As my wife and I lobbied in the Louisiana legislature this spring, trying to stop a bill legitimizing surrogacy, an image from the Screwtape Letters came to mind. In it, C.S. Lewis describes his vision of Hell:
I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.
Thus far, our protesting has been to no avail. On May 4, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed the bill, and two weeks later the Senate followed suit. The only thing that can stop the bill now is a veto from Governor John Bel Edwards.
The name of the bill is HB 1102, and I’m sure Screwtape would be proud of it. Just look at the amendment that was added after the House floor debate. It contains several pages full of bone-chillingly cold, anti-human language such as “On page 5, line 18, delete ‘mother’ and insert ‘carrier,’ and delete ‘husband’ and insert ‘spouse.’” How right C.S. Lewis was. In our days, humanity is not erased in concentration camps but in PDF documents.
The authors and proponents of this bill claim to be pro-life, but they don’t seem concerned about the destruction of human embryos that will be caused by this bill. They claim to be Catholic, but they completely disregard clear statements condemning surrogacy from Pope Francis, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops. They claim to be conservative, but they want to venture into a massive social experiment in which mothers are demoted to mere “gestational carriers,” and maternal-infant bonds are severed at will.
These legislators are embracing artificial reproductive technologies because they have fallen for a distorted understanding of human rights.
Surrogacy and the “Right to Privacy”
Nobody really seems to know what a “right to privacy” is. Yet, as Dr. Janet Smith has written, over the last fifty years this “right” has been used to legitimize everything from keeping one’s diary private to killing one’s unborn children. For those who want to advance the Sexual Revolution, the concept is deliciously vague and elastic.
One of the main arguments in support of HB 1102 was that since the bill restricts the use of surrogacy to married couples using their own gametes, there is no need to worry about any widespread abuse or misuse. This was the exact same argument used in Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court decision that struck down laws prohibiting the use and distribution of contraceptives in the name of the right to marital privacy. It took a mere seven years before this right to privacy was found to extend to unmarried couples as well. In the 1972 case of Eisenstadt v. Baird we read:
If under Griswold the distribution of contraceptives to married persons cannot be prohibited, a ban on distribution to unmarried persons would be equally impermissible. It is true that in Griswold the right to privacy in question inhered in the marital relationship. Yet the marital couple is not an independent entity with a mind and a heart of its own, but an association of two individuals each with a separate intellectual and emotional makeup. If the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.
All of a sudden, “reproductive rights” were at the heart of the right to privacy. People were taught that they had the right to choose, through the use of contraceptives, whether or not they wished for a child to result from their sexual activity. But why should this right be restricted only to contraceptives? Sure enough, it only took one year before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide. The Supreme Court later confirmed the connection and logic behind its decision in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992:
Abortion is customarily chosen as an unplanned response to the consequence of unplanned activity to the failure of conventional birth control . . . People have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event contraception should fail.
Today, this line of thought has been applied to procuring a child as well as disposing of one. Through artificial reproductive technologies, “begetting” a child is now possible for anyone with a will and a wallet. Louisiana LGBT groups know this, so does the multibillion-dollar fertility industry. With the precedent set by Supreme Court cases involving contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage, it will be difficult to deny anyone—not just married heterosexual couples— equal access to surrogacy.
Artificial Reproduction Is Not Pro-Life
Over the last few decades, pro-lifers have strongly opposed this destructive expansion of the right to privacy. Still, it seems that all the talk of personal rights managed to rub off on us, distorting our thinking. Many of those who oppose the use of rights-talk to destroy human life have begun to yield to the same arguments when wielded by those who want to create it. Some seem to believe that artificial reproductive technology (ART) can serve as an antidote to a culture of death.
This is simply not true. ART is not an antidote—it’s more poison from the same source.
Consider the arguments used to support the Louisiana bill. The original author, Senator Gary Smith, used two surrogates in order to have two children with his wife. On May 4, secondary author Rep. Stuart Bishop, who also used “medical help” to have children, took the stand to defend his bill before the House:
At some point over the next six or seven years, I’ve got to have that conversation with [my children] about the birds and the bees. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to tell them because it scares me to even think about it, but I know what I’m not going to tell them. I’m not going to tell them that when they grow up and they meet the woman of their dreams and they want to spend the rest of their life with her and they want to have a family . . . I’m not going to tell them that there’s a possibility that you are not going to be able to have that family.
If you believe that children are gifts from God and not commodities, then it becomes clear that you don’t have the right to dispose of or acquire them. Either God is our lawgiver, or rights are simply man-made inventions. When we embrace the latter idea, we become selfish relativists and hypocrites, more concerned with securing the good things in life for ourselves than caring for the well-being of others.
If we believe that God is the source of human rights, then we must focus not only on our rights, but on our responsibilities to others. And as Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, who also testified against the bill, has pointed out, there are many reasons for those who don’t believe in God to do so as well. Our legislators have a grave responsibility to protect the innocent from harm, to encourage a culture in which children can thrive, and to enable the next generation to dedicate their lives to serving the common good. As John Paul II put it, “the real purpose of civil law is to guarantee an ordered social coexistence in true justice, so that all may ‘lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way’(1 Tim 2:2).”
The law is a teacher. By legalizing surrogacy, Louisiana legislators are teaching people that it is morally permissible to use people as means to an end. They are telling people that one’s personal desires and wants should constitute the norms of one’s conscience. Laws like HB 1102 blur the line between the sacred and the commercial, legitimizing choices that will weave wounds into the fabric of relationships.
What happens when you are removed from your biological mother, in whose womb you have been formed for the past nine months, just seconds after birth? What are the consequences of being told that your biological mother is “just a carrier”? How is motherhood valued when childbearing is reduced to a temporary form of employment? How does it form your ability to love when you know that you were conceived as a result of signatures being exchanged on contracts, not through a conjugal act of love and mutual gift of self?
As Cardinal Sarah reminded us at this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, “the advent of artificial reproductive technologies, surrogacy, so-called homosexual ‘marriage,’ and other evils of gender ideology, will inflict even more wounds in the midst of the generations we live with.”
Never Do Evil That Good May Come of It
So what is a pro-life legislator to do?
Stop thinking about pro-life issues in terms of economics. The abortion of one child can never be redeemed by the making of another in a laboratory. While every child has infinite dignity, not every form of conception should be celebrated. Surrogacy involves systematic abortion, human trafficking, eugenics, serious health risks, and broken kinship bonds. Procreation is not exempt from the Christian principle that one must never do evil that good may come of it. If you work to defund Planned Parenthood while paving the way for a booming fertility industry, then you are just replacing one evil with another.
Stop buying into the rights talk that is pushing a radical individualism. By deconstructing parenthood into separable roles and services and using de-humanizing euphemisms to justify it, you are helping to facilitate the biggest social experiment in human history. President Ronald Reagan stated that the biggest mistake of his career was his decision, as governor, to sign no-fault divorce into law. Later in his life, he saw the profound suffering caused by his decision to place adult desires above children’s needs.
Lastly, be aware that legitimizing surrogacy means joining sides with those who are pushing transgender laws, which themselves threaten the rule of law. As Stella Morabito recently pointed out, such laws are based on a distorted vision of what it means to be human—particularly in the realms of sexuality, biology, and parenthood. We must not allow “the mass state to treat us only as isolated individuals, separated from our familial relationships.”
Legislators, if you truly want to serve the common good, you must look after the needs of the first and most vital unit of society: the natural family.