For many individuals and couples, having a child signifies their maturation and self-actualization. However, for some, this path to realization and happiness is impossible due to infertility, other medical issues, age or relationship status. Using a surrogate mother to carry a pregnancy to term is a way for many people, including a growing number of celebrities, to overcome their challenges and become parents. Although this may seem like a great solution, surrogacy also poses some controversy, especially with respect to women’s rights, emotional involvement, and financial gains.
Here are three reasons why surrogacy is a good idea and three reasons why it may not be great as it seems.
Three reasons in favor of surrogacy
Surrogacy creates families
Today, approximately 11% of American women struggle with infertility. For people unable to conceive due to infertility or medical conditions, surrogacy can be one of the only ways in which they finally create a family. Surrogacy can help single men and women and LGBT couples become parents, enabling at least one parent to be biologically linked to their child. Plus, having kids and forming a family has been positively linked with increased parental happiness, productivity and longevity, for all family members. Some research even suggests that parents are happier than non-parents later in life, once their children move out. Basically, surrogacy can create the foundation for a happier, more fulfilled life.
Surrogacy allows intended parents to be involved in the gestation process
To better understand surrogacy, we must look at the alternatives available to people hoping to become parents. One alternative is adoption. Despite there being many children around the world in desperate need of homes, it can take years for a single child to be adopted. Then, adoptive parents must get to know a child who is already born and who biologically belongs to someone else. It may also be challenging to find out a comprehensive health history of the adopted child, which may cause complications later in life for everyone involved. Clearly, adoption is not easy. While the surrogacy process can also be challenging, especially when the surrogate mother is in a different country where war can break out, surrogacy does ensure that intended parents can be involved in their child’s life from the get-go. Intended parents are updated on the surrogate’s pregnancy, and often can attend scans and be present when the baby, often theirs biologically, is born.
Surrogacy is an educated economic opportunity for women
In countries that allow and support commercial surrogacy, surrogate mothers are fairly compensated for their time and the medical risk involved. These women are instructed about the process, what medical procedures are required and how they must conduct themselves throughout the gestational period. Contracts are signed to protect the surrogate and intended parents to ensure that all parties get what they want. For the intended parents, this means a baby. For the regulated surrogate – a base compensation of around $25,000 can be expected, though it can be more and the absolving of her responsibility towards the child and its intended parents following childbirth. From an equality perspective, surrogate mothers are well informed and conscious of their choice. The act of surrogacy can therefore be viewed as an educated and informed economic opportunity.
Three reasons against surrogacy
Surrogacy can be used to exploit women
Surrogacy can be problematic in instances where it is used by wealthier people to dominate and degrade women from lower socio-economic backgrounds, particularly in third-world countries. The woman’s unique childbearing capabilities are recognized and used to bring money in. The issue of consent is at times unclear. Countries like India offer surrogacy services to Western countries at a fraction of the cost, which can be seen as exploiting women as baby-making machines for a pittance. The low price tag can be tempting to couples and individuals of higher economic means who are desperate to expand their families, driving them to enter into surrogacy agreements with third-world women, despite the way these contracts may affect these surrogates. In Ukraine, for example, couples may pay anywhere between $30K-$50K for the process while the surrogate mothers reportedly receive only a small fraction of this sum.
Surrogacy is a form of alienated labor
Surrogacy is a paid “job” that women perform, often while attempting to remain emotionally detached from the “product of their work.” This would be fine in some work environments, but in the case of surrogacy, alienated labor that culminates in physical reproductive labor can be psychologically and physically harmful for the surrogate mother. It can also turn the entire surrogacy process into a physical act lacking in emotional attachment This is because surrogates might be compelled to sell their bodies and their function for money, while attempting to distance themselves from the significance of their acts and shield themselves from potential postpartum heartbreak.
Surrogacy turns babies into commodities
When surrogacy is allowed, babies become commodities for trade, often between wealthy Westerners and impoverished families in developing countries. This international trade approach to babies, with its mixed legal systems, can leave those babies without protection or rights. A Chinese actress reportedly abandoned her two babies, born via different surrogates, after she and her husband split while the surrogates were still pregnant. Thai baby born with autism caused parents to back out of a deal and leave him with his surrogate mother. A twin baby was abandoned in India by Australian parents with knowledge of the Indian Authorities. Such examples point out the inherent inequality and possible injustice that arise from international surrogacy.
The Bottom Line: Surrogacy can be the ultimate answer for people who cannot have children. Yet, it can also be a rabbit’s hole full of ethical and commercial conundrums. Do you think surrogacy is a great way to create a family, or do you think those who want to have kids should seek other options, like adoption?