International Effort To Prohibit Surrogacy

Pilar Calva
October 27, 2015
Reproduced with Permission
Culture of Life Foundation

On August 24, 2015, Maria Luisa Peña presented the Declaration of Experts for the Abolition of Surrogacy at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

"Surrogacy" can be a confusing term. Most generally, surrogacy refers to hiring a woman who commits to carry a baby with the obligation of ceding her parental rights and giving the child at birth to those who have hired her. But it has many permutations. The process can be undertaken with gametes from the gestating mother (sometimes referred to as gestational surrogacy or total surrogacy ), or with gametes from those who solicit the surrogacy ( homologous ) or from other third-party donors ( heterologous ). The last two instances are sometimes referred to as partial surrogacy . Sometimes it is done for profit - when a certain sum of money is paid above the costs of gestating the child - and other times the service is donated - done for little or no pay.

The process - which arose from altruistic, though misplaced, intentions to aid couples that cannot conceive - has been distorted, and become a multi-million-dollar business. Research done by Carolin Schurr, the Branco Weiss Fellow in Economic Geography at the University of Zurich, shows how this commerce escapes regulation by moving between countries. It has moved from India to Thailand and now to Mexico.

Regardless of the form it takes, surrogacy can best be described as the exploitation of women for reproductive purposes . This exploitation is broad-based, as it is perpetrated by not only those who hire the surrogate, but also by the supporting agencies, the centers where the women stay, the doctors and the fertility clinics which practice it, and the government entities which sanction it.

A New York Times ' article published in September of 2014, "Surrogates and Couples Face a Maze of Laws, State by State," analyzes the renting of wombs in the various states of the United States, nearly 30 years after the controversial case of Baby M, which brought to the fore a discussion on the far-reaching implications and consequences of sorrogacy contracts. The response from the states is quite varied. A great legislative silence covers many states. Others have decided to regulate surrogacy with laws and regulations ranging from absolute prohibition to minimal interference.

Globally, in First World countries where it is permitted, the costs of the process are very high. In developing countries, the payment to the gestating woman can come to represent the income she or her husband could earn with seven to nine years of work.

Ethical Implications

Contracts for surrogacy are without a doubt a way of exploiting women who are selling or renting their bodies for money, or for some other type of compensation. (Surrogacy invariably is found linked to prostitution networks.)

But not only the women suffer.

Surrogate motherhood does not seek the good of the child, but rather, seeks to satisfy a desire of adults to be parents at whatever cost. Surrogacy breaks the maternal-filial bond that begins at the moment of conception and endures during the whole of pregnancy. Science shows that real bonds are created between the mother and the child during pregnancy and that severing these bonds has psychological consequences . Furthermore, the baby is made to be the object of an economic transaction, a commercial product. And like most products, the purchaser wants a warranty. Generally, there is a demand that the child be healthy. And when he or she is not, the baby may be rejected and left with the surrogate mother!

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a necessary part of the process, with its own ethical implications and physical risks. IVF is known to cause an increase in the rates of ectopic pregnancies, placenta previa, pregnancy of multiples, risk of miscarriage and premature birth.

The main argument used to justify surrogacy is the supposed right to a child, but there is no such right of one person over another. People are not things and cannot be made so.

As many as six people can claim parental rights over each baby born from a rented womb: the genetic or biological mother (the donor of the ova); the gestational mother (who rents out her womb); the woman who has paid for the baby; the genetic father (the sperm donor); the spouse or partner of the gestational mother (who is presumed to be the father); and the man who has paid for the baby. This impedes the child from knowing his origin and identity, a right presented in Articles 7 and 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child .

And, as we have seen before, there are those instances where the couple who hired the surrogate decides they no longer want a child, or that the gestational mother decides that she doesn't want to give him or her up.

In short, the ethical problems with surrogacy are legion. Surrogacy supposes, in every respect, the exploitation and objectification of human beings. Accordingly, a universal prohibition of surrogacy is needed and a petition for such an end is being circulated.

Until such a prohibition is enacted, prohibiting birth registry in the name of the "buyers" of those children obtained through international surrogacy is one way to dissuade rental wombs and reduce the buying and selling of children, and human trafficking.