Work is busy this week; I’m in the biopsy centre where we power through biopsies, random, targeted, inpatient, outpatient. Last night I thought I was tired from my work day, but then today I started sneezing yellow snot. Bugger. My social media feeds have been dominated over the past 24 hours by two things: the suicide of a popular entertainer (generating a lot of sympathetic nods and sagely quotes that have replaced the last few weeks’ constant stream of Israel-Gaza conflict images) and, increasingly bizarre responses to the recent case of an Australian couple accessing a Thai surrogate, resulting in the birth of a male baby and female baby, where the Down Syndrome male was left with the surrogate mother and the female, brought home to Australia. I knew this would create a shit-storm and it has. And it affects me, currently living on the opposite side of the planet. Meanwhile I tweeted a disclosure that I recently discovered that “pickles” are in fact “pickled cucumbers” and not a vegetable called “pickle”, that was also pickled. Guess what gets the disproportionate response? Add a picture of a cat and a spelling mistake and it would go viral.
A University of Melbourne Professor has written an opinion piece on commercial surrogacy. “Reject commercial surrogacy as another form of human trafficking“. I had expected an academic, at a Professor level, to have had the skill to write her point of view without resort to emotive language and flawed arguments. My response is to replace the word “baby” with “doctor” and “commercial surrogacy” with “Medical School” to filter out whether her arguments have merit, or are just as bigoted as they sound. My position remains unchanged; that Australia should seek to legislate to better regulate surrogacy, perhaps lead the world in commercial surrogacy. And that’s not just because I’m an intending parent, and would prefer to start my family in my home state, with the support of my extended family. I’d like to think Australia can recognise when other countries don’t manage things too well (e.g. the U.S. healthcare system) and perhaps provide a better model (e.g. the Australian healthcare system, before it is butchered by our current Federal Government).
I’m tired of having to justify why I should be allowed the privilege of becoming a parent. As a doctor I’ve treated patients including teenage mothers, mothers who are drug addicts, and single mothers. I didn’t judge or ask them to justify their choice for parenthood, or their perceived right to bear children. I have no idea how wonderful and loving a parent they might have been for their children (except my mother, who was a single mother for a few years, and her children are both university educated, employed and have never been to prison despite the apparent setback). I’m sure there is literature published that their children might not fare so well, compared to “normal” controls. Does this make those mothers bad parents? None of them had to lobby parliament citing research articles that showed that other people like them might have been able to raise their own children, swimming against a tide of bigotry and hate in the opposite direction, to achieve outcomes either equal to or greater than a heterosexual white middle class couple could have done. If we are to accept the logic of “gay parents shouldn’t be allowed to raise children because I’ve cited an article showing that children do better if they have opposite sex parents” then equally all Indigenous Australians should be immediately banned from being parents (everybody knows that the statistics are stacked against Indigenous Australians for health outcomes, and incarceration). Etc. Such arguments “for the children” are to me thinly veiled prejudice. These children exist. They are the children of our friends.
Professor Jeffreys asserts, “… the problems that can arise when single men or men in couples can buy children who will have no mother of any kind. These children may be acquired for the purposes of abuse, and there may be no woman with an interest in the child’s welfare around to protect that child.” She leaps to single male or male-male parents to be incapable of protecting children or having interest in their child’s welfare. How sexist to assert that only women can provide this parenting role! And one negative gruesome case involving gay parents tars every other gay parent with the same brush. I’m half-Chinese and in Chinese culture family consists more then just the parents and first-degree relatives. Children of gay parents don’t grow up in a vacuum without extended family, or friends. Does Professor Jeffreys passionately seek to remove orphans from the care of nuns (where there are obviously no males) or monks (no women with an interest in the child’s welfare)? She’s only pointed out the most emotive and extreme cases, and exploited them to her purpose. Shame.
Today Dave & Antony forwarded us this horrifying Submission on the Review of the Surrogacy Act 2008. For the past few years I’ve carefully saved up to be able, like several of our friends have already afforded to do, to access North American (regulated and established) commercial surrogacy and start a family. Daniel has managed to find travel destinations that mysteriously drain my savings. I’ve kept my head stuck in the sand that our home, Western Australia, wasn’t like NSW, Qld or the ACT with bizarre Surrogacy laws that would mean we’d have to move state or be liable to prosecution. Now one of our Liberal state politicians seeks to do the same. To me. To my future family. I will quote Penny Wong: “I know what my family is worth.” These proposed legislative changes would mean Daniel and I end up unable to return home, forced to separate from our extended families because our child risks his/her parents being jailed for having had chosen to reimburse our surrogate. Should I be lucky enough to start a family with my husband I would like for my extended family, in Western Australia, to be a part of our lives.
Meanwhile, after reading the ingredients on a jar of pickles, I know now that pickles are in fact pickled cucumbers and not a vegetable called “pickle”. I’ve copped so much flack for having gone to Medical School without knowing such a basic life fact. Yet, privately, a handful of friends (including other doctors) also didn’t know pickles were cucumbers. So maybe it should be on the Medical School Curriculum.