This Week in Bioethics #111

by Matthew Eppinette, Director of Programs on May 11, 2018

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1. Surrogacy and Infant Mental Health

Our friends at #StopSurrogacyNow this week published an extremely important new article by a Spanish Perinatal Psychiatrist. It outlines a number of ways in which surrogacy affects children.

Children born by surrogacy are exposed to a series of factors that can have serious repercussions for their mental and physical health in both the short and long term: the stress that the pregnancy involves for the mother; the exposure to toxins; the lack of prenatal bond; the often scheduled or induced birth without medical reason; the stress of separation from the mother; the mother’s absence; the lack of breastfeeding.

The article is available in on the #StopSurrogacyNow website in both English (“If You are Considering Becoming a Parent by Surrogacy, You Need this Information”) and Spanish (“Si quieres ser padre o madre por gestación subrogada necesitas esta información”).

2. Happy Sperm Donor Father’s Day Times 30 (plus)

The United Kingdom HFEA, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has recently revealed (discovered?) that “Seventeen British sperm donors have fathered more than 500 children between them.” That’s 17 men times at least 30 children each between 1991 and 2015. In addition, “A further 104 men have fathered between 20 and 29 babies, and 1557 between 10 and 19.”

The article raises several, deeply concerning points. 1). If any of the men have a genetic condition, they could have just passed it on to 30+ children each. There’s no genetic screening of donated sperm. 2). Given the numbers, this heightens the chances that half-siblings might meet and fall in love. 3). Those born before 2005 are not allowed to find out the identity of their sperm donor.

Of course the call to action in the article is to increase regulation and increase screening. My alternative suggestion is that the practice of donor conception simply be stopped.  

3. Mommy Deployment

President Trump this week signed an executive order encouraging federal agencies to hire more military spouses. Purely by coincidence, our friend Kay had just written a blog post on a journal article that interviewed a number of military wives who had served as surrogate mothers. Kay unpacked the academic jargon and offered a few thoughts on the parallels between a military narrative and a surrogacy narrative. And it helps provide context to the situation in which many military spouses find themselves.

4. Yes, I’d Like to Place an Order…

Craigslist in the Syracuse, New York area currently has an ad seeking a blonde egg donor. And the person who posted it is seriously serious about her being blonde.

We are looking for someone between the ages of 20-29, platinum blonde hair as a child and nice blue eyes (not grey please), no taller than 5’9″. You must have had bleach (platinum) blonde hair as a baby and young child. If this corresponds to you or someone you know you will be compensated $5,000…

Blonde, platinum blond. With nice blue eyes (not grey)! This is the mentality at work: it’s not simply that a child is desired, but a child who meets precise specifications. This is such a fouled up way of thinking about children. Children NEED acceptance, unconditional love, a safe home, care, guidance, and so much else. These needs must always, always trump the desires of adults with consumerist mindsets who WANT — not need — what the they want, when they want it, how they want it. #SMH

5. Canada: The Sale of all Body Parts?

Canadians are moving toward legalizing payment for surrogacy, egg donation, and sperm donation. An attorney there addresses that prospect by arguing it will open the door toward the sale of any and all body parts.

The concept of selling your liver, kidney or even blood in Canada is strongly opposed. Can we truly treat sperm, eggs and embryos as something different from all other bodily tissues? If we place sperm, eggs and embryos on the market, then are we not also committing to a discussion on the sale of all body parts?

This is a helpful pointer toward the deeper consideration of our bodily integrity and the reasons why we rightly forbid the sale of organs. May this word of warning will be headed by those in power in Canada.

Lagniappe

Jennifer turned 60 on Wednesday, but it’s not too late to celebrate her! As a way of saying Happy Birthday and of showing your support for all of her ongoing work toward the cause of our shared human future, I’ve asked people to join me in making a donation of $60 toward the work of The Center for Bioethics and Culture. We’ve been blown away by the response so far. Thank you to all who have given. If you haven’t given yet, there’s no better time than the present (click here now!). Celebrate!

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