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A horrific surrogacy case our Health Minister ought to know about

The most horrific surrogacy case is making its way to the US Supreme Court. It is a perfect storm of practically all of the terrible ethical violations that bedevil the practice, even when it is non-commercial. Health Minister, Simon Harris (pictured), should study the case carefully as he prepares legislation to regulate the whole area of Assisted Human Reproduction.

The case involves a 50 year old single man, born deaf and mute, who decided he would like a child of his own. To this end, he hired a commercial surrogate. Thirteen embryos were created using his sperm and eggs from anonymous sellers. Three were then implanted in the womb of the woman he hired to carry the babies.

When the three proved viable, he then pressured the woman into aborting one and placing another for adoption as he only wanted to care for one child. The woman refused his demands whereupon he sent his lawyers after her and the case made its way through the courts and has now been filed with the Supreme Court, which has to decide whether or not it will hear the case. If it does, it will be a landmark case because surrogacy is almost totally unregulated in the US.

A particularly egregious element of the case is that when the mother had her babies, the hospital where she gave birth prevented her from breastfeeding them, seeing them, or knowing anything about their condition because of the original agreement she reached with the man who hired her. The tree boys, who are now 18 months old, live in deplorable conditions in the basement with their 51-year-old father and his elderly invalid parents. According to his sister, the man is unable to care for them. In what way is this in the interests of these three babies? (Read more here [1] and here [2].)

The Irish Government is to ban commercial surrogacy, but some of the elements described above could happen in a non-commercial arrangement as well. It could just as easily happen, for example, that the surrogate mother would end up pregnant with more babies than the would-be parent desired and would come under pressure to abort one or more.

This kind of ‘pregnancy reduction’ is already common practice in the fertility industry [3] because women will often be implanted with three embryos in the hope that one will become viable. If more than one becomes viable, the ‘surplus’ one may well be aborted.

Has our Health Minister, Simon Harris, considered any of this? Has he considered that the practice of surrogacy (like much else in the world of Assisted Human Reproduction) is bedevilled with intrinsically questionable practices, or will he be content to be led by his advisors and not ask the tough questions?


PS. The US Supreme Court just announced that it will not hear the case.  (Read more here [2])