Thursday, October 6, 2011

WHY can't there be a rule ...

... that says that before you can write about something in the newspapers, you have to show that you actually understand what you're talking about?

This happens all the time, I've ranted about it before too, maybe not in so many words, but it's part of what I mean when I talk about how debates are skewed because we focus on the wrong things. We can't discuss matters properly when the starting point is wrong; we end up talking about the wrong things. Here's a good example. Inger Anne Olsen, who I usually never agree with, writes about children produced through surrogacy and the difficult legal situation surrounding them.

Information for foreigners: Surrogacy is illegal in Norway, which means that this difficult situation is created by the parents who use surrogacy - it's legal in a number of US states, it's legal in India, so they blithely assume that Norwegian authorities will just accept the fait accompli when they show up with their babies. Fortunately it's not quite that easy.

Because of a few high profile cases, there was quite a bit of debate of this issue earlier this year. Feelings ran high, of course. Didn't make the debate any better; rather the opposite. There were a lot of assumptions made that either were blatantly wrong or didn't make sense, which, as you can imagine, drove me up the wall sometimes. :-) One of the wrongheaded assumptions that keep popping up is about the fact that the rules about who is the mother of a child, and who the father, are supposedly so rigid in this country. (Although they're the same rules as almost everywhere else, AFAIK.) The woman who gives birth to the child is its mother; her husband is its father, unless some other man should actively dispute this. This is, according to the surrogacy advocates, so incredibly old-fashioned and behind the times. How is it possible for a woman whose DNA is in a baby to not be the mother? How dares the state deny her her rights!!1 o_O

This is what so many people don't get, and it seriously annoys the shit out of me. Olsen doesn't get it either. She really takes it a step further though - she writes, get this:

The rule about the mother has its roots in simple biological conditions. The rules about who the father is cement monogamy as the ideal, preserves male control over the woman's offspring and her body, and also preserves society's need for system and order.

WTF??? I consider myself a feminist, but seriously, Olsen needs to get her head out of her ass.

She's vaguely right about the last point, but not for the reason she thinks. And she's right about the first point too - but again, for a different reason than she thinks. Here's the deal, and I don't know how it's possible to not understand this:

Parents don't have rights. Children have rights - parents only have duties. Any child has the right to parents, but no parent has any rights to a child. Not in this country. That's why we call the Child and Parent Act simply the Child Act for short - because it regulates the rights of the child and the duties of the parents, and the former are the most important. Since Norwegian children have various rights, first and foremost the right to have parents and to receive proper care from them, the state, whose duty it is to maintain these rights, must have some way of enforcing them. In other words, legal parents must be provided - eg, the state must know where to place the paternal responsibility, it must know whose these duties will be in the eyes of the law. Therefore, pater est. Because the law really only cares about the law. The state gives the child legal parents - people who are legally obliged to provide the care the child needs. What more is the law supposed to do?

The surrogacy advocates seem to be struggling with the misapprehension that the law can regulate biological parenthood. What can I say, they're wrong. The law is what we have for the legal stuff. And if you're a parent, it doesn't give you any rights. I have to say I think it's pretty incredible that someone can be so involved in this debate, and so much a part of it, that they actually go all the way to producing a child via a surrogate mother, and they still don't understand this basic point.

Kinda makes you wonder about some people.

In other news, I'm curious to see who will be named for this year's Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow. Thorbjørn Jagland was on the Daily Review tonight talking about how living up to the Will is such a big priority for the Committee. So I'm fully expecting their choice to be something seriously fucked up. :-D


Paz said...

There seems to be more and more idiots out there these days.
Too tired to insert a 'who's your daddy' joke here.

Calyx said...

How curious. I never agree with Inger Anne Olsen either :) Even when I don't even know why I disagree, I just do.

I mostly disagree with Nina Karin Monsen as well. However, she made one point about the gay adoption debate that seems to have totally passed a lot of people by; that nowadays everything is about the parents, and if you disagree with how someone runs their family, it is by definition an attack on their child as well. I don't share Monsen's problems with gay people, but I think she is right that the voices of adults are so loud that people have trouble remembering that children have rights too.