Dave Rubin and the Death of Secular Conservatism
COMMENTARY: God wants our participation in parenthood to be a participation in love, not, as in the case of the popular internet celebrity’s recent announcement, commerce, technology and an act of willfulness.
When “conservative” celebrity David Rubin and his friend announced that they will have two babies using donated eggs and surrogate mothers, other “conservative” celebrities fell all over themselves congratulating him.
Before I blast Rubin and his coterie of fawning followers, let’s get the most important issue out of the way: The two babies he commissioned with his friend are loved by God. In fact, every single human being who has ever been conceived has come into existence precisely because God loves that person and wants him or her to exist.
Whether the child was conceived in a carefully planned medical procedure or in a fit of mindless passion, whether the child was conceived in the backseat of a randy teenager’s car, or in the loving embrace of married couple, God loves the child. The term “procreation” captures the fact that human action is only part of the process. (Honestly, how many failed IVF cycles does it take to convince us that we humans are not ultimately in control?) God’s action is the most fundamental. And God’s contribution is always love.
These two children that Rubin and his partner have ordered, complete with a predetermined, no doubt contractually assured, delivery date, have every right to exist. No matter what the parents may have done or not done, we must never regret the existence of any child.
Let’s be clear that these parents have indeed done something egregious: The two men who will have legal parenting rights have purchased genetic material from one woman, possibly two. One or possibly two women sold her eggs, meaning, her potential children. Yet another pair of women have agreed to rent their wombs for nine months to gestate children they will surrender at birth. All these women, genetic and gestational mothers alike, promise to have no relationship with their children. These children have not one but two mothers, a gestational mother and a genetic mother, who have been erased from their lives. They will have no mother presence, no legally recognized mother.
Now I recognize that this crime against humanity has been going on for some time. Rubin and his live-in friend are not the first to do this sort of thing. Couples consisting of men and women have used these techniques. Single individuals, male and female, have used these techniques. Rubin did not invent this. But he has taken it to a new level: He has gotten his “conservative” friends in media to publicly congratulate him for erasing women from his children’s lives. We are supposed to believe that the children will be fine. They are so “loved.” They are so “wanted,” that will make up for the irregularities in their conception, this thinking goes.
Now let’s think about this for a minute. Some children are conceived in the loving embrace of their own mother and father, who eagerly await their birth. Other children are the result of a series of commercial transactions among people who will never see each other again and may have never seen each other at all. Some children spend nine months in the wombs of their gestational mother, who is also their genetic mother, who will be the one and only mother they will ever have. Other children spend their nine months in the womb of one woman, who is summarily dismissed after she has performed her services. Any bonding, any attachment they may have formed with the gestational mother, all that will be disrupted, severed forever. Any recognition of the mother’s voice, of her smell, of the hormonal environment she provided, all that will be swept away as if it were irrelevant to the child’s well-being, sense of belonging and identity.
The genetic mother is completely out of the picture. Half of the child’s genetic identity comes from her. Yet she is legally excluded from the child’s life. The “commissioning parents” (Yes, that is what they are sometimes called) or the “intended parents” may tell the child, “We love you so much.” But these individuals will one day have to answer some pointed questions, not from me, but from the children themselves.
“You say you love me. But you don’t love my other parent. My other parent is half of who I am. How does that add up to ‘love?’”
The platitudes that these oh-so-sophisticated men offer themselves and demand that their friends parrot will one day no longer be adequate.
This brings me to the ultimate travesty of the “conservative” rush to congratulate Rubin on his acquisitions. I will make some pointed observations for not just Rubin and his friend, but for all the congratulatory commentators, to consider: You assume that the bonding between the child and the gestational mother will never matter to the child in any way. You hope that your child will not be bothered by the loss of a connection with his or her mother (Wait: “his or her?” Have you already picked out the sex of the baby? Did you make sure to pick a healthy pair of embryos, authentically worthy of life with such august personages as yourselves?)
You claim the burden of proof is on me, to show that it does matter. Nonsense. You are the ones violating the most basic of human bonds, the bond between parents and children. You are the one assuming that breaking motherhood into a collection of functions will have no lasting negative impact on anyone. The burden of proof is on you, not me.
You assume these things don’t matter. You hope they don’t matter. You don’t want them to matter. You choose not to look at the evidence that they just might matter. Have you asked the children of donor conception what they think? Or did you just go ahead and do whatever you want?
This is not a “conservative” stance. It is not even a rational stance. “I did it because I wanted to” is not a rational reason for anything. It is simply a statement of willfulness. If a child doesn’t have a right to a relationship with his or her own parents, no one has a right to anything. What remains to conserve, once you’ve stripped away the most basic birthright of a human being?
This brings me back to the Person I began with: God. For reasons that are not entirely clear to us, God wants our participation in his loving creation. He built this into our bodies. He could have created each and every new human being with a special act of creation, requiring no human participation at all. But, in fact, in the world in which we actually live, new human beings come into existence as the result of interaction between a man and a woman. God wants our participation to be a participation in love — not commerce, not technology, not an act of willfulness.
Nonreligious conservativism is dead. When the history of this era is written, people will look back and marvel at how crazy we have become, how filled with hubris we are, how stubbornly self-indulgent we are. And those historians of the future will realize: Only the people of faith had the sense to see that this was wrong — and the courage to stand against it.
Note: Jennifer Roback Morse authored the pamphlet Children and Donor Conception and Assisted Reproduction. She compiled this 19-page supporting document in 2015, cataloguing the medical risks associated with IVF that were known at that time.
- dave rubin