By allowing paid surrogacy, the “progressive pro-choice” state of California enables a wealthy man to purchase a woman’s uterus and have sole discretion over what happens to the life growing within.
This past February, I witnessed my wife give birth to our son, Joshua. During the nine months leading to her delivery, I watched my wife become increasingly attached to the life growing within her. Joshua’s time in the womb developed a connection with his mother that grew by the day. To describe this maternal bond as a powerful one makes sense to most of us. Indeed, science continues to demonstrate that there are profound biological and psychological changes that take place in expectant mothers, changes that prepare them to care for their baby.
That’s why miscarriage cuts so deep. Women who have experienced the loss of a child growing in their wombs often mourn their deaths just like they would any other child. Assurances that the child was nothing more than a “fetus” or a “clump of cells” ring hollow for these women.
They lost their babies and they know it.
The profound connection between a mother and her unborn baby poses one of the greatest difficulties for surrogacy advocates. After all, for millennia if someone was asked to identify a child’s biological mother they would simply ask, “Who gave birth to this child?” Due to the advent of gestational surrogacy, where a sperm donor and egg donor fertilize an embryo that is implanted in a third party, this common definition of “mother” changes. One does not need to be an attorney to imagine the many legal and ethical implications of surrogacy, implications that are a large part of why Canada and most of Europe has outlawed commercial (paid) surrogacy. Unfortunately, the United States leads the developed world in having the least stringent commercial surrogacy laws. Eight states expressly allow it, four states prohibit it, and the rest have little to no legislation on the matter.
Commercial surrogacy has exploded in California where a lax law allows patients to hire a surrogate mother for thousands of dollars to carry their child. As reported by Slate, this law does not require the person initiating the contractual agreement to be vetted in any significant way to ensure they are a fit parent. Surrogate mothers are not granted any rights regarding the outcome of the child and can even be required to abort the child by the person who hired them. “Surrogacy’s been distinguished as something completely different from adoption,” said a UC Davis School of Law Professor. She explained that California’s laws are “very industry-friendly, and by ‘industry,’ I’m referring to the fertility industry.”
These legal issues came to a head in 2015 when Melissa Cook was hired to be a surrogate mother. The 50-year-old unmarried postal worker from Georgia, referred to as C.M. in media reports, hired her to carry the embryos he created through a fertility clinic. Prior to implantation, he asked the company to perform sex-selection testing on the embryos to ensure only male babies would be implanted and agreed to pay Melissa $27,000 for the first successful implantation, $6,000 for each additional one. As is common with artificial insemination, the clinic implanted three embryos to increase the chances of a successful implantation. To their surprise, all three became viable fetuses.
As soon as C.M. found out that the three fetuses were healthy and progressing through the pregnancy, he asked Melissa to undergo a “reduction abortion” to remove one of the fetuses. He explained that he was a single man, who was deaf, and lived in his parents’ basement, and would have difficulty caring for two babies, let alone three. His attorney made it clear that to violate his wishes would be a breach of her contract and bring with it a host of legal consequences. Melissa argued that she was against abortion and was willing to adopt the third child herself. She would not kill her baby. Faced with the requirement to have a coerced abortion, Melissa sued C.M. for the right to keep the babies and argued that the California surrogacy law violates her and the babies’ equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Melissa’s legal fight protected the lives of the babies and all three were born in 2016. Due to the contractual obligations, the hospital did not allow her to see the babies once they were born and guards were placed outside her hospital room. When C.M. arrived to claim the children, the hospital staff questioned whether he could care for them and required him to attend parenting classes. The first night the children were in his custody, they had to be taken to the emergency room because he was not properly feeding them.*
According to Catholic Vote, who has taken Melissa’s case, a California judge presiding over their lawsuit said that the wellbeing of the child was not the central legal concern, but rather the contract Melissa signed. Her case is still working its way through the appeal process.
Melissa Cook’s case reveals that paid surrogacy allows human beings to be bought and sold, with little thought about their inherent worth or the impact surrogacy has on the women involved. By allowing paid surrogacy, the “progressive pro-choice” state of California enables a wealthy man to purchase a woman’s uterus and have sole discretion over what happens to the life growing within. Furthermore, if the wellbeing of the child is not worthy of judicial consideration, if it is just a question of the terms of her contract, then why can’t C.M. end the child’s life now? He does not want the third baby and the court has so far refused to treat it like a baby, but instead treated it like any other commodity that can be bought or sold. The fact that the court is unwilling to let C.M. end this child’s life reveals their inconsistency.
One would hope that after America’s history with slavery, we would not return to commoditizing human life. Unfortunately, California’s surrogacy law shows that some sins die hard.
That’s why, as pro abundant life people, we affirm the inherent dignity and worth of the mother, baby, and father. We also recognize that the environment best designed to provide that child with an abundant life is a home with a committed mother and father, united in marriage. As long as paid surrogacy is allowed in this country, children and women will pay the ultimate price.
As Melissa told People magazine, “The lawyers only stand up for his interests. No one stands up for the women. No one stands up for the children.” As is always the case, the most vulnerable always suffer when the dignity of human life is ignored.
*As reported by CatholicVote