On Wednesday, Dr. Morse testified against the Louisiana surrogacy bill in Baton Rouge. Surrogacy is a social and medical experiment, with great risks to children. This is her prepared text.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my concerns about HB1102. I am the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization, with offices in San Diego, Pittsburgh, and now, Lake Charles, Louisiana. Our organization is dedicated to creating Christ-like solutions to the agony and injustice of family breakdown.
We oppose surrogacy on principle. We consider it a form of family breakdown. Surrogacy breaks down motherhood itself, reducing it to a series of functions. The genetic, gestational, care-giving and even the legally-recognized mothers could all be distinct individuals. The full impact of these divisions cannot be fully known at this time.
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However, we owe it to future generations to look down the road as far as we can, and try, at least, to anticipate the consequences.
We do know that infants attach to their mothers in the womb. Neonatal research has found that newborns can recognize their mothers by sight, by voice and even by odor. Research strongly suggests that prenatal infant attachment is correlated with secure attachment between mother and infant after birth.
We have no idea how surrogacy affects this. Does a secure attachment between the gestational carrier and the infant translate into a secure attachment with the genetic mother? Does a disruption of the bond between the gestational carrier harm the child? We just don’t know.
The practice of surrogacy amounts to a social experiment using babies as subjects. The adults involved, surrogates, donors and commissioning parents, can give meaningful consent, at least in principle. But children, in the nature of things, cannot consent. We have a responsibility to protect their interests, which they cannot protect themselves. Experimenting on small children is morally objectionable, even if it turns out tolerably well. The burden of proof should be on those who claim surrogacy is harmless, not on me to prove specific and identifiable harms.
The Ruth Institute has produced a brochure entitled “Children and Donor Conception and Assisted Reproduction. This is one in a series of pamphlets outlining the risks and harms associated with various forms of family breakdown. I present a copy for the record. I also present a copy of the 16-page report that details the scientific studies supporting the brochure.
On the inside, you will see a chart detailing the medical risks to children from IVF and ICSI procedures. These risks include low birth weight, pre-term birth, cerebral palsy, and a variety of genetic imprinting disorders. One study finds that IVF babies on average, weigh almost one full pound less, and have a 5 times greater risk of being very pre-term, compared with naturally conceived infants. These risks are relevant to this bill, because every surrogacy procedure involves the use of medically-assisted fertilization outside the body.
The inside flap of the pamphlet allows donor-conceived persons to speak for themselves.
I realize that HB1102 limits surrogacy to married couples, using their own gametes. I appreciate this. The drafters of the bill evidently recognize the potential harms posed by third party reproduction.
However, in the post-Obergefell world, I doubt these limitations will survive judicial scrutiny. Some legally married couples in Louisiana will be same sex couples. Some of them will want to use third party gametes to meet their reproductive goals. Excluding them, even indirectly, will certainly be declared unconstitutional.
Hence, this bill opens the Pandora’s Box of third party reproduction, whether you intend it or not. These problems must be weighed in the decision of whether to pass HB1102.
The study of the psychological impact of donor conception is preliminary. But these anecdotes are heartbreaking. One donor-conceived person said, “The words, ‘I’m not your real father,’ will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Surrogacy is illegal in many countries, including Finland, France, Italy and Hong Kong. Other countries that permit surrogacy, such as India and Thailand are tightening their laws because of abuses and problems.
I moved to Louisiana because I was impressed by the prudence and wisdom of its people. Let other states and countries run the surrogacy experiment. The decisions we make today will affect Louisiana citizens for generations. Let us watch for another ten years and gather the evidence we need to make a truly informed judgment.
As a woman who experienced four miserable years of infertility, I am well aware of how urgently people sometimes feel about these issues. However, no public health crisis demands immediate action on this bill. Cooler heads must prevail.
Do not legalize surrogacy contracts in Louisiana.
Jennifer Roback Morse Ph.D. is Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization, dedicated to creating a Christ-like solution to family breakdown.Visit at www.ruthinstitute.org or facebook.com/TheRuthInstitute/
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