The Manufacture and Commodification of Children

A hallmark of contemporary Western culture is an obsessive fixation on the wants and desires of adults, to the exclusion of all else. As long as individual adults are happy, who gives a rip about anything else, be it the rest of society, or even any children involved.

But most human choices and actions are not done in isolation, but will have an impact on others. And plenty of the new “reproductive rights” have a huge impact on others, especially children. Yet children are the real losers in the new reproductive technologies, with adult whims trumping the wellbeing of children.

We find three explicit examples of this in today’s press. The first concerns a brief item about a woman in Victoria who is selling her kids on eBay. Yes you heard me right. The story begins this way: “A Victorian woman is being investigated after she offered her children for sale on the internet. Police were called in last week when an auction notice appeared on eBay offering two children for sale. A Geelong woman was selling her son and daughter, both under the age of 10, to the highest bidder. Police tracked her down but she told detectives she was only joking.”

Yeah, some joke. The kids probably love it alright. As I said in one media interview, there are plenty of children, certainly around this age, who are struggling with issues of identity and self-worth and so on. To know that your own parent has put you up on offer like a used CD is certainly a concern and could well have a negative impact on these children.

The full details of the story are not yet in, so we don’t know if this in fact was a sick joke or even more sadly, the real deal. Either way it does not say much about the mother. But it is something we can expect to see happening more often I suspect. Kids can now be purchased as commodities, so why can’t they be sold as commodities as well?

The next two stories have to do with IVF. The first one has to do with winning a chance to get an IVF baby through the lottery. Here is how the news reports are covering this: “Experts have reacted with dismay to a plan by the organiser of the world’s first IVF lottery to bring it to Australia.

“The lottery, which experts have blasted for preying on desperate infertile couples and ‘demeaning human life’, gives ticket holders a chance to ‘win’ a baby. Thousands of £20 tickets will go up for grabs on July 30 in the UK, giving the winner £25,000 ($37,000) worth of fertility treatment to realise their dream of parenthood. The competition has the approval of Britain’s Gaming Commission.

“The prize includes accommodation at a luxury hotel, a chauffeur to take the winner to appointments and a personal assistant. The winner will choose their own fertility clinic, as well as having their fertility drugs and therapies paid for. And if the standard treatment isn’t successful, the winner can choose another way of fulfilling the deal, such as reproductive surgery, donor eggs or a surrogate birth.

“Lottery organiser Camille Strachan, who set up the fertility support group To Hatch after her own failed IVF treatment, said the competition would help relieve financial pressures on would-be parents. ‘Bringing this to Australia this year is at the forefront of my mind because I do get a lot of members from Australia and infertility is just as big a problem in Australia as it is in the UK,’ said Ms Strachan, who is also considering starting lotteries for expensive cancer treatment and aged care.”

This is not just the commodification of children but the commercialisation of the entire reproductive process. The truth is, IVF is an intrusive and intensive procedure, which often does not bring “success” after just the first cycle. And there are plenty of reasons why even in the best of cases we should be cautious about IVF.

I highlight some of these concerns here: billmuehlenberg.com/2007/08/30/concerns-about-ivf/
And here: billmuehlenberg.com/2009/06/15/more-concerns-about-ivf/

Children are – or should be seen as – one of life’s greatest treasures, and not seen cynically as just some raffle prize or giveaway in some cheap contest. Beginning life in that cynical fashion cheapens their chances of a normal life. They may well struggle with issues of self-image and worth, knowing they were simply the product of a contest.

Life in general is already full of enough gimmicks without turning one of the great experiences into a trivialised affair. But again, this is just part of the way we have cheapened life, with our children becoming mere commodities and objects in an increasingly sick adult world.

A third example has to do with proposed changes to Australian IVF laws, allowing for gender-selection IVF. A review is now under way to see if the law should be changed to permit this. It appears to be yet one more move to cater to selfish adult lifestyles, instead of focusing on the wellbeing of children.

We need to recall that when IVF was first allowed in Australia it was only available to married couples who were genuinely infertile. Even that was a questionable move at the time, but things have changed radically since then, as the slippery slope has well and truly entered into all this.

Soon enough de facto couples were also allowed access to these IVF programs, and then more recently, lesbians and singles were granted access. Medical infertility gave way to “social infertility” in other words. Even those who are perfectly capable of having a child if they simply stick to the means given us by nature have now won the right to expensive and invasive assisted reproduction technologies.

Using IVF to now simply pick your child’s gender is simply more of this move to elevate adult rights above every other concern, and it is yet another case where children have simply become political guinea pigs in our attempts at radical social engineering.

Today it is selling kids on eBay, IVF lotteries, and gender selection. Tomorrow it will be what? One can only imagine – and cringe. Children are clearly the big losers here, and their fate will only further worsen as we allow adults to do whatever they want for whatever reason they want, irrespective of the consequences to others.

We should have heeded the warning signs two or three decades ago. Things now may be too late. But any society which calls itself civilised must do all it can to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves. What we do to our children will determine what kind of society we will have to look forward to. And at the moment things are not looking very promising.

www.abc.net.au/news/2011-07-17/kids-for-sale-ebay/2797604
www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/win-a-baby-lotto-sparks-disgust/story-fn7x8me2-1226096009441
www.bodyandsoul.com.au/parenting+pregnancy/pregnancy/gender+selection+should+we+get+a+sayr,13241

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9 Replies to “The Manufacture and Commodification of Children”

  1. If I’m not mistaken, the only way to “pick your child’s gender” through IVF is to fertilize eggs, then only implant the one(s) that are of the desired sex. What happens to the other fertilized eggs? They’re presumably destroyed. Each of those destroyed eggs is a human life.

    This is indeed a very frivolous reason to kill your offspring– because they aren’t the sex you want them to be. Whether it happens before or after birth, the results are the same.

    Ronin Akechi

  2. Agree with parts of this article (especially the horrid story of the children for sale on Ebay), but not sure that the lotto case was as morally heinous as you suggest.

    There are some people out there that are genuinely desperate for a child of their own and the lotto may be one way they could afford it if they are the lucky winners. It does seem a little in bad taste but I don’t think the winners would necessarily be likely to treat the child any less than it needs (though I think a good case can be made that lotto is immoral for different reasons).

    There are certainly serious moral dilemmas surrounding IVF but that is also a separate issue.

    Damien Spillane

  3. Bill,
    I saw an obstetrician objecting to the lottery because it “preyed on people’s strong desire to have a child”. Huh? Every lottery ticket sold is “preying on people’s strong desire to be rich”! What she could not or would not articulate was that a human life has intrinsic value in and of itself and that putting IVF up as a prize was wrong because of the human life involved.
    Lucy Zubova

  4. We are strange people as we have pigeon holed things and we make sure that one set of pigeon holed things do not reflect other ones so we can say 1. It is a mothers right to choose the sex of her baby, the right to kill or not to kill the baby, the right to claim damages if the unborn child is injured in any accident. 2. the right to drink, smoke and take drugs while pregnant or nursing an infant. Yet we all would be quick to speak ill of those who deprive their children of ‘necessities of life’ whether poverty stricken or not. We claim more should be done for those in dire need in the “3rd” world. We support the the rights of children of children and the decisions of the UN and yet the UN Charter of the rights of the child states that:the unborn child has the same rights as the born child.

    We are a strange bunch

    Milton Caine

  5. IVF by it’s very nature involves fertilizing eggs and not using them all. Gender selection from an unused fertilized eggs point of view is no worse than general IVF from what I understand. Implanting several zygotes and then “thining the herd” through selective reduction, or aborting some of the babies is common practice.

    It is interesting that when it comes to born children, even infants a couple must pass criteria to insure they are an appropriate couple to bring up the child as adoptive or foster parents. As I understand it anyone with enough money can make their own child irrespective of their parenting suitabilities.

    Science as brought us to a place where people can not only have someone else (a nanny) bring up their child but they can also get someone else to do the work of gestating and conceiving the child for them.

    Kylie Anderson

  6. Thanks Kylie

    After reading what you had to say, i felt you bought back Gods wisdom into the arena.
    1 – Thinning the herd = repulsive
    2 – having enough money verses pass criteria
    3 – someone else do the work, gestating-conceiving-a nanny

    Makes me wonder why they bother, only to have this baby grow up and wonder the same thing.

    Daniel Kempton

  7. Damien,

    I respect your right to comment on the behalf of others, however to say that a lotto ticket may be the only way for a couple to afford a child is stretching it a bit. IVF can be expensive, but not to the point described by the Lottery organizer, at least not here in Australia having been down that road ourselves and its expense certainly does not justify having a lottery.

    I think what really disgusts people about the lottery is apart from the fact that it trivializes and demeans human life, is that it is a way for the organizer to make a bucket load of money by playing on vulnerable peoples emotions. Such is how low we as a society have sunk, that we will do almost anything for the dollar. We have become morally bankrupt. Let us pray that those who have the power to stop this madness, do so.

    For couples who desperately want to have children but cannot, I would ask that they consider adoption as we did. There are literally millions of orphans out there desperate for a mum and dad. If Ms Strachan genuinely wanted to do something for childless couples, she should consider helping with adoptions, especially since there are such long waiting lists for IVF treatment in her home country.

    Fred Merlo

  8. This idea is clearly a business plan for a niche market as there are other lotteries in place which can be subscribed to to win a large cash sum for IVF treatment. The conception of babies is traduced to talk of viable blastocysts or the collection and fertilisation of eggs in a test tube, a commodity to be acquired but selfishness is toxic to a baby. Selfish people can’t do families and if they can’t get rid of the selfishness – best not to have a baby.
    Rachel Smith

  9. Bill I agree with your sentiments in the main. The way we consider children nowadays is probably the worst it’s been in mans history. I would like to draw your attention to the upcoming review and protocol proposal for the UN Rights of the Child Convention. This is not a good thing. If Australia signs and ratifies this protocol we will relinquish all our rights to raise children as our religious convictions dictate,and give the government/UN the discretionary power to determine what is best for our kids for us. Only ten countries are required to sign it for it to become force under international law, if and when we sign we will be obligated under law to comply. Much the same as we are under the Kyoto Protocol that Mr Rudd signed on our behalf. John Loeffler on his Steel on Steel radio show talks with a retired judge about this and it is very enlightening and disturbing. I urge you to look into this and form your own opinion, and when you have, help alert other Aussies to this diabolical treaty.
    Mark Harrison

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