Making parents – the reality of the gay dads

A few years ago, I critiqued Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, the ‘gay dads’ who have set up a surrogacy business, after being spammed  by them on Twitter for suggesting that surrogacy exploited women. The post received some interesting comments after the Drewitt-Barlows put it out there on Twitter, said I was a mad Catholic woman in need of their help and requested that people leave their views.

Their new TV show aired last night and so they appear to be trolling Twitter, appearing to generate controversy and publicity to raise their viewing figures. One of the criticisms of surrogacy is that it reduces children to commodities, but of course parents would never treat their children like consumer goods , let alone ridicule and humiliate them for their genetic inheritance and the way in which they were brought into the world.

When Barrie shouted this at his son, it was clearly a joke:

“I paid for a gorgeous designer child with straight hair, not some reject from an 80s pop band with curly frizz.’’

The clip of the series in which Barrie can be seen shouting this at his son, can be seen here. (Not suitable for children, contains strong language). It gives an insight into his character as well as some of the heartbreak faced by infertile couples and pretty much encapsulates every single objection to this clinical and commercial procuring of children.

I don’t want to give them publicity for their new show and I am aware that by writing about this, I am giving them exactly what they want, but these men, together with a friend who seems to be wishing to kick start a career as a celebrity, have tonight called for me to be crucified, suggested that I am urinated upon, said that I am a pervert, a racist and a homophobe, in an unsolicited and unprovoked attack.

Writing for the Conservative Woman website, Laura Keynes proposes similar arguments and critiques of surrogacy highlighting the familiar silence and dissonance of mainstream feminism on what, like gendercide, should be a pressing issue for all who profess female solidarity.

For those who can bear it, I’ve created a storify of the Drewitt-Barlow’s libellous accusations here. I hate writing these kinds of blogs, but a few people have said that I need to find a way of documenting exactly what is going on here.

I stand by the tweet made back in November 2013, which the Drewitt-Barlows dug up tonight to justify their attack. This ‘dating site’ for egg donors really is a tawdry look into the women-for-hire nature of these men’s surrogacy business. Their company website is equally chilling. It strongly suggests surrogacy in America, California in particular, where the Drewitt-Barlows made legal history in that they were able to get a court order naming them both as parents on their child’s birth certificate. They advise on how to file an Pre-Birth order, which removes any rights or hold over the gestational mother may have over the child, so that the minute the child is born “specialist arrangements can be put in place to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible”. In the case of the birth certificate for same-sex parents, the court issues a pre-birth judgement specifying that on the birth certificate, one name is put in the box for father, the other in the box for mother,  in a piece of mind-bending legal fiction. The ‘intended parents’ therefore have rights over the woman’s body in that her child is yet to be born. ‘Intended parents’ are advised to  file for and obtain this judgement once the woman has reached 20 weeks in her pregnancy, in order to ensure that she is not able to exercise any rights over her child or her name be automatically placed on the birth certificate, should he or she be born prematurely.

It’s all about getting the baby away from their gestational mother before she has any chance to change her mind. One also has to ask whether or not as legal ‘intended parents’ a couple may impose their wish of birth plan onto a woman? Who gets the final say when there are tough decisions to be made which could perhaps compromise the baby. Is she restricted in her choice of pain relief and disbarred from commonly used opiates such as pethidine, which cross the placenta and can make the newborn drowsy?

Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, is I gather, responsible for the @gaydads Twitter account, which has been issuing misogynistic, abusive and libellous tweets. The force of his unsolicited and unprovoked aggression, has knocked me for six, it’s bizarre that two men who are millionaires,  have a flourishing business,  five children, their own TV show and over 137,000 followers on Twitter want to squash a minor Catholic commentator in this way even writing to the Universe to suggest that I am dropped for being ‘evil’ and ‘homophobic’. Just to jog a few memories, this was the couple who threatened to sue the Church of England if they were not allowed to conduct a ‘gay wedding’.

According to the British Surrogacy Centre, Barrie is their lead ‘social worker’, having worked in clinical social work for over 10 years. A regular on day time TV shows such as This Morning and Lorraine, he is asked to take part in many TV debates regarding surrogacy and areas on same sex parenting.  Barrie has been a regular contributer to many top magazine and newspapers for many years now and has recently written his first book as a guide to Surrogacy.  As a social worker, Barrie’s aim at all times is the welfare of any children born through surrogacy and has at any one time up to 5 student social workers under him from Universities across the UK.”

And this ‘social worker’ is abusing a mum of four for her defective genes, supposed evilness, being a ‘troll’, a ‘bully’, a racist, a homophobe and getting his followers to hate on her and tweeting her editor to get her dropped from her weekly column all because she dares to publicly disagree with the nature of their business? He’s appearing on daytime television as an equality champion, social worker and expert in children’s welfare, but is quite happy to call for the crucifixion of a pervert evil mother, with his mate asking for her to be urinated on, a sentiment which he happily endorsed by re-tweeting to all his thousands of followers?

I’d love to know what a social worker would have to say to me if I were to even allude to a negative aspect of my daughter’s physical appearance on television.(She is totally perfect as she is and I wouldn’t dream of humiliating her in this way, she’s enough of a sensitive sausage as it is). I think we’d all know what would happen, they’d be whisked away from me quicker than you could say bigot. I’m more than a little bit scared, having been warned off saying anything about this couple, for my own personal welfare – a few have reminded me that we are dealing with very wealthy and very influential people here.

Orwell and Huxley are in my blood, I remember my dad discussing, Brave New World, Animal Farm and 1984 with me from an absurdly young age. I was brought up to believe that free speech and free expression are sacrosanct, that the press must be liberated from state-control and that everyone should have the right to speak their mind, no matter how unpopular their views. One of the difficulties that my father has with my Catholicism (him being a staunch Anglican) is that thanks to his influence I have always been a fierce individualist, always resisting the pressure of group-think. The same is still true, I became convinced of the truth of Catholicism, on the strength of the evidence and after some critical thinking and against some pretty fierce opposition. Again and again my dad emphasised that it does not matter what other people think of you, all that counts is being true to yourself and able to account for your own views. Mind you, my dad is probably every bit as foolhardy as I, on a family weekend to Canterbury back in 1983, as my sister and I were making a bee-line for Morelli’s the famous ice-cream parlour, a group of activists were standing outside forming an impromptu conga-line with some hastily scrawled placards and shouting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out, Out, Out!” What did my dad do? Returned each chant with “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, In, In, In!”, while my mum looked on in fear in and dread, hissing “Stop it Ken, you’re going to get your teeth knocked down your throat”! I’m still rather proud of him for that, truth be told – though translated into the digital world, it would definitely constitute a definition of ‘trolling’.

I was brought up to believe that we lived in a truly free liberal and democratic society, as a child at the height of the Cold War, I really valued the freedoms that I believed that we had. Disillusionment is proving to be an increasingly difficult pill to swallow. What kind of a world are we living in when I’m scared for what might happen to my family and children as a result of being forthright about my views on the internet?

I guess I still haven’t fully internalised Matthew 10: 16-42. Tough times ahead.



No room for exploitation of women

I was spammed today on Twitter, by an account called Gaydads, purporting to belong to Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, one half of the UK’s first gay couple to become fathers in the UK.

Without wishing to make too much of it, here’s their opening shot, along with their responses to questions as to the ethics of paying vulnerable women to donate eggs, and/or go through pregnancy and give up their newborn child. I would suggest that they need to employ a social media manager, given that they are currently hawking themselves and their children through the media, in order to drum up publicity for their new business which aims to exploit vulnerable cash-strapped women in America help predominantly homosexual couples circumnavigate the UK surrogacy laws by going abroad.

They are obviously threatened enough to have done their research and found out where I hail from to use as “ammunition” as opposed to engage with any actual arguments. If in doubt, chuck a few ad homs about, in an attempt to make yourselves feel morally superior. I wouldn’t usually bother blogging such silliness, however I think it’s worth noting the quality of the debate, and the personalities behind a deeply dubious business.

I’ve blogged before about the inherent difficulties with surrogacy, namely that it entails the destruction of human life if in-vitro fertilisation is used, but of equal concern, is the exploitation of women and the treating of children as commodities to be bought and sold.

Here’s a few snippets from their website. I’ve added my own comments in red:

Everyone has the basic human right to be able to have a child, really, do they? I can’t find that anywhere in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, nor is it in the European Convention on Human Rights. Wishful thinking based on subjective opinion – perish the thought!!

not everyone deserves to be a parent! – only those who are good-looking and possess class and/or money, preferably a lot of it to pay for our services, should have children.

There is no doubt about it; foreign surrogacy arrangements ARE attractive, which is why hundreds of couples every year go to America and other destinations to find a surrogate and egg donor. The laws on surrogacy are very encouraging for us to travel abroad and get our babies handed over to us without too much fuss at all. – no pesky restrictive laws surrounding the expenses that need to be paid and lax legislation allowing the obliteration of the mother from the birth certificate – we can pretend that she never existed! Plus, added bonus – we’ll push gestational surrogacy at you, more pennies for us and allegedly less of an emotional link for the mother with the baby inside her. Win, win!!

It is also worth noting that once your baby is born in the USA, we can also petition the courts to have both the intended parents names put on the birth certificate. There will be NO mention of the pregnancy being a surrogate pregnancy whatsoever. Please also note that this is NOT meant to deceive, it is a positive way forward for you to be recognised as the parents of your baby.spin worthy of Alistair Campbell or Mandy. Superb piece of re-framing there chaps!

Where are all the feminists when you need them? The silence could not be more deafening. Where is the sisterhood? What could be more exploitative than rich men using the bodies of poor or less-well off women? Nothing could be more of a feminist issue as it is only women’s bodies who can be exploited in this way and typically for the benefit of men – lesbian couples rarely have to resort to overseas surrogacy. The Drewitt-Barlows argue that surrogacy may help straight couples who have been rendered infertile by the ravages of cancer, but that still does not make the initial exploitation any the more acceptable. This has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with the exploitation and de-humanisation of poor women by richer ones.

Though Drewitt-Barlow seem to be more concerned with advancing their partner business in the USA, it’s worth looking at the situation in India where the business of wombs for rent is thriving. The women who ‘choose’ to become surrogates are confined to clinics or supervised homes where they can be closely monitored. Their “choice” such as it is, is borne out of economic necessity and cannot said to be in any way free. Which is precisely why the laws remain so stringent in the UK, where incidentally, gay single people cannot gain full legal rights over a child born by surrogacy.

For the record the Drewitt Barlows stated that they did not endorse India for potential surrogate couples, shortly after India issued a ban on gay couples in an attempt to tighten up on their surrogacy laws. This was, they said, due to concerns about exploitation, besides their partner clinic with whom they have negotiated preferential rates is in LA, where they spend 50% of their time.  The exploitation of the poor by the rich is not mitigated by the location, something tells me that Tasmania may be the next location on the cards.

There can be no justification for the exploitation of poor women by predominantly rich men. There can be no justification for deliberately contriving a situation whereby a child is deprived of its biological parent and traded like a commodity. There can be no justification for the exploitation of young children, such as those belonging to Drewitt-Barlow who are mercilessly flaunted in the press, in order to propagate the ideology that children no longer need their biological mothers.

Perhaps that’s why Drewitt-Barlow are so angry – it’s impossible to defend the indefensible. Anyone who might object to the trading of babies, to the Western colonisation of poor women’s bodies abroad, to the reduction of women to the level of brood-mare – well they are simply ugly, lack class, are homophobic and don’t deserve to be parents.