Christopher White

Surrogates and their discontents

Christopher White
By Christopher White
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August 27, 2021 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - Meet Cathleen: a twenty-year-old from New Brunswick, Canada, who served as a surrogate mother of twins for an infertile British couple. Twenty-seven weeks into the pregnancy, Cathleen was informed—via text message—that the couple was divorcing and would no longer need the children she had been carrying for them.

Then there’s Carrie: a mom of four from Colorado who agreed to carry a child for an Austrian couple who had spent twenty years unsuccessfully trying to conceive. After the child was born and they returned home, Carrie was hit with medical fees of $217,000. The Austrian couple paid none of it, and failed to make the agreed-upon surrogacy payment.

Consider too the story of Premila Vaghela, an Indian woman who was paid to serve as a surrogate for a couple from the United States. After a premature birth at eight months into the pregnancy, the child survived but the mother died of complications from delivery. These are just a few of the many surrogacy horror stories. Meanwhile, surrogacy remains a lucrative enterprise with an ever-expanding reach.

In recent weeks, the New Jersey state legislature spent the closing days of the legislative session quietly trying to weaken restrictions for gestational surrogates in the state. Their efforts were foiled, however, when Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill last Wednesday, August 8, citing “the profound change in the traditional beginnings of the family that this bill will enact.” For advocates of women’s health, children’s rights, and stable families, this is a huge victory. It also should be used as a teaching moment to expose the many moral and ethical concerns raised by surrogacy, and the health risks to mothers and children that surrogacy introduces.

The practice of surrogacy traditionally has taken place by inserting freshly thawed or new sperm into the mother. This is the standard procedure for fertile women who are able to serve as the child’s gestational and genetic mother. The second method, used increasingly more often, is known as gestational surrogacy, in which a previously created embryo is implanted inside the surrogate mother, who delivers a child that is not genetically related to her. While some surrogate mothers agree to carry another couple’s child for what they consider to be altruistic reasons, the more common motivation is the financial incentive that couples desperate to conceive a child can offer.

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Like anonymous sperm donation and the buying and selling of women’s eggs, the practice of surrogacy in the United States is barely regulated, since the desires of the parents are valued above the child in gestation. There also are few records to determine how many children are born through surrogacy each year. According to the most recent data from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, nearly 1,400 children were born through surrogacy in 2008. That number indicates an almost 100-percent increase from the 738 babies reported born through surrogacy in 2004. Regrettably, few studies have explored the health risks posed by surrogacy or its effect on children. However, if the anecdotes above are any indication, all is not well for the mothers or the children involved in the process.

Consider the commodification of women caused by surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy reduces women to their biological capacities as mere instruments to be used in the manufacturing of a product, comparable to the way we view car factories in Detroit.

At the same time, surrogate-produced children are manufactured as designer babies: Wealthy parents can select their perfect fusion of sperm from an athletic male with the egg of a female who graduated from an Ivy League school with a 4.0 GPA. Indeed, surrogacy is a medium in which couples—or even single men or women—can attempt to create their dream child.

This effort, however, comes at a high cost, since it usually ends in the exploitation of impoverished women. The death of Ms. Vaghela of India, who chose to become a surrogate in hopes of providing a better life for her two children, offers a perfect example of this problem. Now her children will live in poverty indefinitely as orphans. Moreover, surrogacy tourism has become an industry in itself: wealthy westerners travel to places such as India and Southeast Asia to hire surrogate mothers to carry their children. In some patriarchal societies, there are reports of women being forced by their husbands to serve as surrogates in order to contribute to household income.

Then there’s the other side of the coin: the children created by the surrogacy process. In a 2010 study, “My Daddy’s Name is Donor,” 45 percent of children conceived from an anonymous sperm donation reported that they were bothered by the fact that money was exchanged in order to conceive them. The same is likely to be said by children conceived through surrogacy, and the psychological effects of being separated from their birth mother pose numerous consequences that likely will remain with them for the rest of their lives. There is a natural, hormonal bonding that takes place between a mother and a child that she carries in her womb. The hormone oxytocin, for example, is released in large amounts both during and after childbirth, which establishes and increases the trust between mother and child. Surrogacy intentionally severs this natural and beneficial relationship, a relationship we should seek to encourage and protect, not prevent.

Lastly, those who promote marriage between a man and a woman and the parenting of a mom and a dad as ideal should be concerned about the effects of surrogacy. As proponents of same-sex marriage continue to make their case, their arguments will probably coincide with a greater demand for surrogate mothers who can provide children to same-sex couples. While there is no way to measure how many same-sex couples are in the surrogacy market, a review of surrogacy organizations reveals that many testimonials and advertisements are either from or targeted at same-sex couples.

While surrogacy legislation or regulation is unlikely to be a matter of debate in this year’s presidential election—especially when Mitt Romney’s son Tagg recently had twins via a surrogate mother—it is an important issue that should make us pause and reflect on the type of society we are building. Are we willing to prioritize the desires—not needs—of a select, wealthy few at the expense of future children? And if so, when and where should we draw the line?

In his statement criticizing Governor Christie’s veto, state senator and co-sponsor of the New Jersey bill Joseph Vitale called the veto “a major setback for parents who wish to create life and give a baby a loving home.” Yet for victims like Premila Vaghela of India or the surrogate children who fall asleep at night wondering about their biological mothers and fathers, that line was crossed long ago.

Christopher White is the Director of Education and Programs for the Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC). The CBC is in pre-production for an upcoming documentary on the consequences of surrogacy for women and children. This article reprinted with permission from thePublicDiscourse.com.

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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‘His bones are basically like paper’: Parents refuse to abort baby with rare condition

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By Kirsten Anderson

At just 11 weeks old, little Layton Diven is not like other babies. Every time his parents pick him up or cuddle him, there is a chance they will break his bones. In fact, Layton has already suffered more than 20 fractures in his short life – beginning at the moment of his birth.

Layton has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a rare disease that makes his bones brittle and prone to breakage. There are several types of OI, and Layton’s type, OI Type III, is the most severe type found among infants. Most babies born with the disease, like Layton, are born with multiple fractures, especially along the rib cage. Many struggle to breathe or swallow. The incurable disease is progressive, so it will get worse as he gets older.

Layton was diagnosed with OI in the womb, but abortion wasn’t an option for his parents, Chad and Angela Diven, who considered their baby a gift from God, no matter his condition.

“We weren't going to have an abortion, so he was born with the disease,” Angela Diven told KSLA. “God chose me for him, to be his mom, so I have to take that huge responsibility and do what's best for him.”

That responsibility comes with a heavy price. Layton requires 24-hour care, but both Angela and Chad have full-time jobs. He can’t go to regular daycare, because it’s not safe for him.

“You can't just pick him up like a normal baby,” Diven said. “You can't dress him like a normal child; his bones are basically like paper. He can't go to daycare because of his condition. He's medically fragile, and a daycare can't handle him."

Childcare costs are just the beginning, though – the treatments Layton will need throughout his life are expensive and may not be covered by insurance.

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Layton is currently receiving pamidronate IV therapy, which will help to strengthen his bones. But in order to be able to stand or walk, he will need metal rods implanted in his legs – an operation that will cost the Divens $80,000. The OI specialist coordinating Layton’s care is in Omaha, Nebraska, while the Divens live in Louisiana. As he grows, Layton will also require special equipment, such as a wheelchair, along with extensive physical therapy.

Despite the hardships they knew would come, the Divens stepped out in faith to bring Layton into the world. Now, they are reaching out to the internet for help to shoulder the financial burdens that came with their baby blessing. The family has set up both a GoFundMe and a Facebook page called “Lifting Up Layton Diven,” where people can receive updates on Layton’s condition and contribute to the cost of his care.

To donate to baby Layton’s medical trust fund, click here.

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Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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