Pop Culture Meets Reproduction: Stars, Surrogacy, And Adoption

Illustration for article titled Pop Culture Meets Reproduction: Stars, Surrogacy, And Adoption

Two news stories today examine our most important source for information about reproductive choices: the movies!


First up, stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick recently had twins via surrogate. This leads Jane Brody of the New York Times to examine surrogacy in general. Sure, there's a stigma: surrogacy "has been called a violation of natural law, a form of prostitution or baby selling, an exploitation of poor women, and a privilege of the rich and famous [where would anyone get that idea?] who may not want to disrupt their careers or their figures by giving birth to their own children." However, lawyer Melissa Brisman, whose children were carried by surrogates, says, "People don't become gestational carriers as a way of making money. Rather, their motives are altruistic." Brody doesn't really interrogate this assertion much, other than offering the admittedly heartwarming story of Pamela MacPhee, who acted as a surrogate for a cousin who was infertile due to cancer. Surrogacy can have complex moral and economic ramifications, none of which really get much play here.


Next, adoption advocates are worried that the new film Orphan, with its depiction of an evil adopted girl, will discourage families from adopting older children. The Christian Alliance for Orphans has made a website in response to the film, which cites studies showing that adopted teens do better in school and have less depression than the non-adopted. The site also reports that kids who are adopted generally do just as well as kids who aren't, and far better than children who stay in abusive homes or in foster care. Despite this comforting information, the CEO of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute fears that Orphan "may impede recruitment efforts by feeding into the unconscious fears of potential foster and adoptive families that orphaned children are psychotic and unable to heal from the wounds of abuse, neglect, and abandonment."

But the movie may not be the problem. Times blogger Lisa Belkin says of the Christian Alliance's website: "I have to admit, some of these facts surprised me. For years I'd heard stories of older adoptions that ran into trouble, and while I like to think that a horror film would not sway me, I am realizing that anecdote over the years already has." Surrogacy and adoption are both, as Brody and Belkin point out, frequently misunderstood. But the solution is more information — not more "anecdotes" like the ones Brody provides.

Much Has Changed In Surrogate Pregnancies [NYT]
Challenging The "Horrors" Of Adoption [NYT]

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The New Yorker has a really interesting article on people who donate kidneys to strangers, and it has me thinking. I absolutely agree that people should not be able to buy organs; so why is surrogacy different? Aren't the parents in effect "renting" an organ? Would as many people really volunteer to do so if there were no compensation?

I have no answers, just questions I've been pondering.