The recent scandal over Thai surrogate baby Gammy involves just about every ethical question when it comes to children—surrogacy, abortion, selective termination of children with Down syndrome, and child abuse. No wonder the story has drawn an international audience, and Christians should not miss the opportunity to speak in defense of vulnerable and helpless children.
The story first hit the news over a week ago when the Thai surrogate mother, Pattaramon, claimed that the biological parents, the Farnells, had left Gammy behind because he had Down syndrome but took his twin sister back to Australia. Since surrogacy was illegal in Australia, the Farnells resorted to Thailand and had paid Pattaramon about $15,000 to be the surrogate mother. Friends and family responded on behalf of the Farnells insisting that Pattaramon’s claims were not true.
The plot thickened when the media discovered that Mr. Farnell has a criminal record for multiple sex offenses with girls under the age of thirteen. Pattaramon demanded that the twin daughter be returned to her when she found out. However, Australian officials announced that what the Farnells did was legal—the laws don’t necessarily prohibit former sex offenders from having children through surrogacy in a foreign country.
After a week, the Farnells finally spoke publicly with Australian media, countering that they did in fact want Gammy. However, they also said that if they knew Gammy had Down syndrome early in the pregnancy, they would have tried to have him aborted. "I don’t think anyone wants a son with a disability,” Mr. Farnell said, “parents want their children to be healthy." He continues, "It was late in the pregnancy we learned the boy had Down’s. . . . they sent us the reports but they didn't do the checks early enough." He explained that he was angry with the agency they used, expecting a monetary refund as if they had control over the health and “quality” of the child.
Selective Termination has taken the lives of many helpless children with Down syndrome. Many doctors advise pregnant women—as they had advised my wife and me during her pregnancy (we declined)—to pursue an amniocentesis, a test that helps determine if the fetus has signs of Down syndrome. Some studies have shown that about 75% to 90% of women who have an amniocentesis and find out that their child has Down syndrome have chosen to abort the child. Consequently, according to The International Down Syndrome Coalition, as of 2006 about 50% of fetuses with Down syndrome have been terminated.
A Child Is Not a Product but a Gift of God
A friend recently told me her story of when she and her husband found out that their daughter had Down syndrome. During the pregnancy the doctors had detected that her daughter’s neck was thicker than usual, so they suggested they do an amniocentesis. When she and her husband declined, the doctor looked puzzled. “Even some of my friends thought I was strange,” she said. “The test would have had no bearing on my decision to mother this child, so what’s the point?” They delivered the child and found out that she did in fact have Down syndrome. She recalled being bothered when the nurses kept apologizing to her and carrying a somber mood around her. “My husband and I cried about it together that day, and we decided that would be the only time.”
The difference between these two experiences—my friend’s family and the Farnells—is massive. When we determine a child’s value by his or her physical or mental condition, we are treating children more like commercial products rather than gifts from God to cherish. No matter whether the child is male or female, has blond or jet-black hair, or has Down syndrome, he or she is made in the image of God and is just as beautiful and valuable as anyone else. From the womb to infancy, from teenage years into adulthood, adults must treat children with the love and care that God calls parents to have. Mr. Farnell had evil intentions for children both inside and out of the womb, and the Australian authorities should intervene.
The crisis should remind Christians of the need to model love and compassion for children by resisting harm to them and promoting their welfare—both inside and outside of the womb. Selective termination promotes the idea that children are a commercial product rather than a gift from God to love and protect, and God will judge this injustice. God takes great delight in seeing people sacrificially love and protect those who can offer little or nothing in return. We should praise God that Gammy has life today and pray for his health. “I praise you,” declares the Psalmist, “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).” The same is true for Gammy, and I pray that he will utter these words himself someday.
For more information about a wonderful ministry that helps equip local churches to play a role in defending the unborn, check out this link: Speak for the Unborn
Ryan Hoselton is married to Jaclyn and they have one daughter, Madrid. He’s pursuing doctoral studies at Heidelberg University, and he enjoys writing on pop culture and church history. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanhoselton