My name is Katie Breckenridge and I am the External Affairs Liaison for the children’s rights organization Them Before Us.
The “Improving Arrangements for Surrogacy Bill” makes surrogacy more adult-friendly, but it ignores the rights of the most important party in the surrogacy contract- the children. Here are three reasons why surrogacy harms children.
Reproductive technologies treat children as products which can be designed, purchased, and delivered to adults. When you swipe your credit card for a product, that’s a commercial transaction. This is true whether or not the intended parents are the biological parents of the surrogate-born children, and regardless of how desperately they are “wanted.” Around half of children created through reproductive technologies are disturbed that money changed hands during their conceptions. These children often feel commodified and purchased:
…parenthood isn’t something that you can buy on a contract…Why don’t you do yourself a favor and research the medical definition of a mother yourself? Does it say anything about how contracts and money decide parentage? Tell me.
I don’t care why my parents or my mother did this. It looks to me like I was bought and sold…the fact is that someone contracted you to make a child, give up your parental rights and hand over your flesh and blood child. When you exchange something for money it is called a commodity. Babies are not commodities. Babies are human beings.
Losing a parent is always traumatic for children, even at birth. Studies show that separation from their birth mothers is a major physiological stressor for infants. In addition, even brief maternal deprivation can permanently alter the structure of the infant brain. Even adoptees, who have found their “forever family,” have long referred to a “primal wound” which hinders attachment, bonding, and psychological health. If we examine the studies on the social and psychological effects of surrogacy, and listen to the stories of kids, it’s clear that surrogacy is not child-friendly:
Something horrible happened to us at birth. We lost our mothers. They did not die, but…we lost them in the capacity of mother, and to a tiny baby, that feels like death. They are all we ever knew and suddenly, they were gone…That makes us feel very rejected. That leaves a hole in our hearts whether we admit to it or it manifests some other way like in depression or a fear of getting close to someone else.
Being adopted is so hard. It has affected my relationships, marriage, perception of self, and struggle of self-worth. And it has nothing to do with a lack of love. I am so loved by my parents and husband, and I have an incredible relationship with them. But my pain, struggle, and heartache are from being separated from my birth mother (the primal wound), and no amount of love can pour into this hole or be fulfilled.
Violation of a child’s right to “know their parents and to be cared for by them”
New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993, which not only states that “…parties shall take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent...the sale of or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form, but also vows to protect children’s right to their parents. “Improving Arrangements for surrogacy” is incompatible with that commitment. Rather, in the name of “child rights,” this bill permits adults to sever a child’s relationship with his or her birth mother and often awards children to unrelated, unvetted biological strangers via the use of “donor” egg and/or sperm. Over eighty percent of donor-conceived children desire to know the identity of their biological fathers and/or mothers, and donor children disproportionately struggle with questions about their identity, depression, delinquency, and substance abuse:
…Hiring a stranger to have a child…only whitewashes the truth. As a “donor,” you are intentionally separating your child from his or her father or mother in the most formative years of life, whether for money or for altruistic intentions. This is not in keeping with the protective nature of parenting.
I don’t really know if people understand how kick-ass it is that moms like mine had the strength to bring a child into this world on their own. You know, at first, that’s the only way I would look at my situation, that way things were more positive. But in reality, my kick-ass mom never knew and never will know the damage that not having a father has caused me.
Studies show that nothing, especially not “intent to parent,” provides children with the same level of connection and protection as their biological parents. The reality that some children suffer the tragic loss of one or both parents doesn’t justify intentionally denying others a relationship with their mothers or fathers. That some children are relinquished by their birth mothers doesn’t justify intentionally severing the mother-child bond. Children have a right to their mothers and fathers. Third-party reproduction and surrogacy deliberately violate those rights. Any process that needlessly separates a child from one or both parents is an injustice. And this brand of injustice sets children up for a lifetime of loss and struggle. Therefore, we strongly urge that all members of the New Zealand legislature stand united in opposing amendments to current surrogacy laws in order to protect the rights of those most vulnerable.