Women are not breeding machines

Women are not breeding machines

Women’s wombs are not up for rent, writes Mary Kenny

“Women are not breeding machines” proclaimed a protest banner – in the shape of gigantic red knickers – outside Leinster House before Christmas. I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment expressed. Women are not breeding machines, and neither are men, for that matter. Each human life is individual and unique – as proved now by DNA testing – and exists in its own right, not to serve as a machine or, as in agricultural husbandry, for breeding.

Anyone who sincerely wishes to stop women being seen as breeding machines should surely campaign to put a halt to surrogate mothering, one of the most invidious and repellent ways in which women are being used as “breeding machines”.

No easy matter: surrogacy is now a globalised business, with big bucks involved. Not coincidentally, the recruitment of surrogate mothers is sometimes focused on countries like India, with a large pool of poor women who will trade their wombs, and sometimes their ovaries too, for remuneration.

Rich ‘commissioning’ couples in the West – gay and straight – can now buy the services of two women to ‘breed’ on their behalf. One woman may supply the eggs and another woman will rent her womb to carry the child, conceived through IVF (in vitro fertilisation).

Is there any more egregious example of using women as “breeding machines”?

And yet official and fashionable society wholly approves of surrogacy.

In California, it has attained the status of a sophisticated business arrangement, often involving large sums of money changing hands for the service.

Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish – they recently had a fabulously grand wedding ceremony in Britain – begot their two sons through a Californian surrogacy agreement. It is not clear whether the same woman donated the eggs and carried the pregnancies, as the arrangement has been kept private. Everyone loves the appearance of a baby, and it would be unkind to react negatively to little Zachary and Elijah. But the process of surrogacy itself cannot be described as anything other than using women as breeders. Even if the woman, or women, are willing, it is still renting a womb.

Next time a group of feminists protest that women are “not breeding machines”, ask them about surrogacy.


Different aspects to using life support

It’s almost 10 years now since my oldest, and closest, English friend was killed by an arsonist. And like many who die from fires, the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. Miriam’s lungs were destroyed, and she was pronounced brain-dead, but her body looked quite perfect while she was kept on artificial life-support.

Life-support was maintained by the hospital in Cheshire so that her family could visit, and also, according to her own wishes, that her organs be transplanted to others. She donated her eyes, her heart and her kidneys so that others might benefit, and they did.

The doctors kept her on life-support for as long as they needed for the transplant operations. No doctor pronounced this procedure either “grotesque” or “absurd”, pace the Master of Holles Street Hospital, Dr Rhona Mahony (pictured), who used such words in the case of the brain-dead pregnant mother.

When doctors want to keep a person’s body on life support, for a purpose they approve of, they see no problem with it at all.


The world loves a new baby

Now for the happy news. How delightful to see that 36-year-old Princess Charlene of Monaco gave birth to twins, Gabriella and Jacques, on December 10. It was reported in the French press that Charlene and Albert had hoped for a baby for some time and the South-African born swimming ace Charlene often looked rather rueful as she attended the Christening parties of other Euro-royals.

Now they have their twins and how the world loves a new baby! If you need evidence, just look at the array of magazines that sell ‘celeb’ baby pictures. Or read Victor Hugo’s poem Quand l’Enfant Parait (When the Child Appears) about the softening and sweetening effect on the whole family.

There is, however, an interesting feminist issue around the Grimaldi twin babies. The girl, Gabriella, was born first – two minutes before her brother – although, because of the Mediterranean ‘Salic law’, he will inherit the throne of the principality. Why not update and modernise this ancient tradition, as the Swedes have done, and simply allow the first-born of either sex to succeed?

It’s hard to argue that any form of monarchy is about equality, but it is quite evident from history that women have been just as effective, and often more so, in this symbolic and sometimes commanding role.