Thursday, February 25, 2016

Aborting the “abnormal”

A new surrogacy battle is in the news. There's lots of things that could be discussed in this case. “C.M.” is a man who hired Melissa Cook to carry the children made from his sperm and an anonymous ova donor. The result of all this engineering? Triplets.

But the odd thing is that the doctors wanted C.M. to abort one of the children because they were concerned about “possible abnormalities.” Now what, exactly, isn't abnormal about the life of these triplets? Not a thing.

Dad is a 50-year-old deaf postal worker. Maybe he got older and realized he'd let the opportunity to have children pass him by, and he felt an incredibly strong urge to have children in whatever way possible. The desire is a healthy one, but there's a danger in thinking (and it's a very American thought) that we can and should have it all.

But what a strange sort of joy to announce to co-workers that he has suddenly “had” triplets. Despite the fact that there's not a wife and mother, that the children will never know from whom they came, that their identity will always be unknowable. One woman provided the egg, one the womb, presumably a daycare worker will provide the attention, dad provided the sperm from a distance and the cash. The surrogate is the reason one of you isn't dead. And it's all splashed onto the internet for you to read about when you're older, too.

And what about the surrogate? A woman who carries a baby (or two, or three) for those nine months, and then gives birth to them, should be attached to those babies. It's one of the absurd things about our current culture of death, that a woman is told she can be completely disconnected from the life growing inside her. She was the one who refused to have the third baby aborted even though there were possibly abnormalities, even though C.M. wanted the “reduction.”

Even before getting that positive pregnancy test, aware of just the possibility of a new life growing, I will be up at night thinking about that child. Considering when the baby will be born (will it be hot? cold?), what holiday is coming (oh! the baby will be so tiny and sweet for Christmas!), and contemplating what this little person will be like (hair, eyes, personality, chubby? tiny? the same hair as their siblings?). I don't think I'm alone in this. There's an attachment that happens, that should happen, even if a pregnancy is inconvenient, or a surprise, or presents challenges regarding vehicles and health insurance.

Cook's pro-life lawyer, Harold Cassidy, said,“It's an attempt to reduce women to an object, or a breeding animal.” But being a surrogate is a choice, and one for which Cook accepted payment. She turned herself into an object: an incubator. And since she does not know C.M., she is not doing this for the benefit of a dear friend who can't conceive (though that still isn't right), but merely for monetary gain and perhaps a misdirected love for children.

How very typical of our culture to engineer all of this, bankrupting C.M., who has paid agencies to orchestrate the whole thing, donors, surrogates, and doctors, only to decide that the payout is too great. Three kids? Triplets? Let's “selectively reduce” that down a bit, shall we? What wordsmithing. While we're passing out the cash, let's give a tip to whoever engineered that phrase into being and stripped it entirely of its meaning. Also what a relief to know that now the lawyers are getting their cut too. The capitalist circle is now complete.

There is a time and season for all things. I'm learning this myself as a stay-at-home mom. That the frustration comes when I start wanting to be backpacking through Zimbabwe at the same time that I've got oatmeal overflowing on the stove. Since I'm a convert and came to my husband and my faith by a winding road, I also feel the loss of a decade when I wasn't having children. So I can relate to wanting children, or more children, or feeling like I missed out on something.

But choices have consequences.

Every path we take necessarily means that other paths are closed off to us. That's not bad, it's reality. Another reality is that not all of us will have the children we want, and some will have more children than they ever expected. The Catholic teaching on this subject means not just saying no to contraception and abortion, but accepting that we are given different gifts (children being a blessing from God), and sometimes prayer isn't answered.

Now we must think of these children, who have been created and brought into this world, and pray for a positive outcome. The courts need the wisdom of Solomon, but lack his faith. The children need the security of family, but they are sequestered in a hospital. And Rachel is weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted.