(Image Source: Associated Press)

The Cardinales of Los Angeles are suing California Center for Reproductive Health after discovering the fertility clinic mixed up their embryos with those of another couple, resulting in the two women giving birth to the other’s baby. The Cardinales understandably describe this mix-up as a “daily struggle,” as they’ve grown attached to the other couple’s little girl after spending almost four months parenting her. It must also be a struggle to know they’ve missed out on four months of parenting their own daughter during this time. 

While this is certainly a tragedy for these couples, #BigFertility routinely implants someone else’s biological children into an intended mother or surrogate via donor sperm, egg, or embryos. When adults choose to separate a child from their biological parents at conception, we shower those adults with congratulations and often call it “progress.” Only when it’s a case of an IVF mix up is it a problem that babies go home with genetic strangers. In other words, biology matters only when adults want it to matter.

This begs the question, why are we only horrified by children being severed from their biological parents when adults are unhappy with the outcome? Is being separated from one’s biological parent a tragedy or not?

Alexander Cardinale explained that he knew right away that the baby his wife had just birthed wasn’t theirs, and knowing something was wrong was a “primal” response. However, his wife Daphna, stated that the baby felt familiar to her, as she had carried and given birth to the child. However, in surrogacy situations, we disregard that babies, too, carry this “primal reaction” to their birth mothers, and we deny that surrogates have a real connection to the babies that they carry. No matter how much adults who are procuring children via surrogacy repeat that the mother-child pre- and post-birth connection doesn’t matter, it always matters to the child. Separation from the birth mother is a major “physiological stressor for the infant.” In fact, studies have shown that even brief maternal deprivation can permanently alter the structure of the infant brain

Further, proponents of gamete donation claim that it doesn’t matter if the bond between a child and his or her biological parent/s is severed, because “love makes a family.” But you cannot have it both ways. Either biology matters, or it doesn’t. We at Them Before Us know, it matters:

I’m also angry with the donors who say biology doesn’t matter. They spread their DNA all over without even knowing how many children are out their fatherless. But look at their family life. Biology matters to them there. The children in their house are fiercely protected and loved. And if a paternity test showed they weren’t really his children? He would be furious with his wife. Oh yes, biology would matter then!…People close their eyes and chant, ‘It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.’ But it DOES matter. I matter. We matter.

I hate how everyone talks about how parents want to have a biological connection to the child, and in the same breath, they talk about how that desire warrants DENYING their child the SAME desire to have a connection with one of their biological parents. We are human beings. We are not fertility treatments, procedures, genetic material, donations, or ‘gifts’. We are not the physical representation of our parents’ desire…We are not obligated to be thankful for something we neither asked for or consented to.

The absence of my father in my life has led to so many awful things in my life. I constantly felt unloved, unworthy and abandoned. I craved a father figure and protection. This led to me seeking out unhealthy and abusive relationships with men who simply didn’t care about me.

The Cardinales’ attorney claims that the embryo mix-up has not only changed their lives in a profound way, but has changed the “lives of their two children,” as the Cardinals also have an older daughter. Most certainly this has changed the lives of their children, but what about all of the other children whose lives are impacted by those who intentionally sever their most important biological connections? What about the other children who are permanently separated from their siblings through gamete donation? These practices show no regard for how children suffer at the hands of Big Fertility as long as the adults get their wishes, and this hypocritical, incoherent thinking must be remedied. Children’s rights to their biological mothers and fathers should always come before the desires of adults.