Defining Parenthood Away


Lisa Belkin at the New York Times blog "Motherlode" brings to our attention two examples of parenthood being redefined before our eyes:

When Anthony Raftopol and his husband, Shawn Hargon Raftopol, had twins in April of 2008, the State of Connecticut would not allow both men’s names to appear on the birth certificates.

The children were conceived with Anthony’s sperm and a donor’s egg and carried by a gestational surrogate. The laws governing such situations vary among the 50 states, and Connecticut was one of the many that only recognized three kinds of parents: the couple whose baby is genetically related to both the mother and the father; the parent or parents who adopt; and the parents whose child is conceived through artificial insemination. In cases like the Raftopols, where one spouse sought parental status though they have no genetic link to the child, state law required them to go through the adoption process.

A second example, this one from Australia:

The gay Melbourne couple had paid an Indian surrogate to carry twins conceived with the sperm of one of the men and an unidentified egg donor. Then they asked a family court to grant full parental status to the nongenetic father. In a national first, Justice Paul Cronin did so. “In this case, the children do not have the benefit of a mother, but they have the good fortune of having two fathers,” he wrote, according to the Herald Sun newspaper.

The Judge’s conclusion?

“As a matter of law, the word ‘parent’ tends to suggest some biological connection, but … biology does not really matter; it is all about parental responsibility.”

Do we agree that biology just does not matter?

Actually, it is not outside the realm of possibility that biology may come to matter in the case of homosexual parents who desire a homosexual child:

If two homosexual men want to use in vitro fertilization to conceive a baby and then use genetics echnology to ensure the baby is also "gay," while disposing of any “straight” embryos, would the law have any ethical problems with that?

America's leading ethicist in the field of human reproduction has written a paper that argues future homosexual couples should have "the right" to do exactly that.

John A. Robertson of the University of Texas Law School is the chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and an advocate of what his book "Children of Choice" calls "procreative liberty."

In a paper for the Washington, D.C., think tank Brookings Institution, Robertson presents a futuristic scenario where advancing science and society's evolving morality could create a once only dreamed-of ethical dilemma.

What is interesting here is not the (unresolved) biological question, but Robertson’s push to extend unfettered freedom – freedom even to do to the next generation whatever we want – to its logical limit.

Robertson concludes, “By 2030 the logic of procreative freedom should recognize the right of Larry and David to use the technologies available to have the family they choose."

In other words, while the Australian Judge argued that “biology does not really matter; it is all about parental responsibility,” Robertson shows us a world where parental “responsibility” includes making biology precisely whatever we want it to be.

The question then becomes, do we have the right to do whatever we want to other human beings, so long as it is done to those human beings we decide to bring into our care?