The booming business in international surrogacy, whereby Westerners have begun hiring poor women in developing countries to carry their babies, has been the subject of plenty of media buzzing over the past few years. Much of the coverage regards the practice as a win-win for surrogates and those who hire them; couples receive the baby they have always wanted while surrogates from impoverished areas overseas earn more in one gestation than they would in many years of ordinary work. Heartening stories recount how infertile people, as well lesbian and gay couples who want to have children (and who often suffer the brunt of discriminatory adoption policies), have formed families by finding affordable surrogates abroad. The Oprah Winfrey Show has even portrayed the practice as a glowing example of “women helping women” across borders, celebrating the arrangements as a “confirmation of how close our countries can really be.”
But make no mistake: This is first and foremost a business. And the product this business sells—third-party pregnancy—is now being offered with all sorts of customizable options, guarantees, and legal protections for clients (aka would-be parents).
This article challenges “leftists” (individuals with liberal or progressive political and social views) to oppose commercial surrogacy, arguing that the practice flies in the face of two of their most enduring principles: autonomy and equality. It draws a parallel between a sweatshop worker and a gestational mother, both of whom sign contracts out of “economic desperation.” It suggests that such contracts would be deemed “immoral” by “progressives” and, for equality to exist, it is the government’s role (and not that of the contracting parties) to ensure agreements are unenforceable.
This book discusses the ethics of making families with children via adoption or assisted reproductive technologies.
Excerpt from a review by Vida Panitch, Associate Professor at Carleton University:
The editors set out to canvas the moral terrain of nontraditional family making, or family making through adoption and/or assisted reproductive technology (ART). And they have brought together papers that shed important light on the various contemporary ethical challenges that couples and individuals face depending on the manner in which they choose to welcome children into their lives. Of equal interest to Baylis and McLeod are questions regarding the duties of parents as well the duties of the state with respect to families formed via ART and adoption. Discussions as to the unique values and duties associated with families forged by these means are counterbalanced with papers on the permissibility (or necessity) of regulative state policies on everything from parental licensing, to anonymous gamete donation, to contract pregnancy.
Hardtalk with Dr. Nayna Patel
By Hardtalk | BBC | 2013
Listen to Stephen Sackur in conversation with Dr. Nayna Patel, the medical director of Akanksha Hospital in the Indian state of Gujarat.
During the interview, the host of BBC Hardtalk addresses many of the concerns that have been documented by researchers and activists working on international commercial surrogacy, from those related to unfair payments and payment schedules for gestational mothers to unsound medical practices that characterize many arrangements.
Sama is a Delhi-based organization working on issues of women’s health and human rights. A key focus is assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and international commercial surrogacy.
Sama documents and makes visible the experiences of gestational mothers and the risks they face in international commercial surrogacy arrangements. The organization examines issues within the framework of gender, class, caste, religion, ethnicity, and other power dynamics within South Asian society and between South Asia and other countries/regions. Visit Sama’s website for more information.
United StatesThe Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) is a public-interest organization based in California working to reclaim human biotechnologies for the common good.
CGS brings a social justice, human rights, and public interest perspective to human genetic and assisted reproductive technologies and practices, supporting those that are beneficial and opposing those that threaten to increase inequality, discrimination, and conflict.
CGS provides a range of digital resources that track and analyze developments on issues related to the social meaning of human biotechnologies including: a robust website and active presence on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube; Biopolitical Times, a longstanding blog with staff and guest contributors; and Talking Biopolitics, a series of conversations with leading thinkers, ethicists, and researchers. Learn more and visit the CGS website for a full overview of resources.
Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS) is a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts that develops and promotes evidence-based information on girls’ and women’s reproductive health and sexuality.
OBOS addresses the social, economic, and political conditions that affect health care access and quality of care. This contextual information has inspired readers to learn more about and to change laws and policies that affect their own and their family’s well-being.
The OBOS Global Initiative works with women’s organizations around the world that have translated and adapted “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to their country’s unique cultural needs. Many of these groups are addressing assisted reproductive technologies via their own work and in collaboration with OBOS (visit Global Collaborations for more information).
Surrogacy360 is one example of the Global Initiative’s work toward greater transparency and awareness concerning international commercial surrogacy.
Read recent blogs by the organization on the issue and the broader implications of assisted reproductive technologies, including:
Sharmila Rudrappa is a distinguished scholar in the field and her book, Discounted Life, is the winner, American Sociological Association Asia and Asian America Section Best Book on Asia/Transnational Asia.
From the publisher’s website:
Sharmila Rudrappa interrogates the creation and maintenance of reproductive labor markets, the function of agencies and surrogacy brokers, and how women become surrogate mothers. Is surrogacy solely a labor contract for which the surrogate mother receives wages, or do its meanings and import exceed the confines of the market? Rudrappa argues that this reproductive industry is organized to control and disempower women workers and yet her interviews reveal that, by and large, the surrogate mothers in Bangalore found the experience life affirming. Rudrappa explores this tension, and the lived realities of many surrogate mothers whose deepening bodily commodification is paradoxically experienced as a revitalizing life development.
A detailed and moving study, Discounted Life delineates how local labor markets intertwine with global reproduction industries, how Bangalore’s surrogate mothers make sense of their participation in reproductive assembly lines, and the remarkable ways in which they negotiate positions of power for themselves in progressively untenable socio-economic conditions.