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Blog: An Egg for An Egg

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The Conner family has successfully done it all over again, or should I say the writers, directors and cast, of the new ABC television show Roseanne. Amongst the numerous retaliatory statements of online commentary voicing their disappointment about surrogacy in the initial episodes, I for one think that they may just have got it about right. True to the premise that the intent of the show is to “Explore life, death and everything in between through the relatable, hilarious and brutally honest lens of the Conner household,” the topic of traditional surrogacy made the hit list in episodes one and four. Though the combined effort of the actors only allocated a few minutes from two episodes to explore Lecy Goranson’s  character’s (Becky) opportunity and rejection as a surrogate mother, behind the plot lay very real topics exposing issues that effected the Connor family and many others coping with this traumatic reality. 

With the initial topic introduction of a genetically linked surrogate, where Becky provides her own eggs and potentially gives birth to a genetically linked child in which she gives up, the matter of a third-party parental element to surrogate arrangements is first addressed. Beyond the “selling my grandkids” comment, made by Rosanne when first introduced to this idea in episode one, the truth behind the complex and often legally convoluted element of parental rights is the first of four surrogacy topics to be exposed to viewers. Although hidden behind personal beliefs of other characters that surrogacy in general is controversial and softened by the gradual acceptance of loving family members at the end of the episodes, genetically linked surrogate arrangements rarely, if at all, see this type of acceptance between intended parents, surrogates and legalities governing arrangements. 

Masked by the opportunity of financial gain and the benefits that goes alongside a windfall of cash, the second issue to be address is the topic of adequate financial compensation. Becky’s proposed opportunity to finally pay off debt and become financially independent is a long-awaited desire in episode one. Although $50,000.00 may seem an extravagate amount of money, fundamental elements such as surrogate health expenses, medical appointments and other critical components of surrogate financial arrangements and who is to pay for these elements, were not addressed. This leads viewers to the understanding that these contractual provisions contain detail orientated legal and medical terms that demand attention in any surrogate arrangement.

In addition to adequate surrogate compensation, the topic of appropriate surrogate advocacy is quick to follow. In episode four, a Faberge Egg given to Lecy Goranson by Sarah Chalke as a gift for her commitment to be a surrogate, is a stark reminder of the failed promises and contractual obligations for those women who fall victim to inadequate, and often dangerous, lack of advocacy. This issue is particularly potent in countries where little to no surrogacy law exists and where impoverished conditions enable commercial surrogacy to operate beyond the globally recognized conventional rights of surrogates and children. Tempered by humor in the attempt to keep the egg, efforts taken on the part of Lauire Metcalf in episode four, the acceptance of relinquishing the gift back to the giver is redolent of the dangers that plague surrogate advocacy and the violations surrogate mothers face alone when left wanting for advocate services.

The final segment of episode four brings into the light the personal shame of individuals and couples stricken with infertility. 7.3 million Americans currently face infertility and Becky’s news in the examination room toward the end of episode four reveals this harsh reality. This sense of inadequacy, lack of humanity and personal shame cannot be concealed as the truth that Becky’s several attempts to conceive is revealed, over tequila shots and margaritas with actress Sarah Gilbert (Darlene), which helps to broaden the picture of the silent battle individuals and couples fight behind a façade of publicly declared acceptance. The picture of traditional surrogacy these episodes help to paint upon American society depicts four key topics which require our attention. Despite the criticisms and the many disapprovals voiced online, I tip my hat to the writers, producers and cast in the attempt to portray and expose these deep seeded controversial issues that accompany surrogacy in our local and global society. Truly, if the Connors can identify the need to address these issues with open compassion in lieu of closed personal beliefs, there just may be hope left for the rest of us.      

Please share in the dreams of other’s becoming parents,

~ Robert Eastman


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