The problem of libertarianism, which is pointed out in detail by one of the greatest living authors, John C. Wright (in the linked post, as well as others) is that it fails to take into account the needs of children. Any philosophy which fails to satisfactorily address what may be considered the primary material purpose of any living being – that is, successful reproduction – cannot be used as a foundation for one’s whole way of life. As Wright says, “the self-interest crowing libertarian theory by its very nature applies only on sunny days, among adults, in peacetime.”
And as a principle of peacetime relations between adults, this works out very well. But as our society becomes more permissive, and our fertility drops, there is an issue of reproductive rights that ought to be addressed. Not abortion – but contract children. Children conceived using sperm or egg donation, or children bought from “gestational surrogates.”
I am of the opinion that each of these things is inherently immoral, with perhaps some very, very, very narrow exceptions. For instance, if there are two sisters, and one of them is incapable of conceiving due to some problem with her eggs, it would be moral for the other sister to donate eggs for very careful IVF, in which no more embryos are produced than are implanted. Similarly for men – if a man is sterile and his brother or other male relative were willing to provide sperm so that the sterile man and his wife may have children together, that would be permissible.
But in neither case would it be moral for the sterile individual to go to a stranger and purchase reproductive cells for use in creating a designer child, with the express purpose of raising that child in isolation from that child’s biological family. If you’re sterile and you don’t have a willing sibling, find a cousin. If you can’t find a cousin, guess what! You get to adopt! Go stake out a Planned Parenthood clinic and stand there holding a sign that says “I want a child, but I can’t have my own, would you help me?” There are plenty of “unwanted” fetuses in America; you don’t need to go out of your way to create a half-orphaned child when it is very easy to find one that already exists due to other adults’ immorality. As a plus, you can also save that child from being murdered and the child’s mother from becoming a murderer. Win-win-win.
The right of a child to be a part of his family tree, on both sides, should never be abridged for mere convenience or the fulfillment of even very sincere, heartfelt desires of adults to reproduce. The child’s right to his family trump the right of adults to consensually contract among themselves to produce the child and arrange its upbringing to their imagined satisfaction. For indeed, whenever two people “contract” to create a child, there are actually three people involved: the biological mother, the biological father, and the child himself. The child, who doesn’t even exist yet, obviously cannot be a fully informed participant in any contract invalidating the usual rights and duties of the parties. Therefore any contract in which the biological parents (or proxies on their behalf) waive their parental rights – for any reason other than dire necessity, as when a parent is judged in a court of law as unfit, or if a parent dies – is inherently immoral.
To deliberately plan to create a child in isolation from his biological antecedents is little better, morally speaking, than forming a raiding party and riding into the next village over the hill in order to steal children from their cradles. If the fae came in the night and stole babies and left sacks of gold instead of bespelled twigs in the cradles, does that make baby-snatching moral? What if the biological parents had five other children and could really use the money from selling the sixth infant to the fae? This sort of exchange is exactly what’s happening with surrogacy. Modern lifestyles are hell on fertility, so when rich Westerners find they can’t easily obtain the infant they desire the usual way, they pay someone else for the use of her womb.
But that’s not moral. Not only for the reasons that the child will be robbed of his right to his biological family and has no say in the adults’ buying and selling of him; the very act of buying and selling babies (which is exactly what the “fertility” industry is engaged in, with these practices) cheapens the value of human dignity and natural human relationships. It also cheapens womanhood and motherhood. How is paying a woman a few thousand dollars, and putting her through nine months of gestation, when every hormone rebalancing in her body is tweaking her physically, mentally, and emotionally to care and provide for the child within her womb, even theoretically acceptable? “Here, let’s just pay you some money, we’ll rent your body as if it were a car, and the child every instinct of yours is screaming at you to protect, well, we’re just going to whisk away as soon as you give birth. We’ll just ignore how pregnancy changes a woman for life, because that’s not convenient and we don’t have artificial wombs yet, they’re too complicated with all those hormones and stuff.” Even if the child were an embryo created through IVF that shared no biological link to the surrogate, it would still be wrong. The very nature of the process of pregnancy means that informed consent is impossible because pregnancy naturally changes the state of mind of the mother.
The appropriate response to the problem of “too few babies” is not to go about creating even more moral outrages against children. Just as a start, how about we teach schoolgirls in sex-ed class that the responsible thing to do if you end up pregnant after having that “safe” sex is to find one of the many, many infertile couples who want to adopt, and give up the child, instead of aborting it? Especially since that way, a young girl can keep her options open to one day reuniting with her child if she changes her mind. Adopted kids can find their families again one day. Aborted children are gone forever, permanently. Abortion takes away future choices. Adoption? Leaves them open. Who’s really pro-choice, here?