Biggest Winners and Losers of 2019

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on January 7, 2020

It’s that time of year again when I look back over the past twelve months with an eye toward identifying those whose lives and contributions actively promoted and affirmed our shared human future (winners), and those who did not (losers). You can review last year’s picks here!



WINNERS:

The growing coalition of feminists, legislators, and organizations who helped stop the legalization of the “Child Parent Security Act, which would legalize commercial surrogacy in the Empire State. Groups like the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, the National Organization for Women in New York, icon feminist Gloria Steinem, and women lawmakers, Helene Weinstein, and Deborah Glick, all were unified in their message: this law, if passed would lead to the commodification of women and the buying and selling of children.  We will face this bill again in 2020, but for now our hats off to these hardworking individuals!

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, spoke out on the ethics of CRISPR gene-editing technology, issuing a powerful statement, “We must never allow our technology to eclipse our humanity.” Read his full article here.  Now we hope our federal government will act in a way that protects and respects our shared humanity.

Kudos to a group of leaders in the donor-conceived community who were invited to speak at the U.N. in Geneva to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Friends known to the CBC included Dr. Damien Adams, Albert Frantz, Dr. Jo Rose, and Stephanie Raeymaekers, and more even received a standing ovation as they recounted their stories and made recommendations that would protect the rights of children.  If this is a subject new to you, we recommend our film, Anonymous Father’s Day, as a great primer!

India (again) gets winner status for finally passing their law that makes commercial surrogacy illegal. While commercial surrogacy was banned in 2018, this new law, passed in 2019, places strict guidelines on how surrogacy may happen in India.  They have faced much opposition from #BigFertility, saying this is a regressive law, but we say this is a progressive law which protects women and children.

Spinifex Press is always a winner around the CBC office.  Where would our library be without the many important books they have published?  If you are wanting to grow your personal library, we recommend Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics, Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self, Surrogacy: A Human Rights Violation, and Broken Bonds: Surrogate Mothers Speak Out

Tooting our own horn, we launched our Podcast, Venus Rising in September of 2019! Always looking for new and creative ways to use technology to reach the masses, Venus Rising covers all things related to fertility, infertility, and women’s reproductive health.  Already, our podcast has reached people in 23 countries! You can find us on iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, and Podomatic.  Listen, share, and give us a rating (we often come in the top 10 for the week in Women’s Health!)

LOSERS:

Gavin Newsom for signing into law AB 922, ironically called the “Reproductive Health and Research: Oocyte Procurement Bill.”  This bill allows women to be paid to sell their eggs for scientific research purposes. Current California law only allows women to sell their eggs to people trying to have a baby.  So, in order to study women’s reproductive health, we will put countless of women’s health at risk, all for the almighty dollar. Sadly, the new governor in town failed to follow his predecessor, Jerry Brown, who twice vetoed this bill, stating, “Not everything in life is for sale, nor should it be.”  This veto letter hangs in the CBC office as a reminder of the work we’ve done to prevent Eggsploitation.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Andy Cohen lose for their relentless efforts to legalize commercial surrogacy in New York.  Cohen, who has a son through surrogacy, has joined ranks with Cuomo, who falsely claims New York surrogacy law is antiquated.  Current law in New York allows for altruistic surrogacy.  What is antiquated is their view on surrogacy, which sadly hasn’t kept up with the medical research which shows surrogate pregnancies are high-risk and that mothers and babies do bond.  Let’s hope in 2020 we will be able to stop the passage of this bill again.  

Ari Nagel, also known as, The Sperminator, is one of our losers this year. The math teacher from the City University of New York has even launched a web series showcasing his seed sharing which has resulted in the creation of 49 children to date.  He’s been at this for several years now, and in 2020, seven women will be giving birth using Ari’s sperm. In one episode of The Sperminator, Ari claims that having access to internet porn has helped him keep up with the demands.  It is mind boggling that people would want him to father their children!

#BigFertility in general makes our list of losers, but more explicitly this year, The Surrogacy Group in Maryland gets special attention. This group must pay $2 million in penalties and restitution for selling, “surrogacy services to consumers for tens of thousands of dollars, but did not provide the promised services.” The owner has been arrested by the FBI and faces charges of wire fraud.  We will keep you posted on what the U.S. District Court for Maryland decides. We in no way think this little slap on the wrist will slow down the multi-billion dollar-a-year fertility industry, but are happy to see some justice for these would-be parents.

This next loser status is a twofer.  The story of the trans dad who gave birth and the story of the lesbians who ‘both’ carried their baby in landmark birth experiment called “shared motherhood.”  Both stories hail from the U.K. First, there is Reuban, a trans-man, and his ‘non-binary’ partner Jay who had a baby in 2019 using sperm donated by a transgender woman.  Reuban, who still has a uterus, carried the baby, who was delivered by a trans physician. Next, we turn to Jasmine and Donna who had a son last year.  Since they both wanted to ‘contribute’ to his birth, Donna first had the eggs transferred into her womb to mature and then, after 18 hours, they were removed and transferred into Jasmine, who then carried the baby to term. What is unclear from the story is in whose womb the eggs were fertilized and who contributed the sperm. This new technique, in vivo natural fertilization, is being sold as innovative and a more natural approach.  Wake me up when we hit rock bottom because some days, you just can’t make this stuff up.  As Robert Klitman asks in his new book, Designing Babies: How Technology Is Changing the Ways We Create Children,What kind of society do we want in terms of our ability to design babies?

Chinese Scientist, He Jiankui, made our loser list in 2018 for creating the first genetically edited babies. He remains on our loser list again as he’s just been sentenced to three years in prison and fined $430,000 for “illegally carrying out the human embryo gene-editing intended for reproduction.”  Most countries have rightly made gene-editing for reproductive purposes illegal because we don’t know the long-term safety ramifications.  Hopefully, this sentencing will send a strong message to the scientific community that going rogue won’t be tolerated.  

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