The story of baby Gammy’s abandonment by his biological parents for having Down syndrome has opened up a wide discussion around surrogacy.
As the days go on, more information is being revealed about the biological parents of the 7 month old boy and the circumstances of his birth.
We know that Gammy and his twin sister were born as a result of a surrogacy agreement between an Australian couple and an Indonesian woman, Pattharamon Janbua, who is 21 and already the mother of two children. Her husband agreed that the cash she would receive for being a surrogate (or gestational carrier) would help them out considerably. That fee was reported to be $AUS11,700.
It was discovered about three months along that there were twins, and more money was offered to Pattharamon. However, a month later tests revealed that one of the babies had Down syndrome – that baby was Gammy.
Pattharamon says that the Australian biological parents asked that Gammy be aborted, but because of her Buddhist believes she could not do it.
When the twins were born, the Australian couple took the little girl, who we know very little about, but who obviously did not have Down syndrome, leaving Gammy at the hospital.
According to Indonesian law, Pattharamon is Gammy’s legal parent. Gammy has medical issues, in particular a heart condition which needs surgery – a complication that is reasonably common in those with Down syndrome – this has led Pattharamon to go public and to ask for assistance. More than $200,000 has been raised and this little boy will have the surgery he needs.
In a new twist to the story, it is being reported that the biological father has a “conviction for indecently dealing with a child under 13 and has served jail time after being found guilty in 1998.”
The story raises many points to discuss around parenthood, surrogacy, IVF, infertility, abortion and disability, too many for this post.
Infertility, or the inability to carry a child because of the lack of a womb is a tragedy that brings great heartbreak for many people. It is natural for people, and women in particular, to desire to have a child. There is something innate in us that wishes to carry on a part of yourself. Love between a man and a woman is at its best when it multiplies to include children.
But at what point does the desire to have a child become a want, a need a must have possession at all costs?
So many couples today are experiencing infertility and generally the response is to deal with it by approaching a fertility clinic such as Fertility Associates.
IVF (in vitro fertilisation – the creation of a new human being in a petri-dish) is very common place. It is often not talked about for many reasons. Those of us who oppose it on the grounds that it creates children outside of the marital embrace and removes the dignity of human embryos by freezing the excess and discarding the imperfect, tend to keep quiet so as to not offend friends who desperately wish to have a family.
Pregnancy is sacrosanct. One must be able to have their own genetic child at all costs – and it costs a lot. (Private treatment costs with Fertility Associates is so complex that they have developed a Fertility Cover plan where payment can be made for three cycles with 70% being refunded if no baby results).
Often donors are required to fulfill the “dream”, complicating the situation further.
Then there is surrogacy. Which is how baby Gammy now finds himself the subject of much debate.
Out of his biological parents desire to have a child at whatever cost, they chose to have another woman carry their child to birth, entering into a contract, an agreement, and paying money for “services”. The desire to have a child and the subsequent agreement was only ever for the delivery of a “perfect” child. That is what they paid their money for. That is why they asked for little Gammy to be aborted when it was discovered in utero that he had Down syndrome. That is why they were able to walk away from him, tearing him apart from his twin sister. He, in their eyes, was not perfect and a child with Down syndrome was not what they had invested in. To this couple Gammy has no worth because he is a defective object that doesn’t fulfill the contract made with the surrogate mother.
We should not be shocked. The attitude that pregnancy is a right if one chooses it has permeated society to such an extent that a mother has a right to terminate the vulnerable life within her if she so chooses. Why would it be any different when she pays money for another to carry that child to birth? Abandonment after birth is only an extension of the desire to abort an already living human being in the womb.
How many pre-born children, diagnosed with various fetal anomalies are aborted each year not only here in New Zealand, but throughout the world, because they do not meet the expectations of perfection?
As a society we must see children as gifts, not as objects that can be manipulated in the science lab. We must see that all children have worth and dignity and cannot be “terminated” or abandoned simply because they do not measure up to our standards of perfection. If we do not, then little Gammy’s life has taught us nothing and we will find ourselves discussing situations even more graver than this.
Note: I have noticed that an alternative spelling for the surrogate mother’s name is being used – Pattaramon Chanbua. I have also seen quoted an alternative amount paid by the Australian couple – $AU$16,000.