Selling Babies

To the Editor:

If you have sufficient money, then you can buy a baby in New Hampshire on contract through a network of lawyers, social workers, doctors, and any number of young ladies with wombs-to-rent. A doctor implants in the surrogate mom’s womb a viable human embryo, and after eight or nine months, the baby is taken out of the womb, and, bingo, you are a parent! What could be more beautiful? Everybody involved takes your money and you go home to wherever you came from with a new baby. That’s the expectation anyway.

Now the dark side. Surrogate birth used to be reserved for couples who, due to a medical or physiological condition, could not conceive a child. But science, as well as political and commercial pressures, led to a huge expansion of surrogate births to people with no medical need, such as wealthy persons, gays, and single individuals who want a baby, but who aren’t capable of, or don’t want the inconvenience of, being pregnant themselves. However, a large number of countries (India, Thailand, Canada, most all of Europe, and many others) have now outlawed, or severely restricted, birth by commercial surrogacy after seeing numerous abuses, such as baby mills, abandoned children, fraud, and human trafficking. There are additional concerns such as the fact that surrogacy contracts in New Hampshire are not limited to New Hampshire residents, or even U.S. citizens (a child born in New Hampshire through surrogacy is an American citizen, even if the contracting parents are not U.S. citizens, and those foreign parents become potentially eligible for U.S. residency upon birth of the child they bought).

In addition, babies born by contractual surrogacy are generally barred from knowing anything about the surrogate mother (or an unknown sperm or ‘egg’ donor as necessary for the impregnation). This seems to me to favor the desire of the intended parents to become parents over a future potential desire on the part of the purchased child to have true and complete knowledge of their genome and the circumstances of their birth. Perhaps tying surrogacy to complete transparency of birth records, including information related to egg and sperm donors, could, hopefully, put a chill on commercial surrogacy and/or give those already born through surrogacy the information concerning their births they deserve. Commercial surrogacy should not benefit from previous laws related to adoption, which themselves may be in need of reform.

Americans once fought a civil war over the buying and selling of human life. But now, if you have the money, you can buy a brand new human in New Hampshire. We tolerate a commercial system for the production and sale of human beings. Think about this. It is my opinion that discoveries and machines developed in the genetic and reproductive sciences must not cross the line into the production and sale of humans because, among many consequences, this erodes the belief that all men are born free and equal. Designer babies, clones, and artificial wombs are on the horizon for those willing to pay, and the consequences of gerrymandering birth will not lead to a more equal and just society. Indeed, it only widens the gap between wealthy elites and the poor and not-so-wealthy. A profit driven commercial enterprise, such as selling babies as consumer products, is a perversion of what once was a rare and altruistic gesture, and the misuse of science to expand gestational surrogacy to an international and domestic set of wealthy consumers is profiteering in the culture wars, not altruism.

Michael Scanlon

Littleton, N. H.

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