By Mark Oshinskie
The New Jersey legislature recently enacted a commercial surrogate “parenthood” law. By so doing, it overrode the Supreme Court’s Baby M decision of 30 years ago, which concluded that “in a civilized society, some things are not for sale.”
A panoply of reproductive technologies, IVF and egg and sperm sales have become common, advertised on billboards and even lavishly subsidized by medical insurance. Surrogacy extends this trend.
How did so many come to accept these technologies that have made babies entitlements and turned life into a commodity?
Infertility has spiked due to human conduct. Many have waited too long to attempt to bear children. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has published a meta-analysis concluding that women’s fertility begins to drop significantly at 32 and drops rapidly at 37. Additionally, sex with multiple partners has spread an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases. Tens of millions of new cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea are reported each year. These, and abortions, scar reproductive tissue and prevent conception. If a corporation sold a soft drink that had one-hundredth of the effect on fertility that either advanced age or STD-scarring have had, every form of protest would be marshaled against it and there would be class-action lawsuits on an unprecedented scale.
So we turn to technological fixes. Reprotech takes the most fundamental aspect of what it means to be human, and a family, and throws it away. Instead of a quintessentially intimate act between a man and a woman who share a deep human connection, reproduction has become a lab-mediated medical procedure, with injections, technicians, millions of embryos stored in lab freezers, eugenic embryo selection, termination of excess implanted embryos, lawyers and disclaimers, and multiple “parents.” Reprotech deliberately creates legions of fatherless and motherless offspring. Reprotech also costs society billions each year in elevated medical insurance premiums, thus placing basic coverage beyond the reach of many low-income people. And like other commercial processes, surrogacy outsources childbearing to low-income women in the U.S. and abroad.
America is, above all else, a nation of consumers. As individualistic, consumer-sovereign reprotech has been accepted, on what moral basis could society oppose additional forms of reproductive choice, such as selecting a child’s sex, genetically designing the unborn, artificial wombs, and cloning? On the surface, each of these processes might produce healthy looking offspring that please reprotech clients and their family and friends. But then, wouldn’t those who built their dream houses on Normandy Beach or in Yosemite Valley enjoy the view?
Viewed comprehensively and longitudinally, reproductive sovereignty causes profound problems. But our society exalts individual freedom and instant gratification more than it values human community. A culture alienated from itself can use surrogacy and other reproductive gimmickry to manufacture offspring. But the world that this artificially created generation inhabits won’t be much of a place to raise kids.
Mark Oshinskie is a Christian, a husband, father of three grown children, a public interest attorney, and a bilingual community garden coordinator in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He often reads and writes about society, reproductive technology, food, and nutrition. He feels that the growth of the reprotech industry and the commodification of human life are darker social trends than any story that the news media reports. For fun, he plays basketball, ice hockey, and piano, and dances to Afro Pop music.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at mycentraljersey.com/story/opinion/readers/2018/07/27/letter-promoting-surrogacy-cheapens-concept-parenting/37133169/.