Recently, a judge in Singapore ruled that a gay man cannot legally adopt his own biological child because surrogacy and any type of assisted reproduction is not allowed for single people or gay people. You can read the article about the discriminatory comments that she made in the link below. This has sparked a great deal of attention in the media and to hear some of the things said by people who are obviously ill-informed and prejudiced is disheartening and hurtful.
I am the father of a 10 year old son born via surrogacy and egg donation and to call these children, and there are literally tens of thousands of them around the world, commodities or that we are somehow involved in human trafficking is not only inaccurate but immoral. While there is great misunderstanding about the role of surrogacy in the world, putting children at risk because of outdated viewpoints or prejudices is just plain wrong.
I have been to Singapore many times and have many friends there. I also have clients there who live in fear for their children. No advanced country should ever allow this to happen. Why is it the concern of a government to determine how one has a child? Gay, straight, single, married, sperm donation, egg donation, surrogacy, adoption, foster care…all should be celebrated for providing a good home for children.
Many heterosexuals have long held negative opinions about gay and lesbian people. There is an innate privilege that heterosexuals have that they often don’t even realize. Whether denying us the right to marry the one we love or telling us that we should not be parents of our own biological children—the bigotry and prejudice seems to never end.
When I read the judge’s words about this case, I boiled with anger at her privilege and inaccurate portrayal of what this family must have gone through to have their child. She actually seemed to imply that they used their privilege to have a child when she was, in fact, using hers to deny them the inherent right afforded to straight couples who do not need any assistance to have a child. How dare she? Or, how about the straight couples who use a surrogate in another country but then lie and say that the wife just happened to be in the U.S. and accidentally delivered there. How many government officials have just turned a blind eye to these couples but not to single people or gay/lesbian couples. How is this not discrimination?
And, keep in mind that this child who is now 3 and has only known Singapore as his home and his two dads who are both citizens as his parents is now in a country where neither of them are recognized as his legal parent. This can open up a host of problems for everything from medical decision making to education and access to services afforded any other person who is the biological child of a citizen of Singapore. This couple wasn’t even asking that the Court consider letting both men be recognized as the parents—just the bio one and that was a no for this Judge who basically said that the child could go live in the US. Well, guess what, the parents can’t do that. So, however you slice it, this ruling is causing great harm to this family and is based in discrimination and hypocrisy.
I would also like to clear up some misconceptions that appeared in several articles I have read. First of all, no surrogate I know of in the United States has ever been paid $200,000. Surrogates are loving people who have their own children and wish to help someone else who cannot become parents on their own have that same joy. There are regulations and guidelines on who can become a surrogate—designed to make sure that surrogacy is the right choice for them medically and psychologically. Surrogates tend to make $30,000 to $40,000 for their time and effort over the course of 15-18 months. It certainly is not something that is going to make them rich.
Surrogacy has been around since Bible times (remember Abraham and Sarah) with modern surrogacy utilizing assisted reproduction methods for around 40 years. Most involve an egg donor so the surrogate is not even biologically related to the child. Certainly not “human trafficking” because the embryos were created by the intended parents and have no relation to the surrogate. In my almost 20 years of working in this field, I have never experienced a surrogate saying that she wished to keep a baby or felt that the process somehow harmed her. To the contrary, most say that outside of having their own children, this is one of the most special and rewarding things they have ever undertaken.
And, for those who argue that gay men should simply adopt—well, it just isn’t that easy. This family did try adoption in Singapore and were told it would be virtually impossible for even one of them to adopt. And, in the United States for every healthy baby born, there are at least six families who would like to adopt the child. So, even if a birth mother is inclined to have her child raised by a gay couple, the competition is fierce and many couples wait years before having any success. Discrimination is saying that straight people that can have children have the right but that gay people should always adopt or just never become parents at all. How is that equality?
If Singapore wishes to remain a financial center of Asia, it needs to seriously look at how it treats its LGBT citizens. Progressive companies may soon find that even with its ideal location and favorable tax advantages, the discrimination faced by its LGBT employees is not worth it.
Stuart Bell is a managing partner at Growing Generations, a leading surrogacy and egg donation firm in the United States. He is involved with LGBT activism and is a donor and member of organizations including Human Rights Campaign, Family Equality Council, and Path2Parenthood. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband of 15 years and their son.