Three-parent children

The FDA is trying to decide whether or not to approve a procedure that give a child three biological parents.  “Defective” DNA in a mother’s egg would be replaced by “good” DNA from a second woman, then fertilized, giving the child three parents and eliminating certain inherited diseases.

A great technology to ease human suffering, or a grotesque violation of nature?  Or both?  What should the FDA decide? [Read more...]

When your mother is your sister

A 58-year old woman in Utah is serving as a surrogate mother for her daughter.  The woman had already gone through menopause but she took a treatment of hormone shots to get herself back into the child-bearing mode.  So far, the pregnancy is going well, and the baby will be born in February.

The baby, a girl, will thus have two mothers.  One will be her grandmother and the other will be her sister.

What do you think of this?  Wanting a baby is a commendable desire and the Bible is sympathetic to women plagued by being “barren.”  If a woman wants to have a baby but can’t, due to fertility problems, do you acknowledge any limits as to what doctors or society or she herself should do to make that happen? [Read more...]

Posthumous conception

The Supreme Court heard a case (Astrue v. Capato) on Monday that hinged on determining the inheritance rights of children conceived by artificial insemination after their father’s death.

Robert and Karen Capato’s twins were born in 2003 — 18 months after Robert Capato’s death. And in its first review of “posthumous conception,” the ­Supreme Court on Monday struggled to align modern reproductive techniques to a federal law written in 1939.

In the end, the justices generally sounded disinclined to award Social Security survivor benefits to the Capato children. Theirs is among about 100 cases brought by children of artificial insemination born after the death of a father that the Social Security Administration has turned down.

But it was a tough slog through the details of a law that was written at a time when, as Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said, “they never had any inkling about the situation that has arisen in this case.”

The Capatos married in 1999, and shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Because they feared that his treatments might leave him sterile, Robert Capato began depositing sperm at a sperm bank in Florida.

He rallied at one point, and the couple had a naturally conceived son in 2001. But as his condition worsened, the Capatos began to talk about in vitro fertilization to give their son siblings. They signed a notarized statement that any children “born to us, who were conceived by the use of our embryos” shall in all aspects be their children and entitled to their property.

But the provision was not included in Robert Capato’s will at his death in March 2002.

After the twins were born, Karen Capato applied for Social Security survivor benefits. The Capatos’ naturally conceived son received the benefits; the twins did not. The administrative-law judge said the 1939 federal law looked to state laws to determine whether the benefit seeker is eligible to inherit property, and under Florida law, the twins were not eligible.

An appeals court reversed that decision, saying that the twins only had to meet the definition in another part of the law, which defined an eligible child simply as “the child or legally adopted child of an individual.”

But other appeals courts have found just the opposite, that the state laws are the places to look for determination of eligibility.

Assistant Solicitor General Eric Miller acknowledged that the law was ambiguous, because it seemed to provide two different definitions of a “child.” But he said the Social Security Administration had made the reasonable ­decision to require that a person seeking survivor benefits “must show that he or she would have been able to inherit personal property” under applicable state laws.

Alito seemed most skeptical of the government’s position, saying that perhaps Congress in 1939 did not think there was need to define the meaning of child. “They knew what a child was,” he said.

Charles A. Rothfeld, representing Capato, said the law was clearly meant to cover “the biological child of married parents” and the twins fit that definition.

What about a child born into a marriage but not a biological child, asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She wondered what would be the outcome if Karen Capato remarried but used her deceased husband’s frozen sperm to conceive.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pressed Rothfeld on whether the marriage between the Capatos ended with his death.

Justice Antonin Scalia wondered how children could be “survivors” if they were not conceived before their father’s death.

“What is at issue here is not whether children that have been born through artificial insemination get benefits,” Scalia said. “It’s whether children who are born after the father’s death get benefits.” . . .

“It’s a mess,” piped in Justice Elena Kagan.

via Today’s paper.

Legalizing Group Marriage

Elizabeth Marquardt notes that three different strands are coming together to legalize group marriage:  the far left, the far right, and the new reproductive technology:

From the fringy left: Polyamory

Polyamory describes relationships of three or more people — it literally means “many loves.” Polyamorists say they practice “ethical non-monogamy,” or relationships that emphasize open communication, respect, and fair treatment of one another.

The debate about legal recognition of polyamorous relationships is already well underway. A major report issued in 2001 by the Law Commission of Canada asked whether marriages should be “limited to two people.” Its conclusion: probably not. A British law professor wrote in an Oxford-published textbook that the idea that marriage meaning two people is a “traditional” and perhaps outdated way of thinking. Elizabeth Emens of the University of Chicago Law School published a substantial legal defense of polyamory in a legal journal. She suggested that “we view this historical moment, when same-sex couples begin to enter the institution of marriage, as a unique opportunity to question the mandate of compulsory monogamy.”

Mainstream cultural leaders have also hinted at or actively campaigned for polyamory. Roger Rubin, former vice-president of the National Council on Family Relations–one of the main organizations for family therapists and scholars in the United States–believes the debate about same-sex marriage has “set the stage for broader discussion over which relationships should be legally recognized.” The Alternatives to Marriage Project, whose leaders are featured by national news organizations in stories on cohabitation and same-sex marriage, includes polyamory among its important “hot topics” for advocacy. The Unitarian Universalists for Polyamorous Awareness hope to make their faith tradition the first to recognize and bless polyamorous relationships. Meanwhile, a July 2009 Newsweek story estimates that there are more than half a million “open polyamorous families” living in America. Nearly every major city in the U.S. has a polyamory social group of some kind. . . .

From the radical right: Polygamy

Coming from a very different direction, another challenge to the two-person understanding of marriage is resurging–polygamy, a marriage form with deep roots in human history and still in evidence in many parts of the world.

The debut in spring 2006 of HBO’s television series, Big Love, which featured a fictional and in some ways likeable polygamous family in Utah, propelled polygamy to the front pages of American newspapers and put the idea of legalized polygamy “in play” in some surprising quarters. That March, a Newsweek article with the title “Polygamists Unite!” quoted an activist saying, “Polygamy is the next civil rights battle.” “If Heather can have two mommies,” he argued, “she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy.” That month the New York Times devoted much attention to the subject of polygamy. One economist snickered that polygamy is illegal mainly because it threatens male lawmakers who fear they would not get wives in such a system. In an opinion piece, then-columnist John Tierney argued that “polygamy isn’t necessarily worse than the current American alternative: serial monogamy.” He concluded, “If the specter of legalized polygamy is the best argument against gay marriage, let the wedding bells ring.” . . .

Back home, a pending court case is offering a defense of polygamy, with lead counsel and noted legal scholar Jonathan Turley of George Washington University arguing this summer in the New York Times that the Lawrence vs. Texas Supreme Court decision in 2003 should protect the private choices of polygamists.

From the labs: Three-person reproduction

Another route to legalized group marriage could evolve via new court decisions and expert proposals that recognize group-parenting arrangements. Judges in the U.S. and Canada have already given legal parental status to a sperm donor father whose offspring had two legal mothers — resulting in the first instances ever in which a child has three legal parents. In New Zealand and Australia, commissions have recommended allowing egg and sperm donors to “opt in” as children’s third legal parents. Meanwhile, scientists in the U.K. have received state permission to create embryos that have the DNA of three persons. It will not be long before group marriage proponents ask: How can children with three legal parents be denied the same marriage rights and protections for their families that children with only two parents have?

via Elizabeth Marquardt: Get Ready for Group Marriage.

Do you see any legal obstacles to this, now that the door has been opened to define marriage in any way we want?  (What’s best for children and women won’t carry any weight, if recent rulings are a guide.  It has to be about “rights.”)

HT: Joe Carter

Gestational carrier

Movie star Nicole Kidman and her husband, country singer Keith Urban, both of whom hail from Australia, had a baby.   They are the child’s biological parents, but their fertilized egg was implanted into another woman, thus farming out the  task of bearing the baby and giving birth.  I don’t know if some medical condition made this process necessary–if so, I’m not criticizing them, not being sure what I think of that.   Or if it is an example on another plane of the wealthy exploiting workers for their “labor.”

At any rate, what I want us to notice is a word that I haven’t heard before for the woman who had the baby.  Not “mother” but “gestational carrier.”  From the couple’s statement:

“Our family is truly blessed, and just so thankful, to have been given the gift of baby Faith Margaret. No words can adequately convey the incredible gratitude that we feel for everyone who was so supportive throughout this process, in particular our gestational carrier.”

via Nicole Kidman’s Baby — Kidman and Keith Urban Welcome New Baby through Surrogate | TMZ.com.

We may be hearing that term more and more as “reproductive engineering” proliferates.  Being a “gestational carrier”  may become a profession, with  women who can afford that service opting out of pregnancy altogether, while still getting to be moms.

So, all of you Solomons. . . .Does a “gestational carrier” have any claims to motherhood?  Do you see any ethical problems with this as a medical procedure for a woman who is unable to carry a child to term?  At least the married couple’s “one flesh union” is preserved and extended to the child, since no extra-marital semi-adulterous  egg donor or sperm donor were used.

Do you think this might catch on, not just with women who cannot carry a child, but with women who want a child but don’t want to go through pregnancy?  Mothers, would you have been open to this option if it were available and if you could afford it?

Holy Innocents Day

Today, December 28, is Holy Innocents Day, the commemoration of the death of those children under two years old slaughtered by King Herod in his vain attempt to slay the Christ child.

Child sacrifice, as when parents would kill their infants as a sacrifice to Moloch, is a sign in the Bible of the most demonic kind of idolatry. So it is today in its new manifestations of abortion, the harvest of embryos, and the casualties of reproductive engineering. No ideology can be correct if it condones such evil. I propose that the Church use Holy Innocents Day as a time to pray against such practices, to work to make them illegal, and to persuade people not to slay little children as Herod did.


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