White Baby Lust and Surrogacy Gone Wrong: An Update

In February of 2016, I posted about a woman who was carrying triplets through a surrogacy program.  The man who had hired her to carry his children (conceived with white Ukrainian eggs) expressed alarm both at the expenses involved in a high risk pregnancy and those involved in raising three babies alone at once.  He asked her to selectively reduce the number of fetuses she was carrying, and she refused.  Upon getting to know this man a little better, she had serious misgivings about relinquishing any of the babies to him at all.  It was a huge legal mess, and you can read the original post here. 

So what happened to the babies, the woman who carried them and the man who desperately wanted children of his own (specifically male children who carried his DNA)?

The babies were born in Los Angeles in February of 2016 but were not released until April.  This is not surprising, given they were triplets and almost definitely preemies,  but I didn’t find any information saying they had any specific immediate health problems, so that’s the good news.

That’s the only good news, I’m afraid.  The hospital staff was so concerned that the father, who has now been identified as Chester Shannon Moore Jr., a deaf man in his 50’s who works the night shift at the post office, would be unable to care for the babies, that 3 nurses and a doctor flew home with him to Georgia to make sure the babies were ok according to this People magazine article.  This sounds both alarming and somewhat fishy to me.  But I’m afraid it does not get better from here.

The surrogate, Melissa Cook, tried to regain custody of the babies, who if you remember, are not biologically related to her.  In California, surrogates have no parental rights, and in January, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a state court’s decision denying her attempt to gain parental rights, stating that the federal court lacked jurisdiction.  This means that Moore’s fitness as a parent was not addressed.   The Supreme Court has refused to hear the case even though Moore’s sister, Melinda Burnett, filed a 12 page affidavit claiming he was an unfit parent.

Burnett claims the babies live in a basement full of second-hand smoke in a home Moore shares with his chain smoking elderly parents and a heroin-addict nephew.  He has been accused of making the kids eat off the floor and not changing their diapers frequently enough to the point that the rashes required medical attention.  This is the point where I take a moment to think that if I had to raise triplets in my parents’ basement alone, they might end up eating off the floor occasionally, too.  Diaper rash due to infrequent changing can be serious, but it’s pretty common, and it probably doesn’t in of itself fall under criminal negligence although I might reconsider that if I had more information.  I figure Moore is not the first single parent to struggle with a $100 plus per month per kid diaper bill.  I wouldn’t want any babies I carried to be raised that way to be sure, but I guess that’s what would make me a poor candidate for giving away children that grew in my body.   The court is pretty clear that I would get absolutely no say in the matter, and I just don’t think I could do it.

What actually disturbs me more is Burnett’s description of her brother as being socially awkward, paranoid, and prone to anger.  And the biggest reddest OMG flag of all is her reports of cruelty to animals both when he was a child and also more recently.  I realize not everyone shares my books-about-serial-killers hobby, but we all know that’s really really bad.

Moore’s lawyer claims the triplets are doing just fine and that the backlash against his client is good old-fashioned discrimination against the disabled.  Come on, now.  That’s insulting to all the great parents out there with disabilities who are raising great kids.  Nobody is claiming this man cannot raise children because he is deaf.   The greatest joy of  being a blogger rather than a journalist is I can share with you what I really think.  I think this guy is a first class creep who has no business raising children.  I think the surrogacy agency (who is now providing him with legal defense) was negligent in this arrangement, and I think it’s only a matter of time until these three babies end up in state custody.  Social services has already been contacted, so this story is ongoing.

Michelle Cook has been painted as a heroine of the anti-choice movement for refusing to abort and being willing to take in the three babies as her own.  I’m not sure she got a win for the movement, here, though.  I don’t see any winners at all, not even Moore who I suspect is fully aware he is in over his head and is simply doubling down, probably at the urging of the agency that brokered this arrangement since they still maintain they did nothing wrong.  It’s a cruel irony that the man who claimed he was unable to care for a third child is now responsible for that  child while demonstrating a profound lack of ability to manage even one.  Are we ready to unpack the moral implications of the technology that allows a 46 year old woman to carry triplets, the parents of whom she has never met –A Ukranian woman who can sell her white eggs at a premium and a disturbed man so desperate for his own family of male children who look like him that he bought them?   Are we ready to legislate it?  Are we ready to say that not everyone who wants their own biological child should be allowed to have one (or three)?  And what about all the children, many of them of color, who are already here needing families of their own?   What does this debacle say to them?





How the Pro-Life Movement Lost its Soul

Whatever your religious or philosophical background, most of us fall for the idea that humans are special somehow, that we are more than the sum of our biological components.  Ok, you biologists out there may not agree, but the idea of the soul, whatever you may call it is an idea I sympathize with, if not fully embrace (I’ve studied a lot of biology).

Yet I do appreciate the sentiment, even so far as it reaches the unborn.  Maybe that spark, whatever it is, happens at the moment of conception.  Maybe that life is sacred, unique, suddenly, irreversibly human.  If the pro-life movement wants to argue that united gametes are life, it’s hard to argue.  We think in binary, after all, and if it’s not life, it’s certainly not death.  If there is a third category, defining it proves to be elusive. What if the spark comes first and the flesh just grows around it?

If the human soul is intangible, science is ill-equipped to disprove its existence.  That’s why it’s beautiful for us all to believe different things about the origins of humanness.  Problems occur, of course, when politics get involved.  Don’t they always?  I think the political movement claiming ultimate authority as to when life begins has taken on a life of its own.  And it all starts to fall apart when the movement fails to protect the very core of its belief system.  It fails to protect the soul.

When Donald Trump claimed last week that he thought women who had abortions, were they illegal, should be punished.  As distasteful as this idea may be, it’s not exactly illogical.  As a society, we generally accept that people should be punished for committing crimes.  But the pro-life movement responded immediately to disavow both the candidate and his statement.  He back pedaled, as politicians who speak before they think (or learn anything about the abortion debate) are wont to do, but not before being schooled on what the pro-life movement really stands for.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed Marjorie Dannenfelser of the pro-life group, the Susan B. Anthony list, about this very issue, and she made her feelings on punishing women for abortions quite clear.  “The pro-life movement has never, for a very good reason, promoted the idea that we punish women, she told Inskeep. “In fact, we believe that women are being punished before the abortion ever occurs. In other words, the early feminists believed this was the ultimate exploitation of women.”  Abortion, in other words, is punishment enough.

I hardly see this argument as pro-woman.  It implies that a woman is simply incapable of making the decision to terminate no matter how much she has thought through her options.  Apparently, Ms. Dannenfelser thinks all women should be treated like underage children, legally incapable of consenting to what happens to their own bodies.  Women should not even be respected enough to be held responsible for committing a crime.

But not only that, what about that spark we talked about?  That unique human soul that is created at conception.  The life that is so valuable that it is to be protected, even at the expense of the well-being or even the will of the mother.  If it is a human life equal to all others, how can we excuse women for being too stupid to know any better?  If a woman is convicted of killing her post-utero child, we expect her to go to jail.  So giving women a pass on abortion just illustrates that the spark, however special it may be, is not valued the same way as a human life.

I also take issue with those who try to offer compromises in terms of “exceptions.”  Many pro-lifers, trying to soften the image of absolutists, claim if a mother is raped or a victim of incest, then abortion should be allowed.  In other words, if a man was responsible for the pregnancy, then it’s ok to terminate it.  It’s only when a woman has consented to sex that an embryo is suddenly an irreplaceable human life.  Abortion is murder or it isn’t. And the pro-life movement just proved to me that it’s not.

I’m calling you out.  Your political stance is not about compassion.  It’s not about protecting babies, and it’s certainly not about protecting women.  It’s about control. And don’t bother to hide behind your religion.  Or at least not the part where it defines life as occurring at conception.  Where is that part exactly? I lost my bookmark.  Now, if you mean the part where women should be property used only for the purpose of begetting progeny, then carry on.

To those of you who do believe abortion is murder period, that egg and sperm, once united, are so special that no one has the right to end that spark of a holy zygote:  well maybe you and I can find some common ground.  Maybe we can work together to end the stigma of single motherhood, to provide evidence based sex-education for all our kids, to give every baby that is born love and a home.  If you are not willing to do that, then calling yourself pro-life is just a smokescreen for shaming and controlling women for making choices about their bodies



Guess What Happens When you Defund Planned Parenthood!

In 2013, white male Texas lawmakers decided to ban Planned Parenthood from participating in Medicaid, falsely assuring the public that low income patients would be able to obtain family planning services elsewhere from new and existing programs. Dick move, Texas.
This shows a stunning lack of awareness of what actually happens when women do not have access to birth control. (Spoiler: women get pregnant.) But in case you are wondering, the results are in. The New England Journal of medicine just published a study called the “Effect of Removal of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program.”
Despite a nationwide trend towards use of long acting methods of birth control, researchers found a significant decrease in the number of women who used the IUD and the implant as well as those that used the 4 times a year shot, Depo Provera in Texas Counties that used to be served by federally funded Planned Parenthoods.  These are the most effective non-permanent types of birth control we have, so it should surprise no one that the limitation of access to these methods would cause an increase in birth rate.

The researchers note:
The introduction of additional barriers to access to LARC [long acting] methods by the exclusion of skilled, specialized family-planning providers was associated with a shift toward methods that have lower rates of efficacy and continuation and, in the case of women who used injectable contraceptives in the fourth quarter of 2012, an increase in the rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid.
Women who had been covered by Medicaid visited their Planned Parenthoods to receive an injection of Depo Provera every 3 months free of charge. After the ban, however, those same patients needed to come up with $60 or more per shot. The number of women in counties served by Planned Parenthood who returned for additional shots decreased from 56.9% to only 37.7%. Just 18 months later, there is already an increase in the number of Medicaid covered childbirths. Surely that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Women who want to control their fertility are the future for fighting poverty. I can think of nothing more important to the health and prosperity of a family or of a woman than making a conscious decision to limit the number of babies that they bring into the world. We have the technology. We have the resources. You don’t need an economics degree to realize it is cheaper to prevent pregnancy than to raise a child.
So what possible excuse do we have for creating obstacles to reproductive health care? It’s immoral and inexcusable. Just how much is the current backlash against Planned Parenthood going to cost us? Do we as a society find it acceptable that the religious norms made up by old white men to control women cause poor women, and especially poor women of color, to suffer the most? Are you angry? I sure am. If you can, join me in making a small donation to Planned Parenthood today. It matters.