starved of the love of a social mother who provides the daily, distinct female love for which children hunger.
If we take seriously our calling as protectors of children, Christians must think and speak clearly about surrogacy. Ours is a worldview that insists the strong must sacrifice for the weak, and never the other way around.
Whether paid or altruistic, gestational or traditional, surrogacy insists that children sacrifice for adults. It steals something children need, crave, and to which they have a natural right. Children are not items owed to us, they are not accessories to our lifestyle, and they certainly are not hand luggage.
Excellent. God’s grace on all you do.