My letter to the Governor

I mailed off a letter to Governor Romney today. They say letters will be answered in one to two weeks and I "will get a response." It's kind of long so I will copy it as a comment to this post.


John Howard said...

Sept 22, 2006

Dear Governor Romney,

I have been passing out the attached flyer all over the state to raise awareness of the issue of same-sex conception. Most people are not aware that a mouse was created from two mothers using a genetically modified egg. Most people (though certainly not all) feel that attempting to create a human baby for a same-sex couple would be unsafe and unethical and waste money.

Some people, however, feel that if it can be made safe through further research, same-sex couples should have a right to attempt it. Fair enough. However, it is certainly not safe now, and so by the same logic, same-sex couples should not have a right to attempt it now. And it will always be unsafe, because human genes are different from animal genes, and the differences between male and female genes are different in every animal, so it can't be tested in animals first. There is no imperative to develop it or subject a child to the risks of the procedure, as it does not cure a medical problem.

I trust that after just a brief studying of the issue, you will be in strong agreement: All conception that does not combine a man's sperm with a woman's egg is unethical and should be prohibited. This is also the conclusion reached by the President's Council on Bioethics in their 2004 report entitled "Reproduction and Responsibility."

Though the vast majority of same-sex couples have no interest in performing such risky experiments to have children, there are indeed couples who want to try, as well as scientists who want to achieve it. We cannot just disapprove, we must prohibit it, with strong penalties, if we want to protect children, protect couples from exploitation, direct researchers and allocate research funding effectively, and prevent a Brave New World from creeping in after same-sex conception has opened the door for human genetic engineering.

But we have a conflict: The right to conceive children together is intrinsic to marriage. If married same-sex couples were prohibited, in principle, from having children together, it would change marriage and leave everyone's procreation rights vulnerable, perhaps subject to a genetic risk assessment. Marriage's conception rights must be guaranteed.

As Governor, your authority licenses all marriages in the Commonwealth, and your authority can annul marriages that were granted in error or ignorance (such as those that turn out to be between siblings). You alone have the power to annul conception rights of same-sex couples that have been married in Massachusetts. I believe you could simultaneously, by executive order, create Civil Unions which you would define as exactly like marriage but without conception rights, and declare that all same-sex marriages are now Civil Unions. If executive orders can't do that, you could instruct the legislature to create Civil Unions before your deadline, so that married same-sex couples will not lose benefits after you annul their marriages.

Of course, we also need to prohibit unmarried people from attempting same-sex conception. One way to do this is with a new law or perhaps executive order which prohibits attempting to create a child from anything other than an egg and sperm. This is what the President's Council on Bioethics recommended that Congress do two years ago. You could urge Congress to act immediately, while also urging Congress to recognize Massachusetts Civil Unions as if they were marriages. Perhaps given a clear distinction between marriages and civil unions, and preserving marriage for a man and a woman, Congress could find support for federally recognizing civil unions.

Another way to prohibit same-sex conception is by prohibiting clinics from joining gametes from unmarried people and prohibiting same-sex marriages. This classical solution would also address the unethical practice of using donor gametes, which used to be considered adultery and is increasingly coming under fire as violating children's rights.

Please consider taking action before the election, as that would put any candidate who wanted to restore marriage in the position of having to support genetic engineering for same-sex couples, including spending the billions of dollars it would take to make it "safe and affordable". I think Kerry Healey would say she supports your action, reiterate your explanation as to why it was necessary to annul same-sex marriages, and say "the issue is settled, and the sky didn't fall when Governor Romney took away same-sex conception rights." But Deval Patrick might wind up having to say that gay marriage should be restored, even though the only right that has been taken away is the right to conceive children together. I think that would make him look insane and irrational. And during the course of this discussion, the people would think about what marriage means and marriage would be strengthened.

Supreme Court cases affirm that conception rights are intrinsic to marriage, and confirm that we don't have to grant marriage to couples when there is a public supportable basis to deny it. The extreme risk of birth defects is a supportable basis to deny people from marrying someone of their same sex.


John J. Howard

John Howard said...

One more day of Governor Romney, and still no response. I don't know if he ever was made aware of Kaguya or same-sex conception. I did speak at some length with a woman in the Governor's office, and I handed a flyer to Eric Fernstrohm and tried to explain it to him for a few seconds, but those conversations didn't have any impact.