To: Members of the Louisiana Legislature
As I write, I know that many of you are not happy with the Governor’s decision to veto this bill. Others, perhaps, support the Governor’s action, and some, maybe, are breathing a sigh of relief at not having to add another law, particularly one with such far-reaching implications for the formation of families.
I myself am relieved and grateful that Governor Jindal has vetoed, twice now, legislation that would permit state-sanctioned contract pregnancies in Louisiana. I have spent more than a decade of my professional career writing, speaking, testifying, and making documentary films about the risks and consequences of what is known as “third-party” or “collaborative” reproduction, that is, involving multiple parties in the creation of a child. I have interviewed countless women who have entered into arrangements to help others only to have it devastate their own lives.
In my latest documentary film, Breeders: A Subclass of Women?, which focuses on the issue of surrogacy, O. Carter Snead, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University Notre Dame, addresses surrogacy arrangements stating:
We don’t have a lot of good empirical evidence on the question of what are the harms—short term and long term—with respect to children or anyone who’s involved in this process. It seems to me if you’re confronted with the possibility of real, serious harms, the prudent thing to do for a legislature would be to try and pause for a moment, impose a moratorium, and conduct a very serious and deep searching inquiry into what the harms are. It seems irresponsible to me to push full steam ahead with a project that could risk serious harms that we don’t even know about.
Today, then, I invite you to pause in order to begin conducting just this kind of very serious and deep searching inquiry into the issue of surrogacy. In particular, attention must move well beyond the consideration of couples who are unable to bear children. We must look carefully and deeply at all sides of these complex arrangements.
In my work, I have seen women and children harmed. I have learned of confused younger children in surrogates’ homes who witness mommy “helping other women” by having babies but then giving away their “sister” or “brother.” And I have seen the stress and emotional strain placed on children brought into the world in this way.
The truth is, modern assisted reproductive technologies are more than just helping infertile couples have the children they so desperately want. They impact children, women, families, culture, and society—all of us. Now is the time to think deeply about such weighty matters.
Jennifer Lahl, R.N., M.A. (Bioethics)
President and Founder, The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.
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