Upon opening my paper Tuesday, I was genuinely astonished that the front-page article covering the House committee hearing on gestational surrogacy (SB 162) failed to report anything about the medical testimony presented. Anyone not at the hearing would not even know that there are medical issues in surrogacy important both to the woman serving as gestational carrier and to the child she carries in her womb for another woman.
Instead, the whole article was largely an endorsement of gestational surrogacy, presented as a simple alternative to when parents are unable to conceive or give birth to their own. In fact, Sen. Gary Smith and his wife, Katherine, and Kristy McKearn and her husband — both cited in the article as having obtained their children in this manner — though successful in their goals, were, in fact, rather lucky. Some of the medical issues involved can be damaging or even fatal to the surrogate or the child or both.
Any pregnancy, though far safer than a century ago, still carries some risk for a natural mother and her own child. Subsequent disability or even death, though rare, can result even today.
For a surrogate, carrying a genetically completely unrelated child in her womb, the risk, because of the doubling of potential genetic incompatibilities, would itself be theoretically doubled for both (think Rh factor-type problems and others involving major human-human differences, such as those that occur in organ transplantation). Fertilization in vitro (IVF), needed for procreating the embryos that are placed in the surrogate mother’s womb, requires that several of those embryos formed be transferred, while “unnecessary” ones would be frozen in liquid nitrogen or destroyed.
If all those transferred develop, a multiple pregnancy occurs (think “OctoMom”) and many obstetricians will perform a “selective reduction,” i.e. destruction (abortion) of any preborn children beyond the usually desired single child.
Other problems remain:
What happens if, during the course of her pregnancy, the surrogate mother becomes unpredictably and severely ill or even permanently disabled (for instance, in irreversible coma)? Is abortion then likely? What happens if a genetic incompatibility or other reason, such as trauma, infection etc., results in a severely defective child? Who takes the responsibility and how? Who would pay the cost of medical care, upbringing etc. under such circumstances? The list goes on.
Permitting gestational surrogacy contracts opens the door to using surrogacy simply for avoiding a personal pregnancy, or to produce traffic in human beings, such as already exists in regard to women’s ova or “eggs,” by providing children for monetary gain, a philosophical base underlying any human slavery.
Why was all this so completely ignored in what should have been a genuinely journalistic, even-handed and public-serving report?
Dr. W. A. Krotoski
president, The Hippocratic Resource