Surrogacy for Money

After getting married, the next step for most couples is having children.  Now that we have same-sex marriage, there is the impulse for same-sex parenting.  But natural law still holds for reproduction, so two married men who want to be parents must find a woman who will bear a child for them.  Thus we are seeing a huge increase in the use of surrogate mothers.

Most states do not permit compensation for surrogate mothers beyond medical expenses.  The reasoning is that paying mothers for their babies amounts to buying and selling children.  But Washington state has just passed a law that commercializes surrogacy, joining 8 other states that allow women to be paid to bear a child and give her baby to the buyers.

The practice today for gay couples is to employ in vitro fertilization, both contributing sperm samples so that they will not know which is the biological father which is used to fertilize a donated egg.  The conceived child is then implanted into the womb of the surrogate mother, who thus has no genetic connection to the child she is carrying.  Sometimes, though, the surrogate is simply artificially inseminated.

Up to this point, women who agreed to be surrogate mothers have usually done so out of kindness to their friends or relatives, what is called “altruistic” surrogacy.  Some Christians have even taken up this role as a way to help infertile couples.  An article on the subject in Christianity Today quotes a woman who sees surrogacy as a God-given vocation:  “God called me to seek out what seemed like unconventional ways to serve others.”

But such generosity cannot meet the increasing demand for surrogate mothers.  Because of abortion, few American children are available for adoption, and foreign adoptions have become increasingly difficult.  Paying women for this service, letting supply and demand set the rates, would seem to be the solution.

A clinic in California, where commercial surrogacy is legal, charges from $90,000-$130,000 for a baby.  Of that, a base rate of $50,000 goes to the mother.  The rest goes for medical and legal fees.

Already, some couples are taking advantage of poor women in less developed countries, particularly India, which has turned surrogacy into a $2.5 billion industry, with 500 clinics and women who will bear someone else’s child for a mere $5,000.  (India has passed a law banning all but altruistic surrogacy, but the practice of commercial surrogacy continues.)  Wesley Smith calls this practice “biological colonialism.”

Not all states allow even uncompensated surrogacy contracts, which require the mother to give up all custody claims.  But the Washington state law will allow surrogacy for hire, with few restrictions, as Brandon Showalter reports.  He quotes pro-life activist Katie Faust, who testified against the bill:  “When I say that we have established a global marketplace for children, I am not exaggerating. That is exactly what this is.”

As the bill stands, Faust explained, no limits are placed on how many children can be procured through surrogacy arrangements, no requirements exist saying that people intending to pay for surrogacy services must be residents of Washington state or American citizens, or even that the women must be inseminated in Washington. All it takes is one consultation that occurs on Washington soil and a contract can be legally enforced even if the individuals using the surrogate mother hail from nations where surrogacy is prohibited.

Motions to amend the bill requiring all “intended parents” to be subject to the same screening procedures as adoptive parents and the creation of a state-run database to track those intended parents and limit the number of births were voted down.

Currently, eight other states also allow “compensated” surrogacy: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oregon, and Rhode Island.  For countries that allow commercial surrogacy, go here.

Does any of this count as exploitation of women?  As human trafficking?  As the commodification of human life?  As the privileged exploiting the underprivileged?

Apparently such seemingly liberal concerns do not apply in this case, as all of Washington state’s supposedly liberal Democrats in the legislature voted for commercialized surrogacy, just as all of the Republicans opposed it.

How does surrogacy fit with the doctrine of vocation?  Is there a difference here between altruistic and commercial surrogacy?  Does it make a difference vocationally if the mother is giving up her genetic child as opposed to one conceived artificially?

And, setting aside the ethical issues for a moment, is $50,000 nearly enough to pay a woman to go through pregnancy and to give up her child?  Presumably, as the supply of surrogates increases, the price will go down.  But does this strike you as exploitive wages?

 

Photo of Drewitt-Barlow family [first gay men to legally have children via surrogacy in UK] by Surrogacy-UK (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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