Modern family? More like a legal minefield
SADLY, for every Sonia Kruger, there’s a Sofia Vergara. Kruger is the poster girl for modern fertility solutions, while Vergara is the cautionary tale.
At 49 Kruger is the happy mother of a gorgeous baby, Maggie, now five months. She’s openly talked about how thrilled she is to be a mother after years of fertility treatment. She also went out of her way to stress that she used IVF and an egg donor.
It was a refreshing and honest approach that showed that complex fertility matters do not have to be controversial, legally difficult or hidden from public view. On the other hand, Vergara, the star of
shows what can happen when it all goes very wrong. She is taking her ex fiancé Nick Loeb to court to stop him having access to the fertilised embryos they created together six months before they separated. Loeb wants to “save” the two remaining embyros and have them implanted into a surrogate and brought to term. “A woman is entitled to bring a pregnancy to term even if the man objects,” he said.
However, it’s not an easy issue. Under the storage agreement, the embryos can only be removed from the facility with the consent of both Loeb and Vergara. Sadly, there were no provisions for what would happen if the couple separated. This means a nasty court case will now be fought over what right these two people have over the embryos they created back when they were in love.
It’s a messy situation that was unthinkable a few years ago. It goes to show the law clearly hasn’t kept up with the myriad ways we now have of forming families. This is important, because the battles are not just over cars, houses or businesses, but real people and their rights.
As the Loeb-Vergara spat shows, these fights go to the heart of life: the right of two embryos to be implanted and potentially become people.
I must stress that I am a happy mother-of-three, so do not begrudge anyone else the opportunity to do whatever it takes to make a family. I totally support the marvels of modern science being used to create all sorts of wonderful families. Whether it’s a donor egg, donor sperm or a surrogate, I’m all for it. However, we should remember that these wonderful new families can create legal, moral and ethical minefields which are still not well understood.
This is not a reason not to go down this path, just a reminder that it can be very complicated indeed.
For instance, in a recent case in the US there has been legal action over the custody of triplets born to a surrogate mother. The woman took the babies home from hospital for eight months and looked after them when the man who contracted her to carry them did not claim them. Both the egg donor and the father are now claiming custody of the children because of their biological links, despite the fact that the surrogate is the only parent the babies have known.
Clearly, better legal safeguards need to be in place to protect both the children and the parents.
This was also illustrated with the case of baby Gammy, the little boy with Down syndrome born to a Thai surrogate mother who was rejected by his Australian biological father.
No doubt some people are asking where it will all end. For example, just because scientists create children with three biological parents, should they do so? Children with the DNA from three different people have been born in the US in a pioneering process that was later banned. The technique is still under consideration in a few other countries, primarily as a way to eliminate genetic diseases.
Some of these new treatments fundamentally challenge our accepted norms: that biological parents have certain rights, that children have both a mother and father, that only two names should be on a birth certificate, and so on. Some people have questioned these arrangements, saying every child needs a mother and a father. But this is ridiculous.
Studies show rainbow kids, IVF kids, and donor kids and their “diblings” are just as happy and successful as any other children. It’s the quality of the relationship that matters, not the way the family is formed, or the gender or biological make-up of the kids. But boy, it sure can get complicated. Just look at Sofia Vergara, who’s bringing new meaning to the term modern family. Blog with Susie at Susieobrien.com.au and follow her on Twitter @susieob and on Facebook.com/NewswithSuse