Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A semi-retraction: not all people are bastards

As I was typing yesterday's post, the story of baby Gammy it seems was already making its way across global headlines, and an equally global campaign of support and compassion had blossomed. (I admit that with this adjusting-to-motherhood thing I'm somewhat behind with a fast developing story.)

In a few short days, funds have been raised to pay Gammy's necessary medical costs, and the international press coverage has generated what I consider a very positive discussion about a whole range of issues, from the the ethics of 'surrogacy tourism' to the lives of children with disability generally and the positive contributions they make to their parents lives. The tone of discussion has been a lot more open and well-directed than I might have anticipated.

At the same time, I'm surprised that there could really be any level of sympathy for the parents involved, as some comments here seem to have suggested. Is it sad for them, in the sense that they are clearly people who don't seem to grasp the value of every individual life, from that of their children to the woman they hired to carry them? Yes, pitifully so. But they are no more victims than the dubious agency which they apparently hired to broker a deal in which they never bothered to meet their surrogate.

As one commenter suggested, this is not normal practice for those who pursue surrogacy as a road to family building. Who goes about something as serious and life-altering as gestating and birthing their child without a lot of research, some serious contractual specifics in place and at least a certain level of comfort with the person hired to do so (which would entail meeting said individual)? If it were me, that would be the last venture in which I would be looking to cut costs.

And while I'm willing to believe that a 21 year old women from a small village in Thailand might be naive enough to overlook or not fully grasp these details, I can't understand why a couple who had undertaken fertility treatments would be. After all, experiences like IVF and surrogacy are not something you just enter into on a whim - almost by definition they normally involve a huge amount of forethought, soul-searching, weighing up options and preparedness.

And I would still argue that to normalize these people or to speak of their rights in this situation discredits those who enter into surrogacy arrangements out of a genuine desire to parent (and also smacks more than a little of the extent to which western notions of entitlement foreclose the rights of the surrogates in such a scenario). This really isn't about biological parents' right to termination, which of course should be respected. It's not a story about Down syndrome either, except insofar as some people see it as a marker of undesirability. No, we don't know all the details of what went on and who knew or understood what, but at the very least we know this couple hired a surrogate in a country where they knew there to be few if any regulations and precisely because it would be a cheap option. I'm not the only one to see parallels with The Handmaid's Tale here, and all this is said better there. (I won't even touch on the latest reports of an investigation into the biological father.)

As others have mentioned, there are so many things wrong with this story on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin. What I can't see is any interpretation in which the couple are anything other than complicit at best, and exploitive at worst in this whole situation.

But actually, this was supposed to be a post about how some genuinely good developments have come out of a horrible situation. Not all people are bastards, if we just know where to take the discussion. My faith in people is renewed. And to end on a high note, this picture of Gammy being loved on by his surrogate brother is kind of adorable.



  1. I'm glad some good developments are coming out of this. It is such a sad story I don't even know what to say. Hoping that Gammy's story will raise more awareness and compassion.

  2. I agree with all of this. I'm so glad you have drawn attention to this story - it's bang on that those of is facing infertility don't make these types of decisions lightly. It's really baffling to me that this has happened... That a mother and a father have left their baby behind because of unforeseen issues. It hurts my heart.

    I feel bad for this mom and dad not because they were faced with a situation they weren't willing to deal with at face value, but because it is they who will have to face the judgment of their children in years to come. They have made harsh decisions that they will undoubtedly have to confront in years to come.

  3. Yes, there are lots of non-bastards in the world, and some really exceptional people. Like YOU. So yes, there is hope. Sounds like this story is getting more and more complicated though. Hope some good comes of the situation.

  4. Holy crap, I just followed the link about the father's abuse investigation. Gawd. So effing screwed up.

    Baby Gammy seems like one loved little boy. Yep , that pic certainly is adorable!


Don't be shy, leave a comment. Your words brighten my day!