The Wisdom of Solomon

In the July 25 issue of the New York Times Magazine, Peggy Orenstein told the story of two little girls who might never see their mother again. That's because their "other mother," as Orenstein puts it, took them across the country and is keeping contact to a minimum. Read carefully: This gets confusing. The two women, identified only as K. and E., were "domestic partners" living in California when they decided to have children. K. supplied the eggs, but E. gave birth to the twin girls. (Their father -- not that anyone's interested -- was an anonymous sperm donor.) As the clinic required, K. signed a form waiving her rights to the eggs. But they raised the girls together for years, and both of them considered themselves the girls' mothers. That's what K. says, anyway. E. denies that she thought of K. as a "co-parent," and when K. wanted the girls to know she was their genetic parent; E. felt threatened. Their eventual breakup was caused by what the article calls "the struggle to stake out their motherhood." Okay, no surprise.
  1. moved the girls to Massachusetts; K. sued for joint custody and lost. Although she had signed away her legal rights when she donated the eggs, she hoped the court would take into account the concept of "psychological parenthood." Some states do that, but not California.
Many people believe that if only the meaning of marriage changed, things like this wouldn't happen. K.'s lawyer, for example, said, "That [egg donation] form would never have been used for a married couple." Of course, California and Massachusetts already have some of the county's most liberal marriage laws. K. could have legally adopted the twins, but her partner didn't want her to. The truth is that if the government were more lenient about who can claim parental rights, things would soon get, if possible, even more confusing. Orenstein writes of another mind-boggling California case: "[A] couple used a donor egg and donor sperm to create an embryo that was then gestated by a surrogate. One month before the baby was born, the couple split up, and the husband refused responsibility for the child. A lower court found that the [baby] girl . . . had no parents whatsoever. (The decision was later overturned, and the divorcing couple were declared her mother and father.)" How could you possibly create laws to deal with such a monstrosity? Throw in legal recognition of "psychological parenthood," which can be used for people who are not even involved in the conception or birth, and you would really have a mess. On the last page of her article, Orenstein points out, "It is, of course, the children's voices that are missing from this debate." And how. No matter how strongly K. and E. feel for these girls, they guaranteed that the girls would not have a dad, could not agree on whose children they actually were, and took away the only family they have ever known. Their decisions were all about themselves. I'm reminded of the familiar biblical story of Solomon. He knew that a child's real mother was the one who wanted what was best for the child. Sadly, if that is the case, an increasing number of children today are finding themselves without any real parents at all. For further reading and information: Peggy Orenstein, "The Other Mother," New York Times Magazine, 25 July 2004. (Archived article; costs $2.95 to retrieve.) BreakPoint Commentary No. 040525, "Seeking Justice: Same-Sex 'Marriage' and the Children." BreakPoint Commentary No. 040414, "It Doesn't Add Up: When Two Plus One Equals Too Many." BreakPoint Commentary No. 040218, "Ward and Ward Cleaver: The New Stay-at-Home Parent." BreakPoint Commentary No. 031016, "Two Are Better than One: How Marriage Protects Children." Timothy J. Dailey, Ph.D., "Homosexual Parenting: Placing Children at Risk," Insight, Family Research Council, 30 October 2001.


Chuck Colson



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