“Are you my brother’s keeper?”
That’s what Baby Liu might have asked his parents, had he been old enough to talk. To be sure, the imbroglio surrounding the brother who was not his brother provided ample cause for ethical outrage.
In April of last year, Jessica Allen became pregnant with the baby of another couple, known only to her by the pseudonym Mr. and Mrs. Liu. The $30,000 surrogate fee Ms. Allen received would allow her to be a stay-at-home mother for her own two children. She also liked the idea of helping another couple realize the dream of having a child themselves.
The following December, she gave birth to twins. According to her contract, she was not allowed to hold or even see the babies. But a cell phone picture showed the infants to be as different from one another as east and west.
For good reason. Six weeks after becoming pregnant with the Liu’s baby, Ms. Allen became pregnant with a baby of her own.
SADDER THAN FICTION
The phenomenon called superfetation is so rare that only about ten cases appear in all of medical literature. So rare, in fact, that reports of it are often dismissed by doctors out-of-hand. But in this case, the evidence of the two babies’ differing appearance was incontestable.
What might have been a fascinating human interest story soon turned into something much darker. The Lius relinquished Jessica Allen’s biological baby to Omega Family Global, the agency that brokered the deal. That should have been that.
But it wasn’t. According to the Washington Post, Omega informed Ms. Allen that the Lius were demanding $22,000 in “compensation.” When Jessica Allen refused, the agency threatened to put the baby up for adoption.
Omega Family Global denies Jessica Allen’s account, but declined to provide the Post with details. It’s almost incomprehensible that any person or company would demand money to reunite biological parents with their own child. However, given the preponderance of horrific headlines, this story rings sad but true.
Advances in technology and medicine have produced true miracles for parents who might have remained forever childless but can now enjoy the blessing of family. My own granddaughter is one such miracle, so I am hardly anti-science.
But every advance comes at some cost, especially when there’s profit to be made. The debate over ownership, rights, and entitlements when applied to humanity itself debases the sanctity of life by reducing it to just another commodity. By playing G-d, we risk depriving the world of G-dliness.
The words of King Solomon echo like a haunting prophecy: “Do not remove the boundaries of eternity, and do not trespass into the fields of the fatherless.”
Electric lighting enables us to eliminate the natural boundaries of day and night. Air travel and communication shrink global distances to nothing. Recording devices suspend the limits of time. Genetics and medicine have redefined and reimagined life itself.
It’s no surprise that moral and ethical boundaries have become profoundly blurred, and that the erosion of our fathers’ values has left us ethical orphans. If the laws of the physical universe are flexible, why not the laws of right and wrong as well? Albert Einstein himself agonized that his theory of relativity would give rise to moral relativism. In that he was as prophetic as Solomon.
The answer is not to turn back the clock and return to simpler times. The genie is out of the bottle, and all we can do is exercise greater caution in what we wish for.
It’s a daunting challenge, to balance traditional values and social evolution. The most reliable course is to first consider the cost of any action to others before we calculate the potential profit to ourselves. This is true in our personal lives, our professional lives, and throughout our communities.
After all, aren’t we all our brothers’ keepers?
In this case, the story ended well for Jessica Allen’s baby who, after a bout of tense legal wrangling, returned to his parents loving arms.
Isn’t that where every baby belongs?