Biological Colonialism: Dutch Controversy Over Anything Goes IVF

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on February 19, 2012

By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

IVF was promised as a generally minor matter that would be available for married couples, otherwise unable, to have biological children. Of course, that relatively conservative agenda held for about two seconds. It is now a huge industry, with unmarried people using it to get pregnant, people renting wombs from objectified “gestational carriers,” embryos being made for experimentation, hundreds of thousands stored for future use, buying eggs, eugenically testing and discarding embryos as if they were cuts of meat, and turning procretion generally into a consumer activity about not having a baby, but the baby we want and to which we are entitled.

Surprisingly, the Dutch — of all people — have held a much firmer line, for example banning rent a wombs and requiring that even related women willing to be surrogates not want to have further children of their own. It is a sign of the times, that some want to change these modest restrictions so couples can go to India and use a destitute Indian uterus owner for their gestational powers. (Some, who have not wanted the baby so produced, have just never taken the baby home.). But there is some pushback. From the Radio Netherlands Worldwide story:

The criteria are that the child must have been conceived using an egg or sperm cells obtained from the parents themselves and that the identity of the surrogate mother must be known. This means surrogate mothers from abroad will soon be allowed to give birth to a child on behalf of Dutch parents as part of a commercial operation, even though this remains illegal in the Netherlands. René Hoksbergen, an Emeritus Professor on Adoption, is against the plan. “There are good reasons why this practice is banned in the Netherlands. Your starting point has to be the position of the child, and such a process cannot result in a happy child. They will end up having unsettling questions about who they are: ‘I emerged from an Indian womb and the Indian woman who bore me was a poor person who was given 1,000 dollars for her trouble. I was bought and sold.’ It’s ridiculous that laws are being amended to make this possible.” Professor Hoksbergen goes a step further in his criticism. “Commercial surrogacy amounts to reproductive prostitution. You make use of the bodily functions of another person to fulfil your own needs. That’s what happens in prostitution. It has nothing to do with the interests of the child.” He estimates that the commercial surrogacy industry in India already has a turnover of 1.7 billion euros.

Joyce sees the professor’s views as “a throwback to 1918. We have to move with the times. There are new technologies and possibilities. Hoksbergen has no idea what it’s like to want a child and not be able to have one.”

What is it like to be child without parents who no one will adopt because they are pursuing commercial gestational options?

I am sorry. We aren’t entitled to everything we want. Technological capability does not equal moral justification. The objectification and the exploitation of the destitute in this practice is such that I hope the Dutch hold the line — for once. IVF is too out of control already.

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