I think I’m going to be sick, no like seriously. I’ve studied bioethics and read, watched, and debated issues regarding respect for human life for the majority of my life, and, very often, I heard people discuss the notion of human life not being a commodity. In fact, it’s a statement I myself have made on many occasions, but, what I didn’t realize at the time, is that I actually didn’t know what that meant. Yes, I know what each word means, and I even sorta know what they mean when strung together, but I didn’t really understand what it would be like or look like if that were to happen. Well ladies and gents, we’re here (well, I suppose if I’m addressing my real audience, I should just say “Mom” and person who accidentally wandered on this site while looking for Match.com… just to be clear, “Created for HIS Love” is referring to God, not Mr. Right). Today we see what it looks like for human life to be a commodity, and let me tell you, it’s not pretty. Grotesque is actually a bit of an understatement. All over my Facebook newsfeed is an article about a woman who was hired to be a surrogate mother, and, when it was discovered that the child would have major birth defects (serious heart issues combined with cleft lip and palate), she was offered $10,000 to have an abortion by the genetic parents. She adamantly refused, earning her both the praise and utter disdain of those wonderful people who make time in their very busy schedules to write horribly unkind, judgmental, derogatory statements in the comments section under online news articles. It’s a good thing they did, as I was holding my breath with great anticipation of what they might be thinking and how this new, precious human life might be making them feel. If you have the stomach for it, check out the highlight reel, composed by Matthew Archbold at the National Catholic Register.
There are just so many issues to discuss with this situation, it’s difficult to know where to begin. First, there’s the fact that this couple hired a woman to carry their baby. At first glance, it seems simple enough: the couple has money but no way to carry a baby, the woman needs money and CAN carry a baby. Ah, a match made in Heaven! Except, there are some pretty serious problems: in paying this woman for her service, does the couple then own her entire body? Do they get to decide what she eats, where she lives, and, should the situation arise, whether or not she must abort their genetic heir if there are major health problems detected? They thought they did have that right – it was even included in their contract with her; however, by law, they could not force her to have an abortion. Second, who has legal rights to this child? The surrogate mother moved to Michigan so that she would have legal rights, but in the state where they initially lived, the genetic parents had the legal rights… well, the genetic father. The big reveal near the end of the article (spoiler alert!) is that the wife of the genetic father was, in fact, not the genetic mother – they hired an anonymous egg donor. Whaaaa???
This all began with one of the most simple, beautiful, generous, natural desires that we, as humans, experience: the desire to have a child. But how far can we go to achieve this end? Better question: how far SHOULD we go? Where exactly do we cross the line between natural desire and degrading the sacredness of human life? I’m not really sure, to be honest, but I think it’s sometime around when we separate the creation of new life from the physical expression of love between a husband and wife. When we take God out of the driver’s seat, we dupe ourselves into thinking that we’ve taken hold of the wheel, when, in reality, it’s just not possible for us to do. The trouble with our thinking this is that we truly believe that we are in control of the situation, and, therefore, we expect whatever particular vision of life we have in our mind. Oh what a silly – and truly horrifying – idea! When are we ever in control?? The older I get, the more I realize that as much as I think that’s what I want, it really really isn’t. Because the truth of the matter is that none of us – not one – has any true clue of what we actually need. Had I been in charge of my life, I might have chosen to have a baby girl last February, and missed out on this most perfect, crazy, wonderful little boy! Or maybe I would have married a previous boyfriend and completely missed out on the man that God very clearly chose for me long, long ago, sometime around when the earth’s crust was still cooling, as he knew no one else could put up with me or love me as well as this holy, wonderful, glutton-for-punishment husband of mine does. I can look back to some of the most painful, difficult moments in my life and see, only in retrospect, the important things God was teaching me through them. Only now can I see that those crosses were necessary to bring me to Christ because, in embracing my cross (eventually… after a great deal of whining and muttering about the lack of fairness of life), I embraced the Grace that God wanted to give me all along. The very truth of it is that if any of us knew just how difficult some of the most challenging parts of life would be, we wouldn’t go near them with a ten foot pole. But in doing so, we would miss out on some of the most beautiful and important opportunities of our lives!
This is the sickness of our culture that is revealed by the legal and moral quagmire we read about today: we’ve forgotten how to suffer, we’ve forgotten why we suffer, we have a totally misguided notion of true compassion, we’ve kicked God out of our lives (particularly our sex lives), and we’ve put a price tag on human life.
I was completely speechless when I read some of the comments in the article by Archbold, wherein people accused the surrogate mother of subjecting the baby to unnecessary pain and suffering when she could have just aborted the baby. Ummm… are they aware of what happens to the baby during an abortion procedure?? Oh, that’s right, they very intelligently reason that, since the baby is not self-aware yet, it’s somehow more humane; somehow more morally upright to end the child’s life rather than to subject him or her to a life of suffering. Oh how misguided their compassion. Interestingly, this was also the perspective of the genetic parents. They didn’t want the child to suffer. I wonder how they feel now that the baby is 8 months old and has a smile that lights up a room? I wonder if they understand now how joyful a life full of suffering can really be? I understand where they were coming from, really, I do, but ending someone’s life to help them avoid suffering is NOT true compassion. True compassion is to suffer with someone; to help them carry their cross, not rip it out of their hands and toss it aside as we play God for the both of us! What a beautiful witness of selfless love this child’s parents will shower her throughout her life, what an awesome example this precious baby girl can be to everyone around her of someone who embraces their suffering with hope and joy. What a tragedy it would have been to rob her of the opportunity to know and to show the rest of the world that her life – all of our lives – is so much more than the sum of her pain.
It is scenarios like this one that reveal the true importance of our humble admittance that God, and only God, is in control. Removing God from the creation of new life – attempting to take His place at this most precious moment – leads to a tragic undermining of the true value and sacredness of the entire process. You rent an apartment or a car, not a uterus or a person because some things are just too sacred, too valuable to put a price tag on, and to do so, degrades their intrinsic value. For similar reasons, it is illegal to sell children, vital organs, and the sexual use of our bodies. What all of these things have in common is that they are too precious to sell, but we as a society accept the idea of their limited value when we endorse these behaviors as acceptable options. When a checkbook makes an appearance, exploitation is invited into the transaction, and human life is reduced to something that can be bought or sold, something we own or control. This attitude towards human life as a commodity leads down a very dangerous path: if it’s not what I paid for, I don’t want it. Or, worse yet, some of the oh-so-wise comment-makers chimed in that their tax dollars were being wasted on surgeries to take care of this hopeless baby. Their cost-benefit analysis, they thought, was just beaming with brilliance, as they tallied up the astronomical cost of medical care and compared it to this, in their opinion, absolutely worthless little life.
This “worthless” immortal soul, molded so carefully and meticulously by God, loved into existence by the Almighty in spite of the circumstances that surrounded her conception. I hope she grows up to cure cancer, wipe out disease, discover a new planet, or establish world peace, just to show these people how little they know! But the truth is that she doesn’t have to do any of those things – her greatness is already known in Heaven, and no accomplishment here on earth could increase her already infinite value in the eyes of God.