SURROGACY: by David van GendNews Weekly
Next stolen generation - who needs a mother, anyway?
, March 6, 2010
The Surrogacy Bill 2009, passed by the Queensland Parliament, by 45 votes to 36 on February 11, should have been about altruistic surrogacy as a "last resort" for an infertile couple. But no, under that respectable cloak this new act has smuggled in a radical proposal to deprive children of their birthright - their fundamental right to enter the world, as most of us did, with both a mother and a father.
By what authority does any government permit adults to deny a child her most profound emotional need: to have both a mum and a dad in her life?
This act now allows all Queensland adults aged over 25 (including a single man or woman, or same-sex couples) to obtain a child "of their own" using reproductive technology such as IVF and a surrogate womb. The birth certificate will be legally falsified to declare the single adult, or the same-sex couple, to be the baby's true "parents".
Under the new Queensland act, two men are allowed to bring a baby girl into the world with the full intention of denying that child even the possibility
of a mother in her life. Likewise, the act will help a single infertile woman to obtain a surrogate baby boy for herself, condemning that baby to live without even the possibility
of a father.
That is wrong. We know as surely as we know anything that a baby needs a mum and a dad. Certainly, there are tragedies where a child cannot have both parents - through the death or desertion of a partner - but we would never wish that sadness on a child. This oppressive act sets out intentionally to inflict the loss of a parent on a surrogate child.
Australian ethicist Professor Margaret Somerville condemns this deliberate destruction of the child's biological identity.
She says: "It is one matter for children not to know their genetic identity as a result of unintended circumstances. It is quite another matter to deliberately destroy children's links to their biological parents, and especially for society to be complicit in this destruction."
A group of young adults deprived, as babies, of the possibility of knowing a father (through anonymous artificial insemination) have come together as Tangled Webs Inc. They speak with authority for the next generation of children - the next stolen generation - who will be deprived of what they call, very poignantly, a "whole mother".
They declare: "A child's best interests are served when it is conceived and gestated by; born to and nurtured by, one mother. To fragment maternal roles through ova donation/gestational surrogacy is to deny a child its entitlement to a whole mother."
The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child affirms that a child must not, "save in the most exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother", and yet this Queensland act has done exactly that, in a premeditated way. A little girl must live without a mother, purely to satisfy the desire of two men to have a baby of their own. What then of the rights of the child?
The Surrogacy Bill 2009
despised those rights; it was an assault on the heart and mind of a little child, and any MP who voted for it was complicit in that assault.
A few of us GPs, lawyers, ethicists and others were sufficiently provoked by this assertion of adult "choice" over childhood "need", to mount a campaign against it, at www.KidsRightsCount.org.au
It is hoped that the Queensland opposition Liberal National Party will commit, should it win government, to repealing the provisions that allow a child to be conceived with the prior intention of denying that child a mother, or a father - i.e., single and same-sex surrogacy.
The Queensland opposition voted unanimously against the Surrogacy Bill 2009
. The LNP had tabled its own bill to separate the question of same-sex surrogacy from the question of surrogacy for an infertile couple; but Labor Premier Anna Bligh rejected their position, and declared that all adults - even single adults and same-sex couples - had the same right as a married couple to "the opportunity to be a parent". Her attitude trashes marriage, and tramples on the genuine right of a child to have both a mother and father; I can only presume she does not understand the harm she is doing.
As to the nature of this harm, evidence from social science is of only secondary importance. Certainly the best-designed studies confirm the obvious - that a child does best in every objective respect when raised by his or her own parents, or in the nearest equivalent context of an adopting mother and father.
In the light of this research, the American College of Pediatricians in 2004 concluded: "The environment in which children are reared is absolutely critical to their development. Given the current body of research, the American College of Pediatricians believes it is inappropriate, potentially hazardous to children, and dangerously irresponsible to change the age-old prohibition on homosexual parenting, whether by adoption, foster care, or by reproductive manipulation. This position is rooted in the best available science."
However, nobody needs to resort to "the best available science" to defend the obvious insight that a little child needs both a mother and a father. The judgment of anyone who cannot see this as a self-evident fact of life, as the most primal and necessary condition of a child's wellbeing, is suspect.
The Queensland Labor Government knows - because we have told them - that the denial of a child's right to have both a mother and father through open-slather surrogacy is an issue upon which pro-family groups that make up the Family Council of Queensland, of which I am a committee member, will go to the barricades.
Yet there are points of agreement with the Government on aspects of our laws on surrogacy that should be amended. In an interview I had with the state Attorney-General, Cameron Dick, on ABC radio, he argued that the surrogacy bill then before parliament was necessary to remove the current penalty of imprisonment for couples who obtain a surrogate child. We agree that it is not in the interests of an innocent child for his carers to be imprisoned, and so we support that change, but not through such a bill: change can be achieved by amending existing surrogacy laws
Likewise the only other two valid motives in Queensland's new surrogacy act are to give a surrogate child the same certainty as other children regarding inheritance rights. But this can be achieved by amending the Succession Act and giving legal certainty of guardianship, which is already provided for through Family Court parentage orders.
There was no necessity for the Surrogacy Bill 2009
. There is a grave necessity - and duty - to reject bills like this around the country that would, through normalising same-sex and single surrogacy, intentionally and wantonly deprive a child of her birthright and her most profound psychological need: to have both a mother and
a father.Dr David van Gend is a Toowoomba family doctor and spokesman on surrogacy for the Family Council of Queensland. See www.KidsRightsCount.org.au. An earlier version of this article appeared in On Line Opinion, February 12, 2010.