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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Émile Bayard's classic illustration of Cosette in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.
Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony

Tracts and sermons alone won’t form pro-life children. Here’s what will.

Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony
By Anthony Esolen

What is remarkable in our age is not that half of our citizens believe it is wrong to kill the child in the womb, the child whose existence, except in the rare case of rape, is owing to our own voluntary actions.  That would be like congratulating ourselves for believing that it's wrong to steal someone's car, to lie under oath to hurt an enemy, to throw our aged parents into the street, or to desecrate churches.  Where is the great moral insight?  What's remarkable instead is that half of us believe it is all right to snuff out the life of that child – because nothing must be allowed to interfere with our “right” to pursue pleasure, as we use the child-making thing as a sweating-off spa on our way to money, prestige, a five-bathroom mansion for two, a tenured chair in Women's Studies, the mayoralty of Camden, another year of nights out on the town, whatever.

How have we come to this pass?  Our imaginations are stunted or diseased, that's how.
 Let churchgoers beware.  You cannot spread pro-life icing on a cake made of flour and rat poison.  Our children meet with rat poison everywhere.  Do they watch Friends on television, that un-funny amoral “comedy” about nihilist young urbanites trading depressions in the mattress with one another?  Rat poison.  Do they watch movies like – well, the moronic Titanic, wherein a shrewish girl and a pouty boy fornicate before they are swallowed by the deep blue sea?  Rat poison.  Do their school teachers feed them such exalted lyric poetry as that of Sylvia Plath, imagining what it would be like to smash her sleeping husband's head like a rotten pumpkin?  Or the bogus Laramie Project, making a hero out of a deeply disturbed young man, killed in a meth deal?  Or Toni Morrison's maudlin obsessions with race and adultery?  Is it an endless cafeteria of ghouls, vampires, girl-murderers – Lord of the Flies, without the severe moral imagination and the talent of William Golding?  Lord of the Flies, Lady of the Flies, Cheerleaders of the Flies, Lifeguard of the Flies, Mr. Goodbar of the Flies, Fight Club of the Flies, Hunger of the Flies?  Rat poison, with that peculiar character of rat poison, that the more the critter consumes, the thirstier it grows.  Vice is the addiction that mimics the habit of virtue.  One hour a week on Sunday does not flush out the strychnine.  Theology lessons are band-aids when your arteries are porous inside.  The forming of a moral imagination is not something additional in the education of a child.  It is the education of a child. 

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Your child sees a commercial for Planned Predators.  The commercial baldly states that it doesn't matter who your “partners” are, how many you have, or what you do – because you are the only one who has any say in the matter, and nobody has the right to judge you.  This is not the morality of a cad or a tramp.  Cads and tramps have attacks of conscience.  It is the bland oh-so-self-assured anti-morality of a demon.  It is one hundred proof grain stupidity.  It is distilled evil.  Now, we want to raise children who will do more than say, “I don't agree with that.”  Wonderful enlightenment!  We want to raise children who would look upon anyone who uttered such a thing as they would look upon someone who would fish his food out of a septic tank: incomprehensible, base, inhuman, insane.  That's the negative.  Let me give the positive.  We want to raise children who will understand and cherish the virtues of love and purity.  Those virtues must not remain mere terms or notions.  We must clothe them with flesh and blood.  Consider the following scene from Victor Hugo's masterpiece, Les Miserables.  Two pure young people, Marius and Cosette, have long beheld one another from a distance.  They have fallen in love, and finally, after many months and much seeking, the youth and the maiden meet and speak.  Here is how Hugo describes what they do every evening:

Throughout the month of May . . . in that poor, wild garden, under that shrubbery each day more perfumed and dense, two human beings composed of every chastity and every innocence, overflowing with all the felicities of Heaven, closer to archangels than men, pure, honest, intoxicated, radiant, glowed for each other in the darkness.  It seemed to Cosette that Marius had a crown, and to Marius that Cosette had a halo.  They touched, they gazed at each other, they clasped hands, they pressed close together; but there was a distance they did not pass.  Not that they respected it; they were ignorant of it.  Marius felt a barrier, Cosette's purity, and Cosette had a support, Marius' loyalty.  The first kiss was also the last.  Since then, Marius had not gone beyond touching Cosette's hand, or her scarf, or her curls, with his lips.  Cosette was to him a perfume, and not a woman.  He breathed her.  She refused nothing and he asked nothing.  Cosette was happy, and Marius was satisfied.  They were living in that ravishing condition that might be called the dazzling of one soul by another.  It was that ineffable first embrace of two virginities within the ideal.

Victor Hugo was a man well acquainted with the squalor of the streets, and the wicked things that people do to themselves and one another.  His blood ran hot, not cold – hot with indignation against the wickedness, and hot with greathearted love for what is noblest in man; with what he would call the work of God in man.  Our purveyors of rat poison have not witnessed one hundredth of the miseries and the sins that he witnessed!  But they turn our children's vision to what is dark and dead, and he raises our eyes to the everlasting hills, whence cometh our help.
 We want to raise boys like Marius and girls like Cosette.  We cannot do it with tracts in church teaching and a sermon on Sunday, as needful as those things are.  They may give us the moral, but they do not nourish the imagination.  Without story, without flesh and blood, they flare in the ear but do not ring in the conscience.  Hence the need for art and song, for stories and poetry.  Jesus taught in parables.  These are not just instruments.  They are of the essence.


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

Medical staff arrested in India after accidentally aborting baby at 8 months

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

A doctor and a nurse at a prominent private hospital in India have been arrested after they allegedly administered abortion drugs to a eight-months pregnant woman accidentally, resulting in the death of her unborn child.

"We have immediately registered a case and arrested the doctor, whose negligent act has caused this," said South Jammu Superintendent of Police Rahul Malik, according to the Hindustan Times.

The woman's husband, Rakesh Sharma, told the paper that the doctor mistook Shruti Sharma for another patient who was scheduled for an abortion at the JK Medicity Hospital in Jammu on Friday afternoon.

Shruti had gone to the hospital after her gynecologist advised a routine medical examination to safeguard her and her baby's health.

Rakesh alleged that the doctor gave his wife the abortion pills without consulting her medical records. “Doctors and paramedical staff instead of administering glucose, gave her abortion medicine, which was actually meant for another patient,” he said.

"It is the worst case of negligence. I feel strongly that such hospitals should be closed. If this has happened to me today, tomorrow it can happen to any body else," Rakesh said.

While the JK Medicity's administration said it has launched an inquiry into the incident, a report from the Jagran Post stated that the district government has revoked the hospital's license.

"Jammu and Kashmir Government has ordered sealing of the private clinic after suspension of its license to operate in the wake of the incident," said Minister for Health and Medical Education Taj Mohiuddin according to the report.

National media have reported that the incident has brought illegal abortion practices in India to the attention of both the public and government officials.

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According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, abortion is legal in India up to 20 weeks. However, the opinion of a second doctor is required if the pregnancy is past its 12th week, and abortion-inducing drugs such as mifepristone and misoprostol are allowed only by prescription up until the seventh week of pregnancy.

Moreover, abortions can be performed only in government licensed medical institutions by registered abortionists.

Indian Express reported that the accused in the incident, Dr Amarjeet Singh, practices ayurvedic medicine (traditional Hindu medicine) and is "unsuitable for carrying out abortions."

A video posted by IndiaTV shows the parents surrounded by family members and relatives at a protest outside the JK Medicity hospital where the group is demanding punishment for those involved in the death of the child.


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Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

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News editor fired for criticizing ‘gay Bible’, files complaint

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By Kirsten Anderson

The former editor-in-chief of Iowa’s Newton Daily News has filed a religious discrimination complaint after he was fired over a post on his private blog criticizing the pro-gay Queen James Bible.

The Bible revision was produced by homosexual activists who claim to have edited the eight most commonly cited verses against homosexual behavior “in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.”

On his private blog, which has since been deactivated, Bob Eschliman wrote in April that “the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo” are trying to reword the Bible “to make their sinful nature ‘right with God.’”

After public outcry from homosexual activists, Shaw Media, which owns the paper, fired him on May 6.

In a statement the day of his firing, Shaw Media President John Rung said Eschliman’s “airing of [his opinion] compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it.”

“There will be some who will criticize our action, and mistakenly cite Mr. Eschliman’s First Amendment rights as a reason he should continue on as editor of the Newton Daily News,” Rung said.  “As previously stated, he has a right to voice his opinion. And we have a right to select an editor who we believe best represents our company and best serves the interests of our readers.”

Rung said the company has a duty “to advocate for the communities we serve” and that “to be effective advocates, we must be able to represent the entire community fairly.”

Eschliman, who has been writing professionally since 1998 and became editor-in-chief of the Newton Daily News in 2012, says that the company was aware of his personal blog when he was hired and never indicated it would be a problem for him to continue sharing his personal political and religious views.

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In his religious discrimination complaint against the company, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), he says that he believes he was singled out for termination because of his Christian views concerning homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.”

“As a lifelong writer, I have maintained a personal blog on the Internet with some personal thoughts and writings,” Eschliman wrote. “Newton Daily News, my employer, never had a policy prohibiting personal blogging, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media. In fact, my employer encouraged us to engage in social media on a personal level and I am aware of several employees of Newton Daily News who continue to blog and are still employed with Shaw Media.”

“There is no question that I was fired for holding and talking about my sincerely held religious beliefs on my personal blog during my off-duty time from the comfort of my own home,” Eschliman wrote. “Shaw Media directly discriminated against me because of my religious beliefs and my identity as an evangelical Christian who believes in Holy Scripture and the Biblical view of marriage.

“Moreover, Shaw Media announced that not only were they firing me based upon my religious beliefs, but that they would not hire or allow anyone to work at Shaw Media who holds religious beliefs similar to mine, which would include an automatic denial of any accommodation of those who share my sincerely held religious beliefs,” he added.

Neither Shaw Media nor the Newton Daily News have been willing to provide further comment to the press on the matter, citing pending litigation.

Matthew Whitaker, an attorney with Liberty Institute who is assisting Eschliman with his complaint, said the law is on his client’s side.

“No one should be fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs,” Whitaker said in a statement. “In America, it is against the law to fire an employee for expressing a religious belief in public.  This kind of religious intolerance by an employer has no place in today’s welcoming workforce.”

According to Whitaker, if the EEOC rules in Eschliman’s favor, Shaw Media could be forced to give him back pay, front pay, and a monetary settlement.


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