Sunday, July 29, 2007

Why are we so obessed with our 'own' children?

A crazy world this is. As I write this, many developing countries struggle with AIDS orphans counting by the millions. Common sense would suggest that it should be easy enough to set many of them up with infertile couples in their own countries or elsewhere in order to bring prospective parents and already parentless kids together. Not so. In developed countries each year billions of $$ are being forked out for IVF procedures, commercial surrogacy and such things. Nobody seems to bat an eyelid about what I would like to think is decadent behaviour by people pre-occupied with their own (somehow) genetically linked children. While Darwin explains quite nicely why many people would be driven to do such things, it is surprising how very few switch their brains on when the breeding hormones kick in, and do the ethically right thing, namely to bring up someone else's child as their own. As if this wasn't bad enough, matters got worse in Canada. In a brave act of political correctness a stop was put to the commodification of women by outlawing commercial surrogacy (ie the rent-a-womb crowd). A Bill called C6 became law in May 2004. It criminalises payments in excess of the surrogate mothers' expenses. Well, I would understand if you felt uneasy about the commodification of people, but if you do, consistency would require of you that you apply the same standards to any other instance where we sell our bodies to someone else for a limited period of time for a specific purposes. After all, that is precisely what surrogate mothers, sex workers, university professors, taxi drivers, soldiers and others do when they sign a job contract. So, may I suggest that Canada's law makers introduce Bill U1. This bill should, in line with Bill C6, legislate any work relation illegal in which anyone sells their bodies for any kind of service for a defined period of time to an employer. That should be a reasonably easy task, and it should permit us to do once and for all away with that disgusting commodification of people. It should also change once and for all the face of modern capitalism as we know it...

Now, you might object that my comparison is pretty unfair, given that there are health risks attached to surrogacy motherhood. A small percentage of women suffer adverse health consequences during pregnancy. Guess, in my defence I can only point out that this is probably true for taxi drivers , university professors and any number of other workers. So why treat surrogacy differently? Well, one argument might be that surrogate mothers might find it difficult to live up to their contractual obligations and surrender the newborn. I don't mean to sound too harsh, but surely that would be their problem... - I mean, once they have been thoroughly informed about the conditions of the deal, and they agreed voluntarily to the proposition,who are we as society to tell them that they must not because we are concerned about their capacity to cope.

However, given nature's call and our pre-occupation with our own genetically linked children, desperate hormonally challenged prospective parents will do almost anything to get their hands on their own off-spring. The decision to drive such breeding minded people into the underground is, mildly put, disastrous. They and the surrogate mothers that they're able to get their hands on will not be legally protected during their transaction. All participants will be subjected to higher levels of stress with a corresponding higher probability for a miscarriage.

Just as importantly, the wealthier of the desperate-to-breed-my-own-kid crowd will simply fly out of Canada and rent a womb elsewhere. Many such wombs belong to impoverished women in developing countries or impoverished women in developed countries. I know of a truly wealthy gay Australian man who flew all the way to Los Angeles to rent a womb (twice) so that he could have (well, buy) his genetically linked kids. The levels of selfishness that this represents is unfathomable to me. Three cheers to the Canadian government for having moved the ugly picture of commercial surrogate motherhood out of sight, and for making such conduct possible. Truly well done - not...

Nobody of those people who fly halfway around the world to rent impoverished women's wombs so they can have their kids produced for them, seems to care about kids like the one you can see on top of this blog entry. What would be so bad about giving such children a loving home instead. Surely the excuse of 'nature calling' isn't good enough to justify what's going on.

Regular readers of this blog will know my favourite little AIDS orphan charity in Southern Africa. Consider supporting them, please, please, please. If you consider flying half-way around the world to rent an impoverished woman's womb so that you can have your own little kid, may I suggest you consider growing up instead?

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