by Mary Harrington
Thursday, 17
March 2022
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11:00

Where are Dave Rubin’s babies coming from?

We can't ignore the biological reality behind the pundit's announcement
by Mary Harrington
Dave Rubin and his husband David Janet

US pundit Dave Rubin has announced that he’s soon to be the father of twins, with his husband, the producer David Janet. It’s not clear whether the mother is a paid or altruistic surrogate, but as a baby necessitates nine months in someone’s uterus, and neither Rubin nor Janet possess such an organ, it’s a certainty that a surrogate mother is involved.

Commercial surrogacy is big business, predicted to turn over some $27bn worldwide by 2025. And the world has gained a sudden glimpse under the bonnet of this industry since the pandemic, and now the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. After the USA, Ukraine is the second most popular destination worldwide for surrogacy, with an estimated 2,000 babies born to paid gestational surrogates there every year. And now, numerous such babies are being born only to find themselves stranded in a warzone, with the commissioning customers unable to collect their order.

The press has published piteous photos of rows of tiny cribs, each of which contains a newborn baby, separated at birth from a mother paid only to gestate but not to love it. These babies are cared for not with the rapt, intimate attention of a loving mother but on a production-line basis by paid nursing staff.

This treatment of living humans as products is profoundly dystopian. QZ reports that BioTexCom has built a bomb shelter in the basement of its ‘fertility facility’ to shelter the pregnant women manufacturing babies for BioTexCom clients. But while in wartime it’s common for communities to prioritise the safety of mothers and children where possible, it’s clear that what BioTexCom is sheltering here isn’t the most vulnerable civilians: it’s their assets. Literally, ‘human resources’.

I welcome the space that we’ve created in the modern world for long-term, committed same-sex relationships. But all-male couples by definition can’t gestate a child. And before we applaud gestational surrogacy in the name of gay rights, we should think very carefully about what — or who — is being instrumentalised in the process, or indeed in offering surrogacy as a solution to any infertility. For in the name of granting an infertile couple — whether because they’re both male or for some other reason — freedom from the limitations of their biology, a human woman is being partly if not wholly objectified: transformed to a suite of manufacturing services.

Rubin has been seeking a child by surrogacy for some time, and reflected on the process in his 2020 book Don’t Burn This Book. Perhaps, he says, his sister and partner will provide the egg and sperm respectively to be ‘mixed in a lab’, after which ‘nine months later a child will be born’.

Here he makes no mention of the intervening stage, which the baby spends in someone’s uterus, or indeed who that ‘someone’ might be. Everything is phrased in terms that suggest something clean, hygienic and perhaps automated, and the uterus doing the work is carefully depersonalised. We don’t get much sense that the manufacture of Rubin’s baby is happening literally inside the internal organs of a living woman.

And while I don’t know whether Rubin is obtaining his babies via a paid or altruistic surrogate, the scandals that have dogged BioTexCom — including injured and even dead surrogate mothers and a 2011 charge of human trafficking — reveal how easily this de-personalisation and objectification of living human women becomes outright horror.

I have immense sympathy for people who can’t have children. The longing to be a father or mother is powerful, and people can suffer deeply when it’s unfulfilled. But life is inescapably tragic, and most of us have to live with things we can’t change. No matter how powerful the longing for children, we must not seek to transcend the limitations of our sexed bodies, if this comes at the cost of using women’s internal organs as industrial machinery.

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Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
4 months ago

Most people want to have their cake and eat it. In this case it’s homosexuals yearning for the trappings of heterosexuality.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
4 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I’m fine with homosexuals having children – just NOT through commercial surrogacy.
If you can’t find a female friend willing to let you use her body to create a child, you can’t have a biological child.
This is more about narcissism than the desire for the trappings of heterosexuality.
Heterosexual couples should not be allowed to indulge in commercial surrogacy either.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
4 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

It’s almost impossible to discuss the issue in the comprehensive absence of a real moral framework.

The counter arguments “if both parties are willing,” “women have the right to choose how they use their own wombs.” “how is just that gay men bear this absence when there is a solution to the problem,” and so on, ad nauseum, carry so much more heft in our modern, entirely self directed and transactional morality.

The article does a decent job, but if, fundamentally, you don’t believe the creation of human life must have moral parameters beyond individual satisfaction (narcissism) you’re onto a loser because our societies no longer have moral parameters beyond individual satisfaction for pretty well anything.

Stuart Rose
Stuart Rose
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

good points. the essential self-centered nature of our society, and its notions of ‘rights’ which too often mean desires, does make the consent argument for surrogacy hard to counter. We do need to develop arguments about the good of society, the larger interests of women as a group. in other words, we do have to, as you say, speak to the question in different conceptual terms and stop accepting the moral parameters of the false sanctity of individual satisfaction.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
4 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Men and women who arrange for poor women to be used for sexual pleasure by paying customers have traditionally been regarded as vile exploiters and criminal penalties have often been imposed on them. In this case the women’s bodies are exploited for 9 months. Does the fact that sexual pleasure is not involved improve the position?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
4 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

I am still mulling over this but tend to agree… sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.
Where I live there are countless orphaned children and many are adopted by gay couples.

Alex Hamilton
Alex Hamilton
4 months ago

Thank you Mary.
I am so saddened by news like this. It is the ultimate expression of our dysfunction as a society, when we allow children to be separated from their mothers at the beginning of their lives. The big difference between adoption and surrogacy is intention; in the latter, Dave Rubin and his partner “conceived” their children, knowing that to raise them as two parents, they would have to separate them from their mothers, and somehow people celebrate this.
What does this say about us?

Last edited 4 months ago by Alex Hamilton
Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Hamilton

If this were an altruistic surrogacy, where a friend or relative volunteered to carry the child, I would celebrate it.
But commercial surrogacy – like commercial sex – is dehumanizing and cruel.
No one who cares about women, especially poor women, could possibly support these dehumanizing forms of exploitation and abuse.

Alex Hamilton
Alex Hamilton
4 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Why do you not consider the loss that the child experiences (losing one’s mother) in altruistic surrogacy?

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
4 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Nature is fickle. Some women get pregnant at the drop of a hat, others don’t get pregnant at all. Others are somewhere on the spectrum. I could get pregnant easily but never carried to term. 7 spontaneous abortions, nothing at the end. Never would I have considered asking another woman to “lend” me her womb. Me and my partner have had great lives with no children, and we are aunt and uncle to my nieces and nephews. Take them, have fun, give them back when they start to whinge. Like grandparents we get the best of them.
No woman should be renting out her womb for anyone else’s children. We can live without them if we try.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Hamilton

The child given up for adoption by their mother is also subject to this separation. It’s no different – both acts are equally bad/good.

Alex Hamilton
Alex Hamilton
4 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Sharon, for adoptees, they were not conceived with the intention of giving them away. This is the big difference.

sarah hubert
sarah hubert
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Hamilton

Adoptees were most likely conceived accidentally, because precautions weren’t taken, is that any better?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Hamilton

Do you honestly think that the almost all children are conceived with intention?

Alex Hamilton
Alex Hamilton
4 months ago

I didn’t say that almost all children are conceived with intention. I am saying that Dave and his husband conceived their children knowing that they would be depriving them of their mother. This is unlike adoption, where a child is conceived, and then the decision is taking to relinquish the child.

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Hamilton

This is the ultimate expression of selfishness – to separate a newborn child from its mother, and then to deny it ever experiencing a mother’s love.
And with so many unwanted children in the world why couldn’t they at least have offered one such child a home instead of indulging their wealth on a baby-to-order?
No wonder some people wish to see the demise of western democracy which has produced such perverted values.

Michael Hollick
Michael Hollick
4 months ago

Thank you for this Mary. As a gay man, and also adopted, I’ve fairly strong feelings on this subject – almost entirely negative. This piece has helped me better understand why that might be.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
4 months ago

Absolutely. Commercial surrogacy is the farming of poor women for rich men. Even altruistic surrogacy is the deliberate creation of a child who will be deprived of his or her mother. The effects on the children are irrelevant to these people who just want them as status symbols.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
4 months ago

Upvoted for the general point, but most surrogacy occurs for rich women; those who are unable to have their own, those who left things too late, or don’t want pregnancy and childbirth, for whatever reason.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
4 months ago

And what happens to the child should the couple split up? If the child gets half it’s genes from the surrogate, what happens if said child wants to find its mother? Men who donated sperm as students are often put on the spot when children from that sperm come looking for family history esp round genetic diseases. Same with children born of surrogacy?

Claire D
Claire D
4 months ago

I read some things and just don’t know what to say, the problem is so huge and overwhelming.
To tell people to take up your cross and bear it each day is usually whistling in the wind in our materialistic world, but it is the answer.
Sad.

Last edited 4 months ago by Claire D
Graham Stull
Graham Stull
4 months ago
Reply to  Claire D

I take Mary’s point and yours, but I have to say I’m torn.
After all, could the same argument not be made for wealthy families with nannies? The baby might be post-gestational, but the love and motherly warmth is still being outsourced to a paid, flesh-and-blood woman.
What about the care and comfort of sharing a meal? Do we not outsource this sentiment to the (possibly exploited, almost certainly underpaid) smiling waitress who brings us our surrogate home-cooked experience?
The real issue, it seems to me, is less about the physical act of surrogacy and more about income inequality. The idea that couples -whether gay or infertile- can outsource the necessities of life and lifegiving to some poor, desperate woman in another part of the world, and that the terms of this transaction can be so asymmetric, is abhorrent only in that it holds up to us a mirror for how unjust our global world really is.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
4 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Not the same thing. For nine months, a woman has to grow a foetus, put up with hormonal changes, and also the possibility of spontaneous abortion. Until birth, there is the possibility of the foetus will be damaged and the subsequent child be disabled. How may people who rent a womb want a child with a disability? They want a perfect baby to fit with their perfect lives. Babies with disabilities are rejected and the state then has to pack up the bill. Children are not exploitable resources and governments need to take action to stop this immoral and unethical business.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
4 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

You seem to be confounding lots of things and speaking from a place of rank emotion.
Hormonal changes affect people in all kinds of situations, not just surrogate mothers – if you encounter a dangerous, violent person, your adrenal gland produces cortisol and adrenaline. A kindergarten teacher’s body will produce endorphins and dopamine (hormones) at the sight of her little charges’ smiles.
As for spontaneous abortion and the risks this poses – yes indeed. But guess what else is risky? Working in the mines that produced the lithium you are happy to have in your iPhone. Underwater welding, to repair the girders supporting the undersea platform from which the oil was drilled, which keeps the lights on in your house. Your (and my) comfortable lifestyle depends on other people taking risks you (or I) wouldn’t, because they are poorer than you (or I). Hence my point on income inequality.
Then the question of disabled children has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue. Birth parents might also ‘not want’ their disabled child. Many are also guilty of seeking perfection. Or do you have any specific knowledge of ‘womb renters’ being more likely to discard disabled babies than other would-be parents?

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
4 months ago

I listen to Dave Rubin and heard the announcement on his podcast yesterday. The babies came from the same woman as egg donor and have been implanted in two different surrogate mothers. Dave also implied that he is the genetic father of one of the boys and that his husband is the genetic father of the other.
I don’t know exactly what to think of this. OTOH, there’s every reason to think that Dave and David will be good parents–they have been together I think 13 years and married for seven, and they have been considering parenthood for many years.
And yet—- my gut tells me that it’s just deeply wrong to intentionally create a child who will have no mother. Without diminishing my husband’s vital role in parenting our two now-adult children, we both agree that if one had to choose, it would be better if a single parent were the mother. It’s a primal thing and I can’t get past it.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
4 months ago
Reply to  Sheryl Rhodes

The children do have a mother who has given her eggs. What will she do if the children want go meet her and find out about her family, as can be their right? Children have rights under the UN Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Not often thought about when people want children no matter what…

Vivian Burman
Vivian Burman
4 months ago

Why do people assume that it’s ‘their right’ to have children? It is not a right, it is a God-given gift. I am unable to have children and have reconciled myself to this fact, even though it has totally crushed me. But I would never go down the route of IVF, etc. because I truly believe that if I was meant to have children, I would have. I’m sorry, but being homosexual surely forgoes any right to have children. They are not a commodity. You cannot have your cake and eat it. No one ever seems to think about the effect this has on a child and it is an outrage.

George Ward
George Ward
4 months ago

Will someone please think of the children.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
4 months ago

THANK YOU!!!! Female bodies are NOT commodities, and I don’t udnerstand how anyone can call him or herself a “feminist” if they support the commercial sex or surrogacy industries.
Both of these industries are extremely dehumanizing and prey upon the poor.
Altruistic surrogacy is fine, but taking advantage of a woman’s poverty and treating her like a subhuman machine is disgusting.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
4 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Men cannot be feminists. Only women, hence the word “feminist”.

Andrea X
Andrea X
4 months ago

No idea who the guy is, but there is nothing new here.
I remember a few years back when the diver guy announced he was expecting a child with his… husband.
Congratulations poured from all directions, while the mother…

Last edited 4 months ago by Andrea X
Andrew D
Andrew D
4 months ago

Surrogate motherhood represents an objective failure to meet the obligations of maternal love, of conjugal fidelity and of responsible motherhood; it offends the dignity and the right of the child to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up by his own parents; it sets up, to the detriment of families, a division between the physical, psychological and moral elements which constitute those families.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction On Respect for Human Life In Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation, Replies to Certain Questions of the Day.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
4 months ago

Well said Mary.

George Wells
George Wells
4 months ago

Mary is the best writer on UnHerd.

DA Johnson
DA Johnson
4 months ago

Thank you, Mary. I don’t know how long commercial surrogacy has been available, but if long enough for children born of surrogates to be adults, it would be helpful to hear how they view their parentage. It would also add a dimension to hear from some surrogate mothers themselves.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
4 months ago

Where is Douglas Murray when you need him? One of his one-liners was about the days before commercial surrogacy – when gay couples used to say they couldn’t have a baby but they would keep trying anyway.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
4 months ago

Who knows why commercial surrogates choose to do what they do ? Someone must have made a documentary or garnered a PhD or two examining their lives and motivations – anyone know of one ?
As for altruistic surrogacy I highly recommend a Woman’s Hour episode dealing with this with a great interview with a mother who at the time was in the middle of her third surrogate pregnancy.
It’s the first 12 minutes of this programme : https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b09wpmym
Her view of what she does and the relationship she has with the surrogate parents and the child is fascinating and I would guess myth busting for a number of posters on this forum.

William Shaw
William Shaw
4 months ago

At some point later this century the artificial womb will render surrogacy obsolete. It’s not a question of “if”, only “when”.
In the mean time the growth in surrogacy is, in fact, driven mostly by wealthy and famous women who do not want to ruin their own figure or suffer from the damage incurred during vaginal birth.
The number of gay men using surrogacy in minuscule.

Last edited 4 months ago by William Shaw
Andrea X
Andrea X
4 months ago

..

Last edited 4 months ago by Andrea X
Frederick B
Frederick B
4 months ago

So long as the surrogate mother is willing where’s the harm?

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
4 months ago

Anyone intent on bringing a child into the world has no concept of the escalating climate and ecological and civilisation collapse. A total failure of our modern education to teach about chronic ecological overshoot. Ecological overshoot – Wikipedia. A UN Charter for Ecological Justice could facilitate raised awareness before chaotic collapse takes over UN Charter for Ecological Justice

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
4 months ago

Homosexuals are not the only people who use surrogacy. Women who can’t carry a baby to term and rich women who can’t be bothered to also use surrogates.
Is it distasteful? Yes. Will banning it make it go away? Probably not. As long as the women (mostly poor to be sure) are well paid then they should be free to choose how to use their bodies.
The surrogates are separated from the children, so they don’t create an emotional bond which in normal circumstances is better for all parties. In normal circumstances the children would be with the parents who purchased the birth mother’s services shortly after birth. The war disrupts a lot of things. It seems a stretch to ban something because there might be one.

Andrea X
Andrea X
4 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Greco

“purchased” being the operative word.

Last edited 4 months ago by Andrea X
Andrew D
Andrew D
4 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Since when did paying more taxes make the world a better place?