Judge This: Surrogate Refuses To Abort Baby At Parents’ Request

A moral and legal dilemma:

When a B.C. couple discovered that the fetus their surrogate mother was carrying was likely to be born with Down syndrome, they wanted an abortion. The surrogate, however, was determined to take the pregnancy to term, sparking a disagreement that has raised thorny questions about the increasingly common arrangements.

Get the full story here and offer your views below.


Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://twitter.com/Donnzpg donnzpg

    Sad and pathetic that some couples feel compelled to go to such extremes to breed a child instead of adopting one.

  • Daniel Fincke

    While I understand the need for adoptive parents, the drive to have children who are of “blood” so to speak is deeply natural and understandable to me, not at all “sad and pathetic”. The bond I feel with my parents is not only due to the loving ways they raised me and continue to be family to me through constructive but also stems in some way from the fact that we share a great deal genetically. It’s a valuable form of bond to share with family members. It’s not a substitute for love. And it doesn’t mean that non-blood must be loved less or can’t even be loved more than blood. But blood matters, even if it is not the most essential thing.

    • http://twitter.com/Donnzpg donnzpg

      Not being raised as adoptees, you or I cannot know how the bond with our respective parents might differ if we were. Yes, as a species, we retain many animal drives inherited from our hominid ancestors but just because we *can* pass on our genes via a surrogate mother, that doesn’t mean we *should*. Although I understand those who have such an urge, when it comes to the point of seeking a third party to carry it out, that becomes grossly selfish. No wonder parents of surrogate children typically choose to delay or even avoid revealing this information to them.

  • Daniel Fincke

    I can see the argument that it might be abusive to the surrogate since it messes with a whole lot of natural bonding processes that she is going to go through and could have cruel and upsetting, hard to predict consequences when she has to let go of a baby that she has carried to term.

    Psychologically, I cannot predict, however, with any certainty that it would not nonetheless be a beneficial overall experience for any number of women, given their own sense of meaning or contribution, etc. I wouldn’t outlaw it, for example. But, I agree that a lot of ethical care and attention for the surrogates has to be taken to say the least.

    For example, in the case at hand, I think that it would be deeply immoral to force the surrogate to abort against her will. I think if the genetic parents don’t want the baby, then it should be the surrogate’s choice to either abort or raise the baby or to put it up for adoption. If the genetic parents are not committed to seeing the baby’s life through, then they’ve effectively, to my mind, waived their rights to determine its life course. By agreeing not to abort and instead to carry the term, the surrogate has effectively adopted and it’s up to her to either put up for adoption or confirm adoption when the baby is born.

    But all that said, if this were a case of expensive arduous IVF without the use of a surrogate, I would not at all blame the parents for going to great lengths to have a baby of their own genetic relationship instead of adopting. As many deserving children need adoptive parents, I would not denigrate the natural desire to have a baby by blood. Adoptive parents can be wonderful and adopted children can be loved as much as any others, I’m sure of both these things. But if some parents want that other factor and it’s not irrelevant to them psychologically or if they would not, given who they were psychologically, be able to love an adopted baby the same as their naturally related one—I wouldn’t judge people over such things. I can’t see how it’s good for the kids or the prospective parents to do so or how it’s humane to demand people either ethically or legally be childless if it’s something really important to them.

  • http://twitter.com/Donnzpg donnzpg

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said among those very thoughtful remarks. But given the many potential legal, psychological, financial, and ethical factors and complications, hiring a surrogate mother to pass on one’s genes is a grossly selfish act. My stating that of anyone who is fully informed of such issues yet who still feels their personal desire overrides them is simply being truthful, and I doubt they would deny that.