Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Last echoes of the lullaby

I have not forgotten my promise to delve into the specifics of Rick Perry's support of the death penalty, but unfortunately I'm in the midst of finishing up my school book orders for the year. The strange slowness of various textbook sites, the need to triple-check who needs which text and who just needs workbooks for texts we already own, and my ability to get distracted by such things as laundry and kitchen chores is bad enough without my attempting to write what will probably be a lengthy post requiring research--but until I'm done ordering books I don't have the leisure to drop everything and focus on it. Your patience is appreciated.

In the meantime, I've been wanting to share this horrific piece that has been making the rounds since last week:
As Jenny lay on the obstetrician’s examination table, she was grateful that the ultrasound tech had turned off the overhead screen. She didn’t want to see the two shadows floating inside her. Since making her decision, she had tried hard not to think about them, though she could often think of little else. She was 45 and pregnant after six years of fertility bills, ovulation injections, donor eggs and disappointment — and yet here she was, 14 weeks into her pregnancy, choosing to extinguish one of two healthy fetuses, almost as if having half an abortion. As the doctor inserted the needle into Jenny’s abdomen, aiming at one of the fetuses, Jenny tried not to flinch, caught between intense relief and intense guilt.
“Things would have been different if we were 15 years younger or if we hadn’t had children already or if we were more financially secure,” she said later. “If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn’t have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there’s a natural order, then you don’t want to disturb it. But we created this child in such an artificial manner — in a test tube, choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me — and somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice. The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.” [...]
Jenny’s decision to reduce twins to a single fetus was never really in doubt. The idea of managing two infants at this point in her life terrified her. She and her husband already had grade-school-age children, and she took pride in being a good mother. She felt that twins would soak up everything she had to give, leaving nothing for her older children. Even the twins would be robbed, because, at best, she could give each one only half of her attention and, she feared, only half of her love. Jenny desperately wanted another child, but not at the risk of becoming a second-rate parent. “This is bad, but it’s not anywhere as bad as neglecting your child or not giving everything you can to the children you have,” she told me, referring to the reduction. She and her husband worked out this moral calculation on their own, and they intend to never tell anyone about it. Jenny is certain that no one, not even her closest friends, would understand, and she doesn’t want to be the object of their curiosity or feel the sting of their judgment.
The wise blogger Sister Toldjah weighs in here:
The indifference to human life in this piece is staggering – almost literally – to me,and I say that as someone who, again, has read/heard/watched a lot of information on this topic. Thank God none of our parents viewed us – twins or not – with the same cold, clinical detachment as these “mothers” (and most pro-aborts in general) viewed the pregnancy process. Once again, the “pro-choice” culture of death is exposed for what it is: bloodless, soulless – and most of all, heartless. Think about these vain, selfish people next time you read about a mother and father who eagerly wanted to carry a twin pregnancy to term but lost one at birth due to delivery issues or unexpected health complications. My heart goes out to them. To pro-twin reduction types, I have nothing but contempt. [Link in original--E.M.]
Of course, "Jenny" in the NYT Magazine piece--and the other pseudonymous twin-killing "moms"--can look to this woman as their patron saint in the art of soul-killing selfishness; nothing sends shivers down an actual human being's spine like the idea of slaughtering your two healthy twins in utero (and allowing the singleton to live--the triumph of 'choice,' ladies!) because otherwise you might have to live on Staten Island and shop for big jars of mayonnaise at Costco (horrors!).

But this is what happens when you stop viewing children as God's gifts sent to bless a man and a woman united in marriage, and start viewing them as the ultimate consumer accessory, the Prada shoes or Birken bag of pets, the best possible toy for the adult who already has everything--which is how our selfish, consumerist, post-Western Christendom sinkhole of a culture sees the little tykes.

Think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at this story from Australia:
A MAN who donated sperm to a lesbian couple will have his name stripped from their child's birth certificate after a successful legal bid by the birth mother's ex-partner.

The woman took the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and biological father, to court in May to have his name replaced with her name in the document.

The female child was born in 2001 and the women split in 2006, although they continued to share parental responsibility.

The man also played a role in the child's life. [...]

Outside court the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he was devastated and labelled the outcome an injustice.

"She's not my daughter as far as the law is concerned," he said.

That's because the law sees children as costly little playthings, and not people. People--actual human beings--each have one father and one mother in the biological sense; any other legal fictions we create (stepparents, gay "parents") come after that fact. But today's manufactured organic sentient beings can be declared the property of two woman just as if the little girl was somehow magically created by the various sex acts her "mothers" used to engage in, back when they were together. The man--the child's father--for whom I have some sympathy, unfortunately contributed to this whole mess when he saw his act of giving the lesbians his sperm with which to manufacture "their" child as a good thing; he is now reaping the sorrowful consequences of having made the artificial fabrication of a human being outside of a loving relationship between a man and a woman possible in the first place.

IVF, twin (or more) reductions, reproductive prostitution, and the artificial assembly-line production of consumer-goods children--all are nothing but the last echoes of the lullaby for the dying narcissists of our age, as they fade into the oblivion of history, soon to be replaced.


Anonymous said...

My dear Erin, the law has always seen children (and, pre-feminism, women) as property. Nothing new here.

Talk to anyone who had their child support judgment reduced because the custodial parent was moving for a job. The non-custodial parent often got the support payment reduced because they weren't getting access to their "product."

Even now, a formerly-drug-addled bio-mom can go to court to force a loving father and step-mom to return to another state. In order "to build a relationship" with the now (maybe temporarily) drug-free mom who had no interest in the child during her formative years, the court can essentially order a reduction of contact with the step-mom who actually raised the child. This happened to a neighbor of mine in the past 3 years.

The bio-mom still has no interest in the child, but her wealthy father cannot stand the idea of his grandchild being raised by the step-mom (though she had done a great job so far) and has the money to keep the case going.

The child has regressed to failing in school and now has a "mood disorder." All in the name of bio-mom's sacred relationship.

The child's best interests are still not the social workers' or the courts' guide. Ask any county child psychologist who evaluates families for a county system.

May I note that plenty of offspring naturally conceived are also just status symbols?


eulogos said...

Elizabeth, your argument seems to be that X isn't wrong because Y is wrong too.

I agree with Red here, especially about the "reductions", the thought of which makes me sick.

By the way, in the Australian situation, why not just say the child has three parents? You have already left nature far behind when you say two women are her parents, so why not three?

Susan Peterson

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I think Elizabeth has a bit more of a point than X = Y.

In any human relationship involving more than one person (I'm being deliberately redundant), there is a potential that respect for some value, much less right, could trample on another.

It is, often, good to respect the rights of parents (starting with biological parents) to exercise the liberty of deciding how to raise their children. There are many brands of busy-bodies who would like to legislate or regulate this relationship, most of which I abhor. I even favor the freedom of parents to have children sleep in a "family bed" with them, which my sister favored, much to my mother's dismay, so long as the parents are not drunk and insensate, and are not doing adult things in the children's presence.

But, I think we all agree that lacerations, contusions, and even some extreme and clinically diagnosible psychiatric disorders are a sign that this sacred right has been abused, so the civil law must step in.

It is MY OPINION that a woman who is sure she can't handle twins shouldn't be raising even ONE more baby. She should, in short, have continued using whatever contraceptives she was on.

There ARE instances where an organic, biological, physical, condition indicates that if a pregnant woman tries to carry both twins to term, it is likely that both will die, or be terribly deformed. In that instance, I would opt to abort one, so that at least one healthy baby can be born. There are others who would say, carry on, let God's will be done, I will not interfere. Although that could result in horrible injury to one or both of the resulting children, I still would not sanction state interference to mandate an abortion.

There are many choices in life where the variables are many, not all known, and coercion either way could result in great good, great harm, or something in between. In such situations, since the inchoate new being cannot speak for itself, I prefer to leave the decision to the parents (and the responsibility to deal with the consequences) rather than The State.

I would like to see some reduction, where the blunt instrument of the law can be attuned to do this, in the status of children as property or status symbols. Elizabeth gave a good example of where the best interests, even expressed preference, of the child should be given great weight. One of Nicki Grimes's teen stories offered another -- the biological father who popped up for the first time in a child's live because "I love my kids" and wanted to get his hands on the life insurance money.

I also feel that there is good reason to assume, until proven otherwise, that one father and one mother is the healthiest environment for a child, whenever possible. Therefore, no matter how earnestly a gay couple wants to prove what good parents they can be (and I believe many are sincere), I would give first preference to married heterosexual couples. There are, in fact, plenty of unadopted children for whom a loving gay couple would be the best option, compared to bouncing around the foster home system.

Anonymous said...


My response was about Erin's line that follows directly after the story out of Australia, pointing out that the attitude of the law towards children is not a result of awful gay people trying to have families. There was no defense of the law treating children as property.

It is interesting how often, especially on the web, people assume that pointing something out is the same as defense of it.

Erin frequently uses a technique of argument that essentially involves working backward from a current news story to prove a point about something else. We can expect the Australia story to be relinked at a later date in a post about the horrors of gay marriage. As in "see what these people are causing to happen?" even though the behavior in the story is just another variation of selfish human behavior, just with some new details that make it newsworthy.

People acting selfishly about children in the legal system only makes news when there is a new spin. But conservatives grab these headlines to show that society is going to hell. Because before everything was, you know, perfect. Back when people were moral, or at least had the decency to be hypocrites in order to "honor" virtue. Or some such silly argument.


Red Cardigan said...

Elizabeth, I'm very consistent about my belief (which is the Church's, too) that manufacturing children through the use of techniques like IVF is gravely morally evil. When to that evil the reality of an "egg donor" or a "sperm donor" who does not intend to raise the child (e.g., when the child's so-called "parents" are merely the ones purchasing or otherwise acquiring the child's genetic material) exists, a *second* evil is added to the first. And when the "parents" are a gay pair or straight couple hiring some poor reproductive prostitute in India to be their egg donor and professional gestation provider, yet another layer of evil is added.

Before technologies like this existed, people could only behave selfishly about their children once those children got here. Now, people can purchase "made-to-order" children who aren't even genetically related to them (a far cry from the loving act of stepping in to raise children whose parents have abandoned them as is done in adoption), all to bolster their "we are family" facade and make them feel good about themselves. Foolishly, they then insist that their children should not be viewed as commodities, even though they're the ones who started it.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I wonder if a law could survive judicial review, under the somewhat tangled, if well-intentioned, precedents currently on the books, which forbids artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization unless there are a married couple who have taken full and sole responsibility to raise the child they are creating.

I can think of some legal difficulties, but with the proper argument, they are not insurmountable. The basis would, of course, NOT be to discriminate against anyone, but to be certain that the resulting child has a stable home and adults committed to take responsibility for raising them.

The fact that unmarried couples have the capacity to conceive children without this level of responsibility is irrelevant; that the state is unable to prevent all evils is no bar to preventing those it can more effectively regulate.

I still have some sympathy with the woman who carried her own grandchildren, because her daughter or daughter-in-law was unable to do so. Trying to make any law truly fair and balanced becomes terribly complicated.

Annie said...

I have secondary infertility. I've been to the reproductive endocrinologist and received the "donor egg speech" (as it is known in the online infertility "IF" world). I heard the dire stats about the likelihood that my husband and I would be able to conceive another child. Was advised that IVF could increase our odds slightly in having another biological child. We didn't go through with any of it, of course. We are obedient to the Church's teachings about artificial reproductive technologies.

I wouldn't wish IF on my worst enemy. It destroys marriages, causes depression, etc. A woman on one of the IF forums threatened to commit suicide today. There's something about not being able to conceive a child which makes you feel like less of a woman. I've struggled with grief knowing that we'll never have a second biological child. I won't condemn these women as selfish narcissists. They desperately want children which is a completely normal, even healthy, desire.

First, it is normal to want a biological child. Those of us who have biological children had that desire as well.

Second, we can't all "just adopt." Adoption is incredibly expensive. I know a woman who had two placements fall through both bio moms changed their minds at the last minute and kept the babies. She's headed back to the fertility clinic because she doesn't think she can go through the stress of adoption again. People used to think foreign adoptions were risk free but every day there are more scandals in the news about foreign adoptions. My husband and I decided that we wouldn't consider foreign adoption because of our concerns about fraud.

The NYT article has caused quite a stir in the online IF world. Most women undergoing infertility treatments are horrified by abortion. I've witnessed some very honest discussions (anonymous of course) about regret for earlier abortions. Oddly, based on my interactions with other women struggling with IF, that women undergoing infertility treatments are more pro-life than the average woman. (pro-life meaning anti-abortion only - artificial reproduction is inherently anti-life)

Through my TTC journey, I've met many woman who have undergone IVF. I've know women who used donor eggs and/or donor sperm. Some of these women are single. I believe that they have made mistakes and I desperately wish that they had better alternatives because parenthood is an incredible joy but I won't condemn their desire for motherhood as selfish. I won't say their families are pretend. I think if you met these women at the playground you wouldn't be able to guess how their child was conceived.

MightyMighty said...

This post actually hurt me physically to read. I sort of lost feeling in my arms....some sort of psychosomatic response?

You did a nice job of synthesizing it. I have to say, after reading the original article, you didn't have to do anything to make it so chilling. It really was one of the most bloodless things I've ever read.