Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Same sex couples and infertility

As some of you may know, I am a political junkie. I love politics and policy and yearn for the day when good policy actually makes for good politics (unfortunately that is all too rare).

Anyway, I follow many political blogs. The past several days the local political blogosphere in my city has been filled with talk of adoption by same sex couples. There are various proposals to make it illegal. I am a big proponent of equality for same sex couples. My mother is gay and so having been raised by a lesbian and seeing the difference between my mother and her partner and my dad and stepmom, it makes me mad when people argue that as a rule one couple is better/healthier/more natural than the other. Or that one set of my parents would automatically raise me better. Sure, I've had some of the usual stepchild-stepparent tensions with my mom's partner (you know, a little jealousy with losing the "smartest person in the family" label). But compared with my actual stepmother locking me out of her house when I went to visit my dad, it kinda gives you a different perspective on what family composition is healthier.

But yesterday I got a little obsessed with a particular blog post on this topic. And I think it has to do with our IF. See, there are two parts to the argument opponents of same-sex couples adopting that make me particularly sensitive to how they might also apply to couples struggling with IF. One, if nature doesn't think you should parent, then maybe you should listen. And two, the whole thing is more about giving the adults the life they want and not what is best for kids. Let's take these in turn.

First, one very common argument against same-sex couples adopting is that it is not natural. If God doesn't think two men or two women should be parents, then why should anyone else? (I'm not going to get into the whole separation of church and state thing here b/c my point is more about whether these arguments apply to infertile couples in addition to same sex couples.) At one point, this particular blog (which I won't link to b/c I don't want to send people there) said that it is "profoundly obvious" that couples that can't reproduce naturally have no business being parents.

I'm a person of faith. While I don't believe that God is moving us around like pieces on a checkerboard and organizing everything in our lives, I do think that our lives take a certain shape because God is present. So this is a hard thing for me to think about. Is God trying to send us a message that maybe we shouldn't be parents? Are our attempts to get pregnant through technology just a way to ignore this message?

There are a lot of shades of gray in my husband's and my journey with IF. So you could make the argument that we can reproduce, it's just very unlikely we would do so naturally. But what about my friends who have no usable eggs? Or my friends with husbands who have zero sperm? The truth is, I'm not sure how much difference people see between a same sex couple that can't reproduce and a hetero sex couple that can't reproduce. I mean, if you compare a lesbian couple to a couple with azoospermia, their basic reproductive difficulty is the lack of sperm between the two of them. So why do we say that one is fit to parent and the other is not?

This is not just an academic argument. Luckily I have not experienced this personally, but I know many of my IF friends have had people say straight out that maybe they are just not meant to be parents or maybe they should just listen to the message that nature/God is sending them and focus on something other than parenthood. And if I'm honest with myself, I've thought that in the deepest part of my brain.

And this is where we get to the second argument against same sex couples adopting that I think is tied to IF. Is the whole endeavor just about attaining our vision of what we want in life and the children involved just playthings for us? As expressed by opponents of same sex couples adopting, this is about gay rights, not about what is best for the children. While I don't agree that same sex couples are by definition less fit to be parents (and so the "it's not best for the children" is a red herring), I do see some truth to this argument. I am after all thinking of doing IUI and/or adopting because I want to be a mother. I don't like to think too much about the negative aspects of IUI (such as what happens if there are too many babies and thus the consequences for their health). And when I think of adopting, I think of bringing home a cute little newborn and say how great it is that I'm helping a kid in need. I don't think about adopting a toddler or older or a kid with special needs who are truly the children in need of good homes.

So part of me wonders that my passion for defending same sex couples in their ability to adopt stems from my own insecurities about IF and what it means for me. Should I listen to the message that maybe I'm not meant to be a mother? If I don't (because truly I don't want to), am I putting my own wants ahead of what is best for children? Regardless of what you think about same sex couples adopting, how do you all work through these questions?


  1. "this particular blog (which I won't link to b/c I don't want to send people there) said that it is "profoundly obvious" that couples that can't reproduce naturally have no business being parents."

    This is so hypocritical! Especially because these are usually the same people telling infertiles that it is our duty to adopt.

    Very interesting post. I met a guy once who told me that humans pretty much can't do anything that isn't selfish (not necessarily in a negative way, though - just as a philosophical point of view). We help others because it makes "us" feel good to do so. I pondered that for a long time, and I came to realize that it is basically true. If we chose to adopt even if we yearn to have a biological child, it's possible that we do so because it makes us feel good about ourselves in some way, or relieves guilt that we feel.

    I do think that some of the "infertiles should adopt" and "ART is for selfish people" argument stems from not what is good for "the children" but what is good for society versus what is good for the individual. It should not fall on the backs of infertiles to do what is good for society while fertiles are encouraged to do what is good for themselves. That violates the ideal that all people are equal. And the same goes for gay men or lesbian women - all people should be equal.

  2. That's a great point. As a society we need to find ways to take care of the most vulnerable, but that doesn't mean infertiles are the only ones who should bear that burde

  3. I think that wanting to have kids is selfish, no matter who you are and what your reproductive abilities are. I don't think that a person's sexuality makes their wants and desires less valid than any one else's.

    That is quite an interesting connection between same-sex child-wanting couple and an IF couple pursuing a baby.

  4. This is very thought provoking. one major point here is the fertile couples are having children b/c they want to-no doubt about it. They are thinking of their new baby and all the great things they are going to do with their child. They are not saying we need to reproduce because the world isn't populated enough or we hope to reproduce and have a child that grows to cure cancer. Getting pregnant whether planned or unplanned is a self centered decision. This begs the question why should infertile couples not have the same rights to reproduce even if they need help in doing so.
    Adoption is about the children because the are already living and need to be put in the best possible home and conditions. If that means a gay couple adopts a child, then that is wonderful. The unfortunate thing about adoption is that there are many people out there who would be excellent parents but either cannot afford the adoption or fall out of th perameters to adopt- age, sex, marital status, etc. THAT is what really gets me.
    My opinion is that those who are infertile are forced to make a different decision than those who can get pregnant easily or on their own.
    But infertility does not automatically mean that parenthood is not meant to be. That would be a shame.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...