As you have no doubt seen, we have received a lot of media attention for our work and especially for our most recent film, Breeders: A Subclass of Women? in the past few weeks. This media coverage has brought several responses.
It has brought a number of intense, hateful, and vicious comments directed at me and at our work. The viciousness of the attacks has reached a new intensity like never before. We are a bit shaken for sure, but with your help we will not back down.
Many others have responded in agreement with our work and applause for our efforts—people like you! Thank you!
Others responded with surprise at finding out about the risks, harms, size, and scope of third-party reproduction. Often they have important questions. Still others disagreed with our work and pushed back against it, but were civil.
We’ve seen all four of these reactions in just the past week. Here’s a taste so you can see what we face moving forward.
In the internet age, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the level of hate or the nastiness of comments that are leveled. Some of the comments are so vile and raw that I will not even repeat them. So keep in mind that the following aren’t even the worst comments I received. Someone suggested that I brush my teeth “with a shotgun blast.” Another wrote, “I wish someone put a bullet through this woman’s eyes. Please.”
I won’t kid you, these comments are difficult for me to receive. It is disturbing and frightening that we live in such a world.
Agree and Applaud
I simply could not continue to do the work that I do without the support of those who reach out and encourage me. We heard from many of our supporters last week thanking us for our work. One woman wrote to me saying, “God bless you Jennifer!” Another reached out to me on Facebook and said, “Thank you for your stand against surrogacy.” Please know how important your kind words of encouragement are to me and to the entire CBC team.
There are many who hear about our films or read an interview of me or of one of the people in our films and who are shocked to know the scope of the third-party reproduction business and the deep wounds it leaves in its wake. I am frequently contacted for more information on statistics, for journal articles and other materials, and for answers to questions like, “how did we get here?” and “why is this so prevalent?”
This is the heart of the work the CBC seeks to do—to educate people and to bring attention to these vitally important yet woefully underreported issues in the hopes of turning the tide. We’ve had one, simple, bottom line message since we first started working on issues of egg donation way back when: stop, don’t do it.
The same applies for donating/selling eggs, sperm, and wombs: stop, don’t do it. Thinking of using donated/purchased eggs, sperm, or wombs? Stop. Don’t do it.
Others find out about me and my work and are vocal in their disagreement with it. However, few people who disagree are actually well informed about the issues. For example, the ABC affiliate in Richmond, VA, aired an interview with a couple who are currently using a surrogate, and the piece is setup as a direct disagreement with me and our film Breeders?.
However, the interview actually serves to confirm a number of points we make in the film. For example, the interviewer states that the couple “chose to use a surrogate, or gestational carrier.” This is exactly the dehumanizing language we condemn. We never hear from or even see the woman who is carrying the baby. She is left only as a voiceless abstraction. Further, the couple disagrees with our focus on the money element of surrogacy, yet the report ends with them lamenting—you guessed it—the amount of money it’s costing them!
Another form of disagreement is some version of mind your own business: if you don’t like surrogacy, don’t be or use a surrogate. It doesn’t affect you, so stay out of it. My response is twofold. First, I am involved in this because the voices of those most directly affected are not being heard. It is not wrong for me to speak up for others. In fact, it is imperative that we speak up for those who are not being heard.
Second, we all live together in society and in community. What we do does affect others. The idea that we are isolated individuals whose actions in no way impact others is simply false. It must be resisted.
I need your help to stand firm and remain unwavering. These battles will continue, no doubt. But together, we can stand strong in the face of attacks and disagreement, and continue to work to educate and inform. We are making a difference—the attacks we’re suffering are evidence of that—and we will continue to do so, together with your help.
We cannot be deterred. We will not.
The Center for Bioethics and Culture is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public benefit educational organization.
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- 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.