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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Monday, May 30, 2016
Pro-Family Political Leaders and legislators: here is some low-hanging legislative fruit. Propose that your state standardize the reporting for all IVF clinics in your state. The measure you want is Live Birth per Cycle Initiated. This proposal allow you to educate the public, including women who are being misled by the industry. This proposal also allows you to take the moral high ground as a consumer protection advocate, in opposition to the fertility industry, which really does take advantage of very vulnerable people.
You don't want the number of pregnancies because not all pregnancies make it all the way to the birth of a live child. This is especially true with IVF because the rates of miscarriages and still birth are higher than for naturally conceived children.
You also don't want the number of "embryo transfers" as your baseline number. Not all women make it to the point of doing a successful embryo transfer into the woman's uterus. The woman may have difficulty at the stage of egg retrieval or fertilization for instance. Yet she has been through a cycle. Her body and soul have taken some abuse. It is not fair for the clinics to exclude these women from their "success rates."
This story quote a couple of IVF experts from Australia, but the point is the same everywhere. Women contemplating assisted reproduction have a right to know the actual probability of success, for the amount of money and physical trauma she will experience per cycle.
Fertility clinic websites have a number of different ways of reporting success rates. For instance, clinics may report success rates in terms of pregnancy, or they may report it in terms of live birth rate per embryo transfer.
IVF pioneer Alan Trounson said pregnancy rates were not helpful to the consumer, because some pregnancies were lost.
"What you need to know is the probability of having a baby, because you didn't come in to get pregnant, you came in to have a baby," he said.
On top of that, Professor Norman said clinics defined "pregnancy" differently in their website claims.
If you count a pregnancy at an earlier stage, or a later stage, the statistics change — and that also meant consumers could not make proper comparisons between websites.
"There's [a] big inconsistency," Professor Norman said.
"You'll find some clinics define pregnancy on the basis of an ultrasound.
"Others are included from 12 weeks onwards, so it's a bit of a mess all over the place."
Some clinics also present success rates in terms of live birth rate per embryo transfer.
But this does not reflect all those women who could not make it to the embryo transfer stage. If your eggs could not be retrieved, or fertilised, you are not included in this statistic.
Also, see Dr. Norman's "5 things to ask your fertility doctor."
Posted on: Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Politicians want power and to pass on their genes at any cost.
by Alana Newman, from her newsletter Coalition Against Reproductive Trafficking, sent May 15, 2016.
Let me tell you about my Senate committee hearing experience.
In the last several weeks, I have had my first legislative experience. For a decade now, I have focused my energy on story-telling, speaking, and publishing articles. I tell the truth—mine and others'—when and where I am invited. My skills don't naturally synch with political strategy, but regarding Louisiana's current surrogacy bill, HB 1102—I feel a great responsibility to share what I've learned and rescue my beloved state before the legislature makes a huge mistake.
I am greatly disappointed by the behavior of the proponents of this bill. They claimed that the provisions in their updated bill would not allow sophisticated people to exploit surrogate mothers (for example, not "allowing" commissioning parents to pay a surrogate to abort)—yet every move they've made thus far proves that sophisticated and powerful people will do whatever it takes to get what they want.
May 4th was the House Floor vote. It passed. The next step— the Senate Committee vote—appeared on the schedule for May 17th, which would have allowed for opposition voices to prepare, organize, and make childcare and travel arrangements to come to the capitol. However, on Monday May 9th at 4 pm, the schedule was changed and the committee hearing was rescheduled for Tuesday, May 10th at 9:30 am.
This was a shady move that gave opposition less than 18 hours (including sleep) to get it together and have their voice heard. I knew of at least four experts who were willing and wanting to testify, who could not because of the impossible logistics. This included former Yale professor, President of The Ruth Institute and author of Smart Sex, and Love & Economics, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse as well as Staci Gulino—a psychiatric mental health expert and former labor and delivery nurse specializing in attachment and maternal-infant health. Also wanting to attend and testify were two LA family life experts, David Dawson and Rickard Newman.
I heard about the schedule changes at 7:30 pm, and at 8 months pregnant, and even though my family is in the middle of moving, I woke up at 5 am to drive
to Baton Rouge and testify. I was mocked and literally laughed at during my testimony shockingly by Senator Gary Smith—who is the original author
of this bill and used two surrogates in order to have his two children with his wife, a long time state lobbyist.
The truth is that the authors of this bill felt that oh-so-intense need to pass on their genes, and were willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars
to use a stranger as a surrogate to do it. They are now using their power and political skills to change state law to appease their consciences.
The bill's authors claim to be pro-life, but they do not seem at all concerned about the sanctity and humanity of the many embryos that will be destroyed with this bill. They claim to be Catholic, but they have completely disregarded Pope Francis's condemnation of surrogacy along with clear statements from the LA conference of Catholic Bishops. They claim to be conservative, but they are at ease venturing into this massive social experiment on children whereby mothers are dehumanized as "gestational carriers" and the maternal-infant bonds are nowhere given consideration.
I tremble for the future of Louisiana. The law teaches—and this law teaches that birthmothers are unimportant and disposable.
People will go to great lengths to pass on their genes—that desire is what it is. But while families are good and every child a worthy human being worth infinite dignity—not every form of conception should be celebrated. Surrogacy involves serious health risks, human trafficking, eugenics, systematic abortion, and broken maternal-infant bonds. Therefore, we don't need it in Louisiana.
Please reach out to your state senator.
Posted on: Monday, May 09, 2016
Update: Alana Newman got up the next day at 5 AM, drove all the way to Baton Rouge by herself. She testified. Alana told me that when she showed up to testify, Katherine Smith, the wife of Senator Gary Smith, shot her a very dirty look. The plan to keep Alana away failed!
I am incredibly proud of Alana!
I just sent a version of this letter to several Louisiana newspapers. It speaks for itself. Yes, I'm annoyed.
To the editor:
HB 1102 proposes to legalize surrogacy contracts in Louisiana for the first time. I am concerned about the unprofessional manner in which this bill is
Neither of us has been able to testify on HB1102. We were told the night before the house hearing that it had been postponed, and we shouldn’t drive from Lake Charles. The very morning of the hearing, the committee decided to consider the bill. We were of course, not present.
We came for a second house hearing. Mrs. Newman (who is 8 months pregnant) came with her husband and two pre-school children. Halfway down I-10, we learned
that we could only testify regarding the public records consequences of the bill. We both scrambled to adapt our testimony. We were interrupted and not permitted to complete our testimony.
Tonight, May 9, after close of business, we learn that the bill will be considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee B, tomorrow at 9:30 AM.
I do not believe the whole sequence of events preventing our testimony is a coincidence.
The chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee B is Senator Gary Smith. He and his wife have been very public about their use of surrogacy for the birth of their two children. Senator Smith should recuse himself from this topic.
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Founder and President, The Ruth Institute
Posted on: Friday, May 06, 2016
Watch Representative Joe Lopinto assume the very thing that needs to be proven: he asserts that the genetic parents should not have to adopt their "own" child. But according to Louisiana law, and indeed the law of every civilized country until the day before yesterday, the woman who gives birth to the child is the child's mother.
When a husband and wife make love, the man "donates" his sperm to his wife. The woman "donates" her eggs to her husband. Actually, each of them donates their entire selves to the other. This unlimited gift of self may result in the creation of a new life. In a lifelong, sexually exclusive union of one man and one woman, the identity of the mother and father is certain. There is no ambiguity. The business of the law of the state is simply to record what the law of love has created.
All this changes when we remove our sperm or eggs from the body. Now, the law is involved. Contracts and commerce are involved.
The woman who removes her eggs from her body and gives them to another woman to gestate, is the person who has created the ambiguity about the identity of the child's mother. It is right and just that the obligation to clarify the situation should rest with her, and not with the woman who gives birth to the child.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 02, 2015
I’m convinced that removing the gender requirement from marriage will expand the power of the state into areas that are currently none of its business and should never be any of its business. So, I’m frustrated by highly visible, strategically-positioned conservatives who support removing the gender requirement from marriage. For example, the editor of Townhall, Guy Benson, revealed not only that he is gay, but also that he favors redefining marriage. Jason Lee Steorts, the Managing Editor of National Review, published a lengthy article calling for the redefinition of marriage.
This recent case in the United Kingdom illustrates why I’m concerned. A perfectly fit mother lost custody of her child. She was a “traditional” and “informal” surrogate mother. In this context, “traditional” means that she used her own egg, not the egg of a donor. “Informal” means that she did not have a written surrogacy contract with the “intended parents.” And “surrogate” means that she planned to give the baby she carried for nine months, to the “intended parents” in exchange for money.
In other words, she agreed to sell her baby. But once the baby was born, the mother did not want to give the baby up at all.
So why did the judge decide that she must surrender her child to the “intended parents?”
They were a gay couple. The mother made disparaging comments about these two men. The judge ruled that the mother was “obsessive” and “manipulative and duplicitous.” The judge even admitted that “although the baby had come to no harm under its mother’s care, the child would have a more open and healthy upbringing with her father and his partner.” The judge followed up her ruling with a gag order: the mother may not speak about the case publicly until 2032 when the child is 18.
In other words, the state took a little girl from her mother and placed her with members of a politically-favored class.
Look at the discretion and power these legal arrangements give an already out of control judiciary. Three grown-ups have a dispute about who counts as the legal parents. Who steps in to help? Why the all-powerful state, of course. The judge can give any reason or no reason, a good reason or a bad reason.
I frankly don’t care about the reason.
It is bad enough that the divorce industry gives family courts the power to allocate the time perfectly fit parents are permitted to spend with their own children. Genderless marriage goes the extra mile in expanding state power: it gives the state the power to decide who counts as a parent in the first place.
You might say this incident is only about surrogacy, and has nothing to do with gay marriage. You may personally favor gay marriage but oppose surrogacy. I reply that the legal status of surrogacy has everything to do with the definition of marriage, whether any of us likes it or not.
Genderless marriage will create genderless parenthood. Natural biological relationships will be systematically and routinely overridden by socially-constructed government-created relationships. The redefinition of marriage will create its own momentum for adjusting the legal system to further favor and support surrogacy. The political and social pressure will be unstoppable.
Adoption might seem like a precedent that favors surrogacy. But this is not really the case. A child becomes available for adoption only because either a) the biological parents have been found unfit or b) the biological parents voluntarily surrender their parental rights. Neither of those took place here.
Also in an adoption, some evidence will be taken to show the fitness of the adoptive parents. My husband and I had a home study, and a background check, including fingerprinting, before we adopted our son. With surrogacy, intended parents face no such requirements. Anyone with money gets to do anything they want.
So here are my questions for conservatives who support removing the gender requirement from marriage:
Question #1: Why should the government enforce a contract to purchase a human being? How is this the legitimate activity of any government, much less a minimum government?
Question #2: Why should any conservative wish to permit judges the kind of power that is inherent in the deconstruction of parenthood?
Question #3: What about the rights of the child? Has this little girl no rights to her mother? Has she no right to know her identity? Can you possibly argue that the child gave her consent to be deprived of her mother?
And finally, Question #4: Do you really hate women so much that you would create legal institutions that deliberately marginalize mothers in this way? Do you really have such contempt for the poor and the weak, including children, that you would create a set of legal institutions that favors the rich and the strong so blatantly?
In other words, is the right really what its opponents have always claimed: a bunch of rich white men, using political power to further their own privileges, and keep women and the poor in their place?
If not, then quit fooling around trying to make a “conservative case for gay marriage.”
Surrogacy is a profound attack on human dignity and equality. Surrogacy will result in an expansion of the state. Surrogacy is a structural injustice to children and a violation of their civil rights. Redefining marriage will redefine parenthood. Conservatives should be leading the charge to put a stop to all this, not playing footsie with it by supporting the redefinition of marriage.