When a society departs from the one man, one woman definition of marriage, fulfilling the desires of adults becomes the dominating rule of society and law – even if it means turning children into commodities. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the loaded issue of surrogacy.
Two prominent figures in the Australian fashion industry have spoken out about their experiences with surrogacy. Jayson Brunsdon and Aaron Elias Brunsdon procured a son with the help of a Thai surrogate. The mainstream news media predictably gushed over the story, describing how the couple was “over the moon” when their Thai surrogate was implanted with Aaron’s cousin’s donated egg and Jayson’s sperm. The story focussed very little on the welfare of the child, preferring instead to speak about the fulfilment of the “parents”.
Their story is detailed in Aaron’s book, “Designer Baby: A Surrogacy Journey from Fashion to Fatherhood”, released earlier this month. Aaron was reported in The Australian as saying:
“The conversation needs to take place… I think it’s not widely discussed and it’s imperative. The other (reason for writing the book) was just to tell the story of what really happened. Since Roman came into being, it’s been a story that has always been fragmented, but this gives the whole view, including the biological mother, the surrogate mother, the crackdown (over surrogacy) in Thailand after the Baby Gammy incident, during which we were caught in the storm.”
According to Aaron, many people “trolled” the announcement of the book’s release on social media. What this means is that – as with the term “fake news” – any form of criticism is placed in a box and discarded. After many years of being labelled “bigots” for having differing views to the LGBTI lobby and much of the progressive side of politics, we are used to this process.
While Aaron says that Australia needs to have a “conversation”, what he really means is that he wants the law to change. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, he is open about the connection between the redefinition of marriage and surrogacy:
“I think it is a very imperative conversation that needs to take place in Australia because, not just about surrogacy itself, but also about gay marriages, equality, all of that.”
But the legalisation of commercial surrogacy, like many other consequences of the redefinition of marriage, has impacts way beyond the couple.
Since there is always money involved, surrogacy by its very nature commercialises the process of child-bearing and causes an immediate rift between the birth mother and the child (and the egg donor, if there is one). There are many factual accounts of surrogate exploitation across the globe, particularly in Asia. Along with Thailand which is mentioned in the book, Cambodia, India and Nepal, recently cracked down on the process.
Same-sex marriage advocates and most of the news media argue that changing the definition of marriage will have no other effects on society; the story of the Brunsdons shows otherwise. Marriage – and relationships in general – do not exist in a vacuum. This relationship in particular shows an indelible fracture between the child and his birth mother, a division which could have severe impacts in the long-term.
The gushing reports and romantic headlines fail to convey the truth about surrogacy and the resultant commodification of children. As a powerful editorial in The Guardian put it:
Surrogacy may have been surrounded by an aura of Elton John-ish happiness, cute newborns and notions of the modern family, but behind that is an industry that buys and sells human life. Where babies are tailor-made to fit the desires of the world’s rich. Where a mother is nothing, deprived even of the right to be called “mum”, and the customer is everything. The west has started outsourcing reproduction to poorer nations, just as we outsourced industrial production previously. It is shocking to see how quickly the UN convention on the rights of the child can be completely ignored. No country allows the sale of human beings – yet, who cares, so long as we are served cute images of famous people and their newborns?
The couple’s choices can never be undone, and this article is not intended as an attack piece. However, in response to the request of Aaron Elias Brunsdon to have a conversation on surrogacy and same-sex marriage, it is imperative that awareness is brought to the hidden stories behind the romanticised accounts in the mainstream media.
We can only hope that such actions which commodify children and deteriorate the family will become less and less common.
For more on same-sex marriage, click here.