Human Exceptionalism

Concerning Romney Fils’ “Commercialized Conception”

This isn’t about the election, it is about our culture having developed such a strong sense of entitlement to what we want that norms and mores must fall to accommodate our desires. IVF often falls into that category.

I bring this up (again) because one of Mitt Romney’s sons Tweeted last weekend that he was so happy to have new twins and thanked his wife’s “gestational surrogate” (slightly less objectifying than “gestational carrier,” but not much) for her mothering (a word not used) services. I was appalled.  IVF was supposed to be about the infertile who couldn’t otherwise have children, but the Romneys already had three children naturally and then had another by IVF–this as many already born children can’t get adopted.

I also think paid surrogacy is, by definition, exploitation. Think about what the surrogate mother (I refuse to use “gestational”) experiences; all of the emotions and hormonal bonding with the baby, the profound body changes, she experiences terrible pain and bleeds–and then has the baby taken away.  And who knows whether taking a baby from the mother in which he or she formed has any impact on the child?  We now know that babies born via IVF have potential health consequences. Plus, the pervasiveness of IVF has contributed to the objectification of embryos and the concept of reproduction as a consumer activity.

I was going to let it alone, but Jennifer Lahl, the head of the Center for Bioethics and Culture (for which I am a paid consultant) didn’t.  Jennifer is one of the world’s foremost opponents of “commercialized conception.” She wrote a powerful piece on the Romney use of a surrogate that I recommend to all.  She references the story from the Daily Mail story, also discussed here, about the baby manufacturing industry that mixes eugenics with the exploitation of destitute women from India. But Jennifer believes all paid surrogates are also wronged. From, “Money Changes Hands:”

The Romneys didn’t have to exploit a poor woman in India. They chose to exploit a woman, probably much less poor, right here in the U.S. And their surrogate might not have felt so exploited. She was just “helping a couple have a baby”—and being compensated for her help. Because of little regulation in the U.S., commercial surrogacy is legal and couples like the Romneys don’t have to outsource their pregnancies to India. Our Canadian neighbors got it right when the Supreme Court of Canada wrote, “allowing the purchase of human gametes and surrogacy services devalues human life and degrades those who choose to participate in such a commercial transaction” (emphasis mine).

Many of the news stories I’ve read over the weekend about Tagg and Jen Romney using a “gestational surrogate” state that this means the child is biologically theirs. I’m not sure how the press came to that conclusion because a gestational surrogate only provides the womb. Gestational surrogacy is just the derogatory term for the woman who carries and gives birth to the baby. They could have used an egg donor, which would mean the egg donor would be the genetic mother. They could have used a sperm donor too, meaning Tagg wouldn’t be the genetic father of the boys, if that was the case. And all this, apparently ignoring the Latter Day Saints’ position on surrogacy (the LDS church strongly discourages surrogate motherhood). Tagg and Jen have used this same surrogate in the past to give birth to their first son.

Outsourcing pregnancy. Wombs for rent. Commercialized Conception. Call me shocked and disgusted.

Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.

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