And Now, Single Fatherhood by Choice

Los Angeles, CA–I’ve long criticized the Single Motherhood by Choice movement for ignoring the importance of fathers and the two-parent family. To learn more about the problems with the Single Motherhood by Choice¬†movement, see my co-authored column Are Single Mothers the ‘New American Family?’ (World Net Daily, 9/28/06) and my debate on Fox’s nationally-syndicated¬†Morning Show with Mike and Juliet here.

Now we apparently have a trend towards Single Fatherhood by Choice–single men using surrogates to have children and build a family. From CNN’s Single men turning to surrogates (12/23/08):

Jeff Walker says from as far back as he can remember, he always wanted to be a father.

“It was always something I knew, from the time I was a child.” Just like his 3-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who says she wants to be a mommy someday, Jeff says, “I knew I wanted to be a daddy.”

Walker, a Manhattan music executive, says he and his partner had talked about adopting a baby years ago. But after three emotionally draining, failed attempts at adoption, they decided to turn to surrogacy. They contacted Circle Surrogacy, a Boston agency that specializes in gay clients. Their child was conceived with a donor egg, and then the embryo implanted in the surrogate, or carrier.

After Elizabeth was born, Walker and his partner separated. He then made a critical decision — to become a dad again, single, and by choice.

“I realized my family, my two-dad family was going to look different than I thought it was going to look,” he said. Without a partner, he would face even steeper challenges raising Elizabeth and a sibling alone. Walker says he gave the decision a lot of thought.

“That was the only part that was really controversial, because I do think there are a lot of challenges that single parents face, but at the same time I felt I was capable of handling those challenges,” he said.

His second daughter, Alexandra, was born two years ago to the same surrogate, implanted with an egg from a different donor.

Walker, 45, is one of a growing number of single men — both gay and straight — who are opting to become fathers alone, with the help of gestational surrogacy.

Surrogacy experts say because the practice is not regulated, many surrogacy arrangements are handled privately by individuals. Precise figures are hard to come by, but experts say there’s no doubt the United States is experiencing a surrogacy baby boom.

Celebrities like Ricky Martin and Clay Aiken announced this year they had had babies with the help of surrogates and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, representing scores of reproductive clinics, reports that the number of gestational surrogate births in the country quadrupled between 1996 and 2006…

Walker and other men are willing to pay well over $100,000 to have a baby through surrogacy — the final cost depending on the number of IVF treatments necessary and how much is paid by insurance…

Steven Harris, a New York malpractice and personal-injury attorney, says he gave up trying to get married when he realized his primary motive was to start a family.

Harris, 54, says he knew he made the right decision after 21-month old Ben was born.

“I thought getting married was the only way to go, because I did want a family. But having Ben, I feel complete now,” Harris says.

I think the article misses the main reason why men (or straight men, anyway) want to have children through a surrogate–so they can be assured that they won’t lose the child upon divorce or separation.

A woman can have a child and know that unless the situation is exceptional or she behaves outrageously, she’ll always be a regular part of her child’s life.

For men, being a father is a roll of the dice–if mom decides she doesn’t want you around anymore, it can be hard to preserve your relationship with your child. The article doesn’t mention this, in part because some of the ‘Single Fathers by Choice’ are gay men, and in part because fathers losing their kids isn’t something the mainstream media likes to talk about.

My overall opinion? I can absolutely understand why a man would want to have a child through a surrogate, thus ensuring that he’ll always be able to be a father to his child. Still, I can’t condemn Single Motherhood by Choice and turn around and applaud Single Fatherhood by Choice.

I believe that mothers are just as important for children as fathers, and that it’s wrong to have a child as a single dad and deny the child a mother. What’s needed is not a Single Fatherhood by Choice movement but instead a powerful Shared Parenting movement to ensure that both parents’ right to their children is protected after a divorce or separation.

The CNN article cites Ricky Martin as an example. I discussed Martin in my blog post Sorry Ricky Martin, but Women Shouldn’t Create Single Parent Households–and You Shouldn’t Either

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