A week ago, I attended an informative seminar on the aspects of surrogacy and gamete donation from a children’s rights perspective. I must confess leaving the conference sad and with my head reeling.
Life Research Unit Malta, in collaboration with Sallux, brought three expert speakers on the subject. They were Frenchman Christophe Foltzenlogel, a jurist at the Strasbourg-based European Centre for Law and Justice, Esme Wiegman-van Meppelen Scheppink, a Dutch former member of Parliament, and Briton Joanna Rose, herself a victim of surrogacy. The seminar was chaired by a young Maltese lawyer, Sara Portelli.
I listened to all of them, but Joanna’s experience struck me the most. She spoke about how surrogacy and gamete donation work. She accentuated the fact that reproductive technologies are most often adult-centric and do not consider the rights of the children born from them.
While the grief of adults who want children is widely acknowledged, and rightly so, when it comes to children, language changes and their grief is not acknowledged or even explored. They are “expected to be grateful that they exist”. But, in truth, the children born from these technologies do not concur.
Joanna said that, for her and many of her friends, love is not enough. They have a right to their own identity and to acknowledge kinship bonds.
When the sense of family history is totally lost or blurred, the child is inconsolable. The child suffers silently, as any attempt to speak out seems ungrateful from the family’s point of view.
She describes what she and others feel as “disenfranchised grief”, more so when they know that their conception was planned that way. Children’s rights, including the right to know their biological mother and father and, as far as possible, to be raised by them, suddenly fly out of the window.
I myself have some experience of what it is like to grow up not knowing one’s father, and that was bad enough. My mother was very tight-lipped about him, so I never knew what he had died of till a friend’s mother told me. It was tuberculosis.
I was a very curious child and would try to glean information about him from anyone around me, like aunts, friends of his and so on.
I just wanted to get a picture of who my father was. It was so important to me.
How much more confusing will it be for the children born of gamete donation and/or surrogacy, with the endless combinations of paternity and maternity, biological, commissioning and others.
Why would we venture to do this to children intentionally?
The fact that surrogacy and gamete donation and, of course, abortion laws exist in other countries does not mean we should rush in and ape them. Can we not think clearly and humanely?
Here is this brave woman telling us how she and others feel. There must be hundreds of grown-ups and children who feel the same way. In Malta, we have a strong embryo protection law that protects children and helps couples.
Citing the new amendments and some sort of unequal equality, we are seeing a frontal attack to dismantle embryo protection, the last frontier stopping abortion.
Without embryo protection, babies become objects, commodities, dispensable like rubber dolls.
I urge all who still have a conscience to fight and speak out, not to allow these laws to be passed in Malta. Let us stand up and be counted.
The Maltese are known for their love of children, so let us show the world we choose to be different and stay free of all these shameful laws that make objects out of our preborn children.
Many are concerned to know the Embryo Protection Act is threatened or will be removed. Let us all speak out against this and hold on to our life-protecting legislation.
I still hold on to the dream that we, as an upright people, can and will steer Malta out of these murky waters into calmer seas and regain our peace of mind.
Mary Hilda Camilleri worked for Lifesave the Unborn Child in the UK.