(Originally published in The Federalist)
Mind you, many of these same people surely objected to the hospital bed photo of Pete Buttigieg and his partner. But never mind, now it’s one of ours, so all of the “kids need moms and dads,” “stop erasing women,” and “sound-of-freedom-end-child-trafficking” messages disappear.
Dave Rubin’s surrogacy announcement wasn’t the first, and Guy Benson’s won’t be the last. So here’s your one-stop shop on how to respond the next time a gay — or straight — conservative you love announces that he has created a motherless child.
First, your arguments need to stem from a posture of child defense. There are good bioethical arguments against surrogacy. And feminists largely reject surrogacy based on the reality that it exploits women. But those arguments can fall flat because very often, the women involved — the egg seller, the surrogate, and the commissioning parents — all love and consent to the arrangement.
A conservative position rejects surrogacy based on the self-evident, natural rights of the child, his right to life, to his mother and father, to be born free and not bought and sold. The child is the voiceless party in the arrangement who would never consent to the intentional loss of his or her mother.
When discussing surrogacy, you will need to constantly steer the conversation away from what adults want and recenter it on the rights and well-being of the child. The best way to do that is through the stories of kids who have been conceived via #BigFertility.
Next, the framework. The proper way to understand surrogacy is that it splices what should be one woman, “mother,” into three purchasable and optional women.
- Genetic mother, the egg “donor” who grants children their biological identity
- Birth mother, who establishes lifelong trust and attachment
- Social mother, who provides the daily maternal love that maximizes child development and satisfies the child’s longing for female love
For children, none of these three mothers are optional, and anytime they are not found in the same woman, the child experiences loss. Sometimes children lose one or all three mothers to tragedy, and we rightly mourn. Surrogacy intentionally, and often commercially, forces a child to lose one or all of them. That’s an injustice.
As your advocate on behalf of the child, be prepared for these common objections.
If You Love Babies, Why Don’t You Love Surrogacy?
Many of the conservatives wishing Benson well are likely rejoicing over his child’s fearfully and wonderfully made life. But when you take a deeper look, surrogacy isn’t about babies. It’s about on-demand designer babies shipped worldwide.
Surrogacy almost always involves IVF. The scant data we have (because big fertility isn’t required to keep or share records) reveals that only about 7 percent of lab-created babies will be born alive. The majority will be discarded for being sub-par or the wrong sex, perpetually frozen, donated to research, or won’t survive the thaw and transfer. Paris Hilton had 20 unwanted boys in storage as she waited for her much-wanted female embryo. Lance Bass and his partner went through dozens of embryos in their 10 surrogacy attempts. No wonder fertility doctors in red states panicked post-Dobbs. Protecting children from the moment of conception would wreck their business model.
Abortion, that is “selective reduction,” is standard language in surrogacy contracts and serves as both quality control and quantity control. When you’re paying six figures, you want the exact baby you ordered when you ordered it, even if that requires killing a defective product. When you look at the precious children who do make it through IVF and surrogacy alive, remember the pile of tiny babies who didn’t. IVF in general, and surrogacy specifically, is not pro-life.
Isn’t Surrogacy Just Like Adoption?
One hundred percent no. While it’s true that in both situations, the child experiences familial loss, adoption functions as an institution centered around the well-being of children. Third-party reproduction, including surrogacy, functions as a marketplace centered around the desires of adults. Four key differences:
- In both scenarios, the child has experienced parental loss. In adoption, the parents seek to mend that wound. With third-party reproduction, the adults inflict the wound. The only study comparing outcomes between adoptees and sperm-donor children reveals that adoptees fare better when it comes to identity struggles and parental trust — a testimony to the immense psychological burden of being raised by the adults who created your parental loss rather than the ones seeking to heal it.
- In adoption, the child is the client. The goal is to find a family for every child without one. In #BigFertility, the adult is the client. The goal is to get a child for every adult regardless of the cost to that, or any other, child.
- Because adoptive parents are not responsible for their child’s loss, they can enter into and help them process their grief and questions. In adoption, adults support the child. With surrogacy, the adults raising the child are responsible for his grief, thus the child often processes alone. In #BigFertilty, children support the adults.
- In this broken world, adoption is sometimes necessary. When adults are unable or unwilling to parent their child, a just society places that child in a loving, thoroughly vetted home. Third-party reproduction may be very wanted but is never necessary.
In summary, a just society cares for orphans, it doesn’t create them.
If Surrogacy Is Baby-Selling, Isn’t Adoption Child Trafficking Too?
As assistant director of the largest Chinese adoption agency in the world, one of my duties was to ensure compliance with international, federal, and state regulations. Adoptive parents pay a lot of money throughout the process, but it aims at ensuring a safe placement — home studies, clearances from a variety of municipalities and agencies, training, supervision, and post-placement check-ins. Payments directly to the birth/genetic parents are prohibited. In those cases, it’s no longer an adoption, it’s trafficking, and the parents as well as the agency are held criminally liable.
In contrast, the entire fertility industry is built upon direct payments to the genetic mother, genetic father, and birth mother. Perspective parents don’t pay to be screened or vetted (none required, leading predators to create children for the purpose of exploitation). Rather, “intended parents” directly pay the genetic father, genetic mother, and/or birth mother to hand over their child and relinquish parental rights. Surrogacy is categorically child trafficking.
Why Don’t You Object When Straight Couples Use Surrogacy?
This is a valid critique. Surrogacy always insists that children lose their relationship with the only person they know on the day they are born not due to tragedy, but because an adult wants it that way. Whether or not surrogacy is paid or altruistic, whether the child goes home with his genetic parents or genetic strangers, the loss of one’s birth mother inflicts a “primal wound.”
Surrogate-born Olivia details how this separation resulted in insecurity and lifelong feelings of abandonment that manifested in self-destructive behaviors, even though she was raised by a mother and father. Conservatives must object when straight couples use surrogacy too.
Would These Kids Rather Be Dead?
If it weren’t for #BigFertility these kids wouldn’t exist, the argument goes. Shouldn’t they be grateful to be alive instead of whining about their identity struggles, mother-hunger, feelings of commodification, separation trauma, lack of medical history, the dozens of half-siblings they may never know, and fears that they may be dating their brother?
And we wonder why these kids disproportionately struggle with depression, delinquency, and substance abuse.
Just like children conceived via rape, we can celebrate their lives while simultaneously critiquing the circumstances of their conception. In fact, a conservative perspective will do exactly that.