04 December 2015

Contracts, Abortion, And Consuming Our Children

Some time ago I posted here under the title "Perfecting Children and Raising Children." I concluded with words that, in retrospect, continue to disquiet me:
Both using abortion to cull the heard, so to speak, and raising children in middle-class America have the same goal: perfection. But not moral perfection; not excellence in the virtues of character. Perfection understood in the narrow sense of controlled material success. The market meets the family, and the market wins. When parents in effect consume their children, the family has been turned inside-out. Of course, such parents should be wary of how their children might consume them when their performance begins to slip after, say, age 70 or so. (Emphasis added.)
Two things refreshed my recollection about this issue. First, during the fall semester of Contracts I again covered two cases that dealt with the contractual implications of an agreement between the parents of embryos conceived in vitro. In one case, the court enforced the contractual disposition and in the other it did not. Putting aside the courts' contractual analyses, I observed that the effect of each decision was to prohibit the mother from implanting the zygote and bringing the child to birth. In other words, each case relieved the sperm-donor/husband from the financial obligations of fatherhood thus permitting him, metaphorically speaking, to "consume" his child.

Second, and more recently, I came across this article about a California case in which the "father" likewise escaped financial responsibility for the child he had conceived in vitro. This time the language of the agreement was clear. What is also clear, according to the court, is that due to cancer treatments the mother will never be able to bear a child and that the father was afraid that mom "would use a child to exploit him financially."

Especially if the father's fears about mom's bad faith are true, we see even more clearly the consumptive nature of contemporary child creation. Either mom wanted a child to consume dad's assets or dad's primary interest was to keep his money. Or both.

The trend toward commodification of human life continues unabated. It has been the case for decades that we no longer see child-bearing an expression of openness to the future. Instead, it's about dollars and cents. What has changed more recently is the consumptive and destructive effects of subjecting human life to the vagaries of the market.

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