Three Surrogacy News Stories


As many of you know, I oppose surrogacy, and uphold the Church's strong discouragement of that practice. I wrote a very, very long SquareTwo essay on the topic to get my mind and heart clear on the subject.

So it should not come as a shock that I pay attention to news stories about surrogacy. Three came across my inbox yesterday, and I thought I'd bring them to your attention, as well.

The first was the depressing news that the New York State Legislature, backed by the Governor, has voted to legalize commercial surrogacy. It had been a holdout for quite some time, in part because high-profile feminists such as Gloria Steinem, a New York resident, opposed such legalization as being exploitative of women. About this latest move, "Steinem wrote that legalizing surrogacy would put “disenfranchised women at the financial and emotional mercy of wealthier and more privileged individuals” and allow “profiteering from body invasion.” She's absolutely right. (Her complete letter is here.) She points out that there are no background checks on intended parents, that someone need only be a resident of New York for 90 days to begin a surrogacy contract, and that nothing stops women from being "imported" from other countries to New York to serve as surrogates. Nor are women in New York required to be warned of the risks of being an egg donor or a gestational surrogate.

There was a bit of compromise: "The bill’s sponsors in recent days amended it to include a 'Surrogate’s Bill of Rights,' which explicitly states that surrogates would have access to health care and independent legal counsel, paid for by the intended parents, and would have total control over whether to terminate the pregnancy." (Only Michigan and Louisiana now criminalize surrogacy, viewing it as a form of prostitution. Some states do limit contracts in some form.) The debate was intense, and as the New York Times points out, pitted feminists against progressives.

Of course, what's ironic is that the rest of the world is turning away from surrogacy. India bans foreigners from using Indian surrogates after many, many abuses were uncovered. Cambodia has banned the practice, and several Cambodian surrogates for Chinese couples have been given suspended jail sentences and instructed to raise the babies they carried, as they would not be handed over to the intended parents in China. Europe is very anti-surrogacy, seeing it as inherently exploitative of women--some are arguing what is needed is a Nordic model for surrogacy, just as there is for prostitution. They see surrogacy as but one form of prostitution.

A second article that appeared in my inbox was an article by a woman who had been involved in what is euphemistically called "altruistic" surrogacy--and who lived to regret it. She agreed to serve as a surrogate for some friends. As she says, "I went ahead against my own better judgement and my internal instincts which were warning me – because I did not want to cause offence or upset my friends . . . This was due to a lack of self-esteem and assertiveness, and seeing my value lying only in how useful I was to others. I had an over-developed sense of ‘service.’ This is common in women, as female socialisation means that women and girls are encouraged and trained to put themselves second, and to prioritise other people, and to be ‘kind.’ This female socialisation and psychology needs to be investigated, researched and considered in the context of altruistic surrogates."

The friend who was the intended mother began to be very jealous of the surrogate. She relates, "I felt that they believed that to some extent they ‘owned’ me and my uterus, and that they ‘deserved’ to direct the birth because they saw the babies as ‘theirs.’ The birth ended up being extremely traumatic with one baby being admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and me suffering second degree tears."

More: "I was more or less completely abandoned by the intended parents . . . Most hurtfully I was not invited to the twin’s christening. I was used for my uterus, and then discarded when I was no longer needed. It was the most degrading and horrific experience . . . I am left with birth injuries, incontinence, and with diastasic recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) which all cause me daily problems. I do not know what the long term health impacts will be of taking large amounts of synthetic hormones, nor the potential increased risk of breast cancer as I did not breastfeed the babies. I am now completely against ALL surrogacy, both commercial (which is completely immoral in my view) and altruistic unpaid surrogacy. The potential for abuse is too great. Women should not be encouraged to endanger their emotional and physical health and safety for other people’s ‘need’ to have babies. Women matter. Women should not be encouraged to put ourselves second, and to risk our lives for other people."

The practice, even in "altruistic" form, is inherently, inevitably, and inescapably exploitative of women. It is also inherently, inevitably, and inescapably exploitative of children, which brings us to the third article. Apparently a 23 year old Russian woman and her 56 year old wealthy husband have had surrogates bear them 10 children in the space of 1 year. Their ultimate goal, they say, is to have over 100 children born to them via surrogacy. We learn details such as that "Christina, who insists upon a strict childcare routine, claims her brood of 10 babies sleep 'from 8pm to 6am' each night, and said the family's nannies record each and every detail of the children in a set of diaries . . . Christina said she 'gives instructions' on 'what to read to children, in what order and at what time and with what duration.' Meanwhile she explained she has a strict routine for dealing with children who are crying, revealing: 'If the child begins to cry, I forbid you to take him in your arms'. . . . She says, 'Food is strictly according to grams - not a gram more, not a gram less.'" Great, just great. Those poor kids. Are these kids even loved, or are they possessions?

Surrogacy--just say no.