Society defines a parent as the two people who share a deep sexual intimacy that produces an offspring whom they spend the rest of their lives caring for. Being a parent is an act of guiding your child from the womb into adulthood and beyond. Parents and children share a deep emotional bond that is developed from the time that the embryo turns into a fetus.
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However, there are quite several married, unmarried, and alternate sex couples who cannot bear children to fulfill their parental ambitions. That is why IVF conceiving methods were developed. It was designed to help childless couples experience becoming parents. However, along with the scientific privilege of becoming a parent comes the ethical and legal hazards of surrogacy.
The main question posed before those who use surrogacy is this: “Does it make one any less of a parent than the person who carried the child to term?” Those who use IVF face a different nightmare as they try to define the answer to the question: “Does a frozen embryo equate to an actual child and disposing of it mean an aborted child?”
In 2008, Denise Grady of The New York Times exposed the turmoil of parents who undergo IVF and have more embryos than they wanted, and what exactly happens to those embryos. According to Grady:
At least 400,000 embryos are frozen at clinics around the country, with more being added every day, and many people who are done having children are finding it harder than they had ever expected to decide the fate of those embryos.
We have to remember that embryos are eggs which as already fertilized. It is held in suspended animation through cryogenic freeze until the time that the mother is ready to breathe life into the embryo. Consciously, the people who paid to have the embryos developed already know that there is a life waiting to beat in those eggs. They created a life.
They are the parents of those embryos, which is why it is understandable for these people to be torn between having the eggs destroyed, donated to science, or given to strangers in need of embryos. Those are their unborn children, and they are the parents, the gods of the embryos. They have the power to bring it to life or end it. These IVF couples are a new generation of parents.
Then we come to the case of the surrogate mothers. Women who agree to carry an embryo to term because the mother is either incapable or unwilling to do so. The fertilized egg is not usually their child. They are are mere gestation pods as far as the “biological” parents are concerned. In the cases wherein the egg and sperm do not come from the couple, and a surrogate is used to carry the child, who is the real parent of the child?
The people whose sperm and egg came together to form the embryo or the woman who carried the child to term? This is a tough call. Legally, the parent is the one who has the direct DNA connection to the child. But when that is not possible to prove, as only the carrier is known, the state tends to uphold the surrogate as the rightful mother of the child and will protect her rights as the mother in any case.
Designer babies as these paid for births are coming to be known to redefine our ideas and definition of parenthood. What truly defines a parent has become a gray area for everyone involved in the process because they all share a part of that child in one way or another. And each of them is lucky to have been given a chance to become a part of that child’s life, no matter how small the contribution.
So what do I think truly defines parenthood these days? The mere existence of love for the child and the desire to protect him from harm. Regardless of who carried the child to term, or took the child home from the hospital. Sharing the same DNA does not assure the child of a loving parent. It only means that the child came from someone. The parent is whoever shows love, concern, and care for the future of the child.