Commercializing children and our “me-me-me” society

Children sitting inside school bus

Children in our society today have been turned into nothing more than products. For too many people, they’re seen as either a good to be purchased, or something defective to be discarded. Alana Newman, founder of the Anonymous Us Project, which aims to give a voice to children conceived via sperm or egg donations or surrogacy, gives us yet another example of how children have seemingly become a property that we believe we have a right to purchase… and the devastating impact it can have on those children.

In the United States, there’s an open and unregulated market for gamete donation. Unlike Canada and most European countries, which limit the number of times a man can sell his sperm and have mandatory database registries where donor children can access their biological parents’ medical histories, the United States enforces no such regulations. This lack of regulation is due, in large part, to legislators’ failure to listen to the voices of donor-conceived children. “How can we as a nation make wise decisions about family structure, third-party reproduction, and gamete donation,” asks Newman, “without the participation of and insights from those who have been most directly affected by these practices?”

Just how many donor-conceived children are born each year is anyone’s guess, due to negligible tracking and regulation. At a recent conference for fertility-industry attorneys, I listened to a prominent children’s psychologist (who favors the practice of third-party reproduction) speak about the potential psychological issues donor-conceived children might face. In a moment of candor, she admitted, “We never thought about the future families. We only set out to fix the infertility.”

And this is precisely the problem with donor conception: the desires of the parents always trump the needs of the children.

… We must acknowledge the painful truth that, as infertile couples seek to remedy their suffering through third-party reproduction, they are unwittingly inflicting pain on their future children. Eventually, those children must wrestle with the circumstances surrounding their conception. In aiming to satisfy their very natural desire for offspring, infertile couples go to great lengths to create children who are destined to experience complex crises of identity and purpose.

As one of the donor children wisely remarked, having children is a privilege — not a right. But in our culture of selfishness, children are seen as something we have a right to. We have a right to offspring, no matter how freakish and unethical the process of reproduction becomes. On the other side of the coin, we have the right to throw those children away if they are inconvenient or unwanted.

We have become a culture that believes we have the right to play God.

There was the couple who underwent IVF, got pregnant with twins, and complained. Of course, they’re at least better than the couples who end up in the same situation and then undergo “selective reduction”: a nicer way of saying that twins were too inconvenient, so they killed one of them. There are the couples who go through IVF only to kill the child because they have Down syndrome. In Britain, they even have an IVF lottery, where you can actually win a baby!

We want the children we want, dammit. And we’re going to get them no matter what it takes — unless, of course, they’re defective or inconvenient. Heaven forbid they end up with a birth defect or disability, like Down syndrome. Although if that happens and the parents don’t get the chance to find out beforehand, they can always file a wrongful birth lawsuit, right?

We are treating children as commodities. Instead of recognizing that children are a gift — no matter what form they come to us in — we view them as property that we have an inherent right to. Can we really be surprised about the reality of abortion when we view children this way? If children are nothing more than property to us, products to be bought and sold, then it logically would follow that we also have the right to throw those children away.

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