By Katy Faust
The Washington State legislature is planning to ring in the new year by violating children’s rights as they consider SB 6037, “The Uniform Parenting Act.”
In discussions on family structure- whether you’re talking about marriage, divorce, or the booming fertility industry- the desire of adults takes center stage. SB 6037 is no different. If you peruse the 55-page bill you’ll discover that any consideration of the rights or needs of children is shockingly absent. But just because the bill fails to acknowledge their rights, it doesn’t mean that children don’t have them.
Here are six reasons why this bill is bad for kids and should be roundly rejected.
- According to SB 6037 Dead Unrelated Adults Have More Rights than Children
When it comes to family, children have universally-recognized rights. At the very top of the list; children have a natural right to a relationship with both biological parents whenever possible. The United Nations enshrined this childhood right in their Convention on the Rights of the Child—the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. When these rights are respected and children are raised and loved by both biological parents, it maximizes their chances for a physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy life. Child Trends reports, “..it is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seems to support children’s development.”
What happens when a child’s right to their mother and father is ignored? SB 6037 shows us – children are objectified and put at risk. They become commodities that can be cut and pasted into any adult arrangement. Maybe one parent, or two or three or maybe more. Men and/or women. Married or unmarried. Genetically related or genetic strangers. Living or dead.
I wish I were joking. But, according to SB 6037, deceased unrelated adults who the child has never met but who “intended” to parent prior to their death, can be recognized as a child’s “parent.”
In other words, the desires of a dead adult matter more to the State than a child’s right.
- It Replaces “Biology” with “Intent” as the Basis for Parenthood
Despite the fact that children have a right to (and often desperately long for) a relationship with both their biological mother and father, SB 6037 grants parental authority to any adult who intends to parent a child created through reproductive technologies, regardless of their biological relationship to the child.
Biological connection has been the foundation of parenthood in every society throughout history for good reason. The biological bond distinguishes the parent/child relationship from any other relationship. Parental rights expert Melissa Moschella explains,
“The relationship between children and their biological parents is intimate, permanent, and identity-constituting. It defines the biological aspect of the child’s identity—for if the child had different biological parents, he would not be the same person; indeed he would not exist at all. Children do not miss being loved by those with whom they have no intimate relationship; the unique, irreplaceable intimacy of the parent-child relationship manifests itself in the fact that a child can miss the specific love and care of an absent biological parent, even when he is well-loved by (say) adoptive parents.”
I am an adoptive mom and I will tell you that even a loving, well-intentioned adoptive parent cannot replace or fully compensate for the loss of a child’s biological parent. That’s why adult adoptees often search for their birth parents and many have been fighting for decades to obtain copies of their original birth certificates. It’s also why donor-conceived people are turning to DNA searches like Ancestery.com to find any biological relatives from fourth cousins to half-siblings or (the grand prize), their egg or sperm “donor” who many consider to be the parent they were never allowed to know.
While it is sometimes impossible to be raised by both biological parents, those situations are tragic for children and they should never be intentionally replicated through reproductive technologies. Further, to have such grievous circumstances normalized, encouraged or incentivized by government is appalling.
- It’s Dangerous.
And by dangerous, I don’t mean in the abstract sense. Statistically, the most dangerous place for a child is in the home of an unrelated cohabiting male. Google the words “mother’s boyfriend” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s well established within the social science community that biological parents are statistically the safest adults in a child’s life. While there are certainly heroic step-parents out there (I’m honored to know several) the reality is neither a romantic relationship with one’s biological parent nor an “intent” to parent mitigates the increased risk of abuse, neglect or abandonment that children face from unrelated caregivers. That means donor-conceived people begin life, statistically, in a more risky family structure because there will always be at least one non-biological parent. In no way should such arrangements be sanctioned by government.
Social workers understand the risks that unrelated custodial adults pose to children and that’s why adoptive parents, like my husband and I, rightly undergo exhaustive vetting prior to placement. Adoption specialists know full well that “intent” alone does not a good parent make. Intent must be accompanied by fingerprints, background checks, references, parent training, and post-placement supervision. Acquiring unrelated children should never be easy. But SB 6037 makes it possible with the stroke of a pen.
- Surrogacy or Trafficking? Depends on the Timing
One of the most shocking provisions in SB 6037, is the section on genetic surrogacy. A genetic surrogate is a woman pregnant with her own biological child. A child that she can legally sell if she is in possession of a surrogacy contract signed prior to conception. Without a contract, that same transaction is considered child trafficking according to state and federal law. In one case, she’s “helping someone become a parent.” In the other… she’s a felon. Of course, the baby won’t understand that legal distinction; either way they lose their mother upon payment. Here’s what one surrogate-born man has to say about it:
“I don’t care why my parents or my mother did this. It looks to me like I was bought and sold. You can dress it up with as many pretty words as you want… But the fact is that someone has contracted you to make a child, give up your parental rights and hand over your flesh and blood child. When you exchange something for money it is called a commodity. Babies are not commodities. Babies are human beings.”
Even if the child is born to a gestational surrogate (non-genetic mother), that woman is still the only parent that the child knows. It’s her voice, her smell, her body that the baby craves. Separation from that mother, regardless of the genetic connection, is traumatic for babies. In any other circumstance, the separation of children from their mothers rightly elicits a response of outrage or grief. Yet when we are shown pictures of children with their “intended parents” after they’ve been lifted from their surrogate mother’s body, we are supposed to celebrate.
I guarantee you, the baby isn’t celebrating.
- It Creates Government-Approved Stateless Children
When it comes to surrogacy, SB 6037 flips the state from “red” to “green.” It overturns Washington’s prohibition on commercial surrogacy and makes the state an international surrogacy destination. To qualify as an approved Washington Surrogacy contract, the parties simply need to have one appointment in the state. That means “intended parents” can find a poor brown woman from abroad, impregnate her, fly her to Seattle for the weekend, send her back and “Viola!” they have a “Washington Surrogacy” contract. Or, “intended parents” from countries like France and Germany (there’s no stipulation that any party needs to be a Washington resident) where surrogacy is banned could complete the initial medical evaluation in Spokane while other medical procedures and appointments take place (literally anywhere in the world that permits surrogacy contract/arrangements) overseas. The result? Another violation of children’s rights; their “right to a nationality” as the “intended parents” will be unable to bring the child into their country and/or make them a citizen. After all, the “illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad” is also a violation of children’s rights.
No matter how it happens, surrogacy is fraught with ethical issues. That’s why so many countries are banning it outright. Whether you are a feminist concerned with how surrogacy exploits vulnerable women or an activist fighting human trafficking, there is no shortage of reasons to object to this inhumane practice. The list of troubling surrogacy cases is endless; from pedophiles who custom-order children to abuse, to a single, mentally unstable, disabled man who used surrogacy to father triplets, to abandoned “defective” surrogate babies. Surrogacy isn’t something that Washington State (or any state) should be known for.
- A Growing Number of Donor-Conceived Adults Are Critical of Donor Conception
Many donor-conceived children aren’t children anymore. They’re adults who strongly object to the practice of purchasing genetic material from one (or both) biological parents to manufacture children because:
- It treats children as objects to be shopped for and sold: “I knew from an early age that I was purchased and selected from essentially a catalog. I knew that my blonde hair and blue eyes was somehow valued above other colorations —because my mother never fell in love with my father, he was never a full human being to her only a handful of breeding details… ” – Alana Newman
- It intentionally denies children a relationship with one/both biological parents and extended family “Not only have I personally experienced what feels like the death of my biological father, but I also continue to grieve for the loss of the opportunity to know my biological half-siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents” –Kathleen LaBounty
- It leads to identity struggles and strained family relationships: “The practice of “donor conception” left me with this tangible feeling of the ground constantly shifting under my feet, a never-ending stream of trust issues and a lost kinship with the first male role model in my young adult life.” – Nicholas Isel
The largest study ever conducted on children conceived via sperm donation found that on average they “are hurting more, are more confused, and feel more isolated from their families. They fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes such as depression, delinquency, and substance abuse.”
It’s no wonder more and more donor-conceived children oppose this “new way of making families.” Or, as one donor-conceived woman puts it, this “new way of ripping families apart.”
Act Like Adults and Protect Kids by Rejecting SB 6037
Biology-based parenting views children as vulnerable humans with rights and around whom adults should orient their lives. The intent-based parenthood outlined in SB 6037 treats children as commodities which can be legally swapped and traded, cut and pasted into any and every conceivable adult arrangement. And statistically, no other “arrangement” offers children the level of benefits- or the biological identity- that being raised in the home of both biological parents will.
And let’s just say that our Senators ignore the rights of children and pass SB 6037- legally erasing their bond to one or both biological parents. They will make some adults very happy, but they won’t be able to legislate away a child’s longing for their mother and father.
If you’re in Washington State and think that children’s right should trump adult desires, instruct your senator to put Them (the kids) before Us (adults) and vote down SB 6037.
Katy Faust is the founder of Them Before Us
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