September 21, 2004

By Estelle Nora Harwit Amrani

Tonight I watched a program on NBC's. It was "Law & Order, SVU" and the title of this episode was "BIRTHRIGHT": The story line is that a woman kidnapped a child she believed was her own, only to find out a horrible secret. "Six-year-old Patty Branson is almost abducted in Central Park while her father reads the paper. Benson and Stabler investigate to find out that the men who attacked her are actually P.I.'s, and have been hired by Michele Osborne to kidnap Patty, claiming she is Patty's real mother. M.E. Warner conducts a DNA test to prove the child's true biological mother. Meanwhile, Benson traces the source of the confusion about the child's origins back to a fertility doctor." (Here ends the show's blurb posted on NBC's site. The following are my own words.)

Well, it turns out this doctor illegally, and without Michele's permission, took something like 16 eggs of hers and used them to implant other infertile women. Of course all for the money. The daughter she says was hers, was hers, by the same method (unbeknownst to all parties but the doctor), and raised by a couple. So, long story short, Michele has many children that are now in their own families and the only child Michele thought she had was killed in a car crash (until she sees this girl and knows it's her daughter). She has no more of her own children in her home, just the children that were conceived by her eggs and raised by others.

This creates a HUGE legal dilemma. Legally, the woman who gives birth to the child is the mother, unless she gives the child up for adoption. BUT, if a woman is the child's biological mother, and doesn't know and didn't grant permission for her eggs to be shared with others, she is also legally their mother. What to do? Treat the children as adoptees? Allow the biological mother to gain total custody of these children? Leave the children where they are?

This is one of the hardest parts of invitro fertilization: How to make sure all fertility doctors are ethical and all parties involved in a pregnancy are legally protected. How to keep up with this technology?

I have always been against surrogate parenting. Years ago (in the mid-1980s when surrogate parenting began), I was on a television program representing the rights of adoptees against surrogates. The reason? Because the child has NO rights (there may be a few rights, depending on the state), unless the mothers (biological and adoptee) and fathers allow the child rights to know their true birthright. The child of a surrogate is legally like an adoptee - a ward of the state. Who is there to protect the rights of the child? The legal system has many holes in it when it says it protects an adoptee's rights. They really don't. They protect the biological and adoptive parents much more. I know this from being an adoptee and confronting the legal system and fighting for adoptees rights for decades.

Surrogate parenting is a selfish act. There is no other reason to do it. I do feel for and understand people who feel they could make great parents and should have the "right" and ability any way they can do so to have children that are somehow genetically related to one of the parents who will raise that child. However, I also truly feel that it's not right. If they were meant to have children, they would have their own children. Perhaps this is nature's way, God's way (if you will), of population control. Maybe there are other reasons, spiritual ones, these people should not, or cannot have their own children. Please seriously consider that. If they want children then they can adopt those who are already here, or those coming and need a home. (Adoptees have enough to go through without having to deal with surrogates.)

This excellent television show raised very important issues that our world has to deal with now that we are playing around with genetics. The ending of this program had the biological mother, Michele, leave her biological daughter with the parents who raised her because Michele wanted what was in her child's best interest. How many real-life cases will end like this? What is a woman to do if she was abused by a doctor, lied to, becomes a victim of the legal system if her eggs are taken without her knowledge and permission and implanted in other women? Why start with this process at all? Just some questions that each person can answer for themselves about something that has become more common and will no doubt become a major issue in our societies.

© Copyright 2004, Estelle Nora Harwit Amrani