I know that the New York Times' Ross Douthat has many fans among our commenters, and though I don't always agree with him, he is quickly becoming a must read. Last month's column on abortion in America was nuanced and provocative, and sparked an interesting, if predictable, response from readers.
Last week Douthat looked at the fertility industry--specifically, the rapidly expanding market for sperm and eggs:
You can shop for gametes the way you’d go shopping for a house or a car — buying ova from an Ivy League undergraduate, or sperm from a 6-foot-8, athletic, blue-eyed Dane. The person selling you the right to bear and rear their biological offspring can do so anonymously, with no future strings attached at all.
The result is a freewheeling fertility marketplace whose impact on American life keeps increasing. Sperm donations generate between 30,000 and 60,000 conceptions every year, and roughly 6,000 children are conceived through egg donation annually as well. About a million American adults, if not more, are the biological children of sperm donors.
Douthat contrats the fertility marketplace with the process of adoption, which in most cases requires prospective parents to undergo extensive background checks and counseling sessions. He cites a recent survey indicating that children conceived through sperm donation often have to deal with complicated psychological issues:
Americans conceived through sperm donation also are more likely to feel alienated from their immediate family than either biological or adopted children. They’re twice as likely as adoptees to report envying peers who knew their biological parents, twice as likely to worry that their parents “might have lied to me about important matters” and three times as likely to report feeling “confused about who is a member of my family and who is not.”
Douthat's conclusion that some regulation of the fertility industry seems was mostly met with criticism from Times readers. I'm interested in what our readers have to say. Of course, church teaching is clear on this issue, but it is highly unlikely that public policy will ever follow the church's lead here. Then what should be done?
As a recent adoptive parent, who took part in several counseling sessions prior to adopting our daughter, I am very grateful for the guidance that I received. Raising an adopted child raises a host of complicated emotional issues, and I don't think my wife and I could have handled them alone. One of the reasons we chose to adopt through an agency is because they offer an array of post-adoption services for both children and parents. Encouraging fertility centers to offer these same services may be one way to help would-be parents to navigate the rocky shoals of surrogacy.
It seems to me the psychological health of the child must be our paramount concern here. And frankly, too often that fact is overlooked in the drive to conceive. So, what can be done to change the culture? How can we create an atmosphere in which parenthood is treated as the serious moral endeavor that it is?
I look forward to your responses.