Michael Cook writes about "bio-ethics, but his Ph.D., in his own words, is "on an obscure corner of Australian literature," and his past profession was book editor. What makes him a bio-ethicist, other than holding opinions, is unclear.
Cook, however, doesn't need education to determine morality. He is actually opposed to reality-based ethics. He claims same-sex marriage "is the climax of the whole Enlightenment project of establishing autonomous reason as the supreme criterion of truth." That's a nice way of saying he is anti-reason and wants to substitute faith as a means of finding out truth. Cook calls himself "a cradle Catholic" and has been a member of the extremist religious group Opus Dei "for 30-something years."
Cook recently took potshots at marriage equality opposing both gay couples marrying, and gay individuals in general. He laments anti-marriage advocate David Blankenhorn's change of mind as "a painful reminder of one of the main failings of our culture -- its inability to set boundaries to sexual expression."
Cook wrote that opponents of marriage equality must "have firm views on the immorality of homosexual acts" and "must hold firm to the truth that homosexual love is not equal in dignity to married love." Mr. Cook cloaks his religion in scientific terms to give it credibility. His collection of anti-gay essays, in book form, indicate that.
Cook uses "surrogacy" to bash the idea that same-sex couples, especially male couples, should be allowed to marry. Connecting the two issues requires giant leaps in logic.
Cook argues an increase in married couples leads to more babies, so same-sex couples marrying necessarily leads to more babies as well; and "male couples need surrogate mothers." He suggests that: "Unless the law of supply and demand is repealed" then these women will come from "where wombs are cheapest." (Cheapest is actually free, and that usually means friends or relatives of the couple.)
He admits there are "no official statistics," but asserts "gay couples account for a substantial chunk of the overseas market." Yet, a few weeks earlier he wrote, "No one has idea how big the demand for gay surrogacy market." (sic.) From having no idea a few weeks ago, he now asserts it to be a "substantial chunk."
He concludes, based on a survey that is "far from scientific, let alone comprehensive," that "poor women... will be recruited to service gay couples."
With no actual statistics, but with his wonky survey, he is ready to pronounce moral judgment and point a bony Puritanical finger at gay men.
Cook warns: "Supporters of same-sex marriage must recognize they face a serious moral dilemma. Cheap wombs might bring gay men the happiness of being the father of a child of their own. But the cost of that happiness is often borne by poor and uneducated women." He has also claimed that legalization of gay marriage will "mean misery for women in developing countries" and seriously asks: "Are gay couples ready to force women to have selective abortions?"
Just because Mr. Cook sees a "serious moral dilemma" doesn't mean that there actually is one. Religious moralists often invent moral dilemmas out of their fear of change. But, as F.A. Hayek noted, "modern civilization has become largely possible by the disregard of the injunctions of those indignant moralists."
Cook seems especially upset that women are offered financial remuneration and seems offended by surrogacy itself. Perhaps his opposition is just that the use of money offends him -- somewhat along the old Christian view of it "being the root of all evil." However, even granting all his premises -- and I actually grant none of them -- there are big problems with his thesis.
The idea that there is some surge in surrogacy due to gay marriage is not justified. We know that 75% of gay couples simply don't have any children. U.S. Census data also shows "Sixteen percent of all same-sex couples with children report having only nonrelated children in their households. Of course, these children are reported as unrelated to the householder, but may be the child of the householder's partner." Also, "81 percent [of] male-male couples" "with children present in the household have only biological children residing with them."
The majority of children in gay households, over 80% are from prior heterosexual relationships. Most of the remaining children are adopted. As the New York Times noted, Census data show "19 percent of same-sex couples raising children reporting having an adopted child in the house." Many of these couples adopt children that no one else is willing to adopt. Stopping same-sex marriage will have little impact on surrogacy but could impact adoptions of hard-to-place children. How is that ethical?
While some high-profile, wealthy gay couples have used surrogates, the costs are prohibitive to the typical gay couple, even if they go overseas. Those who do go the surrogate route are more likely to feel better doing it at home, often with a female friend or relative volunteering to help. The stereotype of the wealthy gay couple out to buy wombs in the Third World is hardly typical.
Using gay couples to harp about the alleged unethical use of surrogacy is statistically abusrd. Gay males are perhaps 3% of the population. Many will never marry, just as is the case among straight men. Those who do marry are not likely rush off to a poor country to "rent wombs" from the poor.
Even in a place as large as the U.S., the estimated total number of surrogacy births per year is a paltry 1,400, with 100 of them being born to couples from outside the US -- in contradiction to Cook's theory that it is "cheap wombs" that are being sought. Surrogates report a high preference for gay couples who have "developed a reputation as especially grateful clients, willing to meet the surrogate's often intense demands for emotional connection."
Cook's swipe at marriage equality is a clever one, combining both left-wing and right-wing biases. For conservatives, he appeals to their religious-based biases against both gays and "non-biblical" forms of procreation. For the left, Cook appeals to a knee-jerk reaction to profit and the exchange of money, as well as throwing in the image of rich, white (gay) men exploiting poor women of color. But, don't despair, at least he has a non-scientific, non-comprehensive survey to back up this alleged "moral dilemma."
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