Virginia HB 1979 Empowers “Intent to Parent” to Replace Biological Parenthood
August 13, 2019 | Published first in Society of St. Sebastian
by Katie Breckenridge
The Virginia HB 1979 is another attempt to normalize the distortion of human dignity which is so prevalent in reproductive technologies while taking its commodifying practice to yet another level. This bill reinforces the belief that anyone who wants a child has a “right” to one, regardless of genetics, solely because he or she claims ownership to an embryo.
Virginia’s bill uses gender-neutral language in order to make surrogacy more LGBT and single-parent friendly,[i] further reinforcing the delusion that having a mother and father is optional. Intended parents in this bill refer to any “[man and a woman], married [to each other], couple or unmarried individual who [enter] entersinto an agreement with a surrogate under the terms of which [they] such parent will be the [parents] parent of any child born to the surrogate through assisted conception regardless of the genetic relationships between the intended [parents] parent, the surrogate, and the child.” [ii] (Words in [brackets] removed; words in italicsadded).
HB 1979 goes on to state that if no “intended parent” is a genetic parent of the resulting child, the embryo that is used is still “subject to the legal and contractual custody” of an intended parent. This is stating that as long as someone intending to parent a child claims ownership to this child, then that person is, in a full legal sense, a parent of that child. By treating embryos as our property by claiming “contractual custody” to them, we are claiming that human beings are our property to pass around as we see fit to whoever “intends” to parent them.
The bill also states that if the intended parent is the genetic parent, then that parent is the child’s parent, and if the surrogate is the genetic parent of the child, then the surrogate “exercises her right to retain custody and parental rights of the child.” This language contradictorily implies that genetics takes precedence over “intending” to parent. Why would the genetic parent of the child automatically be the parent of the resulting child? Because we innately know that the underlying biology of human reproduction is the first and essential determinant of parenthood. Why then, does this same innate logic not seem to matter when claiming ownership to a non-genetic embryo, or choosing to use a gamete donor for these practices? Is simple “intent to parent” now to be understood as equivalent to one’s making a very real genetic contribution to the creation of a human being?
Every child has a natural genetic inheritance which he or she has a right to know and embrace, acting as if biology is irrelevant to this is cruel and a foolish denial of reality. Every human being has a unique genetic inheritance that is the foundation of his or her existence and contributes to his or her sense of personal identity. If not, DNA sites like “23andme” would not be so exciting, even to those raised by both biological parents, but they are. If biology did not matter, adoptees would not be so vigorously searching for their biological families despite the love they received from their adopted families.
As we are a part of them, we are naturally made to deeply crave the love of the very people whose DNA we possess, the people responsible for bringing us into the world. Our biological parents are the individuals naturally responsible for raising us, as we are naturally made for them and vice versa, and when this nature-ordained rearing does not happen, someone in the occurrent suffers a loss, no matter how seemingly well-intentioned the separation.
We should never seek to intentionally separate children from their mothers. As was previously discussed, [iii] we already know that adoptees can suffer a “primal wound,” since neurological events which occur during infancy can have long-term impacts on relational and emotional functioning, and the same applies to babies born of surrogacy, as an infant’s world changes drastically when the biochemical connection to their birth mother is severed. [iv] As stated by an adoptee, “A fetus knows their mother’s voice and prefers to listen to it over anyone else’s. So, imagine the trauma when you remove a newborn from their mother and place them into the arms of strangers. Adoption is an exciting time for the adoptive parents, but we must never forget the loss that the adoptee and their family of origin endures.” [v] Separating children from their birth mothers and severing this bond is an unnatural occurrence, and not something to be taken lightly.
Society tries to diminish the relevance of gender and biology and to state instead that “love is what makes a family,” but in doing so, we deny a basic building block of reality and men, women, and children get commodified in the process. It does not take any type of religious worldview to understand that men and women are complementary, which allows them to naturally conceive and bear children.
They are not only sexually complementary, but also emotionally and cognitively, and each provides different roles in the family dynamic. Fathers provide protection, a sense of security [vi] and influence the development of the imagination and critical thinking skills through creative play. [vii] A mother provides comfort, nurturing, and a fulfillment of emotional needs, which originates through the deep, profound attachment initially formed through pregnancy, which surrogacy deliberately denies, and this nurturing and fulfillment of emotional needs continues throughout the child’s life. [viii]
Which parent is unnecessary? The mother or the father? Or do children not need a mother’s nurturing, or a father’s playful social interactions and protection? Stating that men can be nurturing, and women can be fierce protectors does not change the reality that a man is not a woman and a woman is not a man, and mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. The notion that the sexes are somehow irrelevant to child-raising is a tragic distortion of what it means to be truly feminine and truly masculine. We act as if children are ours to mold and the environment they grow up in is what they are used to, as if being “used to” a situation is synonymous with what is truly best for them. Any time a mother or father walks out on a family, or a father chooses not to be around when he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant, almost everyone in society acknowledges the misfortune that the child will grow up without either his or her biological mother or father, but whenever a child is deprived of a genetic parent intentionally, this is somehow considered acceptable. A child’s unique genetic identity is not ours to play around with in the name of having a “right” to a child.
When we deny a child a mother or a father through same-sex parenting or single parenthood by choice, there are glimpses where we acknowledge that men and women are necessary in reproduction and that their unique roles matter deeply, but these gifts are quickly dismissed once the end result of a child is achieved. When homosexual men and single fathers use surrogates, they acknowledge what is unique about a woman: her ability to create and nurture life. This miraculous ability is useful to homosexual men/single men when needed for breeding purposes, but not important enough to make sure that every child has the right to reap the benefits of having a mother. A man’s uniqueness is generally sought out in regard to picking a sperm donor with admirable characteristics such as intelligence, or even just a nice personality; in other words, a man a woman would prefer to father her child if not picking a fatherless route for a child. In seeking these admirable characteristics, these women acknowledge that these traits are important for a child to have, but at the same time these women state by their choice to conceive outside the “traditional” means that it is unimportant for a child to have as a father the man who gifted the child with half of his or her genetic inheritance. They also deny the child a father to look up to, a man to help the boy or girl to develop his or her own sense of character.
Passing bills which contribute to commodifying children to fulfill the desires of adults by intentionally removing them from their families of origin, we enable people to acquire humans for themselves to fulfill selfish desires. While it is understandable that a person might desire to bring a child to love into the world like everyone else, when a person pursues these routes, that person is essentially buying children as his or her own personal wish fulfillment accessories to satisfy overly self-serving desires rather than seeking and implementing what is truly best for a child.
Katie Breckenridge is the Operations Manager for ‘Them Before US’
Copyright 2019 Society of St. Sebastian. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.