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Held to a higher standard.

"No sex, please--we're British" may have become a creed outworn, at least in London fertility clinics. Two infertility counselors have recently written to The Lancet (2 & 30 March 1991) expressing reservations about assisting virgins to become pregnant through Artificial Insemination by Donor. The woman in question, aged 32, had no experience of sex and no intention of having a sexual relationship, nor did she see what, if anything, this had to do with her ability to be a good parent. She came to the fertility clinic because, as she explained, the treatment procedures were scientific and preferable to sexual relations.

"How," fumed one correspondent, "will the asexual mother handle adolescent sexuality, especially in a daughter?" And will not her "resolutely single status" threaten the normal psychosocial development of the child? The clinic's staff seems to have had similar reservations, and referred the woman for further counseling.

If assisted reproduction is withheld from virgins, shouls it also be withheld from couples whose marriage is in trouble? Mary Sue and Junior Lewis Davis enlisted the aid of a fertility clinic to produce seven frozen embryos, which then became a bone of contention when their marriage ended in divorce (Davis v. Davis). Did the fertility clinic act irresponsibly in permitting the Davises access to IVF?

A similar question has surfaced in California, where Cynthia and Robert Moschetta entered a "traditional" surrogacy contract with Elvira Jordan, a divorced mother of three with a seventh-grade education. When Jordan was six months pregnant, Robert Moschetta told his wife he was considering divorce, but the news was withheld from Jordan until the day before the baby, named Marissa, was born on 28 May 1990. Her response? She refused to give Marissa up for adoption, but finally consented to let the Moschettas take her home from the hospital after they promised to receive marriage counseling. For the next six months the couple cared for Marissa together, but in late November Robert Moschetta took the baby and left his wife.

The custody battle that ensued has taken some baroque turns, but Orange County Superior Court Judge Nancy Weiben Stock seems to be clear about one thing: Cynthia Moschetta cannot be Marissa's mother because she "has no biological or blood relationship to the child." Should the surrogancy counsellor who put the Moschettas in touch with Jordan have inquired more closely into the state of their marriage?

How pure do the motives of virgins, the Davises, and the Moschettas need to be if they want help in conceiving a child? If people seeking assisted reproduction are held to a higher standard than we hold other prospective parents, what implications will there be for gay and lesbian couples, stepparents, or other people who are rearing children in non-traditional families? Perhaps everyone -- including heterosexual couples who have been happily married for years -- should be licensed by the state before they're allowed to have kids by any method at all.
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Title Annotation:screening standards for people seeking assisted reproduction through artificial insemination, surrogacy and frozen embryos may be unrealistically high
Author:Nelson, Hilde L.
Publication:The Hastings Center Report
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:486
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