You may have heard some buzzing about how Mitt Romney’s oldest son Tagg and his wife Jennifer got their twin boys from a surrogacy agreement that included an abortion clause:
“If in the opinion of the treating physician or her independent obstetrician there is potential physical harm to the surrogate, the decision to abort or not abort is to be made by the surrogate.”
“In the event the child is determined to be physiologically, genetically or chromosomally abnormal, the decision to abort or not to abort is to be made by the intended parents. In such a case the surrogate agrees to abort, or not to abort, in accordance with the intended parents’ decision.”
And since Grampa Mitt is running on a pro-forced-birth campaign, everyone is making an issue of this, like this Means Something for the anti-choice movement. It is arguably relevant that Mitt helped pay for the surrogacy arrangement, but let’s put that aside for a moment.
The problem is, according to the attorney who drafted the agreement, the abortion clause wasn’t supposed to be there:
We’ve learned Tagg chose the same surrogate in 2009, who gave birth to a boy. Attorney Bill Handel — a nationally-known expert in surrogacy law who put the deal together between Tagg and the surrogate — tells TMZ when the 2009 contract was drafted there was no Paragraph 13 providing for abortion because Tagg and his wife didn’t want it.
Handel says in 2011, when the second contract was being drafted, everyone involved “just forgot” to remove Paragraph 13. Handel says, “No one noticed. What can I say?”
To be honest—we all know I’m a rabid baby-eating pro-choicer around here, right?—I find it more disturbing that they didn’t have the abortion clause in their surrogacy agreement in 2009. What would’ve happened if the surrogate had developed dangerous pregnancy complications? They couldn’t have stopped her from getting an abortion, but they probably would’ve had grounds to penalize her for it. I’m not coming to this story from the point of view of a lawyer or ethicist, or any expert in gestational surrogacy, just as someone with a generalized awareness of the ugly shit that can happen in a pregnancy and the potential for exploitation in any reproduction-related arrangement. I don’t think gestational surrogacy is inherently unethical or exploitative*, but it has a wide range of potential for unethical and exploitative practices, and there’s a delicate balancing act in an ethical surrogacy agreement.