President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address got one thing right on Tuesday night: Children are not “baggage.”
Of course, the context was a complaint about airline companies’ hidden fees that limit a family’s ability to travel. “Baggage fees are bad enough. Airlines can’t just treat your child like a piece of baggage,” the president said. But if Biden thinks it’s wrong for airlines to do that, what would he say about potential parents who do the same thing?
I’m not exaggerating. That’s just what happens in commercial surrogacy.
On Jan. 29, Mark Lowen, a BBC Rome correspondent, tweeted a picture of himself with his husband, and the daughter they purchased through commercial surrogacy.
The caption read: “After 6 weeks in wonderful Canada and tearful farewells to our incredible surrogate & friend, it’s time to go home to Lisbon with our new family member: our most beautiful hand luggage. Canada: you are a shining light of democracy & equality. Thank you for letting us fulfil our dream.”
The key phrase? “Our most beautiful hand luggage.” It’s hard to overstate just how dehumanizing that language is. It treats a child, with inherent worth and dignity, as a commodity to buy and sell.
But that isn’t surprising. Surrogacy, especially international surrogacy, can cost upwards of $200,000. When two males want a “new” child that they, by nature, cannot bear themselves, they must commit to a long list of expensive and uncertain medical treatments for the surrogate.
First, they must purchase a woman’s egg(s), often anonymously. Second, they must pay for an in vitro fertilization lab to create embryo(s), often testing the embryo for genetic problems, such as Down syndrome. Third, after selecting an embryo, the “unfit” embryos are either frozen or destroyed. Fourth, they pay for the IVF doctor to implant the embryo(s) in the surrogate.
This process requires costly drugs, such as Lupron, also known as a puberty blocker for “trans”-identifying youth, along with many medical fees.
On top of all that, they must pay the surrogate mother for the right to rent her womb. If they are lucky, the surrogate will carry and give birth to a live child.
Still, the cost to Lowen and his husband “fulfilling their dream” goes far beyond the monetary fees.
The newborn daughter carries the highest cost of all. At birth, her “dads” took her from the only “mother” she will ever know.
Surrogate mothers do not use their own eggs to conceive the child they carry. Still, surrogates and babies share a genetic bond through a process called fetal microchimerism. Traces of the surrogate’s DNA remain in the child, and vice versa, for the rest of their lives.
The child’s two dads, no matter how much they love her, wanted her, or paid for her, will never be able to fill her longing for a mother—her biological mother.
Katy Faust, the founder of a children’s rights organization, captured that pain on behalf of a donor-conceived, surrogate-born person. “I have adopted friends who are searching for their birth moms, but I don’t really have a birth mom. I have a donor and a surrogate. So, I can’t even fantasize about finding that one woman that I long for.”
Commercial surrogacy treats children as a “right” for any adult who wants one. That adult enjoys that right even if he can’t provide the child with the one thing that ensures the child’s safety, happiness, and sense of self.
In short, the child bears the cost of not growing up with his or her biological mother and father. Is it any wonder that many of us no longer receive children as a gift, but treat them as an accessory to customize according to adult desire and fashion?
Americans should extend Biden’s remarks into the realm of commercial surrogacy. This highly profitable market treats children like designer hand luggage. It exploits the wombs of surrogate mothers and erases the essential place of a mother in a child’s life. Worst of all, it asks this newborn child to suffer, rather than the parents who purchased him or her through IVF and commercial surrogacy.
Biden was right, as far as he went. Children are not “baggage,” and it’s time our laws reflect that.
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