A California polyamorous throuple has made history in the state by becoming the first to list all three men as fathers on their children’s birth certificates. The two children, Piper, a 3 year old girl (born in 2017) and Parker, a one year old boy (born last year), were conceived by use of donor eggs and donor embryos and the services of a friend offering to act as a surrogate.
The process to enable the three men to be legally made fathers involved hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on legal fees, as well as individual contracts which were required to be executed between each man and each woman. Parenting agreements were drafted before the men finally won the right to their “poly birth certificate”.
The three men refer to the tricky legal processes involved as well as the medical setbacks, their feeling of being outsiders in the process and the stress and the pain of the entire process, which however the men state was “worth it” in the end.
While the focus has been on the three men involved, there is much less that has been said about the impact of surrogacy on the women or the children involved in this story.
We are told that their pre-schooler Piper sees her daddies as a source of pride. “She told a classmate, “You have two parents. I have three parents.”
Cute anecdotes aside, the deeper issue side-stepped in the news coverage is the portrayal of surrogacy as a kind-hearted and compassionate practice. The truth is that surrogacy in and of itself is unethical. Behind the positive headlines and photogenic family shots, lies an industry that in the words of Kajsa Ekis Ekman, ‘buys and sells human life, where a mother is nothing, deprived even of the right to be called ‘mum’ and the customer is everything.”
Also skimmed-over in this story is that the children in this family have been deliberately separated from any notion of a mother – neither the woman who donated her eggs or the one who donated embryos, nor the woman who carried the babies in her body for nine months - are considered to be the children’s mother. The message being sent to these children is that ‘mothers’ are an option, an aside; dispensable even. The women in this scenario have effectively been erased.
Instead, the preferences of the “fathers” have been elevated above the rights and well-being of both the mothers and the children. Surrogacy commodifies both women and children and involves the deliberate removal of a child from its birth mother – who may also be its biological mother – for no reason other than that the commissioning parents want the child and are willing to pay for it. This process deliberately preferences the needs of the commissioning parents above those of the most vulnerable parties involved in the ‘transaction’ – the child and the birth mother.
No amount of positive publicity can change this reality.