To summarize, a light-skinned mother of Dominican background and a Caucasian father are the parents of two girls. The older daughter was conceived traditionally as far as I can tell. The second daughter was conceived through IVF, using this couple's own egg and sperm. The family noticed that the baby was much darker skinned than any of them, and has hair texture and facial features characteristic of having much more African blood than Mom appears to. The family did some investigating, and found that the clinic made a mistake and used the wrong sperm.
The court ordered that the couple can continue their medical malpractice suit, but not their mental suffering suit. I agree with this, but I'm a little disappointed that our current court system pretty much has to stop there. This has me wishing there were some process, similar to the frivolous lawsuit statutes, whereby the courts could decide not only to deny most of the compensation they're asking for, but could also simultaneously find that the tactics used in their suit are abusive to their children.
Obviously, the clinic didn't provide the specific service they were under contract to provide. The couple expected to raise a child who was biologically related to them, shared their medical history, and so forth. Sure, I can see how they're entitled to a bit of compensation.
What's horrific is that they're trying to make a case for the pain and suffering they and their daughter will endure because she is someone who is perceived as African-American.
While I'm not arguing that she will have a harder time in this society because of her perceived race, this is absolutely the wrong direction to take. Gimp Parade does a better job than I could of summing up the political implications of this. What I'm particularly reacting to is what this says about these parents, their relationship with their children, and how this is going to affect these children.
The one think I do have to say about the political implications of this is that the race argument isn't valid in terms of demonstrating how the clinic's error affects them. If the clinic had made an error and used the sperm of another Caucasian person, there would still be an error, and they would still deserve the exact same compensation. It should absolutely not be a "worse" infraction that the error led to the child being browner than the correct process likely would have. This is just not caselaw that I want to exist. Their testimony only needs to involve a couple of sentences, which is that they expected to have a biologically related child.
Furthermore, where do they get off thinking that any particular combination of sperm and egg is a guarantee of anything? Their first (fully biological) child could just as easily have ended up with recessive darker skin or textured hair, or a birth defect, or any number of conditions. She could have also been (and still could be) in an accident or contracted an illness and become someone who looks and behaves very different from their expectations. If the first child had been born looking and acting like anything other than the two beautiful healthy children pictured in the article, would the family make public statements blaming the father's own sperm, talking about how horrible it is that they must go through life with a child who has kinky hair or is missing a limb or has autism?
As I've said before, it scares me that there are parents who are only interested in parenting children who look and behave and learn just the way they had anticipated. I don't like the idea of "race as disability" as this family is trying to play it, but I think it's a valid argument when it's turned around. No family expects that their child will have mental retardation or dwarfism or autism or facial deformities, and sure, there's some grieving around this, but then the parent(s) owe it to the child to accept who they've got. Most families do know what race of child they're getting, but I'm frightened by the emphasis this family is placing on how they should have been able to control what they'd end up with in terms of race. No parent is able to control what they'll end up with in any sense, really, even once the kid is here.
I guess the thing that disturbs me the most is that this girl is going through life with the clear message that she isn't quite what her parents wanted. She doesn't look quite right in their eyes, and they're not quite happy having to explain her. Again, if one of the girls had been born with a disability, would the family appropriately explain her needs to people, or would they stomp around with an entitled attitude that they didn't sign up for this? It's the entitlement that really gets me. This is a family who had the resources to receive IVF, and who ended up with two beautiful healthy daughters, and all they can focus on is how they've been shafted and what a horrible situation it is to have two beautiful healthy daughters? I've never been much of a fan of "starving kids in China" arguments, but I think it's pretty appropriate here.
Believe me, I understand the part about the grief that she isn't biologically his, and not what they expected. And I know there's extra work that goes into raising a child who isn't biologically related and who doesn't "match." This gets quite a bit harder when you speak to the national media about how devastated you are about how your child looks and how she wasn't what you wanted. Instead of learning about resources for raising a healthy multicultural family, this family is devaluing and traumatizing their daughter.