Herman C. Hanko is professor of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
In the last article we wrote on this subject we began an evaluation of the various procedures which modern science has begun to use to give children to infertile couples. These procedures include artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood, and the use of frozen embryos. We were busy discussing what other Christian ethicists have to say on this question; and we were examining particularly the views of John Jefferson Davis in his book Evangelical Ethics. We quoted him last time with respect to the legal problems which are involved. We turn now to his discussion of the moral issues which these techniques bring up.
He points first of all to the fact that “a third party intrudes both biologically and emotionally into the sanctity of the marriage bond. He writes:
One marriage partner, but not the other, is biologically fulfilled through the process. In a surrogate arrangement, it is the wife who is reminded by the presence of the surrogate child of her biological inadequacy, while the man’s potency is affirmed.
This asymmetry in the adoptive parents’ relationship to the child is the factor that distinguishes the surrogate case morally from simple adoption. In a normal adoption, both parents bear the same biological relationship to the child—none. The possibilities for tension and conflict that exist in the surrogate arrangement do not arise in the same way.
In the second place, he points out that secrecy and deception accompany surrogate motherhood.
Should a child be told the truth about his biological origins? If so, when? Does the child have a legal right to know the identity of his biological mother? Should the surrogate tell her family and friends the true circumstances of her pregnancy? Should the adoptive parents tell their family and friends the whole story?
In an earlier article we mentioned the fact that the incident of Abraham and Hagar is sometimes cited as proof for the Biblical validity of surrogate motherhood. But Davis points out on the one hand that all the incidents of Scripture were not approved by God and on the other hand that this was not a case of surrogate motherhood, but of concubinage.
Finally, Davis argues that the wrong of surrogate motherhood is to be found in the mercenary aspect of it.
Then also, surrogate arrangements bring mercenary considerations into the generation of human life. That may not seem problematic when the child is born healthy, but the case of the unfortunate Christopher Stiver brings the problems to light. From the time of his birth on January 10, 1983, Christopher was regarded “as a piece of inferior merchandise, an imperfect creature come into the world as damaged goods,” observed Roger Rosenblatt. Surrogate parenting can degenerate into commerce in human souls, and that, among other reasons, is sufficient to make it an illegitimate solution to one’s infertility.
In the January-March, 1986 issue of Bibliotheca Sacrathe same issues of surrogate motherhood were addressed. Introducing the moral implications, the article states:
Moreover, what about the moral questions. Has adultery taken place? Has something immoral happened?
Answers to these questions are difficult because the meaning of human parenthood is now changed in such a profound way that standard societal and biblical categories are blurred. The slide from this relatively plausible scenario down the slope toward more fearful ones is quite possible.
After the article advises childless couples to seek help solving the problem of their fertility, it warns against other scientific techniques:
Couples often want to use artificial reproduction to circumvent or manipulate the will of God. In the Old Testament, Hannah sought the Lord for a child
I Sam. 1;
today couples seek a fertility clinic. They should recognize instead that God is sovereign over procreation.
Raising various theological problems involved in these techniques, the article points out that these are a “threat to the basis for the sanctity of human life.” This is true in three ways. There is a potential loss of human life because many fertilized ova-are destroyed. There is the general practice of destroying fertilized ova if they appear abnormal. There is the problem of “hyperfertilization;” i.e., the practice of fertilizing many ova and discarding the ones not used. “Until protection of the unborn child can be guaranteed, Christians must question these practices.”
A second objection is the separation of the “physical dimensions of sexual intercourse from the emotional and spiritual ones.” This is, according to the article, especially true of surrogate parenting.
These procedures dehumanize prenatal care for infants and open up a realm of commercialization of parenting [leading inevitably to “wombs for rent”). In the end these new reproductive alternatives hold the prospect of “turning the marriage bed into a chemistry set.”
A third objection is to be found in the fact that, according to the article, Scripture speaks of two spheres in human parenthood: the unitive and the procreative. “These are tied together by the union of sexuality, love, and procreation.” The idea is that the communication of love and the bringing forth of children are united in one act. “Artificial reproduction frequently separates these functions and thus poses a potential threat to the completeness God intended for marriage.”
Finally the article argues that surrogate motherhood blurs the true relationship between procreation and parenthood. And “these genetic advances pose a threat to the stability of the family.”
In an article in the Calvary Baptist Theological Journalof Spring, 1986, Helmut Thielicke is quoted as saying:
Every human fellowship bears its purpose within itself. The divine commission given to marriage in creation is to the effect that both are created for each other (as a polar unity,
as “one flesh”
Gen. 2:23, 24
and that in this oneness they are to satisfy the command, “Be fruitful and multiply.” The personal unity of man, wife and child would therefore be ruptured by any isolation of the biological act of procreation (The Ethics of Sex, p. 251).
The article quotes further from Bruce Anderson:
But the Bible teaches that marriage embraces the wholeness of two people—body, spirit and mind. Children are part of that unity, the expression of those two individuals and their commitment to one another. Bringing in a third party—a sperm doctor or surrogate mother—rips apart the fabric of the union. The covenant of parenthood is destroyed in order to make parents (“Would You Pay”, p. 51).
Many of the arguments raised against surrogate motherhood are also legitimate arguments against various forms of artificial insemination, either AID (artificial insemination by donor) or AIH (artificial insemination by husband). Davis in Evangelical Ethicsargues that AIH is permissible while AID is not. He demurs from official Roman Catholic teaching which forbids artificial techniques in conception on the grounds that such techniques are not the expression of the natural conjugal act between the husband and the wife, and because they involve an act of masturbation.
In his arguments against AID he states:
While AID does not, strictly speaking, involve an act of adultery, since no act of intercourse is involved, and both husband and wife consent, it nevertheless does involve the intrusion of a third party into the intimacy of the marriage relationship. This intrusion may be effected by rather impersonal means, but nevertheless, the presence of a third party in the marriage is a reality in both the biological and the emotional realms. The biblical understanding of man does not separate the “personal” from the physical, as AID does by its very nature; man in Scripture is a psychophysical whole . . . (p. 72).
AID introduces an imbalance into the relationship between the husband and the wife. Her maternal functions have been fulfilled, but his paternal function has not. The AID child remains as a constant reminder of his biological failure, and the shadow of an anonymous third party clouds the relationship. The deception that may be involved concerning the child’s true origin—involving parents and friends, the parents and the child, and the child and his siblings—can introduce unhealthy and even destructive currents into the family relationship . . . . AID endangers the one-flesh unit
that God has willed for human marriage (p. 73).
Dr. Gareth Jones in his book, Brave New People, gives qualified approval to AIH—i.e., he approves of it provided that the motives are right. But he warns against the use of AID.
Enormous care must be exercised before approving AID. Its simplicity and innocuous appearance are deceptive. We should not accept the view that human beings can do anything they wish, and can solve all problems confronting them. Perhaps one of the supreme virtues is the ability, on occasion, to accept loss, inadequacy and suffering . . . .
By contrast (to adoption), AID introduces into the family unit only half an outsider, namely a child carrying the wife’s genes but not the husbands. In this regard, the child is more a part of the family than is the adopted child. However, in order to accomplish this, a biological bond between the husband and wife has been severed. AID involves a radical separation between the sexual and reproductive functions of the marriage relationship, between marriage and parenthood. . . .
The unity of love-making and life-giving facets of marriage constitute the heart of the Christian conception of marriage. Technological inroads into reproductive control pose a threat to this unity, in that they make separation of them a feasibility . . . .
In the case of AID . . .the introduction of an extramarital element means that the technological inroads themselves have ethical implications, and these, on balance, appear to me to be foreign to a Christian view of the marriage bond (pp. 128-130).
In The Banner of September 9, 1985, Lewis Smedes responds to a question concerning AID in the following statement:
1. I do not know of a biblical or moral law that expressly forbids AID.
2. I believe that both the husband and his wife need to ask themselves some very tough questions:
a. Are they sure how each of them will feel later toward a child who is biologically from only the mother? Things can be hard enough when parents share being adoptive parents. They can get sticky indeed when one has a different birth relationship to the child than the other has. Do these two people really know themselves well enough to know how they will respond later on in times of crisis?
b. Are they sure how they will feel toward one another when troubles come into their family? AID is made to order for hidden jealousies, covered shame, suppressed resentments; the shadow of the unknown donor is never far away. Do the husband and wife know themselves well enough to know how they will feel toward each other when their beloved child creates a crisis in their home?
c. Is the husband’s concern really a disguise for his own personal and private doubts?
Smedes refuses to condemn AID out of hand and on any principle ground, but simply raises various practical objections, mostly of the psychological kind. Thus AID would be permissible if the psychological problems could be overcome.
We shall continue our discussion at a future time.