This ethics topic has been lying around on my office floor—literally—for more than a month now. I have not known what to do with it. The New York Times—it is for occasional articles like this that I subscribe to that habitually unethical paper—published an article in July headlined (in the print version) “The Right To A Baby?” It appeared in its “Thursday Styles” section, which specializes in elite trivia (the other piece on that section’s front page was about tattoo artist and dog groomers who make house calls).
Here is the first part of the article:
While plenty of New Yorkers have formed families by gestational surrogacy, they almost certainly worked with carriers living elsewhere. Because until early April, paying a surrogate to carry a pregnancy was illegal in New York state.
The change to the law, which happened quietly in the midst of the state’s effort to contain the coronavirus, capped a decade-long legislative battle and has laid the groundwork for a broader movement in pursuit of what some activists have termed “fertility equality.”
Still in its infancy, this movement envisions a future when the ability to create a family is no longer determined by one’s wealth, sexuality, gender or biology.
“This is about society extending equality to its final and logical conclusion,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, the founder and executive director of Men Having Babies, a New York nonprofit that helps gay men become fathers through surrogacy. “True equality doesn’t stop at marriage. It recognizes the barriers L.G.B.T.s face in forming families and proposes solutions to overcome these obstacles.”
The movement is led mostly by L.B.G.T.Q. people, but its potential to shift how fertility coverage is paid for could have an impact on straight couples who rely on surrogates too.
Mr. Poole-Dayan and others believe infertility should not be defined as a physical condition but a social one. They argue that people — gay, straight, single, married, male, female — are not infertile because their bodies refuse to cooperate with baby making.
Rather, their specific life circumstances, like being a man with a same-sex partner, have rendered them unable to conceive or carry a child to term without medical intervention. A category of “social infertility” would provide those biologically unable to form families with the legal and medical mechanisms to do so.
“We have this idea that infertility is about failing to become pregnant through intercourse, but this is a very hetero-centric viewpoint,” said Catherine Sakimura, the deputy director and family law director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We must shift our thinking so that the need for assisted reproductive technologies is not a condition, but simply a fact.”
Fertility equality activists are asking, at a minimum, for insurance companies to cover reproductive procedures like sperm retrieval, egg donation and embryo creation for all prospective parents, including gay couples who use surrogates. Ideally, activists would also like to see insurance cover embryo transfers and surrogacy fees. This would include gay men who would transfer benefits directly to their surrogate….
- I see this as an excellent example of how a threshold decision in an ethical analysis of any new idea is whether bias and the automatic prejudice human beings tend to have against any new concept—basically the “Ick Factor”—is making a fair analysis impossible. It’s hard to do; our tendency with such ideas is to think, “That’s ridiculous!” and stop there. But of course, that was the original majority reaction to many ideas that were revolutionary at one time but that represented the progress of ethics, which is evolutionary by nature and necessity. We always are learning that there are things we thought were right and “natural” that were, in fact, wrong, and that some concepts that society viewed as wrong for centuries were either neutral or benign.
That process is what ethics is.
- The problem , as many have observed, is that it is almost impossible to judge an innovative or truly revolutionary idea at its inception. Ethics Alarms is full of tales of visionaries and contrarians who changed the world after being initially rejected as danger to civilization or a lunatic. History is also the tragic story of how many revolutionary ideas were really as terrible as those who first heard them thought (or more terrible), and the carnage they caused before society figured it out.
Marxism and Communism are such ideas.
- Other ideas don’t make any sense at first hearing because they don’t make any sense. “Defund the police” is one. I am quite confident that an entire article in this month’s Harvard Magazine is devoted to another, the brainstorm of Harvard Government professor Michael Sandel that meritocracy is cruel and wrong. He has written a book called “The Tyranny of Merit,” and, like so many progressives today, his complaint is that reality is unfair, and we should ignore it, or pretend that “it isn’t what it is.” Why should the smartest individuals run things, he asks. Why should the best students be admitted to the most prestigious schools? Why shouldn’t idiots have as much success and influence as geniuses?
There are limits to how open-minded I will be, because I have sock drawers to organize. There are some ideas that we react to, at the outset, well, like this..
- Is “fertility equality” one of those? I’m willing to hear a counter-argument, but I am inclined to say yes. Those who assert new rights are often really saying that they want something that they would like everyone else to pay for. Note the shifting and deliberately misleading rhetoric in the section quoted above: the inability to “have a baby” is not the same as being prevented from having a family. Most people can adopt a child, and those who can’t usually shouldn’t. There are also many children who need adopting. I know same sex couples who have adopted. The obsession with having one’s child carry specific DNA is emotional, not rational.
If my son had my DNA, nobody in my home would be able to fix my computer or tune my car.
- When I read sentences like, “Mr. Poole-Dayan and others believe infertility should not be defined as a physical condition but a social one,” I have to regard it as a con, like someone saying that all it takes to be black or a woman is to decide you feel that way. If you are infertile, you are infertile because your body can’t participate in the reproductive process without major outside intervention. That’s the hand you were dealt, and it’s your job to play it, not my job to pay for a new deal.
Get thee to an adoption agency.
- I know I’ve been ragging on the Left a lot lately, but then it deserves it. This “movement” appears to be another one fueled by Orwellian language deception and, like the theory of Professor Sandel, a strange obsession with the idea that governments can fix every problem, or that they should.
In the end, I have to conclude that “fertility equality” belongs in the same trash bin of bad ideas as animal rights, height equality, letting children vote, open borders, and hiring people because of their color. The fact that once people felt the same way about giving women the vote and letting gay people get married doesn’t make these ideas any better.