Children have the right to be raised by both their mother and father. That used to be a noncontroversial idea. But no longer.
In their eye-opening 2021 book, Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children's Rights Movement (Post Hill Press, 2021), Katy Faust and Stacy Manning examine how children have been damaged by such developments as no-fault divorce, marriage equality, and the largely unregulated fields of surrogacy and in-vitro-fertilization.
They argue that in the quest for the satisfaction of the desires of adults (the “Us” of the title), children (the “Them” of the title) have been treated as afterthoughts and made into tiny cheerleaders for lifestyles that have deprived the child of either a father or a mother by design.
The authors quote extensively from a broad range of now adult children of same-sex couples, surrogacy and children of “donors” of sperm or eggs—which are not usually donated but bought and paid for. These personal testimonies are heartbreaking and expose the cost to the children of these arrangements and technologies.
One example from a woman conceived via egg donation:
It bothers me that I cost money, that the one woman I want most in this life is a stranger yet 50 percent of me. Sometimes I wish I weren’t born. I didn’t ask for this, and I never would have consented to it.
The child of a male same-sex couple says:
My five-year-old brain could not understand why I didn’t have the mom that I suddenly desperately wanted. I felt the loss. I felt the hole. As I grew, I tried to fill that hole with aunts, my dads’ lesbian friends, and teachers. I remember asking my first-grade teacher if I could call her Mom. I asked that question of any woman who showed me any amount of love and affection. It was instinctive. I craved a mother’s love even though I was well loved by my two gay dads.
This is an invaluable, gripping record in their own words of the trauma inflicted on children of this brave new world. They are moving documents that show the dark side of social and scientific changes that are often lauded as utterly desirable and unproblematic.
Faust and Manning detail the repercussions of three categories of intentional parental loss: children who experienced divorce and abandonment, children with LGBT parents, and children born of surrogacy and via sperm and/or egg donation. They point out, for example, the startling contrast between adoption (heavily regulated) and surrogacy (basically, shockingly unregulated).
This is an expose of historic importance. It should be read by anyone interested in the fields of bioethics, sociology, psychology, child development, law, public policy, gender studies and concerned about the fate of children born of reproductive technologies or raised intentionally without a mother or a father. The ramifications of these vast and sudden changes have not been addressed sufficiently or candidly outside of conservative scholarly circles.
A crucial readership for this book is that of would-be parents considering having children outside of a traditional marriage or producing children via sperm or egg donation. Read what the children of such arrangements say of their lifelong pain and feelings of loss before you rush into a parenthood that cannot take place without intentional biological parent deprivation.
And if you are the child of one of these situations, this book will show that you that you are not alone.
Finally, if you have always felt out of place in your family and nagged by a vague feeling of something being not quite right, one of the shocking revelations of the book is the phenomenon of increasing numbers of people who discover as adults that they were conceived by artificial means and that at least one of their social parents is not their biological one. Thus, you may have siblings (perhaps even dozens) that you don’t even know exist.
We’ll talk today with Katy Faust, the founder and director of Them Before Us and the co-author of this important book about the rights of children.
Give a listen.
Hope J. Leman is a grants researcher.
Hope J. Leman is a grants researcher in the biomedical sciences. She is particularly interested in the subjects of natural law, religious liberty and history generally.