Children as Commodities
Men and women on the front lines of the culture war have been saying for some time that the next step after redefining marriage will be redefining parenthood. The next arena for "choice," they predicted, will be not just the negative "choice" of deciding to not be a mother, but the positive "choice" to become a mother. "When I am good and ready to become a parent," the mantra will become, "I am entitled to have my dream baby, on my own terms."
I am sorry to say that we have been proven correct in our predictions. It is now official: Childbearing is a fully commercialized industry, complete with celebrity endorsements, advertisements, free giveaways and plenty of other trappings of the consumer culture.
The simplest way to give people what they want is to turn the matter over to the market. After all, the market is a consumer sovereignty system that specializes in giving people what they want with no questions asked. Don’t believe me? Check out the advertising for the Fertility Planit conference, which was held recently at UCLA. It was billed as "the first event of its kind, helping people explore all of their options for having children and finding the right partners."
"Millions of same-sex couples and singles are creating families through donors, fostering, adoption, surrogacy and co-parenting. They are inspired by the 200-plus experts and celebrities speaking out and sharing personal stories at Fertility Planit," boasted the press flyer for the event.
The title of the event encapsulates everything one would expect from consumer culture: a snappy title with a double meaning: "Fertility for the planet," suggesting maybe, ever so subtly, that third-party reproduction is environmentally friendly, or that when it comes to your fertility, you are going to "plan it." Suggestive, without overpromising. Very clever.
Headlines reveal what the advertiser really wants you to know and to remember. Here are just two of the headlines from the online advertising for the April conference:
"Get healthy. Get pregnant. Plan for the family you want."
"Hurry! Don’t miss out! Your biological clock is ticking!"
Since I was unable to attend, I missed the "Beauty-Wellness-Pamper Lounge with free treatments and samples." I also missed going to the "Innovation Space, with presentations from high-growth, cutting-edge start-ups with innovative new products and services for family planning."
Remember when "family planning" just meant condoms and pills? That is so five minutes ago!
We must not forget the highlight of the conference: the roster of celebrity speakers. Since I was unable to attend, I did not hear actress Elisabeth Rohm talk about her journey to motherhood via in vitro fertilization and her book, Having the Child I Always Wanted (Just Not as Expected). I wonder if she mentioned any of the studies showing the increased health risks to children born through IVF procedures.
Nor was I able to hear Carla Lundblade and her 12-year-old son on bonding with donor siblings. Oddly enough, no one asked Alana Newman of The Anonymous Us Project to come and share the perspective of a donor-conceived person. Alana might mess up the tidy narrative that "the kids are all right as long as the parents are happy."
I also missed actress Brenda Strong as she led a session on the environment and its impact on our fertility, as well as a wellness/yoga session. I wonder if she mentioned the growing concern about the impact of contraceptive hormones in the water supply, including the correlation between those hormones and intersexed fish and amphibians.
And I am ever so sorry to have missed model and TV host Tomiko Fraser Hines talking about being pregnant with donor eggs.
(However, what I have done is watch my friend Jennifer Lahl’s independent film Eggsploitation. I wonder if the Fertility Planit conference gave equal time to any of the women whose health has been damaged by egg "donation.")
I was especially saddened to have missed Dr. Habib Sadeghi, Gwyneth Paltrow’s mentor and integrative medicine doctor. This is the same person who coined the term "consciously uncouple" as an alternative to divorce for Gwyneth and her soon-to-be ex-husband.
It was interesting to note the connection between the varied sponsors of this event. According to the website, major sponsors included: Family Equality Council, Conceivable.com, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, California Fertility Partners, The Bump, California Cryobank, HRC Fertility, Southern California Reproductive Center and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
In other words, the fertility industry and the homosexual lobby.
Yes, the market will give us what we want. If our wants are twisted or selfish or unsustainable, the market will satisfy them just the same. The customer is always right. No questions asked.
If questions are going to be asked or doubts raised or the brakes applied, those will have to come from outside the market itself. Typically, constraints would come from the political or cultural spheres of society. But in the case of artificial reproductive technologies, the political sector is already compromised.
The rich and the powerful are deeply committed to the philosophical premise that sex and procreation ought to be safely separated from each other, for the benefit of the woman’s "choice." No resistance is likely to come from them.
And the rich and famous are part of the problem. This conference clearly demonstrates that the celebrities who dominate our entertainment and media are leading the way toward the greater commercialization of humanity.
No, if any resistance is to be mounted, it must come from the people of God. Catholics have a special obligation to speak out, as we do not have the excuse of ignorance. Our Church’s teaching authority has spelled out very clearly the harms and evils that lie within the artificial separation of sex from procreation. Humanae Vitae, in 1968, explained why we mustn’t have sex without babies. More recently, the 1987 document Donum Vitae made it clear that we mustn’t have babies without sex.
Fellow Catholics, the world is depending on us to speak out. If not us, then who? If not now, then when? The commercialization of human life has got to stop.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.,
is the founder and president of the
Ruth Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to cleaning
up the mess from the sexual revolution.
- May 18-31, 2014