Technology has taken the world past the traditional categories, it would seem. Rather than scratching our heads and thinking that perhaps it's problemmatic, we just change the categories and carry on with our day.
A surrogate mother who has no genetic connection to the baby she is carrying does not have to be listed as the mother on a birth certificate, Maryland's highest court ruled Wednesday.
The case arose from twins born in the Washington suburbs in 2001. The woman who carried the twins for a father used an egg donor and had no genetic relationship to them. Both she and the father did not want her listed as the mother.
"Maryland's breaking ground here," said Dorrance Dickens, a Washington lawyer who argued the case for the father and the surrogate mother. Though judges routinely allow blank spaces for mothers on birth certificates in surrogate cases, Dickens said Maryland's court is the first to use a state Equal Rights Amendment to make the decision. In a 56-page decision, the majority argued that a man who can prove he has no genetic relationship to a child can be ruled not to be its father, so a woman should have the same ability.
"The methods by which people can produce children have changed," Chief Justice Robert Bell wrote in the decision. "... The paternity statute, clearly, did not contemplate the many potential legal issues arising from these new technologies, issues that will continue to arise unless the laws are rewritten or construed in light of these new technologies."
Aren't we clever! Methods change, and the law will just have to keep up. This justification carries tremendous portents within it:
"The majority, in essence, holds that if you do not intend to be the mother, you should not be responsible as a mother," Cathell wrote. "There are probably tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of fathers (and certainly mothers as well) who did not intend to be parents at the time of the actions that led to conception, who have been judicially determined to be responsible for the support of the child they did not intend to conceive."
Intention. That's a dangerous precedent, assuming that most men now seeking intimacy with women don't intend to be fathers. In fact, even many mothers are caught by "surprise." Could it be that all "accidents" will be without either parent on birth certificates of the future? Good thing God wants to father us; and Holy Mother Church extends her loving embrace as well. That's the adoption we count on!
A sentence from the dissenting opinion carries the money quote:
Not all judges agreed. In a dissent, Judge Dale Cathell said the father had the twins "manufactured" and then didn't want them to be listed as having a mother.
The children involved in such cases are chattel, products, consumer items -- customised, but merchandise all the same. This is at the heart of the Church's teaching about reproductive technologies. The child has rights -- and a basic right is to be created in a dignified way, as the result of a commited conjugal act. Anything short of that is abuse. It can be overcome in hard cases with grace and forgiveness (i.e. rape, or being born outside a committed union) but to have deliberately sought abusive conditions as the preferred setting is unconscionable.