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On Surrogacy, Keogan was right: There’s no right to have a child

Regular readers might recall that about six weeks ago, Senator Sharon Keogan was denounced as a tremendous villain in the Oireachtas for daring to raise a voice in objection to the new surrogacy legislation making its way through Ireland’s painfully right-on Seanad. Indeed, her assertion that surrogacy is “harmful, exploitative, and unethical” raised such a round of fainting fits that the committee considering the matter had to be suspended to give our politicians time to recover from the shock of hearing one of their own stand in the way of a reform that is universally considered, amongst the great and the good to be “progress”.

Sadly, however, that suspension was not permanent. And so, yesterday, we got this openly Orwellian statement from the committee, reported faithfully and without comment by, in this instance, the Journal:

The Special Oireachtas Committee on International Surrogacy launched its report, which calls for both parents of a child born through an international surrogacy agreement be legally recognised as parents.

The phrase “both parents” might cause some confusion here. After all, since almost everybody in the country has done Junior Cert science, they will be aware that two parents are involved in the creation of  every child: A female to bear the child, and a male to provide the necessary fertilization for that to occur. When one reads “both parents should be legally recognised”, one might instinctively think that this means both biological parents. Alas, this does not account for the Orwellian times in which we live, in which language means precisely what people want it to mean.

In this surrogacy bill, in fact, the only person who will not be recognised is the parent who actually gave birth to the child. She (and it is always a she) will be excised from affairs completely.

What’s more, note the phrase above “international surrogacy agreement”. If it sounds like a legal document, that’s because it is. It’s also a very nice, compassionate, cuddly alternative to “international child sale agreement”, since that is, in effect, what these agreements are. This is a law, in essence, which enables people to purchase a woman’s womb for nine months, and become the full legal owners of that womb’s products, should they choose to.

Absent from the draft legislation, incidentally, are almost any protections at all for the surrogate mother. That is no concern for Irish legislators.

So what if, for example, a surrogate mother conceives an “imperfect” child? A child with Downs Syndrome, or some other disability? Consider this case from Canada:

A couple from British Columbia, Canada, have been embroiled in a complex ethical battle after their surrogate refused their request to abort the fetus she was carrying. The couple made the request after tests revealed the baby would likely be born with Down’s syndrome. Although the parties had entered into contract, legal proceedings were not brought by the surrogate who, in the end, decided to have an abortion due – in part – to her own family obligations.

Note the phrase “had entered into contract”. And note the circumstances: The mother, had she wished not to have an abortion, would have had to sue the people renting her womb for permission to keep the child she was carrying. These provisions are common in surrogacy contracts: You buy her, you own her, and her body is no longer her own. At the end of the day, it’s not even her child. The parents, not the woman bearing it, get to decide whether it lives or dies.

There are many other such cases. If you don’t believe me, google is your friend.

But of course, none of this matters to Irish legislators, whose main concern is to enshrine in Irish law the recognition and enforceability of these contracts.

Contracts, by the way, are funny things. One of the main ideas in contract law is that contracts must be properly entered into, with awareness on both sides of what the contractees are taking on. But how can any woman, entering into a surrogacy contract for the first time, truly understand what she is agreeing to? You know, for example, that some day your parents or dog will die, and you will be sad. We all understand that logically, and instinctively, and might think ourselves prepared for it. But when it comes, the pain is still, often, unbearable. The idea that somebody can be contractually obliged to undertake the pain and suffering that comes from being compelled to give away all rights to a child they have borne, or abort a child they have become attached to, is immoral and absurd on its face.

Put it this way: If there was an order of Nuns campaigning for this, on the basis that it was a good path out of poverty for fallen Irish women, we all know what these politicians would be saying.

But there is no opposition. And no scrutiny. The one Senator who had the balls to object was tossed out unceremoniously. It’s full steam ahead with the compassion and in time, years from now, we’ll let the mess for somebody else to clean up.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. We all should be. This is no way to legislate, and this legislation is deeply, fundamentally, immoral. Sharon Keogan was denounced for saying “there’s no right to have a child”.

She was right. There isn’t one. And in trying to manufacture one, we’re about to unleash a new world of privilege, and cruelty.


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