What happens to children when birth certificates lie?

Why in the world did the government get into the habit of issuing birth certificates? Does anybody need a piece of paper to prove he was born? Of course not, and nobody was ever so dense as to think that governments need to certify it. 

The purpose, rather, is to document the relevant facts of your birth. Who gave birth to you and who fathered you? Where were you born, and when? These facts are of public importance. The government needs to know them because the government is charged with protecting your life, and that means letting fathers and mothers do their job.

Your place of birth determines citizenship. Your birthday determines when you can go to school, and when you can drive. It determines when you can vote and when you get Social Security.

More importantly, your birthday determines the years that your parents protect you from yourself, from your own immature decisions. And during those years, it keeps the government from interfering in your upbringing because nobody can care for you better than your own father and mother.

Speaking of father and mother, your birth certificate names them so everybody knows who has the God-given responsibility to care for you. Of course, this can change through subsequent adoption and custody arrangements. But those situations only arise if the parents on the birth certificate abdicate their duties. 

This is important. Unlike adoption and custody, which are determined by courts, birth certificates are determined by nature, and take precedence. By naming your father and mother, the government is not creating your family, but recognizing it.

These thoughts about birth certificates come as I am pondering two cases before the courts. One is from Arkansas, the other from California. Both have to do with the most basic information on a birth certificate. Who is your father? Who is your mother?

C.M. v. M.C was filed before a California appellate court in January. It is about a woman who hired out her body for surrogacy, and the man who used it. A 50-year old single male, living with his elderly parents, purchased eggs from anonymous donors and, using his own sperm, conceived thirteen people in a petri dish. Three of them were transferred to a woman from California, hired to carry them to term.

But then he changed his mind. His father, who owned the house where he lived, said that he would not allow babies under his roof. Then the “buyer,” a postal worker from Georgia, said that he couldn’t afford to raise all three children, but only one. He tried to force the mother to abort the other two.

She refused, and wanted only to raise the two unwanted children as her own. 

Did you notice that I have not called the woman a surrogate, but a mother? That was not careless confusion of the facts. That is the only thing you can call a woman who is carrying a child. Science has long-since learned that people are not merely the sum-total of their chromosomes. After all, even identical twins are not identical. 

Our developing knowledge of epigenetics is showing that mothers are not merely incubators. There is a biological conversation between their bodies and the embryos within. The mother’s genetics determine which of the embryonic genes are turned on, which are turned off, when, and for how long. 

While this is happening, not only are the mother and babies bonding, but cells from the developing child also pass through the placenta and into the mother’s body where they live for the rest of her life. This cell-colony, called a chimera, establishes a life-long biological link between mother and child.

In addition to the physical symbiosis between mother and child, consider the wisdom of Solomon. When two people came before him, both claiming to be the mother of the same child, Solomon established a simple, effective test of motherhood. He took out a sword and declared that he would give half the child to each. Horrified, the real mother immediately renounced her rights if only the child could live.

That’s exactly what the mother did in this case. She was willing to end the contract and give up her personal advantage, if only her children might live. If only our courts had the wisdom of Solomon!

Instead, the California courts refused to recognize even the most rudimentary rights of a mother. When the children were born, she was not allowed to feed them. A guard was posted at her hospital door to prevent her from going to the nursery to see them. For the two months they were in the perinatal intensive care unit, she was not allowed to visit them.

All of this was done because of the California surrogacy law. When the children were born, the mother’s name was left off the birth certificate. Instead, the triplets were given a certificate with only the name of the “buyer.”

Everybody knows this certificate is a lie. Every child in the history of the world has a mother. The triplets are no exception. But this is a state-sanctioned lie and it has the power of the state to enforce it.

Of course, this was heart-breaking for the mother. But it’s the children who suffer most. They had bonded in the womb for months before birth. Like every newborn, they longed to be cuddled and comforted by their own mother, not by unfamiliar nurses. They were deprived of the nutrition of breast milk and given man-made substitutes because of a legal fiction.

The courts did not take any of this into account. California surrogacy laws prohibit it. Instead, they require the government to treat these children as property. I am not exaggerating. They are the legal property of the “buyer.”

In custody disputes, long-established legal precedent requires the courts to consider what is in the child’s best interest. But in property disputes, the child’s health and welfare, human rights, identity, biological and genetic relationships are all irrelevant.

Asked what will happen to the children once they are turned over to the “buyer,” the judge answered, “That’s none of my business.”

The birth certificate, which documents the government’s responsibility, has been falsified. The result is that the government has written off its duty.

The Arkansas case (Pavan v. Smith) involves a woman who was legally married to another woman. When she gave birth they sued to list both of their names on the birth certificate. Everybody knows that this is a lie. The child actually has a father. But the state of Arkansas certified a lie. 

It would be one thing for the state to assign custody to the two women. But this is entirely different. The state is falsifying the record and deliberately making it impossible for this child even to know that he has a father, much less know anything about him.

Is this in the best interest of the child? It ensures that this child will never have access to the paternal side of the family. If he suffers any genetic diseases in the future, he will be deprived of the medical benefit of that knowledge.

As the child grows up, and learns about the birds and the bees, he will inevitably ask about his father. How long will they persist in the lie that he has none?

On a broader scale, our whole society is becoming conditioned to the notion that it is perfectly OK for the government to tell obvious lies without even blushing. What is possible in a society like that? What other lies will now become state-sanctioned? 

If a mother can be denied listing on a birth certificate, if a non-relative can be listed in the place of the actual biological father, what prevents falsifying the birth date? What prevents falsifying of the place of birth? What exactly will stop any lie whatsoever?

Certainly not the best interests of the child! All that is in view today are the immediate desires of the adults who buy and sell them. 

Jonathan Lange has a heart for our state and community. Locally, he has raised his family and served as pastor of Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Evanston and St. Paul’s in Kemmerer for two decades. Statewide, he leads the Wyoming Pastors Network in advocating for the traditional church in the public square.

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