February 10, 2016

"Is It Selfish for a Gay Couple to Have Kids via Surrogacy?"

The NYT "Ethicist" answers a question from David Lat (of Above the Law)("Sometimes when we mention this in conversation, people ask us, in a chiding tone, Why don’t you adopt?")

I noticed this via Facebook, where David Lat says it's the second time The Ethicist has answered a question from him. The first one, back in 2010, was about eating cookies from a minibar and then, before the hotel noticed, replacing them with identical cookies bought much more cheaply from a store. I was more interested in the cookie question, and what I said over there was:
Wow. Congratulations on getting two questions answered by The Ethicist. I haven't read the new one yet, but I enjoyed the cookie one. I had a problem with the analogy, though. It was clearly inapt. He said "You might with similar logic stop by the Staples Center and present vendors with a bottle of the same brand of beer you drank at the Lakers game last night" and ask for a refund, but in that scenario the employees have to do some extra work, interacting with you and processing the refund. In your situation, the minibar looked exactly the same and no one did any extra work. My problem with what you did would be that I wouldn't want to be the occupant of a room with a minibar that is presented as if it were tended to by the hotel's employees but really contains items that have traveled in the possession of some other hotel guest, some stranger. But then every hotel room is full of molecules that have traveled on (or in!) the person of previous guests. It's an ineffable fussiness.
I know the origin of babies is more important than the commerce in cookies, but the particularity of the cookie question intrigued me, and I'm drawn to bad analogies. I feel a sort of ethical duty to expose them. And then there was the underlying current of disgust over the residue of all those unknown guests who have occupied that hotel room that you need to think you can sleep in. As for getting a baby through an egg donor and a surrogate mother... is it selfish? There's so much selfishness in the baby-having business, once you stray away from an absolute spiritual merger between sexual intercourse and open, full acceptance of the occurrence of new life. You ought to think about that, but should you confront other people about what they are doing in that area? It's bad etiquette at least, but it's ethically bad if you're singling out gay people for your lecturing.

38 comments:

Big Mike said...

"Is It Selfish for a Gay Couple to Have Kids via Surrogacy?"

No.

J. Farmer said...

No easy answer to the question, obviously, but in general I am not in favor of gay couples having children by surrogacy, adoption, or any other means.

mccullough said...

Lesbians use a sperm donor, gays use an egg donor, and straights use both an egg donor and a sperm donor.

Adoption is more of a mixed bag because you don't really get to select the parents. Maybe you can pick the birth mother but the birth father is a crap shoot. How many people just sign up for a blind adoption (you get what you get)? Don't parents provide some guidance on who they will adopt (race, sex, disability, etc.)?

People like to reduce their risk in general and it makes sense to reduce your risk by having as much input on your child as you can.

Owen said...

Prof. Althouse: "...I'm drawn to bad analogies. I feel a sort of ethical duty to expose them."

Very nicely put.

sydney said...

There's so much selfishness in the baby-having business, once you stray away from an absolute spiritual merger between sexual intercourse and open, full acceptance of the occurrence of new life.
Excellent observation. If only somehow we could encourage that way of thinking to be a societal norm.

n.n said...

It's not selfish to abort a child. It's not selfish to reduce a woman to a womb. It's not selfish to reduce a man to a sperm donor. Not for dysfunctional heterosexuals or transgender/homosexuals, and the confused feminists who love it, them, whatever.

So, women were recruited to become barefoot, pregnant, and serving to normalize dysfunctional couples and transgender couplets, taxable commodities for the state, and exploited for democratic leverage. You've come along way, baby.

Psota said...

The last hotel I stayed in (in San Diego) had a set-up where a laser could track whether you had removed items from the mini-bar and would automatically charge your account.

David Docetad said...

Is it selfish to willfully deprive a child of his natural mother and father? Yes.

MaxedOutMama said...

You really, really summarized the heft of this blog with
I'm drawn to bad analogies. I feel a sort of ethical duty to expose them.

I think that shouldn't be buried, so I'm hauling it out and giving it star billing in my comment. It's a worthy endeavor (yours, not mine).

Fernandinande said...

"Why don’t you adopt?"

Because

MaxedOutMama said...

As to the question, it properly is "Is it selfish to have babies via surrogacy?"

I think that question deserves analysis.

As for the same-sex couple slant, well. A lot of people have issues with deliberately bringing children up without a mother or a father.

That is a separate issue, but it relates to the surrogacy question in that if the child is already born and given up, an adoption to a single parent or a same-sex couple is giving that child something the child didn't have.

I gather there is a shortage of healthy, adoptable infants though. If a single woman is allowed to go to the sperm bank and conceive, why shouldn't a same-sex couple have the same right?

And then, as to the selfishness issue - paying for surrogacy creates a new life. It brings a new life into this world. It is easy to argue that not having life at all is a worse deprivation than not having a male or female parent. It's hard for me to characterize generating and raising a new life as selfish.

David Docetad said...

MaxedOutMama wrote:

"It is easy to argue that not having life at all is a worse deprivation than not having a male or female parent."

Similarly it is easy to argue that not having life at all is a worse deprivation than not having two arms. But does it follow that it is right or moral to create a child with one arm?

n.n said...

In a liberal society, it depends on the degree of variance or divergence from normal in the popular culture. In a pro-choice society, that values life and death equally, it can be decided with a coin toss. In a female chauvinist society, some women must be sacrificed for the chauvinist's cause. I guess it depends on how you define "selfish".

Brando said...

How on earth can this be considered "selfish" unless we also say that anyone who creates life rather than adopt is selfish? And for that matter than anyone who does not have kids at all is selfish because they are not helping plant the next generation to keep society going while the rest of us are old and in need of care (after all, if you don't have anyone younger than you when you're very old, you'll be much more vulnerable and limited).

But then, it also has to do with what sort of child you raise--if your kid becomes a street thug (which is largely due to nurture, but also nature) you're giving a net loss to society.

So ultimately? No one can measure whether what you do is good or bad at the time you make your choice, and there's always risk involved anyway.

robother said...

There is a whole complex of human biological/cultural values outlined in Dawkins' The Selfish Gene that need to be overridden in any adoption. A gay surrogate situation is only going to eliminate half those issues, but that's at least 100% better than pure adoption in giving the child a chance at a natural upbringing.

Infants and children can be extremely triggering even to their own biologic parents, and there's a natural affection for our own children that I suspect most people can't replace with a general empathy for humans. Since this all conflicts with official Christian and Liberal "Brotherhood of Man" dogma, it never gets talked about, but I suspect many, maybe most adoptive kids grow up lonely.

PB said...

Yes. With so many kids that need homes, surrogacy for anyone is narcissistic.

Renee said...

Thanks Ann.

As someone who heard a comment in jest that I should be a surrogate by a nurse just after birth of my 4th child. Yes, she was joking. But its like looking at an attractive young woman stating she should be an escort and that's it should be considered a compliment.

Feminists say we are more then our looks, but to the infertile/gay/single I'm just a "handmaid" only good for their wants and desires of a baby, as a two legged womb.

I rather see a child in need of a home go to a gay relative, then strangers with money & lawyers... and that to many makes me a bigot.

robinintn said...

The "why don't you adopt" people are probably the same ones who think I'm selfish for getting my dog from a breeder who can document health for generations back.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

The "there are so many kids in need of homes; why don't you adopt" people tend to not know very much about how difficult/expensive/invasive it is to actually adopt. They seem to think there is a kid store you just stroll into while you're running errands.

Static Ping said...

All analogies are wrong. Some are useful.

John Lynch said...

Is it selfish for anyone to have children instead of adopting? Why are gay people different? Why do they have to meet a different standard then everyone else?

James Pawlak said...

Is there any scientific (Reliable and valid) research as to the rate of suicides, mental illness, criminality, disease and sexual-orientation of such children????

Static Ping said...

So what is the New York Times ethicist's basis for rulings? I very much understand a person of a certain religion referencing a holy book or consulting a religious leader for guidance. Religions provide a moral truth, which can be accepted or rejected but once accepted should be adhered. Similarly, if a person is not religious but accepts a particular secular philosophy, that philosophy replaces the religion as the guiding force. Looking at the Times article, I see not even a hint of the ethicist's world view in the author bio, other than he is a college professor. I consider this roughly equivalent as asking a random person their opinion on something, which while perhaps helpful is hardly authoritative.

(Yes, I did check his Wikipedia page. There is a section on his ideas, but I see little heft behind it.)

I suppose it is useful for people who live by the philosophy/religion of pleasing the New York Times.

MayBee said...

Who cares if it's selfish?

Jane the Actuary said...

"Selfish" isn't really the right word. The ethics of surrogacy have nothing to do with selfishness, but with the fact that, essentially, it turns children into a manufactured, purchased product, and woman into the manufacturers. It's resulted in more than one story of contracting parents demanding that the surrogate mother abort a child when a birth defect is identified, or selectively reduce triplets or even twins.

These days there's the further issue that contracting parents are going to places like India to purchase their children.

jr565 said...

Is it SELFISH? Well any desire to have kids is selfish. But is it more selfish than heteros wanting kids? Probably not. HOwever, because surrogacy is required it opens a whole can of worms up over who is the parent.
Since we base in on biology. One or both of the parents in that formulation is not going to be the natural parent.

jr565 said...

Jane the actuary wrote:
but with the fact that, essentially, it turns children into a manufactured, purchased product, and woman into the manufacturers.

What she said.

buwaya said...

The Chinese point of view, to which I subscribe, is that we owe our ancestors descendants of the blood. All those generations of people, having gone to great trouble to put us here, are owed our best efforts.
Life isn't about us as individuals, its about our obligations. Our personal pleasure, comfort, satisfaction, happiness amount to a hill of beans. There should be a damn good reason for any failure. Congenital defects, physical or mental incapacity through circumstances, etc. are some. Dedicating ones life to God is another (though there is quite a bit of reluctance in Filipino society to approve of sons and daughters joining the clergy; there was always a shortage of native clergy for this reason).
I don't know about all the cases of homosexual people, but for a pretty large number it seems to me that the holdup is really a wrong prioritization of values. And this is even more true for those heterosexuals who fail to marry and at least attempt to conceive. There are all sorts of psychological weaknesses that can get in the way, and modern society makes these worse.
The pleasure in having children is just a useful bit of instinct to help us do our duty. Its not the source of that duty.

Curious George said...

"MayBee said...
Who cares if it's selfish?"

Not gays. Therefore not Althouse.

Curious George said...

"John Lynch said...
Is it selfish for anyone to have children instead of adopting? Why are gay people different? Why do they have to meet a different standard then everyone else?"

Let me help:

Anyone? I think you mean everyone, don't you? The answer is no for everyone, and yes for anyone.

Gays are different because they cannot have kids themselves. Ask your mom and dad why. So they need to bring a third party in. Adoption is just one more step away.

As far as I know, they don't.

You're welcome.

The Godfather said...

It doesn't really matter how it's done. Having children -- whether by adoption, or surrogacy, or plain old intercourse -- is the most unselfish thing you can do. Oh sure, you may think you're being selfish, because you think you want a child because you want a mini-me, or because you like playing the role of mother or father, or because you just like getting laid. But the fact is that becoming a parent imposes responsibilities on you that you didn't have before. Yes, some parents, particularly some fathers, do a pretty good job of ignoring those responsibilities; to repeat a phrase that's been used here lately, there's a special place in Hell for them. But for parents who really are parents, they will give a lot. Over time, they'll probably receive a lot more. I say, Go for it!

Roughcoat said...

My wife and I couldn't have kids. Biology and unkind fate conspired to leave us childless. We spent a fortune trying, but no dice. I don't know what to think about that. I read the posts above but couldn't focus on what was said. My mind kept drifting. I kept looking out the window. Looking at the portrait photo of my great-grandfather over the fireplace. What a sad subject this is.

Roughcoat said...

buwaya:

What must my ancestors think of me?

Gahrie said...

How can two gay men raise a child...who will they pay the child support payments to?

n.n said...

Reactive parenthood to terminate an unwanted or inconvenient child. Planned parenthood to cannibalize or recycle its desirable parts. And, of course, rent-a-woman and rent-a-man to normalize dysfunctional couples and transgender/homosexual couplets. The pro-choice quasi-religion is progressive and means that you can have your final solution, your immortality, and use of a spare woman or man to fulfill your selfish desires.

buwaya said...

"What must my ancestors think of me?"
Kindly, I guess, if we believe in that sort of thing.
Best efforts.

Kirk Parker said...

John Lynch,

"different... than everyone else"

I see what you did there.

buwaya,

" though there is quite a bit of reluctance in Filipino society to approve of sons and daughters joining the clergy; there was always a shortage of native clergy for this reason). "

The solution to this is something called "Protestantism", isn't it?

Roughcoat,

"What must my ancestors think of me?"

Well, the ones with a modicum if decency think, "He sure tried, didn't he?"

Michael Edward McNeil said...

Remember folks (I've pointed this out here before) that in a relatively short time, though a surrogate womb (woman) for handling gestation will be required for the immediately foreseeable future, that's not true (for much longer) with regard to the need (thus far) for donated egg(s) and/or sperm. Several years ago (in 2012) it was discovered that stem cells exist that can be coaxed into developing into so-called “primordial germ cells” (PGCs) and from thence into wholly new (and young!) eggs and sperm. The discovery, initially made concerning mice, has now (as expected) been extended to humans and their stem cells; moreover, it's been demonstrated that human stem cells used in such a feat can either be embryonic in origin or the requisite “pluripotency” can be induced into adult cells such as, e.g., a person's own skin cells. See e.g. the journal Nature: “Stem cells: Egg engineers” (2013), and “Rudimentary egg and sperm cells made from stem cells (2015). Thus, single-sex couples will with high probability soon be able to have children characterizing both of their genetic heritages.