Saturday, March 14, 2009

Genetic Orphans

I think just about every child knows the sweet story called Are You My Mother? Written by P.D. Eastman, the story follows a poor baby bird who has fallen from his nest in his mother's absence, and he asks just about everyone and everything he meets that same plaintive question (with results from the silly to the mildly scary). Just when the sad little bird is about to give up, his own real mother returns and finds him, and he is safe and secure once more.

I thought of that story when reading this news brief:

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Things are about to get crowded in Cat Cora's kitchen.

The "Iron Chef America" star says on her MySpace page that she and her partner, Jennifer, are each expecting sons.

"(Jennifer) carried my embryo and I carried hers," Cora told OK Magazine. "It's like surrogating, but obviously all of our kids are equal."

The same anonymous sperm donor fathered all four children.

The 41-year-old Food Network chef says she and her 37-year-old partner will deliver their babies about three months apart. The couple already has two sons: Zoran, 5 and Caje, 22 months.

Are you my mother? How do children in this sort of "arrangement" ever answer this question? How do the women answer? "Well, I'm your genetic mother, but to make things fair she's your birth mother--we didn't want there to be any messy custody fights over you if our relationship doesn't work out. So we were willing to take the chance of creating you outside either of our wombs; if you didn't survive implantation we had some leftovers in the freezer--so don't worry! We'd have gotten to experience the wonderfulness of parenthood even if you, personally, didn't end up making it. Your father? Some guy, we never found out his name. Why do you ask? Aren't two mommies enough for you?"

And this, in our brave new world, is called love. We're supposed to applaud "parents" like these for their progressive and enlightened choices, for cooking up babies in a lab and serving up a heaping dose of "family" where family is defined as any two or more individuals who find each other temporarily satisfying and who create children to give the whole thing a sort of cachet. When they get tired of each other they'll go find someone else to act as surrogate to their future embryos; after all, studies show that it's much, much more important for children to be surrounded by happy, fulfilled adults than to have anything remotely resembling stability in their lives, right?

Meanwhile, little boys cry themselves to sleep at night because their friends have daddies and they don't; little girls wonder why other little girls have mommies, but they have dad and his newest "friend," while the woman who gave them birth got paid for carrying the embryos dad made with the eggs from his old "friend's" second cousin, who needed the cash. Even their little friends who have divorced parents have two of them--maybe Susie lives with Mom and only sees Dad on the weekend, and maybe Charlie lives with Dad and spends his summers with Mom, but they have one of each. As for their friends who have a mom and a dad who are married to each other and who live together and stay together and love their children together--well, such a thing is completely outside of the experience of the child who was created in a lab so his lesbian "moms" could extend their illusion of normalcy as far as possible.

Children are pawns in these selfish, self-centered games. It's bad enough when a man and a woman seek divorce and make their children pawns, too (except for abuse, when protecting the children may require some kind of separation) but at least the married heterosexual parents didn't start out seeking children as pawns, objects, props--but as the living sign of their parents' love for each other, the natural and expected result of the marital relationship between two people whose marital activity together is naturally capable of participation in bringing a third person into being. This cannot be said for the children manufactured by homosexual couples, who must always use a third person in the creation of the children they plan to raise--the mother the child will never know, or isn't allowed to call "mother" if she does know her; the father the child will never meet, though the child shares his father's love for butterscotch ice cream topping, his interest in history, or his great fast pitch.

Are you my mother? Are you my father? These poor little genetic orphans, made part of a political statement by their very existence, created with reckless disregard for their own well-being and safety (since there's always leftover embryos in the freezer if something goes wrong), left to wonder what life would be like in a family like the ones in books and movies and most of their classmates' lives, always missing, in a very important place inside of them, the knowledge of the parent whose genetic material was arranged for or purchased but who then walked away with no concern for these sons or daughters of their own flesh and blood.

The Catholic Church has been trying to tell us this; though this quote mentions children adopted by gay couples, the damage is the same, or even worse, when talking about children "manufactured to order" by same-sex couples:

Even though science clearly supports her position, the Catholic Church was vilified last summer when it issued a similar opinion in the document, "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons." In it, the Church clearly stated its concern for the effects of gay marriage on society in general, and children in particular.

"The absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development." The Church cites the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as asserting that the best interests of the child should be put first in these situations.

Are you my mother? Are you my father? The Church says that children have the right to know, from their earliest infancy, who these people are, and to see them and interact with them daily. While tragic circumstances may deprive a child of his mother or his father, that's vastly different from having two men or two women "create" him in such a way that he will never know one of these parents, and may, given the "option" the women in the article chose, be deeply confused and conflicted about the identity of the other. I can't imagine placing such a terrible burden on a child, who deserves to know and to love his actual, biological parents, not be forced to pretend that he doesn't really need a father, or that he doesn't really need to know which of the two women he calls "mom" is actually his mother.


opey124 said...

This is so sad.
One of the saddest articles I read was a man who was giving a talk, Catholic apologist, had a young women asking strange questions after the talk, did he like surfing etc. Only to find out she was born into a lesbian family through IVF and the only thing she knew about her daddy is that he was a surfer. How terribly sad.

Milehimama said...

In the document Dignitas Personae, the Pope says that frozen embryos are an injustice that can never be righted.

I have to wonder, if their relationship is natural and normal, if there is nothing different, wrong, or askew, why would they need to swap embryos? My husband doesn't view our children as anything other than his children, despite not nurturing them in the womb. My sister doesn't consider her adopted son to be any different than her "birth" son, because he has different genes. Why do they feel the need to force a bond and force a relationship?

Irenaeus said...

"where family is defined as any two or more individuals who find each other temporarily satisfying and who create children to give the whole thing a sort of cachet."

Zing. Wow.

Why are you not blogging on Beliefnet? You're just as good as Dreher or Welborn or anyone else. Your prose is incredible.

eulogos said...

I would prefer that she stay here on her own blog. On beliefnet we would have to deal with a storm of trolls calling us homophobes after posts like this.

freddy said...

I know a pair of grandparents now raising a teenage son of a union like this. He nees lots of prayers! And so, of course do his grandparents. He's at least in a loving home with a caring grandmother and grandfather -- but he's got so much baggage! A normal family is culture shock for him.

How do you recover from a mom who only saw you as a fulfillment to be checked off (done that!) and a father who only saw you as the means to an end?

Red Cardigan said...

Irenaeus, thanks for the compliment!! :)

Susan is probably right, though; can you imagine the reaction to a post like this one over at Crunchy Cons?

Irenaeus said...

We'd have to keep telling ourselves: it's only pixels arranged a certain way...

Me, I'd let people have it too much. You, you're calm and rational nad patient.

Rebecca said...

It seems like the saddest part of it though in this picture is that it gets to the point where the little bird isn't even looking for his mother, because he doesn't know she's missing. Kids are being so programmed now, they don't understand that they have been robbed, and they won't know why there is such an emptiness in their hearts.

I agree with Iranaeus, by the way; I'm a busy mom and look at very few blogs but I love to visit here because of your clarity of thought and expression.

j. christian said...

where family is defined as any two or more individuals who find each other temporarily satisfying and who create children to give the whole thing a sort of cachet. When they get tired of each other they'll go find someone else to act as surrogate

For all that is wrong about same sex couples having children, I don't think that this argument is a strong one. Questioning their commitment to each other and to their children is not a fruitful line of argument unless you can prove it. Anecdotally, at least, it doesn't square with my own experience of gay couples with kids.

Don't get me wrong: I agree with the Church's teaching on this matter. But sometimes it's a fine line between a reasoned argument and bigotry. Perhaps you're arguing against the abstract redefinition of "family" itself? Even so, it seems like an uncharitable swipe at the actual people who have pure motives in their relationships with each other and their children. I have no reason to believe that there is a systematic difference between homosexual and heterosexual couples in these regards.

There's enough fertile ground elsewhere to oppose same sex marriage and child-rearing.

Red Cardigan said...

Rebecca, thank you!

J. Christian, all due respect, but I have to disagree. Gay couples simply do not have children. What they have are other people's children whom they have brought into the relationship, either by adoption or by the kind of terrible "manufacturing" process described in the article. And *both* of these things are an assault on the inherent dignity of the child--not in some sentimental way that has to do with whether or not the gay couple can be good "caregivers" to the child, but in a deeply philosophical way.

Putting this another way, it doesn't matter in the least if the gay couple are terrific caregivers who feel very attached to these children. They do not *love* them, objectively speaking, any more than they *love* each other. (This is where the English language is so frustrating--we have just the one word for "love.") What do I mean by this?

Simply that when you really, truly *love* someone you want what is best for that person, both here on Earth and forever in eternity. Just as a person committing adultery does not and can not truly *love* his partner in adultery, because by his very actions he is choosing to put that person at serious risk of eternal damnation, so do those people in gay partnerships not truly *love* each other, because they are willing to condemn this person whom they ostensibly "love" to Hell with every sexual embrace.

And just as a single parent who enters a sexual partnership with an abusive person does not really *love* her children in the sense that she is willing to expose them to harm for the sake of continuing her relationship with the abuser, so do gay couples do not really *love* the children they manufacture or adopt, because they are willing to do what the Vatican calls, very strongly, "violence" to these children, by placing them, by choice, in an environment where they will never know, understand, or be able in any way to relate to the natural family order of mother, father, and children. If the single woman in my example wakes up to what her duty of love to her children actually is, she will leave her abuser; and if the gay people wake up to *their* duty of love toward their children, they will separate from each other and live celibate lives where they will cultivate a connection with the child's biological father or mother (if possible) or surround the children with examples of heterosexual family life if a connection to the biological parent(s) isn't possible.

The demands of love are powerful and often difficult. I would speak in a similar way to a couple contemplating divorce in the absence of abuse, abandonment, or a similar serious reason--the well-being of the children, who need both of their parents, must be more important than the adults' desires. A validly married heterosexual couple may have as strong a reason to stay together as a gay couple may have to separate: for the good of the children.

j. christian said...

Thank you for your reply. I don't disagree with the points you make; however, I think that the language you were using in that passage I quoted implied that gay couples were not only failing at the Catholic/objective definition of love, but the "worldly" definition as well. You seemed to indicate that their relationships are fleeting ("temporarily satisfying"), that when they "tire of each other" they'll find someone else, and that children give them a "sort of cachet." These are base behaviors even by worldly standards, and that's what I was arguing against: saying that gays are systematically more unfaithful, irresponsible, or mercenary in their motives is not the surest line of argumentation (Can you prove any of those things?).

On the front you mention -- that depriving these children of a "natural family" does violence to them -- I certainly agree. It's a tough sell from the worldly perspective, though, because of the deficiency of language as you mentioned. The saddest part is that these couples truly believe that they aren't doing harm to the children. I think it's better for us to articulate the failure in this sense because it goes to the crux of the problem, although it's a much more challenging case to make. Your divorce analogy is a good one, but I suspect the same objections would be raised: "But divorced parents can love their kids, too!" Sure, of course they can try, but they've failed at the most fundamental level already by getting a divorce. *We* get it; the world doesn't. How do we make that case to them? That's the stumbling block I keep tripping on!

Thanks again for your thoughtful posts and comments.

Rita said...

"gays are systematically more unfaithful, irresponsible, or mercenary in their motives is not the surest line of argumentation (Can you prove any of those things?)."

j. christian ,

I know there are studies that prove this. I will try to find them for you.

Amy said...

These are base behaviors even by worldly standards, and that's what I was arguing against: saying that gays are systematically more unfaithful, irresponsible, or mercenary in their motives is not the surest line of argumentation (Can you prove any of those things?).

Aside from studies, which prove that homosexual couples are not the same as heterosexual couples, why do we have to measure them by the "worldly" standard of love?

The "worldly" standard is just that - worldly. And therefore subject to the whims and sinful nature of all things "worldly."

Love as God intended and designed it is the standard by which we should measure love and the goal toward which we all should strive.

Many of us fall short, but when it's readily encouraged to eschew that standard of love (God's standard) there's a difference.

I understand what you're saying, but I also see Red Cardigan's point of view and I agree with it. Most couples, even heterosexual couples, treat children as accessories these days - commodities to be created when it suits and compliments their lifestyle, and commodities to be tailored in a specific image (up to and including, sadly, genetic selection of physical traits). This - just as creating a child for a gay/lesbian couple - robs that child of his inherent dignity as an individual, unique creation deserving to love and know his mother and father in the best possible arrangement for all involve: marriage.

It is selfish; children are our responsibility, but they are not "ours" in the sense of possession - they are God's children.

Daddio said...

This makes me sick.

j. christian said...


I have no doubt that there are dueling studies on these sensitive subjects. As someone trained in academic research, I view all of it with heavy skepticism. I don't believe there is anything close to scientific consensus on these propositions. This is why I think it's not a fruitful argument against same sex marriage; better to focus on the things that anyone with eyes can see that same sex couples lack in their partnerships: a member of the opposite sex. Now *there's* a place where there has been some very interesting research -- the effects of single parenthood on children, the lack of fathers in the household, etc.

Continuing to argue that gays are promiscuous and make bad parents (by even worldly standards) in the absense of solid empirical evidence just strikes me as a way to inflame antagonisms and brings Catholics closer to charges of bigotry. There are some pretty awful heterosexual parents out there as well.

Red Cardigan said...

J. Christian, in order to make these children this couple had to create more than two embryos, and had to accept the fact that most of the embryos they created would be what I call in my post last week about IVF "leftover people." In my mind, this alone makes them bad parents (and I say the same for heterosexuals who use IVF). What kind of parent shrugs at the idea that of the dozen or so children they've "created," three or four might be born, and the rest will be thrown away or used for research? It's monstrous.

Add to that the fact that these women's decision makes their child's father an anonymous nonentity whom they will never know, and I think the burden of proof is on them to show that they will be "loving" parents. What kind of love deliberately deprives children, forever, from any relationship whatsoever with their own father?

Now, as to the question about how I worded the sentence you object to: first of all, two men or two women can't have the mutual loving relationship that married heterosexuals have, no matter how "good" (relatively speaking) their intentions are. Philosophically speaking they are using each other as objects and condemning each other to Hell--it's just not love, as I said before.

I know you're suspicious of studies, but a study I saw cited showed that the average length of homosexual relationships is 3.5 years for male couples and 2.2 years for female couples. While this goes against many peoples' ideas about lesbians, the truth is that lesbians may rush to make commitments, but then rush to get out of them too. A study done in Sweden, where gay marriage is legal, showed that even with high heterosexual divorce rates, gay males were 50% more likely to divorce within 8 years of marriage than heterosexual couples, and lesbians were 167% more likely to divorce during that same time frame than heterosexual couples. (And those were the lesbian couples raising at least one child--"childless" lesbian couples were 200% more likely to divorce than heterosexual couples.)

While it will be a while before statistics are available in America, the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of this couple in my post deciding to split--much more so than if they were a heterosexual married couple raising their own biological children. So yes, I find it unconscionable to create children in such a morally deficient way amid an unstable lifestyle where it is far more likely than not that these children will be subject to a messy and complicated break-up and custody fight down the road; the very fact that each woman chose to be a surrogate womb for the other woman's biological child leads me to suspect that the probability of a future break-up was very much on their minds even as they were creating the children.

j. christian said...

why do we have to measure them by the "worldly" standard of love?


I'm not sure what you mean; that's partly what I was saying, that a typical "secular" analysis of such relationships is probably not going to make a very good case, given the outcome measures that are likely to be employed. On the other hand, if you're asking why we need to resort to worldly measurement at all, I'd argue that we need to meet their claims with reasoned arguments of our own if there's to be any traction for our beliefs in public policy.

Maybe because I live in California and Prop. 8 is still fresh in my mind, but I think that engaging in this debate in the public square requires at least some acknowledgment that there are those who will not believe in God's standard of love or other matters of faith, and therefore we need to argue from reason at least in part. This is what the Church has done, and I think it's the right approach.

j. christian said...


I've heard of the Swedish study, but I haven't read any papers related to it. It may well be that those numbers can be generalized to other populations, but only time will tell, as you said. One of the scary things is that gay marriage is a big social experiment with little historical data to inform us.

But what if the data do not bear this out? What if future studies show that gay couples on average stay together longer than straight couples? Or that children in lesbian households are much less likely to be subject to physical abuse? (I know I've seen that one claimed somewhere before). The truths of our argument still hold, but we have to find better ways to demonstrate the negative worldly outcomes.

My suspicion is that gay marriage in and of itself will not be catastrophic to society; the homosexual percentage of the population just isn't large enough to have that much of an effect. What is more damaging is the symbolic place it holds in a long line of marriage- and family-destructive thinking. Let me explain what I mean...

I think there's already a good and growing line of research that shows the effects of divorce on children, of absentee fathers, of the lack of gender role models, etc. In contrast to gay marriage, we *do* have a lot of years of data to support these conclusions. It would be much easier to link this body of knowledge (which is not quite as controversial because of political correctness concerns) to the idea that gay marriage represents *yet another form* of the disruption of nuclear family life and traditional marriage. In other words: I don't think we need to show that gay marriage or gay parenting necessarily lead to drastically worse social outcomes (what if they don't?), only that they are part of a larger cultural phenomenon that is eroding traditional family life to our detriment. Because if gay marriage becomes just another lifestyle choice among many, we're creating a negative feedback loop to heterosexual marriage and damaging it in return.

We could wait to see if research demonstrates direct, negative outcomes of gay marriage and child-rearing. I think it exposes us to the possibility of being disappointed by that research, either because (a) the effect is the opposite, or (b) it isn't as strong as we'd expected. If we want to argue against these policies here and now, while they're still being debated, I think we should rely on the ample evidence we already have from other family-destructive cultural changes, and draw the parallels for others to see.

John Thayer Jensen said...

...there are those who will not believe in God's standard of love or other matters of faith...

Isn't the point that it is not a matter of God having His 'standard' of love - and others having a different standard. There is just what love is - or else fails to be. God and 'others' are not coordinate parties in some debate. There is reality - and then there is a failure to be fully real.

These are not matters of faith but indeed of reason.

j. christian said...


Yes, you're right. At the same time, I find it exceedingly difficult to say "Your love is not real" or "You're using each other as objects" to people who don't believe as I do. If you know a good, gentle way using reason to show them that they are in error, I would love to hear about it.