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Children as commodities


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The Council of the District of Columbia is considering a bill, sponsored by its most aggressively activist gay member, to legalize surrogate child-bearing in your nation's capital. Infertility is a heart-rending problem. But solving that problem is not what's at issue here, for the D.C. surrogacy bill is being pushed by the same people who brought "gay marriage" to the shores of the Potomac River: people who affirm what are, by definition, infertile "marriages."

Moreover, in their determination to deny reality--or perhaps reinvent it--the proponents of the D.C. surrogacy bill have adopted a species of Newspeak that would make George Orwell cringe. You can get a flavor of it in a letter written by a friend of mine to his D.C. councilman:

"...in reading the bill I was struck that nothing was said about the child to be born out of the surrogate agreement. Much is said about the rights and responsibilities of the 'gestational carrier' (a very strange expression) and the 'intended parent,' but nothing is said about the child. The child is treated as a thing to be used as the gestational carrier and intended parent wish. This is the most troubling feature of the proposed law. It gives no indication that one is dealing here with a human person who will have feelings, thoughts, and memories. These are all swept aside as though the child to be born will have no interest in how he or she came into the world, who his or her parents are, and all the other things that are so fundamental to our identity as human beings."

"Gestational carrier"? The D.C. bill not only treats the child as a thing, a commodity that can be bought and sold; it treats the woman bearing the child in the same way. But this is what happens when reality is turned inside-out. For as my friend pointed out to his councilman, it's illegal to sell human organs in America; so "how...is it possible to sell a baby?"

The day I read my friend's plea to the D.C. Council for moral sanity, I happened upon Anthony Esolen's report of another horror involving children, this time in Toronto:

"A public school teacher in Toronto has written a set of lessons requiring young children to imagine wearing clothes appropriate for the opposite sex. He's been congratulated, not by wary parents, but by a school board that insists that teachers are 'co-parents.' What he's doing, of course, is subjecting naive children to an exercise that promotes his own sexual aims."

There is deep and disturbing cultural irony here. An America that prides itself on organizations like the Children's Defense Fund and that supports charities like the Save the Children Fund and UNICEF has also committed itself, not indefinitely we pray, to a regime of abortion on demand that has led to the deaths of tens of millions of children. The highest local legislative body in the federal capital is considering a bill that would commodify children as fit objects for sale and purchase--which is precisely what happened in Washington's antebellum slave markets. And up north, in the Land of Nice, children are being compelled to imagine themselves as cross-dressers; don't be surprised when it happens south of the 49th parallel.

Democracy cannot long co-exist with decadence or unreality. That's the lesson of history and sound political philosophy. And it's the message of the Church, which, with John Paul II, teaches us that it takes a certain kind of people, living certain virtues, to make free politics (and the free economy) work. However we may describe those people and the virtues they live out, they aren't people who buy and sell children, speak blithely of "gestational carriers," reduce parenthood to a lifestyle choice, and ask youngsters to imagine themselves cross-dressing. These behaviors aren't just weird; they're wicked, and the attempt to force them on society through the law is a perfect example of what Benedict XVI meant by the "dictatorship of relativism."

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

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