"Australian Men take newborn baby from Indian mother"

Well, that could have been the headline. In fact, it wasn’t, although it would have fitted the facts well enough. The real headline in this morning’s edition of The Age was “Indian surrogacy for gay couples at risk”. As I read the article, I thought: how come we are blind to the other side of this story? Yes, you can see it as a good news story in which a gay couple have “fulfilled their wish for a child”. OR: you could ask yourself: what gives a couple of men the right to take a new born baby away from its mother only days after its birth? What gives these men the right to make the decision that this boy – who has a mother – will be raised without a female parent? What gives these men the right to remove a child from the culture and life of the land of his birth? And on a much more basic level (which men don’t often think about): what gives these men the right to deny this baby the breast-milk of its mother and instead raise it on artificial substitutes? There are times when you wonder why the feminist voice isn’t raised to heaven over issues like this.

Let me be quite clear: this has nothing to do with the two men in question being gay. It would be no different if they were two brothers who wanted a baby brother, or just two single mates who didn’t want to get married but still wanted to have a son in the junior football league. The fact that the two men who took this baby from its mother are a homosexual couple is an entirely different issue from the one that I am arguing here.

True, you could say: would it be any better if it were a married childless male/female couple who took young Noah from his mum? Answer: no, not much, although at least there would be the possibility of a female parent in the equation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions surrogacy in terms of a “surrogate uterus” (CCC 2376) – the “use” of which is “gravely immoral”. The same paragraph says that a child has a “right to be born of a father and mother known to him [or her] and bound to each other by marriage”.

But, you say, what about adoption? Surely the Church isn’t against adoption. No, it isn’t. It would be strange if a creed that bases itself on our “adoption” as “sons of God” were not also open to adoption in the human realm. But it seems to me that planned removal of a child from its mother before birth is not what the Church has in mind when it speaks of adopting children – nor that the Church would approve of adoption arrangements that involve removing the rights of the natural mother [and, less plausibly, but certainly possibly, the natural father] to have knowledge of and access to her child if she so wished. The only reference to adoption in the Catechism is in paragraph 2379: Childless couples are encouraged to “give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children [my emphasis] or performing demanding services for others.”

In every case of adoption, it seems to me that paragraph 2378 of the Catechism must be kept in mind:

2378 A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception”169 [CDF, Donum vitae II, 8].

Whichever way you cut this news story, it seems to me that the action of these two Australian men in taking a newborn child from his Indian mother is not right. It is, in the words of the Catechism “gravely immoral”.

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14 Responses to "Australian Men take newborn baby from Indian mother"

  1. Louise says:

    “at risk” blah blah blah

    It’s all fun until someone loses an eye.

  2. Louise says:

    I like your headline better.

  3. Paul says:

    No argument from me on this commentary. It is one of those issues in a classroom that brings up the deep-rooted and near impossible to uproot, mentality, that the “right to children” is an inalienable one that must be fought for. I have had some lively discussions with senior students over this kind of topic. Presenting Catholic Christian ethical teaching on rights and repsonsibilities within the Catholic understanding of Natural Law, Conscience, Scripture and the Magisterium does, at least, give students a world-view that places the human person and their dignity just right or left of centre in the cosmos – God is at the centre! My hope is that the kids will leave the classroom with an understanding of what the Church teaches and why – and that it is life affirming.

    As for the issue discussed in the news today, I agree with you that surrogacy is gravely immoral. Two gay men, or two non-gay people in a loving and faithful relationship is one issue; surrogacy – the turning of human beings into economic units who “produce” on demand is quite another.

    It raises the other related issues of sterility. I have a close relative (who is Italian) who wanted to marry and have as many children as she and her husband could reasonably manage. To their horror, they discovered they were unable to conceive. They have lived with this pain all their married life. It is sad and distressing, but it is part of human reality. I share their sorrow. I also share their faith that somehow God is working through this towards a good that will be revealed. They have discovered that fruitfulness is not limited to the womb – and that in no way trivialises what must have been a terribly heartbreaking experience.

    • Paul G says:

      Hi Paul,
      as a support to your presentation of Catholic ethics, have you mentioned Margaret Somerville in your classroom? I believe she is a former Catholic, now an atheist, but she sees that this is a case of the neglected rights of the child..

      “Children are the only ones who are not asked what they want to do in this situation. Secondly, children are the only ones who don’t give consent to this. Third, there’s a doctrine emerging in ethics called anticipated consent. Can we reasonably anticipate that what we’re doing would be consented to by the people most affected by it?

      Now it’s very interesting because coming out of Australia is a group of young people who contact me constantly and they’re the children from the original IVF done at Monash University because Australia led the world in that at that time. They’re now what they call themselves “donor-conceived adults”. They’ve got a website called Tangled Webs. And what they’re doing is they’re lobbying that children should not be brought into the world in ways that deprive them of certain rights and those rights are first of all a right to know who their biological parents are.

      I believe they also include a right to a mother and a father which I think is going to prove to be genetically important in their upbringing. It’s a right to be reared in their own biological family, both their immediate and extended one and most importantly – and this is what I’m working on at the moment, which is extremely controversial and two years ago would have been thought as science fiction – is making a shared genetic baby between two men or between two women.

      And this is why I’ve got into awful trouble over my opposition to same sex marriage. Marriage gives adults the right to do that. That’s the problem with it.”

  4. Susan Peterson says:

    I found the article you linked to nothing short of nauseating.

    India is the only place close to Austrailia with “affordable surrogacy.” Meaning that it has a lot of poor women in it, who are desperate enough to sell the use of their wombs.

    That little baby in the picture ought to be in the arms of its mother, not the self satisfied two men with money in the picture.

    No one has a right to a baby! Certainly no one has a right to someone else’s child. And a child does have a right to grow up in a normal family, preferrably with its own parents, unless they are totally incapable, but if not, then with a married mother and father.

    What a sick, sick world this is getting to be!

    Susan Peterson

    • Schütz says:

      I have received a comment from a new commentator (application to join our table yet to verified) that

      “In this case there was a donor egg along with the fathers sperm through an IVF process. The surrogate was in no way related to the child and I don’t believe could in any way be called its mother.”

      That is additional information I didn’t have. They may be the facts, but I don’t agree with the conclusion. I will publish the full comment when the commentator verifies his bone fide with me.

  5. Jon says:

    I agree with your assessment, although I wonder about this comment:

    “nor that the Church would approve of adoption arrangements that involve removing the rights of the natural mother [and, less plausibly, but certainly possibly, the natural father] to have knowledge of and access to her child if she so wished.”

    Although “open adoptions” have become more common in the US, the birth mother was traditionally required to waive this right. The identities of birth mothers and adopted children were kept under seal, but could be revealed when the child reached adulthood if both the birth mother and child submitted petitions to the court. As I understand it, part of the reason for this requirement was to protect the relationship between the child and the adoptive parents, whose parental authority could be undermined by sporadic appearances of a birth parent lacking the maturity or commitment to act in the child’s long-term interests. I’m not aware of Catholic adoption agencies objecting to this arrangement.

    My adopted sister made contact with her birth family when she reached adulthood. Before beginning the process, she was warned that the court files tend to be full of petitions from adopted children, with very few from birth mothers.

    • Schütz says:

      I want to check this up with those who know. I was forming my ideas simply on the basis of the Catechism. I will try to find something more detailed.

      • Peregrinus says:

        Just to add to what Jon has said, the “closed adoption” in which the birth mother never saw, heard from or heard of her baby again was not only the norm but the only model of adoption in Ireland from the 1950s (when adoption was first put on a statutory footing) until the 1990s, and virtually all adoption were arranged by church-run agencies (mostly Catholic church-run agencies). As befits social legislation from 1950s Ireland, the adoption laws were wholly consistent with Catholic social teaching.

        It may be the case nowadays that the Catholic church will countenance only open adoptions, but it certain wasn’t the case in the past.

  6. Susan Peterson says:

    I believe that closed adoption was primarily to protect the mother. I don’t think it is possible for anyone younger to grasp the strength of the social disapprobation of unmarried pregnancy. I lived on the very end of that era in my youth. Families did everything they could to conceal that a young woman was pregnant. She would go live with a distant aunt or in a maternity home far from her home town, and some cover story would be provided for her absence. She would be delivered while close to unconscious from drugs and would not be allowed to see the baby. She would then go back and resume her normal life. Sometimes her family would have moved to avoid rumors. When eventually she married, she was advised not to tell her husband about the baby or the sexual relationship which led to it. She would tell her doctor that her first pregnancy in the marriage was her first child, and if the doctor suspected otherwise he kept this to himself. Under these circumstances the last thing she would want is contact with the baby. The circumstances of its birth did everything they could to prevent her from forming an attachment, and the news that there was such a baby could destroy her marriage and her respectability and her standing in the community and that of her husband and children.

    So no, the church in those days did not encourage open adoption.

    A man in those days needed a dispensation to become a priest if his birth was illegitimate. And illegitimate meant parents not married according to the laws of the church. The priest explained this to me when I had to convince him not to write “invalidus” on my oldest son’s birth certificate. The questions were “Is the mother Catholic? Is the father Catholic? Were the mother and father married by a Catholic priest?” With answers of yes, no, and no, “invalid marriage” was automatically written on the birth certificate. I had to point out to the priest that neither my husband nor I was baptized at the time of our marriage, and that made it a valid but not sacramental marriage. He ripped up the paper and started over, and while he did it he explained all this. He said that if a priest were illegitimate he’d have to be transferred from parish to parish whenever someone found out. Therefore, he explained, if a man received a dispensation from the obstacle (forget the technical term) of illegitimacy to become a priest, his parent’s marriage would be automatically validated by the Church.

    I am sure this is all gone in the current canon law.

    But I added it just to provide cultural atmosphere for understanding why “open adoption” would not have been thought of.

    Susan Peterson

  7. Susan Peterson says:

    As for this poor baby made in a lab by of a donor egg with donor sperm, I pity his struggle later on to understand his origins and who he is. Don’t all of us like to go back and find out our family history?

    This is something which shouldn’t have happened in the first place. And maybe the woman didn’t even want the child, just the money. But maybe when she gave birth, she did. There is an awful lot of nature involved in binding mothers to children, and I doubt it is based on the genetics of the child. At least there is a natural link, this woman carried me in her womb, this woman gave me milk from her breasts.

    How unhuman is this world going to become?
    In China you have the edges of 1984,-in N Korea a lot more of it…. and in the West, the leading edge of Brave New World. (I guess Australia is “the West” culturally.).

    Maybe we Catholics will be pushed into a corner like the Amish. Will we be allowed such a corner?

    Susan Peterson

  8. Pax says:

    Jesus drove out the sellers in the temple for profaning Gos’s house.
    Our bodies are temples of the soul.A woman’s womb should never have become a place for commerce.
    Children are being treated like commodities to be bought and sold.
    I am not a pessimist by nature but we do seem to be approaching end times with wrong being trumpeted as right and the slaughter of innocents taking place on a daily basis.
    In this darkness only Christ’s love brings light and consolation.

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