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Jewish World Review June 15, 2000/ 12 Sivan, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

N.Y. baby case ends up with multiracial scrambled eggs --
AS HOTLY CONTESTED ISSUES GO, misplaced embryos would seem to edge out most others. I mean, how do you get worked up about the gender wage gap when you discover your fertilized embryo has been misplaced in another woman's uterus?

You know what they say: When you know where your embryo is, you have a thousand problems. When you lose your embryo, you've got just one. A big one, especially if your little darling-to-be is of African-American descent and the uterine hostess, who didn't intentionally invite anyone to dinner, isn't.

Thus, it's easy to understand why Deborah Perry-Rogers and Richard Rogers, a black couple in Teaneck, N.J., and Donna and Richard Fasano, a white couple in Staten Island, are having trouble settling into deep slumber most nights.

The Rogerses conceived in a dish what nature wouldn't permit, and a confused doctor carefully placed their black embryo into a white woman (Mrs. Fasano). The doctor also put Mrs. Fasano's own white embryo next to it, such that she gave birth months later to one black baby and one white baby. Childbirth doesn't get any more interesting than that.

Before we move on, let's pause to congratulate the Fasanos and Mr. Fasano in particular. I don't know many men who would keep urging, "Bear down, sugar, just one more time. We got a black one; now let's go for a white one."

The Rogerses get some credit, too. They lost their embryo, after all. Let's just say the Rogerses get the "sportsmanship" silver service for not inflicting bodily harm on certain medical personnel who really should be able to conduct a simple embryonic transfer without scrambling the eggs.

Which is not to say anyone's happy. No one is. Although the babies, now 17 months old, are in their rightful biological homes, visitation has become an issue. Valium refills on the house!

The Rogerses took custody of their bio-baby at four months and changed his name from Joseph to Akeil, which sort of clarifies everything. The Fasanos, though they have their white son, Vincent, want regular visitation with Akeil/Joseph.

Everyone agreed to this arrangement in the early days of emotional chaos, but last week, lawyers argued that the two couples aren't getting along. It's not a race thing, exactly. It's just, well, how do you share such a baby? How do you explain to Akeil: "You see, son, those white people, uh, gave birth to you and that white boy there is, uh, your brother." Didn't Steve Martin do this already?

Lawyers who presented the visitation issue in New York said they don't expect a ruling any time soon and confirmed the legal profession's commitment to redundancy with their assertion that the case is, indeed, "very unique."

Reduced to its parts, the misplaced embryo suit seems to raise these fundamental questions: Was Mrs. Fasano a mere vessel or does Akeil's tenancy in her uterus qualify her as a co-parent? Does sharing a womb qualify babies as siblings? Will the Fasanos accept the Rogerses' offer of $200,000 to leave Akeil alone with the parents who conceived him?

As technological snafus go, this one's particularly nightmarish. Imagine having another couple -- strangers but for their having accidentally birthed your gene pod -- insist on being part of your life forevermore. They could be, I don't know, unattractive!

With Solomonic wisdom in such short supply these days, one can't help thinking that $200,000 is a generous offer for half the rent on a nine-month lease. The white Fasanos could invest the money for Vincent's future lawsuit against the black Rogerses for denying him his rightful place in the brotherhood.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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