If “yes” is your response to this question, you’ll want to take the time to attend a special Conference on Family issues and Values being help at London Ontario’s City Centre Holiday Inn, Saturday May 23, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The traditional family is under attack as never before. Advocates of “homosexual rights,” increasingly explicit pornography and social attitudes which undermine commitments to marriage and family responsibilities are steadily eroding Canadians’ commitment to traditional family values.
The passage of Ontario’s Bill 7, which defied an overwhelming display of public opinion in g which undermine commitments to marriage and family responsibilities are steadily eroding Canadians’ commitment to traditional family values.
The passage of Ontario’s Bill 7, which defied an overwhelming display of public opinion in giving special rights to homosexuals, clearly demonstrates that we can no longer take for granted the commitment of politicians and policy makers to uphold sound pro-family positions.
Special guest speakers will include The Honourable Jim Jepson (MP London West), Cameron Jackson (MPP Burlington South), Brenda MacKillop (ex-Playboy bunny), and Norman Keith, Lawyer.
Is Technologized Parenthood a threat to Motherhood and Fatherhood?
By Donald De Marco
In Robert Francoeur’s book Utopian Motherhood, the author presents the following scenario: a barren woman receives an ovarian transplant from another woman. She conceives, but has difficulty in continuing her pregnancy and therefore arranges for a third woman to carry the child to term. Since this woman’s husband is sterile, she had been fertilized artificially by another one who died eleven years earlier but left his frozen sperm to posterity. Francoeur asks his readers to “puzzle out” who the parents are and how many there might be.
This hypothetical situation is by no means farfetched. By one count there are now 23 ways to have a baby. We have entered the era of “High-Tech Babymaking” and one of the central issues that has emerged involves the extent to which the intervention of technology in human procreation has weakened our traditional understanding of motherhood and fatherhood.
Gena Corea (author of The Mother Machine), at a conference on “High-Tech Babymaking,” expressed her concern that women could become merely collections of body parts, divorced from their procreative power and left with a more tenuous sense of self. ‘If science can produce better babies than women can,” she remarked, ‘it reinforces the expendability of woman.”
Episcopalian theologian Joseph Fletcher expresses the view that parenthood is “a moral relationship with children, not a material or merely physical relationship.” According to traditional standards, Fletcher’s notion of parenthood is overbroad and arbitrary. Traditionally parenthood is not merely a moral relationship; it is incarnate, incorporating the material and physical aspects. Motherhood and fatherhood integrate marriage, conjugal intimacy, genetic contribution, and custodial care. There are situations where it is impossible to integrate all these elements, as in parenthood through adoption. From a traditional perspective, however, such parents do not negate or avoid parenthood’s biological dimension. In adopting a child they affirm the guardianship dimension that the biological parents are unable to fulfill because of death or incompetence, for example.
Technology may be used to expand possibilities for adoption, such as embryo transfer from a dying woman to a host mother. But in such cases technology is not used to negate one or another aspect of parenthood. Those who adopt children maintain a clear understanding of the distinction between adopting and biological parents. They are not under the illusion that they are parents in the complete sense merely because they have a good moral relationship with their adoptive child. The nature of a relationship and it intensity are different matters.
Technology helps bring abut a wakening of the very meaning and understanding of motherhood and fatherhood when it is deliberately employed in negating, avoiding, circumventing, or demeaning certain elements that are constitutive of full parenthood. A few contemporary example well institute this point. Noel Keane, a Michigan lawyer who operates a fertility clinic, has agreed to find a surrogate mother for a university professor who wants a child but does not want pregnancy to interfere with her chance of obtaining tenure. Keane is also willing to find a surrogate for a single man who would like a so but does not want to raise him. This man intends to prove $20,000 trust fund for the boy, who will be raised by the surrogate and her husband while he maintains avuncular relationship with the child. A 36-year-old woman has sued the Wayne State University Artificial Insemination Clinic because it restricts its services to married couples. With the American Civil Liberties Union representing her, she alleges that the clinic’s policy violated her right to privacy.
In such cases as these the parties involved are using technology to negate pregnancy, avoid custodial fatherhood, circumvent sexual intercourse, and demean marriage. The net effect of such uses of technology is attenuation of motherhood and fatherhood. By allowing people to select specific aspects of parenthood that are to their liking and to reject those they find inconvenient, a consumer mentality is fostered. Thus as technology subserved a consumer oriented form of parenthood, motherhood and fatherhood suffer the dissolution of their distinctive integrities. It is fitting that Lori Andrews’s book on the latest forms of technologized parenthood is subtitled: “A Consumer’s Guide to the Newest Infertility Treatments.” Throughout the ensuing discussion, the expression “technologized parenthood” will refer to that particular use of reproductive technology which weakens the meaning of motherhood and fatherhood while encouraging a consumer approach to parenthood.
By contrast, technology can be used to affirm motherhood and fatherhood without purposely negating any of its various dimensions. For example, a procedure known as “low tubal ovum transfer”(Ltot) relocates the egg so that it is in a position where in vivo (inside the body) fertilization can take place. In such a procedure, motherhood is affirmed while none of its dimensions are negated. The same can be said of conventional forms of medical intervention that have genuinely therapeutic objectives such as laser surgery to repair or blocked oviduct or the use of ultrasound in monitoring the fetal heartbeat.
Technologized parenthood serves consumer demands. It does not defend the inviolable integrity of traditional motherhood and fatherhood. It is directed toward reducing complex functions to their component parts, rather than toward respecting the nature of the whole. It is more mechanized than organic, more impersonal than personal. The expression “technologized parenthood,” therefore, represents a conjunction of essentially incompatible factors. The reality, however, reveals a process in which technology seeks to gain control of parenthood. This process clearly illustrates the split between technological and moral imperatives.
In his book Mechanization Takes Command, cultural historian Siegfried Giedion details how modern processes of mechanization have brought about a comparable split between thought and feeling. He found this split to be particularly evident in biology, where it is commonplace to exclude feelings (especially those that carry moral implications) in order to bring everything under the reign of thought (for purpose of rational control). By reducing the living organism to a mere assemblage of material parts, the entire dimension of feeling is thereby made relevant. According to Giedion, “in biology the animate being was considered simply as the sum of its separate parts assembled like those of a machine. Organic processes were regarded as purely physio-chemical in nature, as if an organisms were a kind of chemical plant.”
The five most significant forms of technologized parenthood are: 1) artificial insemination (fertilization achieved artificially, apart from sexual intercourse; 2) in vitro fertilization (conceiving new life in a laboratory; 3) embryo transfer (relocating the embryo from the womb of one woman to the womb of another); 4) extracorporeal gestation (carrying the child to term outside the mother’s body either in an artificial incubator or in an animal); 5) surrogate motherhood (one woman gestating a child for another woman).
When we consider these various forms of technologized parenthood collectively, we discover that no feature of biological parenthood collectively, we discover that no feature of biological parenthood is considered indispensable for either motherhood or fatherhood. With artificial insemination by donor (AID), a husband becomes a father despite the absence of his sperm, while his wife consents to conceiving a child by a man to whom she is not married: with artificial insemination by the husband (AIH), a man becomes a father apart from the conjugal embrace. With IVF, husband and wife become parents independently of sexual intercourse. In embryo transfer, a woman is considered a mother even though she is not the genetic mother. In extracorporeal gestation, a woman is called a mother even though she does not gestate the child. The surrogate mother forsakes nursing and rearing her child and the mother to whom she delivers the child is neither the genetic nor the gestational mother.
Collectively these forms of technologized parenthood exclude all those features that are naturally and traditionally associated with motherhood and fatherhood: marriage, sexual intercourse, the genetic contributions of husband and wife, gestation, nursing, and child rearing. It should be amply apparent that technologized parenthood not only produces attenuated forms of motherhood and fatherhood, but threatens their very meaning.
Combining different modes of technologized parenthood may make its threat to motherhood and fatherhood all the more salient. Lori Andrew speaks of “a busy career woman (who has) one of her eggs fertilized with her husband’s sperm in a Petri dish and then implanted in another woman.” This same woman could arrange for her child to be reared by what some sociologists call “professional parents.” And if this woman were single and had her egg fertilized by a donor’s sperm, she would have avoided marriage, intercourse, conception, pregnancy, gestation, lactation, nursing, and childrearing, and still have retained the name mother. But in such a case, is the world “mother” anything more than an expression of will? Is this woman really a mother? Should not more be demanded of a mother than the donation of an egg?
In the world of technologized parenthood, one does not need to be even a woman in order to become a mother. James and Bjorne Noyes of Rochester, NewYork, retained a surrogate to carry a child fertilized artificially by Mr. Noyes. But the surrogate decided to keep the child. The Noyes’ sued. However, they dropped the suit minutes before the trial was scheduled to being.; During the preliminary investigation before trial it was revealed that the reason why Mrs. Noyes was unable to have child was that she lived her youth as a male until, after an operation, she began to live as a female.
To make matters even more confusing, some biotechnical revolutionaries would like to see men have children. At the George Washington University Medical School, Dr. Cecil Jacobsen has fertilized a chimpanzee egg in vitro with chimpanzee sperm, implanted it in the abdomen of a male of the same species, and later delivered a healthy baby chip through a Caesarian section. Joseph Fletcher speaks enthusiastically about the prospect of a uterus being implanted in a human male’s body and gestation achieved as a result of IVF and embryo transfer. Fletcher also envisions hypogonadism being used to stimulate milk from the male’s rudimentary breasts. The British magazine New Society claims that the technology to enable men to bear children is currently available and may eventually be utilized by homosexuals, transsexuals, or men whose wives are infertile.
Paul Ramsey has good reason to argue the, that “when the transmission of life has be debiologized, human parenthood as a created covenant of life is place under massive assault, and men and women will no longer be who they are”. By this Ramsey means that human beings will not be able to live morally, that is, “be who they are,” if they do not understand that they are embodied persons, inviolable and incarnate unities of spirit and flesh. Neither man nor woman can “debiologize” themselves without denying and rejecting who they are as incarnate beings. Our modern scientific world has misled us into believing that matter is always something to be controlled, that thought is superior to flesh that God is ever subject to technology’s veto.
The various forms of technologized parenthood help people have children, but they do not help them to become mothers and fathers in the full sense of these terms. Having a child does not make one a father or a mother; it only makes on a parent. Motherhood and fatherhood are fulfilling realizations or personal realities; they necessitate a continuity between incarnate being and moral act. In this regard the notions of fruitfulness is more inclusive than that of fertility.
Husband and wife are fruitful through a loving intercourse in which they affirm each other’s distinctive personal reality as man and woman in a way that creatively directs them toward the realization of their motherhood and fatherhood. Fruitfulness, in contrast with fertility, is more than a mere exchange of gametes.
A boy becomes a man, a man becomes a husband, a husband becomes a father. Similarly, we speak of the development of the girl who becomes a woman, a wife, and a mother. These developments are by no means automatic; they require maturing processes, great personal effort, and the cooperation of other people and of the culture in general. Technology, however, always plans to make things happen automatically. Its intervention in the area of human procreation clashes with the slow and arduous processes that prepare the emergence of motherhood and fatherhood. Nature always takes time. Technology is impatient. Nature is evolutionary. Technology wants to repeat the past. The clash, therefore, is between a rational plan and a natural process, between impersonal expediency and personal expression.
We do not help people to grow and fulfill their destinies by encouraging them to employ forms of technological parenthood which create the impression that there is essential difference between fertility and fruitfulness between parenthood and motherhood or fatherhood.
Technological parenthood feeds on a philosophy of rational dualism that separates matter from oral and structure from activity. One does not behave as a mother or a father simply because one is a parent in some legal or material way. It is not a legal document or a biological claim that makes one an authentic mother or father. Rather, the basis is in one’s incarnate personhood and the willingness to embrace the moral responsibilities that motherhood and fatherhood entail. There should be continuity between matter and morals, from and destiny. Motherhood and fatherhood should flow from their source in personhood as nature flows from the hand of the Creator.
Let me add a few works about the larger cultural context of technologized parenthood
Marshall McLuhan titled his first book The Mechanical Bride (1951) in order to jolt his readers in realizing that to the blind processes of mechanization and technologization nothing is sacred. Not even a bride, the quintessential image of unravished loveliness, would be spared. As a sequel to this work McLuhan wrote Culture is our Business (1970) to show how technology has created modern culture itself.
McLuhan’s claims are amply validated by the contemporary verbal hybrids that are the logical offspring of our age of the “Mechanical Bride.” Thus we speak blandly of artificial flowers, astro-turf, synthetic food, and the bionic man. We watch movies as The Love Machine, Heart-beeps, Electric Dreams, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. And we casually incorporate into our daily life such glaring incongruities as artificial intelligence, electronic voice-prints, atomic cocktails, and computer dating. Wee have been conditioned to take verbal incongruities in stride, thereby preparing the way for the broad cultural acceptance of genetic engineering, test-tube babies, and technologized parenthood.
Surveying the treat that technology poses for life, McLuhan saw an antagonism between “technological determinism” and “organic autonomy,” between the total dominance over life by technology and the freedom of human organism need in order to live and reproduce according to personal moral norms.
Contraception played a crucial historical role in clearing the ground for the employment of various reproductive technologies. It introduced technologized sexuality, a logical precursor to technologized parenthood. Contraception separates sex from procreation; technologized parenthood is merely the converse of this separation. Whereas contraception means sex without babies, technologized parenthood means babies without sex or at least without the fullness of the conjugal union), a point that molecular biologist Leon R. Mass made in a celebrated article he wrote in 1972 for The Public Interest when he said that the new reproductive technologies “provide the corollary to the pill: babies without sex.”
Contraceptive sex violates the organic unity of sex and procreation. As a result it leaves both these factors isolated and unprotected. Organically united, sex and procreation function together as protective complementaries.
Procreation protects sex from degenerating into an act that makes pleasure primary; bodified sex gives procreation a basis in personal intimacy, protecting it from exploitation by laboratory technicians and marketing managers.
The large-scale cultural approbation of contraception has made technologized parenthood unavoidable, even though most people did not realize that when they accept the separation of sex from procreation they were inaugurating the separation of procreation from sex.
When organic, incarnate unities are separated into isolated parts, a host of separations on moral, spiritual, and psychological levels take place concomitantly. One separation in particular is the focus of this discussion. It is the separation, through various models of technological interventions in human reproductions, of parenthood from either motherhood or fatherhood. The fullness of both motherhood and fatherhood demands the unification of procreation and bodified, conjugal love. As this unity is compromised or violated, the moral and spiritual meanings of motherhood and fatherhood are proportionally jeopardized. This separation of parenthood from its context in full motherhood and fatherhood also represents the attenuation of these larger realities. Technologized parenthood does not leave motherhood and fatherhood intact, but dilutes them so that they become indistinguishable from parenthood.
At the same time, the separation between parenthood and bodified motherhood and fatherhood is occasioned by the split between thought and feeling. In this context such a split is tantamount to separating the desire to control reproduction technologically from the willingness to recognize and protect the qualities that are peculiar to motherhood and fatherhood. Parenthood in its most elementary form is achieved whenever there is the slenderest biological connection between progenitor and offspring. Parenthood is something humans share with all species of animal and plant kingdoms. But motherhood and fatherhood posses moral and spiritual dimensions that mere parenthood lacks. It is precisely these dimensions that are at risk whenever there is an attempt to technologize parenthood.