Wednesday, 18 July 2012

An opinon piece by Michael Cook

Looking at an article by Michael Cook (editor of the bioethics newsletter BioEdge and a columnist for Australasian Science) in The Age (19th July):
Please note: Words in bold in the article are my own.

First the title- it’s a doozy - Marriage leads to children - gay marriage leads to surrogacy  - no proof of this just the author’s “opinion” but its an attention grabbing headline isn’t it?
A TV show called The New Normal will have its premiere on NBC in the US soon. It's about a gay couple and the single mother they engage to have their baby.
"She's just like an easy-bake oven except with no legal rights to the cupcake," the surrogate-mother broker tells Bryan and David. This is a hard-nosed description of the woman's role in gay marriage and child-rearing, but it sums it up accurately – does it? Or is it perhaps a T.V. show desperate for ratings and so trying to be as sensationalist as possible – Do we know take grabs from T.V. shows and use them as proof? Is this reasonable?

In heterosexual relationships, the birth rate rises when couples are married.  Hang on what are we saying here? That people who marry have children, or people deciding to have children usually marry (after all, that option is open to them). Both point to a rise in birth rates but for different reasons. It is not the marriage act per se, but the intention of the couple to remain together of which children and marriage are subsequent results. One would expect similar dynamics to apply to same-sex couples – in that if same sex couples could marry they would before they have children but if they can’t they will have children anyway.  For lesbian couples, this is not a huge problem; all they need is a sperm donor.  So then allow lesbian couples to marry.

But male couples need surrogate mothers – ah lets poke a stick at homosexuals – after all this is an easy target – gay men cannot bear their own children.

There are no official statistics, (so its all guesswork based on what the author of this article wants to believe) but it appears gay couples account for a substantial chunk of the overseas market (and that has nothing to do with marriage, does it). So will the legalisation of same-sex marriage lead to even more surrogate mothers in India?  Wow, here’s a long bow to draw. BioEdge, the bioethics newsletter I edit, emailed IVF clinics in India and the US asking whether they were preparing for a rising demand for surrogate mothers – science at its best.

The answer was a resounding yes. Our survey is far from scientific, (so why use it, except of course it suits your argument) let alone comprehensive, but it suggests that poor women in developing or economically depressed countries will be recruited to service gay couples (no, it suggests you believe that this will happen).

Dr Samit Sekhar, of the Kiran Infertility Centre, in Hyderabad, also forecast an increase. He said a ''sizeable number'' of the centre's clients were gay. ''We have seen an increase in the number of gay couples and single men approaching our clinic as soon as legitimacy to their public union is granted in their respective states or country."

There was one dissenting voice. A spokeswoman for Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour, of Surrogacy Centre India, Megan Sainsbury, rebuked BioEdge for its inquiry. "We are not preparing for an expansion of services for gay couples. Why would you ask this?" However, most of the contented parents featured on Sachdev Gour's blog last month are gay (so let us discount the one that disagrees and label them as biased).

A leading US infertility doctor, Jeffrey Steinberg, who runs the Fertility Institutes in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, told BioEdge he got a surge of inquiries whenever a jurisdiction legalised gay marriage (doesn’t mean an increase in surrogacy, only that now that is it legalised they can go through the normal channels). At the moment he uses only carefully screened American surrogates, but he is thinking of outsourcing their jobs to Mexico.

Supporters of same-sex marriage must recognise they face a serious moral dilemma (nope, not at all, the moral dilemma of surrogacy is not the debate about same sex marriage). Cheap wombs might bring gay men the happiness of being the father of a child of their own. But the cost of that happiness is often borne by poor and uneducated women.

Just some points. So lesbian marriage would be okay?
We ban all same sex marriage to protect the wombs of women in India?
The argument that same sex marriage should be legal has nothing to so with the ethical dilemma of surrogacy – that is an entirely different issue that involves couples, married or otherwise, same sex or otherwise.
This whole article is nothing more than another attempt to drag unrelated ‘ethical’ issues into the waters of the same sex debate merely to try and dirty those said waters.
“Oh look Momma, the same sex couples are all flying to India (well the male ones) to buy surrogate mothers.
Perhaps the real issue is the poverty in India and the working conditions that allows us rich countries buy cheap goods (there is the real ethical dilemma). Which I would have thought had very little to do with same sex marriage.

At least this article was labelled opinion – I just think the label should have been a lot bigger.

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