Very Real Children, Not Synthetic, Are Being Denied their Rights

No doubt you’ve heard about the boycott of Dolce and Gabbana proposed by Elton John as a result of Domenic Dolce saying that In Vitro Fertilization (IFV) children, such as John’s, are “synthetic.”

The row created a great deal of discussion on social media and talk shows with parents who had utilized reproductive technologies defending IVF children with a knee jerk reaction from the left defending LGBTIQ rights without considering the rights of the children.

Domenic Dolce said that children are born to a mother and father, or should be. In fact, every human being is the progeny of a man and woman. No matter how those genetic materials are manipulated and no matter who raises the child, it takes male sperm and the egg of a female to form a child. We have not yet discovered a way to synthesize these elements (though we would if we could, and no doubt will some day in the future).

Elton John and supporters turned the discussion into a gay rights issue. Many reacted with shock that Dolce, who is himself gay, said that he preferred children be raised in traditional male/husband female/wife families. Sharon Osborne suggested on The View that his comment exemplified self-hate for a gay man. Mrs. O seems to think there is one “right” way all gays should think or believe belying the fact that there are gay Republicans and Democrats; gay liberals and conservatives; and those who identify with a variety of religions, or have no religious belief. Stephan Gabbana, in fact, later reported that he disagreed with his former romantic partner Dolce on the issue of IFV.

Not a Gay Rights Issue

Reproductive technologies are not a gay rights issue. In vitro fertilization (IVF) which Dolce expressed opposition to, has been used by heterosexual couples since 1978 when the first “test tube baby,” Louise Brown, was born.

Historically, after fertilization the embryos were implanted into the woman whose egg was fertilized and who would raise the child. The genetic parents thus obtained medical assistance to help the egg and sperm do what they have done on their own since the beginning of time. The resulting family is just as “traditional” as any other mother, father, and child related to both of them.

IVF, however, often utilizes a practice called “intracytoplasmic sperm injection” = ICSI (pronounced “ick-c”).

“This practice,” says Michael A. Palladino, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Science, and Professor of Biology at Monmouth University, NJ, “is highly controversial.  Entirely immotile sperm which would never make it to the egg in the body or in a dish, let alone muster enough swimming force to penetrate an egg, can/are being injected directly into the cytoplasm of egg cells.  Thus the nuclear genome is delivered but bypassing a major selective pressure of evolution designed to ensure that only viable sperm (as dictated by their genes) make it to the egg.  In the years since ICSI has started, many children of ICSI have been studied and there is some very troublesome data (of no surprise to geneticists) about the frequency of genetic abnormalities in these individuals.”

Elton John and his husband David Furnish, and any other two men on the other hand, cannot reproduce using solely IVF with or without ICSI. This is not because they are being discriminated against by unjust laws, it is simply biology. Gay couples who wish to be parents without adopting need to purchase an egg that is extracted from a woman to have it fertilized via IVF and also need to hire a surrogate to gestate and birth the child for them.

The sale of eggs and surrogacy are controversial when utilized by both gay and straight persons. It is not a gay rights issue that surrogacy is fraught with medical, ethical, and legal problems.  There are real and serious health risks to surrogate mothers as well as issues of class and exploitation of less fortunate persons who need to sell their genetic material or “rent their wombs” for gestation.

Jennifer Lahl’s documentaries Eggsploitation, and Breeders illustrate the troubling issues when using women as breeders.

Others share her concerns of the commercialization of these procedures and services as well as the anonymity of donors which create children who are left devoid of half or all of the medical history.

These procedures create intentionally parentless children. Children of anonymous third – and fourth –  party reproductive technologies are severed from their genetic parents without an original birth certificate that adoptees are fighting state by state to regain access to. One of the reasons would-be parents chose these technologies over adoption is to have a child who is biologically connected to one of them. That connection is important to them yet they create children with half of their genetic heredity difficult or impossible to recover.

Lesbian procreation, while it does not require a surrogate, utilizes sperm which is most often purchased from anonymous sperm banks, again creating a difficult to impossible search for their children.

Child Rights

We abhor cultures who ignore children’s rights using them as unpaid labor, soldiers, or prostitutes, yet we support the “right” to buy and sell genetic material and create children denied the most basic rights of every human being – the right to not be commodified or trafficked to meet a demand. We also deny them the right to their true identity including knowledge of their progenitors who “begat” them.

The United States has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and we too often neglect to see that children need to be seen as humans with rights of their own that may, in fact, be in conflict with those who vie for them.

Alana Newman and Hattie Hart are donor-conceived individuals who wrote a letter supporting Dolce and Gabbana saying:

Every human being has a mother and a father, and to cut either from a child’s life is to rob the child of dignity, humanity, and equality.

[I]nfants, toddlers, and all of these ‘miracle’ beings are too young to protest their own objectification. We however, are now of age and in a position to speak for ourselves. ‘Synthetic’ indeed is a harsh and inaccurate description of us offspring born by third-party reproduction. Dolce’s word choice was a mistake. But there is much underlying truth in what he said that life [does] have a natural flow, and that “there are things that should not be changed”.

Adoption is another option that both gay and straight couples, as well as single men and women, avail themselves of to acquire a family. Consider the irony in which single women were rebuked for decades for becoming pregnant outside of marriage and forced into marriage or adoption to legitimize their child.  The whole purpose of adoption was to take these “bastard” children of unwed mothers and allow them to be raised in traditional families. Now, suggesting the superiority of the traditional family is seen as gay bashing.

Adoption has long created unrelated families, purporting to help, “rescue,” or “save” children in need. The number of children in state care who could be adopted despite the high demand contradicts that ideal, however. The truth is that adoption has become a demand-driven marketplace for those who can afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars per child and ignore the corruption, trafficking, and exploitation that such fees support.

These concerns, like those about surrogacy, apply equally for hetero- and homosexual adoption; and, let us bear in mind that there is no “right” to a child for anyone, gay or straight, no entitlement to another’s child or to create one.

The LGBTIQ rights movement has huge amounts of financial backers, and celebrity and political allies. Where are the allies and the money to protect the rights of the children being created or transferred, or the poor women being used as laying hens and breeders of children for the rich? Where is “due process” and “equal protection” for the women and the children?

Mirah Riben has been researching and writing about adoption since 1980. She is former director of the American Adoption Congress and author of two internationally acclaimed books on adoption and dozens of published articles. Read other articles by Mirah, or visit Mirah's website.