Left to right: Merle Hoffman, Playwright Jess Bashline, Executive Vice President of Spence-Chapin Antoinette Cockerham and Sammy Chadwick. Jessica O'hara Baker in the lead role of Ann Trow Lohman, alias Madame Restell.
Merle Hoffman and Choices Women’s Medical Center attend “Wickedest Woman”
February 11, 2019
From the History of American Women Blog, a History of American Women Abolitionists
Black History Month at Choices
February 11, 2019

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Mary Beth Whitehead joins a group of women demonstrating on her behalf on March 12, 1987, after the lawyers in the "Baby M" custody case delivered their summations. Photo from: Bettmann—Getty Images

“The entire issue of surrogacy is another arena for the commercialization of humanity.”
Merle Hoffman, On The Issues Magazine, 1987

Mary Beth Whitehead joins a group of women demonstrating on her behalf on March 12, 1987, after the lawyers in the "Baby M" custody case delivered their summations. Photo from: Bettmann—Getty Images

Mary Beth Whitehead joins a group of women demonstrating on her behalf on March 12, 1987, after the lawyers in the “Baby M” custody case delivered their summations.
Photo from: Bettmann—Getty Images

Commercial surrogacy may soon be legal in New York State. New York Governor Cuomo is supporting a bill that would legalize the practice of paying a woman to carry a pregnancy and give birth to a child unrelated to her biologically. Called “The Child-Parent Security Act,” it is included in a Budget Bill soon to be voted on by the NYS Assembly.

New York has banned commercial surrogacy for decades, ever since a controversial and heart-wrenching battle in 1985 when a New Jersey woman, Mary Beth Whitehead, who had agreed to be a surrogate, changed her mind after giving birth. Whitehead, financially strapped, had been paid $10,000 to be inseminated with sperm from William Stern, whose wife, Elizabeth, might endanger her life if she became pregnant. Whitehead wanted to give back the money and raise “Baby M” (as the child was called in the media) herself. The Sterns refused. The story was widely reported, and Whitehead was brutally treated in the press for breaking her contract and scrutinized mercilessly as to whether she would/could be a good mother.

“Children have now become the ultimate product in the marketplace.”
Merle Hoffman, On The Issues Magazine, 1987

As reported by NBCNews.com, after a long legal battle, Baby M was eventually given to the Sterns, with the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in 1988 that paying women to bear children was illegal and ‘potentially degrading.’ Since then, nearly all surrogacies in America have been gestational, meaning they use a donor egg — either from the woman who will raise the child or from an outside donor — rather than the carrier’s egg, to avoid a “similar legal quagmire.”:

But where the egg comes from – who it’s “owned” by – isn’t the main problem here. Long-time feminist activist Phillis Chesler, author of the book Sacred Bond: The Legacy of Baby M, got to the heart of it when she told NBCNews.com that commercial surrogacy is “baby-selling, baby-buying and slavery.” Read complete NBCNews.com article here.

“This surrogacy case brought into the harsh daylight intense discussion and debate on the multiple theories of mothers and mothering.”
Merle Hoffman, On The Issues Magazine, 1987

Choices Founder/President Merle Hoffman saw deeper issues concentrated in the case and wrote an editorial for On the Issues Magazine, “Two Faces of Motherhood,” . Published in 1987 it rings with the realities of 2019.

“It was the pots and pans that finally activated me. I had followed the case for days in the media with a somewhat distant intellectual curiosity, but then I read that a psychiatrist had testified that Mary Beth Whitehead was an unfit mother because she gave her child stuffed pandas to play with instead of pots and pans. Stuffed pandas? How extraordinary that our psychiatric system regarded the image of an animal so loved and rare as a panda as subverting the normal growth and development of a 20th century female child. The implied sexism of giving a little one year old the tools of the kitchen was certainly not lost on me either…”

For complete article click here.

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