The road to wealth is paved with Lupron and placenta.
I recently attended a conference in Charleston, South Carolina, sponsored by the American Association for Adoption and Reproductive Technologies Attorneys (AAARTA). The audience consisted of people who make a living by facilitating third-party reproduction.
I enrolled at the conference expecting to find an environment focused on the wants and concerns of adults and “intended parents,” but what I discovered was more than just a blind disregard for the dynamic needs of children. The event was overflowing with a shocking enthusiasm for motherlessness, and it served as an opportunity to promote the fertility industry’s most lucrative package: egg donors plus surrogates, for gay male couples and single-dads-by-choice.
After I registered and was given my name badge and bag of goodies, I was encouraged to make my way to the exhibition hall to meet the event’s sponsors. Over half of the exhibitors were surrogacy agencies. Advertising reliable and affordable Midwestern surrogates and “non-discrimination” clauses, they hung large signage featuring gay male couples holding twins. You can view an example of a 6-foot banner featured by one exhibitor here.
Gay male couples are the Number One demographic to be targeted by American surrogacy agencies. This is for several reasons. For starters, partnered gay men are wealthier than any other demographic, earning an average of $116,000 per year per household, which is $21,500 more than the average heterosexual household. Secondly, LGBT individuals and couples are under great social pressure to have children. Their parents want grandchildren. Their friends and colleagues still connect marriage with child-rearing and begin inquiring about plans for parenthood soon after same-sex ceremonies. And some are pressed to acquire children for the sake of the LGBT agenda and the promotion of a la cartefamilies. Children are the latest statement accessories.
India, which was formerly the world’s premier reproductive tourism destination, now bars gay couples and unmarried or un-partnered single-parents-by-choice from using their women as surrogates. These demographics are now “forced” to go elsewhere to procure babies. The United States is an English-speaking nation with get-what-you-pay-for customer-service standards, making it a very appealing market. As a result, American surrogacy agencies are cranking out marketing materials made specifically for gay and single men. This sector of the American reproductive market is booming.
The United States is an especially attractive location for surrogacy, because every child born on American soil automatically gets American citizenship. For Chinese and multinational businessmen, acquiring citizenship for their heirs via a surrogate pregnancy is a bargain compared to the $500,000 business investment required by the US government for would-be immigrants of no other means. A surrogate pregnancy in the United States runs between $50,000 and $300,000.
The speakers at the conference were overjoyed at the complicated nature of modern reproduction. Psychologist Dr. Andrea Braverman spoke on the new legal consequences of egg-freezing. She noted that women might now be under great pressure to freeze their eggs in order to “have it all” and achieve professional success equal to their male peers. Law firms around the country are offering IVF and egg-freezing packages to their female employees, sending a clear message about what the priorities of its ambitious affiliates should be. Braverman spoke of the new dilemma of post-mortem reproduction for women. What do we do with a dead woman’s eggs? Who owns them? She chuckled to the room full of lawyers, “Just when you thought there wasn’t extra work out there for you, we’re creating it every day.”
There were several disturbing moments at the conference—like the explanation of a UK case where a married woman went searching online for a sperm donor and ended up having a physical, romantic relationship with him. She became pregnant and insisted that the baby was conceived naturally, demanding child support. The man insisted that the pregnancy was achieved via artificial insemination and denied any responsibility toward the child. Meanwhile, the woman’s husband agreed to care for a child conceived artificially, but was not willing to care for a genetically unrelated child conceived through sexual intercourse. The 300+ attendees thought this scenario was hilarious, and the legalese PowerPoint muck was suddenly sliced through with laughter.
And that was the takeaway message: the fight for stable families is not a fight between “left” and “right.” It is a tooth-and-nail duel between America’s conscience and those who stand to profit from mass confusion, chaos, and gut-wrenching family breakdown.
Richard A. Wilson of Grund & Leavitt, a divorce and ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies) attorney, explained how the divorce revolution has enabled marriage redefinition and its lucrative sister, parenthood redefinition. Thrilled about the end of DOMA, Wilson said with a smile on his face, “Same-sex marriage never would have been possible without the high number of divorces in recent years.” Wilson has apparently profited handsomely from our country’s epidemic of broken families.
Julie Shapiro, an attorney and popular blogger on topics of Assisted Reproduction, gave some sobering advice to the audience. She cautioned, “Please be careful putting primary importance on the genetic link,” in reference to an intended parent’s claims to custody of a child. She continued:
If genetic link is given priority in cases such as an intended mother [having a child] via her own eggs and a surrogacy arrangement, then that argument may give fodder to donor-conceived children who try to obtain rights and information regarding their gamete donor.
In other words, the rights of children are in direct conflict with the agenda of the fertility industry and its clients.
Additionally, the rights and autonomy of developing nations are under attack from wealthy, liberal countries. Powerful international legal professionals are working hard to create uniformity in global law regarding third-party reproduction. These progressive nations are working tirelessly to redefine family and force countries “stuck in the Fifties”—to use a favorite term of theirs—to agree that parenthood belongs to whomever is willing to pay for it. They want vulnerable Southeast Asian, African, and Eastern European nations to accommodate the new global trade in human life for the sake of smooth business.
The only time during the entire conference when I heard children’s rights mentioned without a mocking tone was when Anne-Marie Hutchinson (who was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for “services to international child abduction and adoption”) cited the UN Human Rights Convention and Its Rights of the Child clause that states:
3. A child shall be entitled from his birth to a name and a nationality.
This particular clause advances the agenda of the fertility industry because there have been so many cases where children born via surrogacy have been born stateless because their “intended parents” commissioned their births in opposition to the laws of their home nation. However, Hutchinson and her colleagues paid no mind to Article Six, which states:
6. The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother. [emphasis added]
Indeed, cohesive reflection was absent this particular weekend in Charleston. With the backdrop of one of America’s most lucrative slave ports behind us, attorney Steven Snyder took the stage. It became clear that Mr. Snyder is something of a celebrity on the ART attorney scene. On his website, there is a rich collection of essays explaining third-party reproduction and the services he offers. In his essay “Characteristics of a Good Surrogate,” Snyder delves into the dark side of human nature, touching on greed and the negative role money can play in third-party reproduction:
If a surrogate is poor or greedy and motivated only by money, it is more likely that she may manipulate the pregnancy and ultimate custodial issues, perhaps by threatening to keep the child after birth, to receive maximum compensation.
Another link on Snyder’s site features the testimonial case of Chuck Stroebel, a gay single father by choice who thought about adoption, but “eventually decided he wanted a child who would share his genes.” But as single mothers everywhere can attest, raising a kid alone is definitely financially more difficult, so “to cut down on the cost, Stroebel’s surrogate partner was also the egg donor.”
Stroebel’s strategy is admirably thrifty, but I’m afraid all those euphemisms add up to baby-selling, professionally assisted human trafficking.
The growing popularity of third-party reproduction is attracting flocks of new agents into the highly lucrative fertility industry. Only a handful of people, such as Jennifer Lahl in her new documentary Breeders, are questioning their actions. If we believe that human beings should not be for sale and should not be trafficked or manufactured like products, and if we believe that women deserve better than to be treated as mere baby machines—then we must do more to regulate and limit the current business practices of the fertility industry and punish those who cross the line. We must do more to protect the rights of donor-conceived people.
IVF is the new cotton gin. Let’s learn from history and kick this before it takes us to the terrible places we once were.
This article was first published at Public Discourse.