Horses versus Humans: Surrogacy Laws


It can be interesting to compare and contrast horse and human legal issues.  Instructions on how to raise children and foals can be eerily similar, there are also shared elements in feeding and caring for horse and human families in severe economic downturns, and both humans and horses need emergency evacuation plans in case of disaster, among many other similarities.

There are of course many differences; for example, human heirs are accounted for if someone dies intestate, whereas horse owners need to prepare a post-death plan for their animals if they want their estate to go in part to care for their horse(s).  Horses are governed largely by property law, rather than common or civil laws.

I read an article recently on human surrogacy legal issues.  In part: "In the 20 years since California first legalized gestational surrogacy, the industry has exploded--but this increased demand for children has also increased the potential for greed and exploitation."

The article describes some of these issues:

-One man asked the surrogate to carry at least four embryos, not because he wanted quadruplets, but so he could choose "the best one" and put the others up for adoption.  He agreed he was attempting to take  "the pick of the litter."

-One couple found out their surrogate was carrying a child of a gender they did not want.  They threatened to not pay any of the surrogate's medical fees unless she aborted the child.

-A reproductive law specialist attorney engaged in a baby selling scheme, in which American surrogate mothers were flown to Ukraine, implanted with specially selected "designer" embryos (i.e., blonde hair and blue eyed babies), and once the surrogates made it past the first trimester, the lawyer/ her team marketed the babies for approximately $100,000 each.  The attorney was disbarred and sentenced to 5 months in prison on charges of wire fraud, a cause of action grossly disproportionate to the wrongs committed.
Almost unbelievable right? Almost.  

The article put in tension the lack of reproductive laws, and the proponents who want more laws and the lobbyists who do not.  As one surrogacy lawyer said: "We live in the Wild West of reproductive medicine... there's so much greed, so much money in this industry, there has to be regulation."
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With equine surrogacy there is a striking ethical difference from human surrogacy.  Human life is valued at an entirely different level than horses, as it should be!  Horses are regularly used as surrogate mares, perhaps because the donor mare is a competitor or is too old or has poor health for carrying a foal.  It works out great for many horse owners.
However, there have been a number of lawsuits and calls for a change in embryo transfer and surrogacy equine laws.

This topic is too complex to be handled in just one post, but one of the most significant legal issues is with breed registries (like the AQHA case of registering "Hummer" (page 209)).

Some interesting links:

Have you ever participated in embryo transfer/ surrogate mares?
What do you think of the registration rules for such foals?



4 comments:

Wolfie said...

Interesting post!

First, I have to say that picking and choosing what you want in your child before it's born is a bit disturbing to me. However, I guess I did the same thing when looking for some of my four-legged companions. :-)

I knew about the PMU mares situation and how the foals are discarded. I had no idea about the nursing mares situation until I read the "JUST SAY NEIGH" proposal. Bottom line, these tragedies (in my mind) are a direct result of the continuing greed of humans to make more and more money on the back of animals. And, horse clubs encourage this bad behaviour. When will enough be enough in the horse industry??

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

You should read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale if you haven't already. Excellent book. Scary.

Muhammad Amir said...

Horses are governed surrogacy agency largely by property law, rather than common or civil laws.

Corinna said...

Exactly right Muhammed- horses are in general, typically governed by property law. However, I thought you would like to know that property law IS based in common or civil laws- not criminal laws (an exception might be trespass). Thanks for your participation in the discussion.