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Dolce and Gabbana

I’m with Elton John. 

Calling his two children and others like them, conceived by IVF using a surrogate mother, ‘synthetic’, as Messrs Dolce and Gabbana have done, was thoughtless and needlessly cruel. Elton’s ‘how dare you’ response gets a thumbs-up from me.

But – yes, I have to add a ‘but’ – I can’t help feeling vaguely uneasy with the whole IVF business.  And a business it apparently is, a fast expanding procreative industry in which infertile and gay couples sign up for IVF procedures using anonymous women as delivery vehicles (if the mother herself is not able to carry the foetus), with large sums of money changing hands in the process.  So long as such methods represented the exception rather than the rule, I found it tolerable, perhaps even desirable. But the custom is now becoming widespread and socially acceptable, even in traditional societies, and questioning the practice dismissed is the sign of an archaic way of thinking.

The gay son of someone I know is desperate to have a child, perhaps children.  He and his marital partner have gone to extreme lengths, meaning hugely expensive and time-consuming lengths, to achieve their objective.  I’m not aware of the clinical details, but they have been trying for two years and for some reason, which also escapes me, have not succeeded.  These regular attempts – which involve a surrogate in Texas, where surrogacy laws are apparently less onerous than in Britain – have cost them a fortune, and by no means a small one. I understand the couple have spent almost the best part of their savings in the process.

I wish them well.  They are a nice couple and will make excellent parents.  What is it, then, that gnaws away at my conscience at some profound depth that I seem unable to reach? 

I don’t know, is the feeble answer.  I have no religious objections.  Perhaps I’m no longer – if I ever was – the forward-thinking radical I always considered myself to be.  Perhaps, deep down, or at least by the standards of the day, just an updated version of the old-fashioned deep-dyed reactionary my father was.  I don’t think so, and yet ….

I think part of my discomfort is that science, in so many fields, takes the world ever farther away from the one people of my age remember, or think they remember, demolishing old certainties as if they were bricks in an ancient building.  

Dolce and Gabbana made their point crudely, and without any attempt at explanation, other than for some reference to how the family used to rule in an earlier deeply Catholic Italy.  That’s why I’m with Elton.

Is there even a point to be made?  

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