The Australian newspaper, and Melinda Tankard Reist’s website today features an article titled Gestational carrier is an ugly term. It turns out MTR is referring to the descriptor used by Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban to explain the role of the woman who carried their new child, Faith Margaret.
As a poster points out, the term “gestational carrier” refers specifically to a surrogate who has no biological ties to the infant she carries. The term “traditional surrogacy” is used when the surrogate is the infant’s natural mother. In using the term, the couple were making this distinction public.
Tankard Reist claims the term “strips the woman of her humanity.” She continues:
THE objectification of women’s bodies and commodification of childbirth came together yesterday in a single antiseptic phrase contained in the announcement of a second child for actress Nicole Kidman and her musician husband Keith Urban.
Wow. Welcome to the world, baby Faith. But quickly! Cover the baby’s ears somebody, please! Don’t let that bad fairy hovering over her cradle ill-wish the child with this dark description of her genesis.
Surely MTR can’t be suggesting Kidman and Urban are guilty of objectification and commodification in their dealings with their gestational carrier?
And if she is, how does she know?
MTR then refers to “womb slavery in India,” the “disposable uterus,” and tells several horrible stories of surrogacy arrangements gone badly wrong.
Quite what the link is between baby Faith’s happy birth and these dark stories is unclear. Except that MTR has seized the occasion to once again promote her one-sided perceptions of surrogacy.
She certainly is a glass half empty kind of gal. Apparently, because a situation carries the possibility of exploitation that’s the only aspect of it we should consider. And then we should ban it. No mention anywhere of successful surrogacies and the ensuing joys. No stories from women who’ve generously carried an infant for other women who couldn’t, and been glad and proud to have been the bearers of great happiness.
But that’s not all. Today’s post is almost identical with a piece MTR wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald , November 8 2006 after the birth of Senator Stephen Conroy and wife Paula Benson’s baby, also carried by a surrogate. Apparently MTR hasn’t been able to find more recent horror stories to tell about surrogacy in the ensuing five years, because she uses the same examples.
A visit the to the website unbelief.org reveals where MTR is coming from. Briefly, she founded the Women’s Forum Australia, a “pro-life” feminist organization or an “anti-choice” feminist organization, depending on your point of view. For twelve years she worked for ultra-conservative Tasmanian Senator Brian Harradine as his bioethics advisor. During his time with MTR, Harradine successfully negotiated a long standing ban on the drug RU 486, known in some circles as the “abortion pill.”
In her rhetoric against abortion MTR makes repeated and unproven claims that it is linked to incidences of breast cancer.
MTR shows up, always invited,at occasions and conferences run by religious organizations as various as Opus Dei, the Festival of Light, the Australian Christian Lobby, and Warwick Marsh’s conservative Christian “fathers’ rights” association. Bill Meuhlenberg, religious ethicist opposed to homosexuality, is also a fan.
Who was it said by their friends ye shall know them?
It’s probably quite sad to be someone who takes the occasions of other peoples’ joy, and uses them to highlight only darkness. Yes, there are undoubtedly situations in which surrogacy arrangements are far from equitable. Yes, there may be difficulties when the child wants to know her origins. Yes, Melinda, there is nothing in the world that doesn’t have its dark side. One of the challenges of life is to find our way through them into the light. Banning them all won’t cut it.
Put a case against surrogacy by all means. It should be out there, we need to be fully informed.
But do you have to cast your doom and gloom over the two occasions when the people involved seem loving and decent, and probably aren’t doing anything wrong to anybody in their desire to have and raise a child?
And isn’t it a little tiny bit opportunistic to seize these high profile cases on which to hoist your banner of propaganda?
BTW. Tankard Reist has apparently successfully produced four children of her own. Therefore she has never had to deal with the feelings of a woman who wants to carry and give birth to her child, but can’t.
How does she know the Kidman/Urban fertility status?
Count your blessings, Tankard Reist, and don’t judge those who aren’t as fortunate.
PS: I think there’s something in the theory that we see what we choose to see. That we construct our own reality. MTR sees only darkness, misery and exploitation in surrogacy. That’s her vision. She’s entitled to it.
But she isn’t entitled to prescribe that vision for everyone. She isn’t entitled to project that darkness onto people she doesn’t even know. It’s her darkness. We don’t all have to get down there in it with her.