Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.
Last time I checked there were 30 ways to make a baby these days. The "birds and the bees" talk obviously takes a lot longer. One of the more recent ways to have a child is through commercial surrogacy. That is when a couple pays to "rent a womb" of a third party to "gestate" a child and then by contract to give that child to the paying couple. This arrangement is fraught with problems and unfortunately reduces a child to a commodity.
There has been an explosion of "Surrogacy Agencies" for couples that can't or won't have a child. This represents the worst kind of entrepreneurial capitalism. Recently, the Washington Post reported that in one such arrangement the biological parents refused to accept one of the twins born of the surrogate or "gestational carrier". As the Post reported:
A Thai surrogate mother said Sunday that she was not angry with the Australian biological parents who left behind a baby boy born with Down syndrome, and hoped that the family would take care of the boy's twin sister they took with them. Pattaramon Chanbua, a 21-year-old food vendor in Thailand's seaside town of Sri Racha, has had to take a break from her job to take care of her 7-month-old surrogate baby, named "Gammy," who also has a congenital heart condition. The boy, with blond hair and dark brown eyes, is now being treated in a hospital for infection in his lungs.
The view that this Australian couple had was more akin to manufacturing a child and since one was defective they simply returned the merchandise. This sad situation also underlines one of the elitist cultural values that is pervading our society: "I have a right to a child and to the kind of child I want". Seeing a child as a gift, the fruit of love seems so blasé these days.
This collaborative or third party reproduction is not in the best interest of the child since the foundation of the child's life is a contract between strangers not the love between parents. It is also a form of exploitation of poor women or as National Review columnist Wesley Smith calls it "biological colonialism" another form of Western exploitation of the resources of poor countries. These women are reduced to mere "breeders" who because of the impoverishment of their lives participate in the process. Talk about a war on women! Also as in the case above the surrogate can become the custodial parent when the biological parents refuse the child even though she may not have the means to support the child. Or in some cases the child is turned over to an orphanage or put in state custody.
We also see in this case the discriminatory attitude towards children born with Down syndrome. In fact some 90% of babies diagnosed in utero with Down's are aborted. Again there is a certain commercial attitude here that insists on the right to return defective merchandise by returning the child I do not want. All sales final, no return, no refund is a thing of the past when it comes to children.
Even so, reproductive technologies have helped many couples overcome the challenges of infertility. At the same time the Church has warned us that not everything that is possible should be used. The unintended consequences and the unknown consequences both short and long term are often damaging to the physical (children conceived in vitro have higher rates of disease than children conceived naturally) and emotional health of the children born and their parents. Some infertile couples have told me they "would do anything to have a baby" but that should never include exploiting others or yourself.
The Church's teaching on the generation of new human life is clear and sensible. In a nutshell it means that we can do what we can to assist reproduction but not to replace it. While the pain of infertility and the desire for a child can be overwhelming we should not let the good of the gift of child become the rationalization for using any means possible. When we stay within the boundaries of the morally licit we protect ourselves from the many unforeseen and unintended consequences that much of reproductive technology brings with it. And beyond that we stay within the lines of God's will and we know that "in His will is our peace".
Love, Fr. John B.
P.S. For couples struggling with infertility check out some of the latest ways that NFP and NaPro Technology our helping infertile couples. www.naprotechnology.com