England’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is conducting a review of the laws governing surrogacy, according to an Aug. 5 report by the Web site BioNews.
The news comes at a time when in recent months a number of concerns have been expressed about the use of surrogate mothers and the introduction of third parties into the conception of children.
On Aug. 1, Catholic World Report published a lengthy article by Sister Renée Mirkes titled “The Injustices of the Surrogacy Industry.”
According to Sister Mirkes some 5,238 babies were born in the United States between 2004-08 as a result of surrogacy.
The Catholic Church, she explained, has long insisted on the right of a child to be conceived and brought up within marriage.
The article noted that studies have shown that surrogate children are at a greater psychological risk than their non-surrogate counterparts. There are also considerable health risks for the surrogate mother, due to practices such as superovulation, hormone treatments, and the implantation of multiple embryos.
The risks for mothers was exemplified in a July 29 article published by BioNews regarding Indian surrogate mothers.
A survey of 150 surrogate mothers conducted by the Centre for Social Research (CSR) in New Delhi found that the surrogates were only paid 1%-2% of the fee that the commissioning parents pay. The rest of the fee is kept by the agents who arrange the surrogacy.
The study also found that the surrogate mothers were not properly informed about the contract they were entering into.
Moreover, in cases where the commissioning parents do not wish to continue with the pregnancy, due to abnormalities or the sex of the child, an abortion was often performed without consulting the surrogate mother.
This is sometimes associated with what the CSR termed “twibling,” that is, using more than one surrogate mother at a time for the same commissioning parents to increase success rates. If there is a surplus baby then he or she is simply aborted.
According to the CSR the surrogacy industry in India generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue, yet it remains largely unregulated.
The problems regarding IVF are not limited to surrogate mothers. Recently news came from England about babies being conceived with the participation of three parents.
It involves parents where the mother has defects in the mitochondria, a structure located in the cell’s cytoplasm outside the nucleus. The DNA from the mother is placed in the ova of a donor with healthy mitochondria and fertilized with the sperm of the father. The mitochondria contributes some DNA, so the resulting child will have DNA from three parents.
The child will have more than 20,000 genes from their parents and 37 mitochondrial genes from a donor, according to a June 27 report by the BBC.
“It is a disaster that the decision to cross the line that will eventually lead to a eugenic designer baby market should be taken on the basis of an utterly biased and inadequate consultation,” commented Dr David King, the director of Human Genetics Alert, to the BBC.
Margaret Somerville, director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law in Canada, also criticized the proposed procedure in a July 17 article published by the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.
Replacing the DNA located in the mitrochondria, she explained, means that all the descendents of the embryo will receive the alteration.
Not only are the long-term effects of interfering with the structures of DNA unknown, but the idea of “building better babies” opens up the door to eugenics and propagates the mentality that we are nothing more than a product of our DNA, she argued.
New class of people
On the subject of the babies resulting from sperm or ova donation, on Aug. 2 Alana S. Newman, the founder of the Anonymous Us Project, published an article on the Public Discourse Web site titled: “What Are the Rights of Donor-Conceived People?”
The organization describes itself as “a safety zone for real and honest opinions about reproductive technologies and family fragmentation.”
In her essay Newman denounced the fact that we have created a new class of people who are not given the same rights as other people.
Slavery has been abolished and society no longer accepts that you can own people, she commented. As well, we know that human beings deeply desire connection with their biological parents and siblings.
“If we recognize that it’s wrong to displace human beings as if they were products, not people, then we should also see that a concept like donor-conception is wrong in principle,” she argued.
“Human babies are not things; their mothers are not ovens,” commented Kathleen Parker in an opinion article for the Washington Post on May 25. Titled “Surrogacy Exposed,” Parker argued that: “By turning the miracle of life into a profit-driven, state-regulated industry, the stork begins to resemble a vulture.”