In which I comment on the Romney family’s reproductive lives.

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.

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Amazingly enough, not all teenagers are horrible people.

It would have been so nice to go the rest of my life without talking about Mitt Romney, but something is bugging me and I need to get it off my chest.

You may have heard that this happened, and Mittens is unsurprisingly having to deal with a lot of bad press. At first I wanted to make some keen insight into how his teenage assholery relates to his current persona as a stiff, awkward, emotion-deficient robot, but no, what’s really getting under my skin at the moment is all these Internet commenters saying things to the effect of, “Oh, what does it matter if he bullied some kid in high school? We all know he’s an asshole anyway, so who cares?” Even worse are the ones saying, “Everyone’s an asshole in high school.”

Gee, how do I answer this? How about:


Holding another kid down on the floor and going at him with a pair of scissors is not some trivial, “We all do stupid shit when we’re young” fit of adolescent indiscretion. What Romney did to the late John Lauber was an act of violence, and a terrifying one at that. I’m willing to discuss the culture at the place and time, and how Romney didn’t get to be that way all by himself, but if you think Romney’s behavior was just typical teenage-boy bullshit, then you must have run with a really bad crowd. I never did shit like that in high school (though I suppose the expectations are different for girls?), my brother didn’t act like that, and I had a whole lot of guy friends and classmates who, amazingly enough, managed to get through their high school years without acting like bullies. Anti-social behavior is not inevitable simply because a guy is between the ages of 13 and 20, and when a grown man is called out for having attacked another boy at his prep school, he should show some remorse. He should, at the very least, admit that what he did was shitty and that he’s not proud of it. Such a resounding lack of acknowledgment is especially terrifying in a man who has raised five sons.

Free us from the tyranny of low expectations.