The Children Know It’s Not OK

by Jennifer Lahl, CBC President on July 11, 2014

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The Center for Bioethics and Culture’s mission is to initiate, facilitate, and enhance conversations focused on the intersection of health and wellness, medicine, science and technology, and law and public policy around matters in bioethics. Specifically, we intentionally bring diverse voices together, across the spectrum of human experiences, building common cause in order to answer important questions.

We have been pleasantly surprised by the wide range of truly diverse voices that have rallied around our work and films on third-party reproduction, especially those who work for adoption reform and for open access to legal birth records, opposing the trade in children and the exploitation of women.

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, birthmother rights advocate and adoptee rights activist, attended our recent screening of Breeders: A Subclass of Women? in New York City and wrote up her reaction to the film and to one particular interviewee who also attended and spoke during the Q&A that followed the screening:


As I had already screened Breeders? independently to endorse the film, I knew what to expect from the film itself. Of course, seeing it on the big screen surrounded by the filmmakers, others in the film, and those affected by both surrogacy and the parallel issues from adoption, is a different experience and more powerful. I had hardly expected to be at all emotionally triggered, so even I was surprised when I jumped out of my seat during the post screening Q&A.

However, based on the comments being made by Dr. Joe Taravella during that Q&A, my reaction was completely unavoidable. In answering another audience member’s comment, Dr. Joe agreed that the secrecy and anonymity were the cause of the troubles, hurt, and issues in surrogacy and donor situations.

With his tag line “Families are Love,” he was basically saying that IF surrogacy was done correctly from an emotional and legal sense, then it could be a good thing, because, essentially (I paraphrase), it doesn’t matter how a family is formed, as long as it is open and there is love.

He mentioned that surrogacy is much like adoption, where many of us who are adoption-affected speak out in disagreement. In this, he was defending “acceptable” surrogacy as family building by linking it to adoption. However, we connect the two based on the known issues, not in an approving or acceptable manner.

He kept at the comparison of the two, which lead him to expand and say something along the lines of, “in adoption it is commendable when a women makes the choice to give life to her child and carry it to term, to make the brave and courageous, selfless act to relinquish her child another (infertile/ childless/ waiting) couple.”

I know he said selfless, and that his use of words like “selfless” and “brave.” But him standing there as an “expert,” pushing the very damaging myth that it is acceptable to separate families and children was not something that I could sit back and let wash over me.

I jumped out of my seat and standing, proclaimed in what I usually call my “most angry mommy voice,” as it is deep and demanding of attention, NO!

Do NOT stand there and DARE say that adoption is selfless and heroic! I WAS a “family building angel” and I relinquished my newborn son to adoption when I was 19 because of that very belief. I believed, because I was told, I was doing a “selfless, good” thing by giving my baby away to strangers because they deserved him more.

I was strong and selfless. That was what I was taught.

And EVERYTHING was “exactly as it was supposed to be” for a 1987 adoption. All the T’s were crossed and the I’s dotted. I was treated well; my agency was “good.” I was treated kindly during my hospital stay, my son fared well, and there are no horror stories. It was exactly as an adoption “should” be.

It was a perfect “happily ever after adoption story,” but still I can tell you that it was NOT worth it. All the “right” reasons did not make it worthwhile to be separated from my child for 19 years 111 days.

Adoption AND surrogacy and communism all look good on paper. They might seem to be logical and make sense, but NONE of them account for human nature and NO PIECE of paper, no logic can make it “OK.” At the end of the day, whether it takes a mother 5 years or 10 or 20, eventually many of us ask “WHY did I think it was a good idea to GIVE MY BABY AWAY?”

A piece of paper does NOTHING to change what is biology, what is natural, and what it real. So DO NOT stand there and reiterate the same garbage that is accepted by society and the adoption industry just to separate mothers and children for the $13 billion adoption industry’s profits.

You cannot mitigate reality to “make it OK.” No matter what the circumstance, no matter how it is done, even under the best, most socially acceptable reasons, when a mother and child are separated it is a TRAGEDY!

I get the sense that Dr. Joe is one of those people who believes separating mothers and children, hiring surrogates, using egg and sperm donors can turn out well if there is just love and no secrets. I don’t think he is a horrible person. I am sure he means well and I am sure that his work is healing to families. But in the end, he has an agenda—or perhaps more innocently, a belief system—that provides a foundation and colors the realities he is willing to accept about both adoption and surrogacy.

As a co-author of both My Daddies and Me and My Mommies and Me, he obviously defends the rights of same sex parenting and, on this, I am in agreement with him. However, where we differ is that I do not support the desire for ANYONE—single, hetero, gay, black, white, purple, infertile, desperate, rich, or poor—to use money, power, privilege, entitlement, or pure desire to separate families.

I understand that perhaps Dr. Joe himself might have “created his modern family” this way, or more likely has friends and family—definitely clients—who have benefitted from the current systems. But no matter how “perfect” the systems in place—and believe me, in both adoption and surrogacy they are FAR from perfect—the fact is that children and their natural parents are NOT exchangeable. DNA DOES matter!

I cannot sit back and listen to this false marketing based mythology used just so other people can rationalize their culpability and be able to sleep sound at night.

So sorry, Dr. Joe, you might really want to believe that there is some magical way to make it all “OK” for people who cannot otherwise have children turn to adoption and surrogacy as legitimate ways to “build a family,” but it’s all false. In the end, even if all the adults are supposedly OK with spending or receiving untold amounts of money to buy and sell children, embryos, eggs, sperm, and other bits of DNA, the CHILDREN have no choice and no voice.

You might be able to tell them pretty stories to explain how they were loved “so much” that it makes it OK. But they know. It’s not OK.

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been writing about life as a birthmother, Adoptee Rights, & the unethical adoption industry since 2005. Her blog, Musings of the Lame, is a much needed road map for many birthmothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. For more go to http://www.MusingsoftheLame.com

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