Sherri Shepherd, surrogacy, and the commodification of children

Sherri Shepherd, host of “The View”, made waves earlier this year when news broke that her marriage had broken up. While the news of another celebrity marriage failing isn’t unusual, what made it so alarming to so many people was that Shepherd and her husband, Lamar Sally, had contracted a surrogate to carry a baby for them — and that following Shepherd’s decision to divorce her husband, she had also decided that she was going to have nothing to do with the baby.

People were understandably outraged, and as more news concerning this troubling situation breaks, it only gets more disturbing. The surrogate gave birth to the child on August 5th, and is being raised by Shepherd’s ex-husband, Lamar Sally. Shepherd has had no contact with the baby, was not present for the delivery, and even took him off of her health insurance.

The 44-year-old scriptwriter said the former couple agreed to use a surrogate with his sperm and a donor egg. He explained that all the forms were signed except for a birth order, which states who the intended parents are.

“I think it’s the worst thing in the world for L.J. to look at his birth certificate at 16 and see it says ‘Mother unknown,’” he said.

Shepherd allegedly has walked away from the baby in order to avoid paying Sally child support. And while this is a despicable situation on an individual level, it also demonstrates a disturbing trend in our society right now: the growing commodification of children.

Many pro-lifers have brought up ethical problems with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy. In addition to the destruction of life that almost always takes place during IVF, all too often prospective parents end up treating their babies as perfect specimens that they are entitled to, and discarding the unwanted product.

Parents conceive through IVF and then end up with multiples, so they undergo “selective reduction”: killing one of the babies because the parents don’t feel like putting up with the hassle of twins or triplets — even though they chose to implant multiple embryos. On the other hand, there’s actually an IVF lottery in Britain, where couples can “win” a baby. Other parents struggling with infertility decide to try IVF, only to conceive a baby with Down syndrome. Many of those parents sadly choose to abort the baby because he or she has Down syndrome.

These situations, along with Shepherd’s, are a direct result of our abortion-minded culture. We teach women that babies are only to be accepted when they are convenient — if not, they should be killed. And then after putting off having a baby for years, only to find out that their fertility is on the wane, parents then undergo IVF so they can buy themselves a baby. Surrogacy can be even worse, because the ethical problems of IVF are often compounded by the outright purchase of another woman’s body.

The problem with all of this is that the attitude — kill the kid when you don’t want it, and then purchase it when you do — is that it robs unborn children of basic dignity and humanity. Being a parent is a privilege, not a right. Too often, we view having a child as something we are owed, something we inherently deserve, no matter how freakish and unethical the process of getting that baby may be. How often are these parents thinking about the good of the child, versus their own selfish desires?

We no longer see children as the gifts that they are. Instead, they are products to be bought and sold. Shepherd facilitated the creation of a new life, only to then decide that she didn’t want it anymore. The problem is, this is a person, a life. You don’t get to return it like a used handbag when you change your mind.

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