Friday, July 06, 2007

Brave New Gilmore Girls

I've spent too much time and energy belaboring this in other forums today, but let's briefly note the situation from Montreal. God bless reproductive rights, but it's time for a little more engagement on the question of whether it's ethically acceptable, or legally tolerable, for people to jostle about eggs and sperm with limitless abandon. I speak not of actual sex: the Thomists among us, alas, have hardly secured my endorsement. Nor do we need undercut the self-determination of identity that is a necessary and beneficent element of any adoptive family by challenging whether the capabilities of reproductive science should be unleashed so as to shove eggs and sperm under the proverbial nose of any prospective parent, least of all if the prospect in question is your own child being granted the dubious privilege of carrying her mother's own egg. People have the right to follow their hearts-- an adoptive child is not mandated to go seeking for biological parents, let alone to accept them when they are found to be inadequate and, more fundamentally, superfluous compared to the loving parents they already have. But, as those who remember the rather chilling conclusion of Jim Jarmusch's "Broken Flowers" will recall, parenthood of any stripe is a double-edged sword when expectation and reality are at oods.

Which is, vide Aeschylus and Woody Allen, always true. I make no pretense that "conventional" or "unconventional" families, the later here including everything that doesn't fall under the rubric of fertile nuclear heterosexuality, are at an imbalance in regards to this question. One of the gravest errors of the species has been the inclination to suppose that anyone must "apologize" for the circumstances of their existence. But, sometimes, an apology may be owed on account of the circumstances one has been dealt due to the choices of others. And in this regard I am inclined to be very indulgent indeed to the acting-up and "acting-out" of the potential offspring of the Montreal woman who has bequeathed her frozen eggs to her little daughter, in the hope ("It'll be her own decision"!) that this child, infertile due to a genetic condition, will have the happy option of carrying to term her half-sibling some day, conceived perhaps with the aid of a beaming suitor's sperm. Whether such a child would refuse to embrace "grandma" as parent, even for a few punishing adolescent years, might be doubted; I have no doubt that "grandma" however would be all too happily obliging. Perhaps the best that could be hoped for is that the two put-upon half-siblings would join together in forceful choruses of "Mo-oommm!!!" to all further demonstrations of her imperial "altruism" . . .

Really, my present vein of flippancy hardly does justice to the moral problems presented by this case; just as it stands, I think the woman has done a rather horrible thing. Rather incredibly, a number of comments I've seen posted have doted upon the fact that "Flavie" (the seven-year old prospective surrogate) would have the consolation of bearing a child that has the family resemblance! Really, decent manners for families that employ donors and surrogacy is one thing, but it shouldn't blind us to the obvious human truth that everyone WANTS to bear a child that resembles them-- this is the ordinary course of nature, after all, and the fact that science has introduced other outcomes as potentialities for the birthmother beholding the baby that has come from her does nothing to change the fact of this desire, for male and female parents alike. In this hypothetical case, Flavie is left contemplating something a bit like the monstrous image in Shelley's "The Cenci", where the heroine's father, who has raped her, gloats in the thought of her forced to behold his hated countenance in their imagined offspring. A birth mother should have something, either more or less, than siblinghood as her prize when she is given the baby from her womb. To carry another woman's egg is one thing, perhaps more questionable than has been allowed of late. But the only blood-relation's reproductive cell that should be involved is her own.