Saturday, 31 May 2008

Children as a commodity

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There has been much written on these pages about the fact that children these days are born or discarded at the whim of the parent, but thus far, such children have been dispensed with before birth, when they are, as far as the parents are concerned, invisible. Todays news brings the horrifying story that an elderly mother of 59 and her husband, who at seventy two is hardly a youthful father, have abandoned twin girls born as a result of IVF in India, because they wanted a son to carry on the family name. I have grave misgivings about IVF for all sorts of reasons, and the idea that a mother well past the age at which nature would have allowed her a baby crossing continents to have somebody elses (she may have borne it, but these little girls are not her flesh and blood) is something that arouses disquiet. That she should then be able to abandon them because they are the wrong sex is, I suppose, no worse than getting rid of them before they were born. I wonder whether the hospital staff who were so horrified that these girls were left behind in hospital would have been quite so affected had the mother come in at twenty three weeks and some days pregnant, and said that at her age, she had reluctantly decided that actually, she couldnt go through with the birth after all. As a society, we cannot have it all ways. If we are to allow parents to have or not to have babies as and when they see fit; if it is possible for parents to take themselves off to India or Russia or elsewhere in the less regulated world in order to have a child of the sex of their preference (and then expect the National Health Service to pay for the expensive bit of looking after an elderly mother to be, and the cost of the almost inevitable Caesarian section that will be required) and then the expected boy turns out to be a girl, why should we be surprised when it is metaphorically speaking left behind in the shop as faulty goods

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