The recent case of baby buying which made headlines around the world is still being played out. You will recall the appalling story of a Perth couple who changed their minds midstream, leaving one twin baby left behind in Thailand with his surrogate: baby Gammy.
Well, the story keeps getting worse. In this unregulated world of baby buying and selling, it seems anyone can make a purchase of a baby, without any sort of background check. So it turns out that the Australian father was twice imprisoned for paedophilia.
As one report states, “Farnell was jailed in the late 1990s for sexually molesting two girls under the age of 10 and was sentenced to three years behind bars. While serving time for that crime, in 1998 he was charged with six counts of indecently dealing with a child under the age of 13 and was convicted and sentenced again.”
Things do not stop there however. Since this case broke, we are learning much more about the sordid world of baby buying. Thailand has some major problems here, as a recent news report highlighted:
Thailand’s “baby factory” scandal has widened with revelations a suspected human trafficker fathered 15 babies through 11 surrogate mothers. Mitsuoki Shigeta, 24, a client of the most popular surrogacy clinic in the Thai capital for Australians, is believed to have fathered nine babies aged six months to one year taken from a Bangkok condominium last week whom DNA tests show were fathered by one man.
Records in Bangkok show that 15 children have been registered as children of Mr Shigeta, who left Thailand within hours of police raiding the condominium and finding the babies and a pregnant Thai woman. Four babies, two of whom are twins, were taken out of Thailand by Mr Shigeta before the scandal broke amid a crackdown on commercial surrogacy in Thailand that was prompted by a Fairfax Media report on baby Gammy’s plight.
Another article dealing with this same man goes on to say this:
A Japanese man suspected of fathering at least 15 surrogate children in Thailand planned to sire up to 1000, the Japan Times reports. The 24-year-old man said he wanted to produce between 100 and 1000 babies, according to the co-founder of an organisation that provides surrogate services in Thailand and other countries. “The best thing I can do for the world is to leave many children,” Mariam Kukunashvili of New Life Global Network quoted him as saying.
Actually it is the very worst thing he can do. To deliberately bring a child into the world – let alone 1000 children – and deny them the most important persons in their life – their own biological mother and father – is actually a form of child neglect, if not child abuse. The social science research is overwhelmingly clear on the importance of a biological mother and father to a child.
And other cases of purchased babies going to adults later found to be into paedophilia or child pornography continue to emerge. This story of another Australian couple followed soon after the baby Gammy story broke:
The biological father of surrogate twins born in Thailand has been charged with 10 counts of indecent dealing and possession of child pornography. The NSW man, aged in his 50s, and his older now ex-wife became parents to twins after their 23-year-old Thai surrogate gave birth several years ago….
The man also faces charges of possession of 53 child pornography images. He has denied all charges and will appear in court in December. The Thai surrogate mother, now 30, — who has two children of her own — said her mother was paid $7000 through a Thai agency, which is about half the normal rate. For legal reasons, the gender of the twins cannot be revealed.
Moreover, it is not just baby Gammy who was dumped after being bought, when less than perfection was discovered. It happens too often unfortunately. A recent case from the UK is equally shocking:
A British surrogate mother said yesterday that she is raising a disabled baby as her own after the child’s intended mother told her she did not want a ‘dribbling cabbage’ for a daughter. The girl, who has congenital myotonic dystrophy, is one of twins born to the surrogate. The healthy boy was taken home by the childless British couple whom the surrogate mother claims then rejected his unwell sister because of her disability. The mother – referred to as Jenny to protect her identity – told The Sun: ‘I was shocked. I could not believe what I was hearing.’ She is now raising the baby – identified only as Amy – with her partner and their other children.
And when babies become mere commodities – simply objects of monetary exchange – then the descent of barbarism is nearly complete. Yet we find this happening all over the Western world. In the name of helping women and infertile couples, we have managed to turn one of the most sacred and special things – childbirth – into one of the most profane and ugly things.
With the new assisted reproductive technologies we have in so many ways cheapened life, depersonalised parenthood, and trivialised family. It is even worse when these things become a means of making money. Some concerned thinkers have been warning about the commercialisation of reproduction for years now.
Feminist writer and academic Renate Klein is one such critic who has warned about the dangers of the IVF industry for three decades now. The baby Gammy case also motivated her to put pen to paper again on this. She writes:
What have we done as a society that beautiful young women risk their lives and health and give their babies away? That people with money can commission a custom-made baby from an Indian woman their child will never know? Have we forgotten the many heartbreaking stories from adoption? Don’t we know about donor children in desperate need of finding their sperm donor? Why are we repeating these mistakes, and why are we not even talking about it?
We need to reduce the demand for surrogacy. Surrogacy is a heartless, exploitative, capitalist enterprise. There is no right to a child; children are not commodities, and surrogates are not just “suitcases” or “angels” (depending on your point of view). Infertility can be very sad but we need to also understand that many women are pushed into surrogacy because of IVF failures (more income for IVF clinics). There are so many children around who deserve love and attention – why insist on your own genes and commodify a woman in the process (even if she says it’s her “choice” or she needs the money)? Introducing commercial surrogacy in Australia is not the answer. Reducing demand for all types of surrogacy is.
There is a fair degree of the open slather side of things taking place in all this. Thus we need to get beyond photos of cute babies, or smiling couples with their latest purchase, and ask some hard questions here. As Rickard Newman puts it, “Third-party reproduction is a prism for violations against humanity. IVF and the sperm trade launched a wicked industry that now includes abortion, eugenics, human trafficking, and deliberate family fragmentation.”