There are three or four very, very, very wealthy men currently having a chat about how best to use other women’s wombs and eggs. Should people be permitted to harvest other women’s eggs and then hire out a womb to grow the resulting baby? This is the question that got Dolce and Gabbana into hot water – they say No.
We must not sidestep the difficult ethical issues that surround egg donation and surrogacy. It is worth restating what the process is when children are produced in this way. First, a woman offers, usually for a price, her eggs. They must be ‘harvested’ from her own body, which is an arduous process. Once fertilised they are transferred into another woman’s womb where she grows and nurtures the baby for nine months, only to give it away soon after birth.
It is usually two women who are used, as there is less chance the surrogate mother will bond with the baby of another woman – the genetic mother. Although I have no doubt Elton John and David Furnish are very grateful to the women who made their children a reality, in most cases it is poor women from India and elsewhere who offer up their own bodies this way.
Another man, former newspaper editor, Piers Morgan pitched in support for John. He supports both harvesting of eggs from women and the hire of women’s wombs. But then he would – as they are not his eggs nor his womb. This is to be expected as the modern ethical principal is “I want therefore I get’. This includes one’s ‘right to a baby’ even if it means cutting all links to that child’s mother both genetic and gestational.
Children produced in this way do have mothers. It is just that all the adults involved (including the mother) have chosen to produce this child and then raise it without her having any contact.
The very human and primal mother-child relationship is broken without any consultation with the child. He or she has no choice. Heather Barwick, a child raised by gay parents explains, “same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter.”
My views on this are the same for straight as well as gay couples. I do not think it is ethical to use other women’s bodies in this way, and I never will. And I do not think it is right to intentionally set out to break the relationship that a child has with its genetic mother or father before conception even occurs. This is what distinguishes these cases from adoption.
Genetics matter – they are not everything – but they matter. The couples themselves know this as they often use sperm from one partner with a donated egg or vice versa, because they want a genetic link to the child. So the link matters when it comes to one parent but just not the other. For some unexplainable reason this parent is suddenly irrelevant.
But this parent is not irrelevant. Heather Barwick explains again, “Gay marriage doesn’t just redefine marriage, but also parenting. It promotes and normalises a family structure that necessarily denies us something precious and foundational. It denies us something we need and long for, while at the same time tells us that we don’t need what we naturally crave. That we will be okay. But we’re not. We’re hurting.”