Is anonymous donor assisted pregnancy and surrogacy the ethical solution for the many childless couples out there? In fact what is ethical pregnancy/surrogacy? For me there is only one question that needs to be answered in order for us to progress this debate. What is in the best interest of the child? We, in Ireland are about to have a referendum to put the child at the centre of the legislative decision making process. This is not before its time in relation to surrogacy as the current laws and guidelines are so convoluted as to be almost incomprehensible.
Two core areas really concern me in relation to surrogacy. Firstly the countries that are the leading producers of surrogate mothers are some of the poorest countries in the world, and secondly what and how do we tell our children when they start to ask questions about their conception. In India right now there are thousands of very poor, mostly un-educated women living in Mother and Baby homes who are carrying babies for couples pre-dominantly from the west. These women can earn up to 50 times their husbands monthly salary and the growth in the surrogacy business in India has risen accordingly, demand outstripping supply. There are many ethical and moral questions to be asked surrounding the use of these very poor women and the issue of informed consent and contract law etcetera needs much deeper analysis. See here ((http://www.stanford.edu/group/womenscourage/Surrogacy/index.html)
How do we explain all of this to a child or young adult as they grow up, how do we explain to a child or young person that the attachment process was disrupted because practice dictated that they (the baby suppliers) didn’t want the child to bond with their Mother. How do we explain to a child how their genetic makeup is constructed and the fact that they may have no shared genes with their parent’s? And what do we do when the child/young person asks to meet their biological Mother and /or Father. This article is worth a read (http://sonofasurrogate.tripod.com/).
Are we as parents responsible to be honest and truthful with our children, are we as a society responsible to be truthful to our societies’ children, I think in both cases the answer has to be yes. This is where the problems start because the majority of the clinics protect the identity of their donors and therefore the chances of a young person ever being able to construct their own lineage are slim to none.
In Ireland and indeed a lot of countries worldwide the practice of secret or closed adoptions was and is still commonplace. We now know through extensive research (http://www.adoptionhelp.org/open-adoption/research) that open adoptions where there is a continuing relationship with the birth family leads to better outcomes in later life for the young adopted adults. Using this as a basic template should point us in the direction of non-anonymous donor assisted pregnancy and surrogacy. Every child has a right to know who they are and how they got here. The only way to answer those questions is with complete transparency and honesty. Anything else, any other way, leads us down the path of failing the children that we the adults bring into this world
Adrian McKenna is a frontline child care professional; he has worked for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.