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The Brave new World of Commodity Children

by Lien of Oz

An Hypothetical.

Sally and Jane are a lesbian couple and quite friendly toward George and Jack–neighbours who are living in homosexual union. Both couples are desirous of being able to raise children. Jane offers to ‘altruistically’ function as a surrogate (womb for rent) mother to gestate a child for George and Jack. Jane’s partner Sally has already arranged –or invited George– to donate a sperm sample so that she too can have a baby and has discussed the idea with both George and Jack as a couple. Sally is already aware of the arrangement Jane has made using Jack’s ‘seed’.

To what extent can true altruism be determined, particularly where medical and legal cost may be incurred….who pays?

Both couples now make an appointment with the Sea Horse Donor and IVF clinic to oversee the artificial reproductive technical (ART) or medical procedures. In particular, required sperm screening for possible diseases, genetic [or hereditary] defects and also sex selection.

The latter because Sally and Jane are keen to have a girl while George and Jack would prefer a boy. The clinic also agrees to supervise the necessary ‘contractual’ agreements.

What kind of analytical or selective judgements would be made if homosexuality was indeed genetic?

When these two couples first decided on their approach to parenthood they might well have chosen to follow ‘natural’ [adulterous] sexual intercourse. However, for Sally and Jane -as lesbians- the very thought of such intimate relating was abhorrent. Yet they did give some thought to adopting self –insemination. But the risks did not engender high guarantees of success or safety. Hence, they approached the Sea Horse [ART] Clinic to supervise donor sperm deposition, its storage and screening and to clinically perform the artificial insemination at the most opportune time in Sally and Jane’s menstrual cycles.

Sally and Jane both succeed in becoming pregnant; Jane as surrogate womb with sperm from Jack and Sally with George’s sperm donation. Subsequent ultra-sound reveals that both Sally and Jane are carrying girl babies. This is disappointing for George and Jack for they ‘ordered’ a boy. Jane therefore considers abortion and to try again. However, she begins to develop the idea that she might renege on her surrogate deal with George and Jack.

After normal 40 week pregnancy both Sally and Jane deliver their baby girls– within 10 hours of each other actually. Sally names her baby Sandra and Jane, now keen to keep her biological daughter, calls her Debra.

Problems now arise in regard to the ‘contractual’ agreements framed under the legal (contract) arrangements organised by the Sea Horse clinic; in particular, between the two men– George and Jack [ Jack being the biological father of Debra ] and Jane who had agreed to function as an ‘altruistic’ surrogate. Since George and Jack were assured by the Sea Horse clinic of a boy child they consider possible legal action against the clinic– for their breach of contract– especially because of the guarantees given in regard to initial sex screening.

None of the parties to disputation are all that sure of what legal channels they can refer to for adjudication. Nor what Federal or State laws are applicable. Their principal option was the ‘Family Court’ which not all that long ago had handed down a decision, in the ‘best interest of a child for two men who had contracted a surrogate ‘manufacture’ of a boy overseas and imported him back into Australia, for the child to retain his two male parents.

In the present case a sympathetic Judge rules ‘in the best interest’ of the child Debra that she be recognised by both sets of same-sex couples; for the Judge rules that the original ‘surrogate’ agreement should stand. These two little girls are now seen, especially Debra, as having 4 parents. But who do they call Mum or Dad. This follows, consequent upon, the same Judge ruling that Sally- non-biological female parent should formerly adopt Debra. Similarly the Judge orders that George too, as non-biological, male parent, that he adopt Debra. The Judge further directs however, that Jack and George are to raise Debra in their household as was the initial plan but Jane is to have unhindered access.

What now is the situation in regard to Sandra? Does Jane have to adopt Sandra as non-biological (2nd) female parent of the lesbian couple. And should Jack too be involved in Sandra’s life as another non-biological parent.

How should the children’s birth certificates be framed? Particularly as the Family Court Judge has deemed that Debra have 4 parents–2 biological and 2 adoptive.

Is Sandra to be registered with 3 parents or 4?

And what about the dispute with the Sea Horse clinic?

What a complex web we weave when we seek to artificially conceive?

 June 2005