October 13, 2014

Story in Stupidity: Surrogacy is the new slavery, folks

Today's story in stupidity comes to you courtesy of Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Brayton dug up a post by Robert Oscar Lopez over at the American Thinker (we've covered stories by him before too....)

Lopez's main point seems to be that surrogacy, because you are paying someone for a child (?), is a type of slavery.

Of course, you could easily argue that surrogacy is not paying someone for a child--it is paying someone to carry a child. Much like people can pay people to take care of children, or to do a variety of other facets of child-rearing, you are paying for the action itself.

I don't necessarily agree that this is a form of homophobia in this post; Lopez says he himself is bisexual, and his mother is a lesbian. He supports civil unions and allowing homosexuals to adopt out of the foster system. It's apparently surrogacy itself that he is opposed to. In this context, he only discusses it in terms of homosexual couples, but I find myself wondering whether he applies the same logic to straight couples that use surrogacy.

But, the entire argument, in and of itself, is enough to make it into our Stories in Stupidity archive.

Here we go.

The gist of the piece is:

That’s the other thing. Not only does the HRC explode into hysteria when they see me traveling to Paris and – gasp! – talking to people in French.  They also hate when I bring up history.  They love to compare themselves to black people.  Their comparisons are vaguely based on their sense that black people were enslaved and held captive, while gay teenagers didn’t get to go to a prom, and isn’t that all a similar kind of suffering?  I mean, isn’t the Middle Passage a lot like the pain of not having a bridal registry for two men at Nordstrom’s? 
Cursed am I for having studied so much antebellum black literature.  I can’t help but point out that black suffering came from a practice of people buying people, and now, because they can’t procreate naturally, homosexuals are buying people and calling them their children.  I know, I know – we’re not talking about whips and chains or being forced to harvest sugarcane.  But is slavery minus atrociously painful labor no longer slavery? 
Wasn’t slavery the problem with slavery, not all the horrors that sometimes accompany slavery and sometimes do not?  The thing itself – buying people like livestock and owning them, no matter how long the contract runs, whether you are a house or field servant – is the evil, not the byproducts. 
Notice how I am not using profanity or saying that gay people are going to the fiery place below.  I am simply pointing out that the gay lobby is not the first orchestrated movement to rationalize buying people.  This is enough to turn them apoplectic.  It’s enough to land an obscure little nobody at a Cal State top billing in their paranoid fantasies. 
It is common in France and Belgium for people to use the term esclavage, or slavery, in describing surrogacy arrangements.

I have a few problems with these arguments.

For one, I don't hear many people arguing that the movement for gay rights is like fighting for abolition. There are comparisons drawn between the civil rights movement and the current LGBT+ rights movement, and I think that under the right circumstances, with the right understanding of privilege and intersectionality, those comparisons can be accurate. Comparing it to slavery would not be, and I have not personally read or heard anything that argued differently, or tried to create a false equivalency between the struggle for gay rights and the horrors of actual slavery. That just doesn't happen; it's a strawman of the finest variety.

I also have a problem with the idea that carrying children produces slaves. Brayton touches on this:

So why isn’t it “slavery” when a straight couple adopts a child that is without a family? Why isn’t it “slavery” when a straight couple uses in vitro fertilization or surrogacy to become parents? Oh, right — because your holy book doesn’t hate those people and neither do you. I have gay friends who have adopted children. No reasonable person could possibly see the love and devotion they have for their children and be anything but moved by it.

I agree with Brayton's points here, but I'd take it a bit further, I think. If having children produces slaves, then doesn't that mean that every child-bearing couple is engaged in slavery? You may indeed reimburse a woman who is acting as your surrogate; you may provide for her expenses, both related to the pregnancy and not. You may make it possible for her to live nicely while she is expecting.

These arrangements aren't that different from your typical pregnant housewife, honestly. So are these arrangements also slavery? If you get a roof over your head, your bills paid, your wants taken care of, without working yourself, that's reimbursement. Is your husband buying your child?

At the end of the day, Lopez overlooks the fact that most legally sanctioned child-bearing unions are contracturally based. That's what marriage is--a contract. And if I learned anything from my fascination with Henry VIII many years ago, breaking your contractual obligation to bear your spouse's children can have dire effects.

So to argue that these arrangements are somehow less because they are contractually based seems very off base to me.

Call me crazy, but that's what marriage is.

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