Not Fabulous: Surrogacy Deletes Girls
HuffPost called it "cheeky". Tan France's viral announcement photo is nothing like that. To use a current catchphrase, it is "delete".
He is holding an ultrasound over his stomach, France immediately telegraph the news that a surrogate mother gives birth for him and his partner. But his beautiful male body does not contain a uterus and never will. His toned husband's stomach does not swell and does not have stretch marks.
Don't get me wrong: I'm a fan of stylish Tan France and all of the queer eye crew of makeover artists on TV. I wish him and his partner a happy journey. But even with his recognition of "the greatest gift / greatest help from the most wonderful surrogate mother," they are wiping out the mother of their child with this social media coup, regardless of whether the egg came from the surrogate mother herself or from another donor.
The child in the picture is growing in someone else's body – in the body of a woman who may be dealing with morning sickness – a woman who has been paid to take the risk and labor of carrying that child, giving birth, and then two wealthy men to surrender. So this is a pretty bad joke from a celebrity who usually projects nothing but compassion and zeal for social justice.
We undermine the dignity of women, children, and even men by treating gametes and uterus as property to be marketed: rented, bought, sold, and donated – even when we do so with apparent respect and even affection, and even when families are happy arise. It is an ethical compromise that we have refused to engage with now that the horse is out of the stable, so to speak.
We undermine the dignity of women, children and even men by treating gametes and uterus as property to be marketed, rented, bought, sold and donated.
It is one thing to believe that a child born through "assisted reproductive technology" can be given a full and loving life; Thousands of parents manage it. But it is quite another thing to make the fundamental reality of biological parenting disappear in a mere transaction.
When the recognition of our dependence on the natural order of creation is erased, individuals can also be erased. Tan France's “wonderful substitute” is invisible here – the precise cognitive bias that people accuse pro-lifers of viewing pregnant women as mere vessels. The mother of his child has apparently agreed to her role and has been financially compensated for it and may even want to remain anonymous.
Not just a replacement
But she is not a mere "surrogate mother". You (or the egg donor, if another woman) is a birth parent. If she is a “rented womb” for a child conceived through someone else's donation, then in this picture of a man and his child there are two invisible women who are both inextricably linked to the celebrated creation.
Also, mothers aren't the only ones critically endangered in the brave no longer new but growing world of custom babies. Biological fathers may also be “out of the picture”, usually by design. Her anonymous post is even easier to dismiss than the surrogate mother's nine-month drama. In fact, it's joke stuff.
Biological fathers are also critically endangered in the brave, no longer new, but growing world of custom babies. Her anonymous post is even easier to dismiss than the surrogate mother's nine-month drama.
But the jokes turn sour when these invisible men's children grow up and seek their genetic identities. Some have learned that their generous “donors” have fathered dozens or even hundreds of half-siblings who are at risk of meeting on regional dating apps.
Both fatherhood and motherhood are of course much more than DNA and can thrive authentically without any biological connection. But without biology – or in other words, a Creator who loves us from our parents' bodies into physical existence – there is no parenting. As is well known, the Monty Python troupe sang: "Every semen is sacred." In the world of child birth, the sanctity of each sperm and egg can be measured by its cost. (Eggs cost more. Much more.)
It's all a little too much to fathom, so we aligned it with ethics, invented them over time, and created a shadow army of invisible birth parents whose rights and responsibilities are a legal patchwork of rights. Even amid the joyful birth announcements, something is silently lost.
As America approaches the sentimental torrent of Mother's Day, we remember that it's not nice to deceive Mother Nature, as the old television commercial said: the child that Tan France and his partner paid an invisible woman for becomes one birth mother, regardless of whether she is involved in the life of their child or not. Men, not even the "Fab 5" of "Queer Eye", cannot do everything themselves, not even in 2021. Neither can women. At least not now.
Brenda L. Becker is a writer and medical editor based in Brooklyn, New York.
Cover photo by Eric Feferberg / AFP via Getty Images. The picture of Tan France comes from him Instagram page.