What chores do you outsource? I read a list once in Time Magazine: The “Ten Best Chores to Outsource.” Expecting to see housecleaning, landscaping, pool cleaning, you know, actual chores, I was shocked and saddened by the “number one” best chore to outsource: pregnancy.
As the Time Magazine article put it:
Outsourcing brings to mind big factories and call centers. But entrepreneurs around the globe now offer services—from tutoring to sculpting a bust of your grandpa—to regular folks for a fraction of the cost in the West. Thought the world was flat before? Well, now you can hire someone in India to carry your child.
Outsourcing “pregnancy” has become big business, transforming having a child into a “bits and pieces” brokered industry: sperm from a handsome Scandinavian stud, eggs from a smart, beautiful Ivy League woman, a womb-for-rent from a poor woman in India trying to provide food and education for her children, and brokers in the middle helping set up the legal transactions to build a better baby the 21st century way.
Entrepreneurs like Rudy Rupak, CEO of PlanetHospital, make their living converting conception and pregnancy into a commercial business. Rudy’s brokering business offers what his company calls the India Bundle. This “affordable” package deal offers would-be parents an egg donor, four surrogates for four embryo transfers, room and board for the surrogate during the pregnancy, and transportation services when the parents arrive in India to pick up the baby. Costs escalate from there depending on services rendered. Gay couples wanting to do egg-sharing so that they can each offer sperm to fertilize the egg drives up the price. All the various preimplantation genetic diagnostic tests also drive costs upward.
This is what a consumer model of baby-making looks like.
Twins cost more, of course, which brings me to the latest craziness: twiblings. Parents Michael and Melanie chronicled their infertility story, which is not atypical, in the New York Times Magazine article, “Meet the Twiblings.” After what Melanie describes as many failed relationships, she finally met Mr. Right, but maternal age had hindered her ability to get pregnant, so they were off to the fertility doctor for five failed in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles. Always wanting twins, they decided to hire not one, but two surrogates, enlisted the help of an egg donor, and “gave birth” to a boy and a girl five days apart. Since the babies were from the same egg donor and they used Michael’s sperm, they are siblings. Being that they were created in the lab at the same time, they are fraternal twins. But, given that they were carried in separate surrogate wombs, they have been dubbed twiblings.
Meanwhile cases like those of an Australian couple who aborted their twin boys because they wanted a girl, and Olivia Pratten’s battle for the right to have access to her biological father’s identity (she was born in Canada some 20-plus years ago via anonymous egg donation), make their way through the courts. These are uncharted global waters we are swimming in, woefully unregulated, with, at best, some ad hoc international law. What is even more disheartening is the lack of a faithful witness (with the exception of Catholic teaching) in response to infertility. From the New York Times Magazine “twiblings” piece, a director of a Los Angeles agency for surrogate searches stated that many of their gestational carriers were “white, working-class women, often evangelical Christians—the kind of girls you went to high school with.” Or Sunday school perhaps?
The basics are well established within Christian orthodoxy. Children are a blessing and a gift, not a right, and certainly not a product to be designed and manufactured. They should be begotten, not made. Artificial reproductive technology – ART – is the manufacturing of children, often by design and often using third parties, a violation of the ethical principle of the two flesh becoming one. In the garden, husband and wife are a complete family. This was declared very good, without children yet being part of the story. While infertility is a sad and difficult occurrence for those who want children, it has been made even more difficult because of a lack of Protestant thinking on the matter.
Infertility is not a death sentence. Children are not products to be made. Our reproductive bodies are not to be blithely parceled and sold to someone else. And pregnancy is not a chore to be outsourced. It’s time for some serious corrective thinking lest our reproductive illness creates unleashed madness among us, and those who stood by silently be morally complicit in the exploitation of some lives for the commercial manufacture of another.