Relations Reporting on marriage, family, and sexuality

‘Cut and pasted’ children

Family | Advocates argue children suffer the consequences when adults claim a right to parenthood
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 2/08/19, 05:43 pm

The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill on Tuesday that would redefine parenthood in the state by updating the laws on assisted reproduction.

The measure, which passed 61-36 in the Republican-majority House, strips language like “mother” and “father” from the statute, makes “intent” the basis of a legal parentage instead of genetics, and claims embryos are the property of an intended parent, regardless of any biological relation. The updates bolster the gestational surrogacy market in the state, something pro-family advocates argue is bad for Virginia and especially bad for children in the state.

The bill “threatens to open up Pandora’s box on critical matters involving life, parental rights, and the most basic ideas of what it means to be a family,” said Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation, a Virginia-based family advocacy group.

Laws governing conception, parental rights, and reproductive technology vary widely by state. Some states allow anyone who can afford it to purchase eggs, sperm, or the services of a surrogate. A few states forbid all surrogacy arrangements. Most are somewhere in the middle, with laws regulating the market for assisted conception methods such as in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogacy.

Current Virginia law allows for gestational surrogacy but stipulates the intended parents must be a married couple. The proposed bill would open the door to any person or persons—married or single, man or woman, homosexual or heterosexual—to use a surrogate and to be granted full parental rights to the resulting child. Cobb said a handful of Republicans voted with the Democrats on the measure because they thought the bill was pro-life—they believed that it would allow more couples to adopt frozen embryos. The Virginia House sent the bill to the Senate, where it awaits a committee hearing.

Katy Faust, the founder and director of Them Before Us, a group that advocates for the rights of children in social policies, called the proposed law deeply problematic because it is adult-centric. She told me it pays no heed to the rights and needs of the people it primarily affects: children.

“What that practically means is that children are just commodities that can be cut and pasted into any and every household arrangement,” said Faust, who believes children have a right to both biological parents, if at all possible. “That adults have a right to children regardless of a biological connection. … That just means that children go to whoever can acquire them.”

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world, states, “The child shall … have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality, and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.” Faust personally believes that God’s created order and His design establishes children’s fundamental right to be raised in homes with a married mother and father.

“When those rights are respected and protected, it sets [children] up for thriving,” she said, noting that research continues to show that when children lose a relationship with one or both biological parents, they fall into a predictable pattern of risk.

Today, more than ever before, donor-conceived children are going to intentionally fatherless or motherless homes. The Donor Sibling Registry is an organization with more than 62,000 members seeking to match donor-conceived individuals with their biological relatives. Of the organization’s parents and donors, 49 percent are single mothers by choice who use donor sperm, and 33 percent are same-sex couples who use either donor sperm, donor eggs, or both.

Associated Press/Photo by Jae C. Hong (file) Associated Press/Photo by Jae C. Hong (file) Federal agents at an apartment complex in Irvine, Calif., where, according to authorities, a birth tourism business operated in 2013

Birth tourism sting

Police in Southern California arrested three people last week in the largest federal criminal probe into the multimillion-dollar birth tourism industry, which helps foreign women come to the United States to give birth so their children will become U.S. citizens.

The grand jury indictments, unsealed Jan. 31, charged businesses operated by the three with visa fraud, wire fraud, and identity theft. The investigation found some Chinese couples paid as much as $100,000 for packages that included housing, nannies, and shopping excursions. The businesses coached their clients to deceive U.S. immigration officials and claim they are uninsured, getting them the lowest possible price at the hospital for the baby’s delivery.

“We are talking about three takedowns in LA, when there are probably 300,” Mark Zito, assistant special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, told The New York Times. He said the agencies charged in the investigation cater mainly to Chinese couples, but his agency has found evidence that Russians, Nigerians, and a growing number of couples from the Middle East are also traveling to the United States to have children.

The Center for Immigration Studies estimates there are about 36,000 children born annually to tourists in America.

“We should not tolerate an entire industry that encourages people to come here for the sole purpose of having a child who leaves with a U.S. passport,” said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Washington, D.C.–based organization. —K.C.

iStock/IPGGutenbergUKLtd iStock/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

Easy ID switch

North Carolina updated its identification policies last week to make it easier for people to change the sex on their driver’s license. Anyone who wants to change their designated sex can now submit a one-page form certifying the requested change accurately reflects his or her gender identity. The form must be signed by a professional—a physician, psychiatrist, physician’s assistant, therapist, counselor, psychologist, case worker, or social worker—who agrees to certify that, in their professional opinion, the person’s gender identity matches the requested sex.

In contrast, a measure working its way through the Utah legislature would define “male” and “female” as “innate and immutable characteristics established at conception” and would prohibit people from changing the sex on their birth certificate after birth. —K.C.

Arizona nurse pleads not guilty

A long-term care facility in Arizona where a severely disabled woman late last year gave birth announced it is closing this week. Officials at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix said Thursday they would shut down operations.

A nurse was charged in January with sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult after a DNA test confirmed him as the father of a baby born to the 29-year-old resident. Nathan Sutherland, 36, a licensed practical nurse, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. The woman, disabled as a child, has spent most of her life in a vegetative state at the facility. Employees said they were unaware she was pregnant until she went into labor. Sutherland will appear in court again on March 19. —K.C.

Passed-down family complexity

A new study discussed in an article by the Institute for Family Studies found family instability is multigenerational. The research observed that stress from parental relationship transitions—divorce, remarriage, cohabitation splits, new domestic partners, half-siblings—is the best way to explain the likelihood that children will grow up and go on to have their own children with more than one partner. —K.C.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.

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  • Laura W
    Posted: Fri, 02/08/2019 06:37 pm

    So if a man didn't "intend" to be a parent, is he still required to pay child support if he gets a woman pregnant and she bears and raises their child?

  • CJ
    Posted: Fri, 02/08/2019 09:50 pm

    Excellent question! 

  • VISTA48
    Posted: Sat, 02/09/2019 07:57 am

    There is a perverse logic to this. Once you can deny the personhood of a human fetus, it’s easy to view it as a commodity. This feelings-over-fact paradigm allows you to pass them around like baseball cards, or kill them for any perceived unacceptable flaw. Dehumanization as a justification for abuse or murder is not new. The kicker is that the same State that legalizes the madness wants overriding authority on natural parental rights once the child is allowed to exist.

  • Narissara
    Posted: Sat, 02/09/2019 02:49 pm

    Exactly.  Any time parents argue for the right to raise their children without undue state interference, the state accuses parents of treating their children as chattel!  That is so backwards.  

  • not silent
    Posted: Sat, 02/09/2019 10:44 am

    Re the bill in Virginia: I can see how people wanting to use surrogacy would favor this bill; but, unless the bill also grants protection for children, I fear there could be unintentional consequences.  If "intent" is "the basis of legal parenting," as the article says, then what happens to kids who are already born but not wanted by their parents?  Do parents have some responsibility or can they abandon children if they didn't "intend" to parent them?  What happens if a parent decides later that they no longer "intend" to parent a child? 

    As a previous comment suggested, I also have to wonder how this will affect legal consequences for child abuse.  Can an abusive parent claim they never "intended" to parent the child and so they are not really the legal parent?  Hopefully, these are just extreme questions that are covered by the bill or that would never come up in reality; but it's hard these days to know what may come up.

  • CAF
    Posted: Sun, 02/10/2019 02:56 pm

    “That adults have a right to children regardless of a biological connection. … That just means that children go to whoever can acquire them.”

    How can yet-to-be-born children under this new policy be protected from any motivated and rich sex-slave trader?



  • DS
    Posted: Mon, 02/11/2019 01:19 pm

    Anyone heard of the [proposed*] 28th amendment to the US Constitution that would strip to pieces any law like this one? The amendment, if passed, would give parents the ultimate right to raise their children the way they saw fit, without government intervention. If it were ever to be put to a vote of the people, I would be in full support of it. Now, I realise that not all ways of raising children are good (in fact, most probably aren't), but parents need this right. And, it would also take us farther from the UN puppet-strings. Here is the official website for the proposed amendment:

    *The word in the brackets was placed there after the comment was posted.

  • not silent
    Posted: Mon, 02/11/2019 04:23 pm

    i clicked on the link, but it did not give me enough information to determine whether or not I could support the proposed amendment.  While I often find myself alarmed by current trends, I can't say that I would support giving parents "the ultimate right to raise their children the way they saw fit, without government intervention," at least not as worded in the above comment.   I come from an abusive family, and I know people from other families who had it worse than I did.  I don't know if this proposed amendment would mean there would be no interference from the government at all ever (which is what the comment seems to say), or if parents could lose some of their rights in certain abusive situations.  (I.e., should the government be able to remove kids from horrible, abusive situations even without consent from the abusive parent?  Should an abusive parent have equal custody rights in a divorce case?  Thankfully, my situation was not like one of these; but, unfortunately, these situations are not very unusual.) 

    It would be alarming if religious instruction in and of itself were considered "abuse," and I understand fears about that as I have heard people saying that merely raising kids with Christianity is abuse; but I don't think that represents the feelings of the majority in this country.  I also don't think it's necessary to take away all legal protection from kids who are experiencing physical or sexual abuse. 

  • Narissara
    Posted: Mon, 02/11/2019 05:35 pm

    @ notsilent,

    No, this amendment would not give parents the right to abuse, neglect or abandon their children.  No constitutionally protected right is absolute.  Abuse, neglect and abandonment are not parenting. They’re abuse, neglect and abandonment.  

    Section 3 provides exceptions when the state or federal government may infringe on these rights when it is of the highest order.  Protecting children from abuse, neglect or abandonment is an interest of the highest order and the state would be justified in intervening.  Section 5 adds protections as well.  The constitution doesn’t provide protections for criminal acts,  including murderers, whether the act was intentional or not.  

    The reason we need this amendment is too many politicians and other policy makers think their way of parenting is the only right one, that anything that deviates from their standard is either too permissive or too authoritarian, and that it’s their business to set parents straight.  But, again, barring abandonment, abuse or neglect, it’s often a matter of opinion.  More importantly, that’s not the role of government.  

  • not silent
    Posted: Mon, 02/11/2019 06:43 pm

    In reply to Narissara: thank you very much for your clarification.  For some reason I didn't find all that when I checked the link, and I was confused by the comment saying that the amendment "would give parents the ultimate right to raise their children the way they saw fit, without government intervention."  (I've seen cases where parents DIDN'T know what was best for their children.)  I would still want to read more, but your insight has been very helpful.

  • Narissara
    Posted: Tue, 02/12/2019 01:10 pm

    not silent, I’ve also seen parents who don’t always know what’s best for their children, but unless it rises to the level of abuse, neglect or abandonment, any interference by the government is overreach.  Some would make factors such as poverty beyond the parents’ control or the parents’ educational choices with which a social worker or judge happens to disagree as justifiable grounds to interfere.  

    Children are not property, neither of their parents nor the state.  Society can lay no special claim to them either, (which is what the Virginia bill in essence says).  They belong to God from the moment they’re conceived.  His choice of parents demonstrates His sovereignty.  The only people I’ve ever met who think they’re perfect parents are those who have never actually been parents.  There is no so-called “right” to parenthood for its own sake, divorced from accountability to God as guardians and protectors of what is His.

  • not silent
    Posted: Thu, 02/14/2019 02:29 pm

    To Narissara, you're absolutely right.  It is important to protect the rights of parents. Besides, every case is unique.  I was just confused by that one comment (and maybe I'm a little extra sensitve about this).  Again, thanks for your insights.

  • DS
    Posted: Fri, 02/15/2019 07:40 am

    Hey, guys. Thanks for checking out the link. And I apologize if my wording wasn't clear enough. No, I didn't mean an absolute right of parents, I just meant, like Narissara said, non-abusive-parenting rights.

    Unfortunatelly, the word "constitutional" doesn't hold much sway any more.