Tag Archives: Family Law

The Ethics of Surrogacy

Although the BBC’s the Moral Maze is currently on hiatus until later this fall, the most recent episode discussed the morality of surrogacy.  The topic was sparked by a horrendous story discussed below. 

Here is a description of the podcast from the BBC’s website. 

She was paid £8850. The money would help repay the family’s debts and to go towards the education her two children. Pattaramon Chanbua never even met the Australian couple who were paying her. It’s known as “gestational surrogacy” where the host mother is implanted with an embryo. Effectively the Australian couple were paying to rent the Thai woman’s womb. In this case Pattaramon gave birth to twins. One of them, who’s been named Gammy had Down’s syndrome. It’s a terrible story that raises many uncomfortable moral and ethical dilemmas. This isn’t just a simple contractual obligation. At the heart of this there’s a child’s life. Who bears the moral responsibility when things go wrong? And is that something that can be delegated to regulation? Infertility is a grief for many thousands of couples and the trade in international surrogacy also attracts same sex partners who desperately want children. But how do we – should we – weigh their pain against the exploitation of poor women and the commodification of that greatest of gifts – the gift of life? In such emotive cases it’s perhaps too easy to rush to judgment. There’s the argument that when done properly surrogacy can enrich people’s lives, offering the childless a the chance to become parents and by putting money into the hands of surrogate women it gives them the chance to plan the future of their families in the way they see fit. If we ban it we take that opportunity out of their hands. If we regulate is that tacitly condoning a degrading a marketization of something that should not be commodified? And if we regulate womb renting, why not allow the poor to monetise other parts of their bodies? Their blood? Or perhaps a kidney? And is it the role of the state to regulate and control what people do with their bodies? Moral Maze – Presented by Michael Buerk.

Panellists: Matthew Taylor, Claire Fox, Anne McElvoy and Jill Kirby.
Witnesses: Richard Westoby, Julie Bindel, Nicola Scott and Dr. Helen Watt.

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Rape Survivor, Attorney, Advocate Shauna Prewitt to Speak at SUCOL

The Syracuse Law and Civic Engagement Forum (SLACE) and National Women’s Law Student Association (NWLSA) will co-host an event featuring Shauna Prewitt on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 4 p.m. in Room 175 of the law school.

Prewitt is a rape survivor, attorney and advocate for reform of the custody laws in most states, which allow rapists the same parental rights as other fathers, something often used to coerce rape victims into not testifying in criminal trials. She gained national attention following Rep. Todd Aiken’s infamous “legitimate rape” comments in August 2012. Prewitt wrote an open letter to Aiken explaining his biological inaccuracies.

Prewitt enrolled at Georgetown Law School in 2006. During her time there, she wrote the first scholarly piece examining the legal protections afforded to women who become mothers through rape. Since its publication, Prewitt’s piece has received much attention from legal scholars, legislators and advocacy groups.

Today, Prewitt is a practicing attorney and a national expert on the laws protective of pregnant rape victims. She frequently testifies in support of rape legislation and routinely contributes to the national commentary on the need for even greater protections. Interviews with and articles written by her have appeared on CNN, NBC and other national media outlets.

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February 10, 2014 · 4:45 pm

Should Addicts Be Paid Not To Have Kids?

Several months ago, WNYC’s Radiolab ran a story about Barbara Harris and her daughter Destiny. Barbara Harris is the founder is the founder of a controversial organization, Project Prevention.  Project Prevention pays drugs addicts to be receive vasectomies or tubal ligation.  

Here is a description of the story: 

When Barbara Harris was 37, she started wishing she could have a daughter. It was 1989, and by that time only two of her six sons were still at home. So she filled out all the paperwork, and later that summer got a call about an 8-month-old baby girl. As soon as Barbara met her, she knew that was it — this was her daughter. She named her Destiny Harris. But before she could take her home, the social worker told Barbara that Destiny had tested positive for crack, PCP, and heroin. Her mom was addicted to drugs, and doctors said Destiny was delayed mentally and physically as a result, and always would be.

Producer Pat Walters flew down to North Carolina to meet Barbara and Destiny, who’s now 22 years old. And Barbara tells Pat, a few months after she brought Destiny home, she and her husband got another call. Destiny’s mom had given birth to another boy. They went to the hospital to pick him up, and he was going through withdrawal from heroin. Then Barbara got another call: a little girl. And a year later, another little boy. By 1994 she’d adopted four kids from the same woman. And she was feeling angry — how could this be allowed to happen? She decided to take a stand by trying to get a law passed for longterm birth control. And when that failed, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She founded an organization called Project Prevention, and began paying women with drug addiction to get IUDs, or get sterilized.

Lynn Paltrow, the Executive Director and founder of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, argues that Project Prevention is misguided and harmful, and articulates many of the objections raised by Barbara’s critics.

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October 28, 2013 · 9:36 pm

“Do Baby Girls Cause Divorce? “

That was the question explored by economists on the Freakonomics podcast.

Here is a description of the podcast:

This episode was inspired by a question from a reader named John Dolan-Heitlinger, who wrote the following:

My wife has observed that in marriages where there is a son there is less chance of the husband leaving the marriage.

I wonder if that is true.

Thanks for your consideration.

Mr. Dolan-Heitlinger asks, and we deliver. And his wife, as it turns out, is right. In a paper called “The Demand for Sons,” the economists Enrico Moretti and Gordon B. Dahl examined differences in marital rates based on whether a first-born child is a son or daughter. Here are some of their findings:

  • Couples who conceive a child out of wedlock and find out that it will be a boy are more likely to marry before the birth of their baby.
  • Parents who have first-born girls are significantly more likely to be divorced.
  • Fathers are significantly less likely to be living with their children if they have daughters versus sons.
  • In any given year, roughly 52,000 first-born daughters younger than 12 years (and all their siblings) would have had a resident father if they had been boys.
  • Divorced fathers are much more likely to obtain custody of sons compared to daughters.

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August 28, 2013 · 7:47 am

“Child custody rights for rapists? Most states have them”

I could not believe this story when I learned of it. In 31 states, rapists have child custody rights. Shauna Prewitt, attorney, author, and rape vicitm, is currently fighting to change these baffling laws.  Prewitt gained notoriety for writing an open letter former Congressman Todd Akin, who infamous stated that in the case of “a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

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August 7, 2013 · 2:53 pm

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl UPDATE

In the fervor over the Supreme Court rulings regarding gay marriage and the Voting Rights Act, the outcome of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl was lost.  Luckily, Radio Lab, the podcast that initially brought this interesting case to my attention, has updated its coverage of the case following the High Court’s ruling.  

Here is a link to the original story and a description of the update: 

The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of Baby Veronica’s adoptive parents, but the ruling itself doesn’t give clear answers to what will happen to Veronica, her two families, and the Indian Child Welfare Act. Tim reaches out to a collection of legal experts to help us understand the latest decision in this complicated, heart-wrenching case.

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July 12, 2013 · 10:58 am

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

Lost the fervor relating to the gay marriage cases currently pending before the Supreme Court is another fascinating case that will be decided decided this month, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. 

Here is a description of the Radio Lab segment previewing the case: 

This is the story of a three-year-old girl and the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is a legal battle that has entangled a biological father, a heart-broken couple, and the tragic history of Native American children taken from their families.

When producer Tim Howard first read about this case, it struck him as a sad but seemingly straightforward custody dispute. But, as he started talking to lawyers and historians and the families involved in the case, it became clear that it was much more than that. Because Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl challenges parts of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, this case puts one little girl at the center of a storm of legal intricacies, Native American tribal culture, and heart-wrenching personal stakes.

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June 19, 2013 · 7:40 pm