Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Never the closest of bedfellows, law and technology mix uneasily within the realm of alternative reproductive practices. More than twenty years ago, the drama of Baby M provoked a fierce debate about the legal and biological contours of parenthood. In pondering the issue, the New Jersey Supreme Court attempted to erect a barrier between a natural mother’s right and what it saw as a dangerous and exploitive new mechanism for producing and marketing human life. Since that time, the practice of surrogacy and the use of alternative reproductive technologies have taken firm hold in our culture, creating families where, previously, none might have been possible.
This article examines the social and legal complexities involved in the apportioning of rights and responsibilities within these novel family forms. Biology was once determinative of parentage. Today, desire, intent, and the borrowing of another person’s reproductive capacities to create a child have forcefully intruded upon traditional notions of family. Baby M.’s children have been born into a world where law and technology must come to a rational, peaceable resolution in defining and preserving the bonds of parenthood.