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December 19, 2018

Whose baby is it? Father’s or mother’s?

Whose baby is it? Father's or mother's
Whose baby is it? Father's or mother's

At some point last week I was watching The Wendy Williams Show with a friend. Wendy does this segment called Hot Topics, which is really a run through of the day’s celebrity gossip, and her take on what is going on in people’s lives. Well, does the name Sophia Vergara ring a bell? She is the gorgeous Spanish lady on Modern Family, and one of the highest paid actresses on TV.

So a few years ago she was dating this millionaire, and they decided to try and have kids together. They went in for fertility treatments and managed to create some embryos and fertilised eggs that can be implanted in a womb and grow to full babies. The issue is that the couple have since broken up, and Sophia is actually happily engaged to another man. Now her ex, the millionaire, wants to implant the embryos in another woman and raise their child, or two. As you can imagine, Sophia is upset about this idea and the couple are in court, fighting it out.

I am fascinated by debates like this, where there is no right or wrong answer, in my opinion. If they were my embryos, I would want them destroyed, and that millionaire can go find himself eggs to fertilise. If however, you believe that life starts at conception, then you think that would be destroying lives, and that those embryos should be allowed to grow into children. If you are Sauti Sol, you would be singing Sophia a song much like Nerea, but with the much less poetic allusions to "keep the embryos frozen until I find a suitable womb for them".

This debate may seem far away from the reality of a lot of Kenyans, but as fertility clinics spring up across our city, they will soon come to the forefront. It highlights a need for clear legislation. As our law stands, we do not even know what to do with surrogate motherhood because the birth mother’s name is what appears on the birth certificate regardless of the source of the genetic material that created the baby that she carried to term.

Debates like these are so personal and for some, so important. The friend I was watching the show with said she does not believe the genetic material that goes into making a child is as important as the years you spend raising that child. And so if she were Sophia, she would let the millionaire keep the embryos and even raise them if they grew into babies. Many men who sell their sperm feel the exact same way.

It will be fascinating to see where this mostly Christian country falls when it comes to fertility treatments and their attendant questions like "when does life begin?", "who has the right to these embryos", "are surrogates mothers?" and others. If this debate involved two Kikuyus, then the embryos, like all children, would belong to the mother – that is Sophia. If however, the parties involved were from another tribe, the embryos would belong to the father. Will our fertility laws take tribe into consideration?

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