Biology and Legal Rights: How Michael Jackson Tap-danced Around the Law
By: Karen DeSoto
Whether you love Michael Jackson and believe that he was the most talented entertainer in the history of the world, or despise him as a self-absorbed drug addict with no redeeming value, just like a bloody accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, it is difficult not to look.
And it's difficult not to be riveted by his children---to the extent that that they are his children. I am no geneticist, but you don't have to be Francis Crick to conclude that Michael Jackson had nothing to do with spawning those kids. But if so, how did he manage not to legally adopt them?
Jackson's stories about the paternity of the children and his relationship with their mother are so improbable that they defy logic. Why not just legally adopt the children? And why would Michael Jackson not use his own sperm? The whole arrangement doesn't make any sense, unless you try to think like Michael Jackson, who is emerging as a confused and self-loathing man with little adult grasp of reality.
One compelling possibility is that the scrutiny of the adoption process would make it impossible for any authority to permit him to adopt. If the allegations of sexual abuse and rumors of substance addiction wouldn't ruin his chance of adopting, then his public behavior would. Indeed, is there any clear-headed person who didn't think that Michael Jackson was not firing on all cylinders?
In the circumstances, perhaps Michael concluded that marriage to his surrogate would give him the presumption of paternity. In all states, if you are married and your name is on the birth certificate you are presumed to be the parent of the child produced during that marriage---until someone contests it. Usually a divorce or ugly custody battle will spark a DNA test on actual paternity, but if no one makes an issue of it, the biological parent could grant custody to anyone. In the Michael Jackson case, Debbie Rowe could have granted custody to Michael Jackson---or even a total stranger---if no one complained to family services that the person is unfit.
In most states it is illegal to pay for adoption or a surrogate, and any sale of children or body parts is summarily void for obvious public policy concerns. But those laws are easily circumvented through the guise of paying for medical expenses and other allowable necessities.
So, if you want children and can't produce them yourself, you have two options: a surrogate or a gestational carrier. A surrogate has a biological tie to the child, since the egg is the surrogate's, but a gestational carrier, really just an incubator, has no genetic relationship to the child at all. It is speculated that Michael's third child was hatched via a gestational carrier carrying not even her own egg but someone else's, an egg that was fertilized with sperm not from Michael Jackson but from a donor. Not much relationship to Mr. Jackson here, is there?
Technology has made advancement in the area of fertility and surrogacy, but the law has not quite caught up with the potential for harm. Should a person be allowed to hatch children using a gestational carrier without any biological ties to that child? Are we creating an area for abuse? Shouldn't we have laws for increased oversight by the court or family services in this area? If Michael Jackson did not meet the criteria to pass the scrutiny for legal adoption, he should not have been allowed to dodge that process by using surrogates and gestational carriers.
I remember the interview where Michael Jackson told the reporter that he wanted children so badly that he carried baby dolls with him. That alone should have been enough to disqualify him or at least raise a psychiatric red flag. We have all heard stories of people so desperate to have children they are willing to go anywhere or pay anything to realize that dream. However, one of the many lessons we need to take from the Michael Jackson story is that we must decide where the line should be drawn on the subject of manufacturing children through gestational carriers and surrogates.