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There is an uproar Down Under over an anonymous Australian couple that commissioned twins from a surrogate in Thailand, then reneged and brought home only a daughter after the other twin, a boy named Gammy, was born with Down syndrome. Pattaramon Chanbua, the couple’s surrogate, was left to care for the now six-month-old Gammy, who also has a congenital hole in his heart and will require expensive surgeries.

The Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has rightly called Chanbua “an absolute hero” and “a saint.” When she was seven months pregnant, the commissioning couple apparently asked her to abort Gammy because of his Down syndrome, and she refused because she considered abortion against her Buddhist beliefs. When he was born and rejected again by his parents, she chose to love him and become his mother. Despite her precarious financial situation, she took time off her work to care for him. That is true love, charity and largeness of spirit.

And yet, Chanbua is merely 21 years old, already has two small children and works as a food vendor in Thailand. She rented out her womb to a Western couple because the paltry $9,300 that she was promised (but still not paid, apparently) for nine months of carrying twins represented a way of clearing her debts and enabling the education of her two children. She never even met the people whose babies she was carrying until she saw the father at the hospital after the twins’ birth.

Women like Chanbua are recruited by surrogacy agencies (I would call them “mills” or “baby factories”) in various developing countries, perhaps most famously in India. Reproductive technologies have enabled the rise of this kind of human trafficking – essentially the voluntary enslavement of poor women who agree to be impregnated with foreign embryos and often to sequester themselves in special facilities where they have no contact with the outside world as they become mere growing uteruses. The compensation is ridiculously low by Western standards, which is why so many of our middle-class couples flock to these places.

Gammy’s story represents so much of what is wrong with the use of reproductive technologies, but it goes beyond that. The whole selfish mentality behind abortion comes bursting out between the lines of this sad and nearly incomprehensible rejection by Gammy’s parents.

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The scary truth is that their story is not nearly as unusual as we would like to think. So many other couples in our society approach reproductive technologies as customers who are buying a product. After all, money is clearly changing hands, so they expect the usual buyer’s prerogative of having their specifications met.  That Gammy’s parents are God over the lives of their children is old news to them, as they may have already destroyed various other children along the way to the surrogacy, namely the usual extra embryos that may have been created through their use of IVF.

In a society that aborts thousands of children each day, a child only has value and only deserves to exist if he or she is “wanted.” If a child is not wanted, whether because of a “defect” on the part of the child (and that might be simply the child’s gender) or because the parents are not “ready” to have a baby for whatever reason, the child is denied any human rights whatsoever. Slaughtered, thrown in the trash, no looking back – this, we are told, is a “woman’s right”.

How can we be surprised then, at a couple that coldly walked away from their bouncing baby boy? Two months prior to his birth, they had already decided he deserved to be killed. And the fact is, at least 90% of preborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in North America too. This despite the fact that 99% of people with Down syndrome report being happy with their lives. It’s not about the child, it’s all about the parents and their own perceived “quality of life” while caring for a less-than-perfect child.

Time for a good long look in the mirror. If we don’t like what happened to Gammy, we had better think long and hard about what is going on every day, right here at home.


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