With surrogacy becoming an increasingly popular option for many couples who are having trouble conceiving, people have raised several issues about its legalization, especially how it affects women and children. Specifically, people are curious to know, “is surrogacy ethical?”
Frankly, surrogacy is a complex issue with many different facets and viewpoints. In this article, we’ll explore some of the main ethical questions surrounding this topic and what governments and parties must do to improve it.
What Is Surrogacy?
Surrogacy is when a woman offers to carry a baby for another woman or couple. Usually, the surrogate may or may not be genetically related to the baby. However, since women are generally more emotional, there’s always the risk that the surrogate mother might develop an emotional attachment with the child she carries.
Surrogacy is useful for various reasons, but it’s most commonly beneficial when there are fertility problems in one member of a couple who wants to have children.
In this case, the woman unable to carry a child will choose a surrogate mother based on several different factors. Once they agree on the terms of the surrogacy agreement, they move forward with the procedure.
There are two types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. In traditional surrogacy, the child genetically belongs to the surrogate mother as she donates her egg.
Gestational surrogacy is similar to traditional surrogacy but involves using an egg from either the intended mother or a donor and not from a surrogate mother.
In every case of surrogacy, during every trimester of pregnancy, the commissioning parents pay monthly payments toward the cost of carrying the baby. The couple then pays an additional fee at the end of pregnancy for delivery costs. It also includes medical care during labor and delivery for the birth mother.
Is Surrogacy Ethical?
In recent years, surrogacy has raised concerns about its legalization and ethical problems. The first question is whether surrogacy arrangements should be legal in the first place. There are arguments both for and against this proposition.
On the one hand, people who are unable to have children themselves may benefit from being able to hire another woman to carry their child. On the other hand, there are concerns about exploitation and abuse of power in such situations.
In addition, there are also worries about the long-term effects of surrogacy on both parties involved—the surrogate mother and the intended parents—as well as issues related to how this impacts society more broadly (for example, creating an economy around selling women’s bodies).
The surrogate mother has no legal rights over her pregnancy or her own child after birth. She is simply a vessel through which someone else’s genetic material comes into the world. However, although this is a widespread opinion of people, most surrogates practice this consensually. They earn a livelihood in this way and are happy to bring the joy of expanding people’s families.
Another problem some parties face is that the commissioning parents sometimes pay less to surrogates than minimum wage for their services. Considering the risk to their own health and putting themselves at physical risk by carrying another person’s child for nine months is difficult. However, this is very rare since most parents pay a handsome amount to the mothers-to-be, including their medical care.
Very rarely, surrogate mothers may face threats from those paying them if they don’t follow through with giving up their babies after birth. This is known as “surrogacy coercion”). This is very uncommon, and hardly any cases have been reported on the matter.
What Are the Economical Concerns About Surrogacy?
Using a gestational carrier to become pregnant is expensive. In the United States, the cost can range between U.S. $100,000-$150,000. This high cost is because the intended parents must pay for their own medical bills and their surrogate woman’s expenditure. Note that insurance does not typically cover many of these medical expenses.
Although surrogacy is still available in the United States, surrogates, agencies, and clients all charge a fee for their services. The cost of surrogacy can vary greatly depending on where you choose to have it done and who you work with. In the U.S., compensation for surrogate mothers is set at $45,000 to $75,000. Furthermore, parents pay for the nine months of surrogacy, the medical expenses, including labor, and insurance as well.
Parents usually pay for travel costs, milk pumping or nursing, and clothing. In case of any organ damage or loss, parents fully support the surrogate mother in further medical aid and expenses. All this is added in the legal clauses beforehand.
Surrogacy is, for sure, costly, but many couples found success by exploring options overseas. Specifically, couples who traveled there before their country’s ban on international surrogacy in 2015 could do so with fewer expenses due to lower prices – for $15,000 to $20,000 – than those found in their or other countries.
This raises ethical concerns about whether this is an appropriate use of resources for those who could adopt or for high-profile celebrities who could fundraise for alternative options.
As we have seen, Gabrielle Union’s desire to have children is not only a personal one but represents an ongoing desire to normalize surrogacy as a way of creating families. Through her celebrity and economic stature, she has helped initiate this normalizing process, which ultimately will benefit many more people than simply herself.
Apart from the cost of surrogacy itself, many other factors push us to believe that the government should significantly regulate surrogacy. Some of them are as follows:
- No Natural Fertility
There are many objections to the practice of surrogacy. The main objection is that it does not use the “natural” ways of reproduction. This means that, in the case of surrogate maternity, the doctor artificially inseminates the woman.
The Catholic Church is against surrogacy as it destroys an individual’s identity and intimacy. In their view, creating a child for someone else through in vitro fertilization or other artificial means goes against natural reproduction and thus compromises the dignity of a child.
Surrogacy is a sensitive issue and has a wide spectrum of dimensions. It is not simple to just perceive it as having a baby or looking at it in terms of devotion for the couple who may not be able to give birth.
By ignoring the multidimensional aspects of surrogacy, we are looking at it from a very narrow-angle, resulting in multiple negative effects on the parties involved.
Surrogate mothers are supposed to act altruistically, but the “paid” pregnancy service is another factor leading to the alteration of the natural reproductive means of the human being. Thus, it ultimately diminishes many individual and social values.
- Selling the Female Body
Some feminist scholars find that one can link surrogacy schemes to an act of prostitution as surrogate mothers sell their uteri and hand over control of their bodies in third-world countries.
In countries where poverty reigns, people coerce women into surrogacy against their will, or traffickers take advantage of girls at a young age to serve as ‘breeders.’ The poor live in poverty, lack education, and are easily taken advantage of.
- Surrogate Mother – A Breeding Box
Experts have criticized altruistic surrogacy as immoral, dehumanizing, and commodifying women’s bodies by reducing them to “breeding boxes.” Yet, many people argue that the mothers-for-hire can benefit from it by providing them with an economic opportunity and increasing their autonomy over their bodies.
The emotional experience of surrogate mothers with their biological children has been the subject of much research. Most surrogate mothers feel that they are not the parent but rather host to the fetus and a breeding box.
Other surrogates feel that they are just like a hotel and that the baby is their guest. Van Zyl and Van Nierberk concluded that not all surrogates have the same attitude toward their experience, and some use different ways of dealing with these feelings.
Amid a controversy over the use of surrogate mothers, studies have revealed that surrogate mothers could easily discriminate between themselves and their fetuses.
In a study by Van der Akker, the satisfaction of surrogate mothers concerning their surrogacy experience was frequently positive. This was especially true when they were able to withdraw the child. In addition, a high degree of satisfaction was associated with believing that an adequate compensation system had met their own needs well.
In a surrogacy arrangement, there is no real attachment between the biological mother and the child. One may think that this practice is not morally acceptable since it seems that women are just serving as breeding boxes for their babies.
- Medicalization of Surrogate Mothers
Medicalization is an important concept in the belief system of Michel Foucault. Furthermore, medicalization involves making certain things into medical problems governed by specific legislation and special professionals.
Women with surrogate maternity contracts must agree with the diagnostic procedures because they fear being penalized.
It is essential to understand that these surrogacy agreements insult female subjectivity and medicalize the female body. Thus, they trample on the dignity of a pregnant woman.
The most disturbing side of surrogacy practice is forcing women to submit to diagnostic tests, including abortion, amniocentesis, and Caesarean sections, depending on what the physicians recommend. This makes the surrogacy practice unethical and illegal in some cases.
- Pregnancy and Delivery Risks
The objection to the use of surrogacy raises its head when one considers that the child born of a surrogate mother is not genetically related to her. It is also possible that a woman may become pregnant with another person’s genetic material and bear a child with whom she has no genetic relationship.
There are no genetic risks involved in carrying a pregnancy to term. However, there are many risks to the surrogate mother.
It is common knowledge that pregnant women are likely to sustain some physical discomfort due to their pregnancy, but one should remember that surrogate mothers also face similar problems.
Although pregnancy is a natural process, one must be aware that it can still be risky. The prenatal period can cause or exacerbate abnormalities.
Problems such as cardiac, respiratory, and renal disorders all put the mother at risk of death. One can claim that these risks are at least partly assumed when a pregnancy goes wrong.
The Daily Mail once announced a 29-year-old surrogate mother was dead almost immediately after giving birth. Another study suggests that some surrogate mothers face severe pregnancy problems such as miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.
Having a baby with an anomaly may create more problems for the couple who applied for surrogate maternity. If the intended parents refuse such a child, where should it be placed? The child then becomes subject to foster homes and social workers.
- Loss of Autonomy
There are always emotional problems with surrogates, although they are free and conscious. In the United Kingdom, Vasanti Jadva carried out a study on 34 surrogate mothers. The rate of mental and emotional problems for 32% was reduced to 15% in one year.
However, 6% experienced these types of problems up until nine months. A portion of 6% sought psychological support from psychotherapists. Also, 9% of women who participated in the study still experience those problems.
One must weigh the obligation to respect the autonomy of the surrogate against the prospective mother’s right to establish the kind of family she wishes.
One should respect a mother’s right to choose to have children over her right not to be coerced into carrying a pregnancy to term. The right to choose what happens in one’s body should outweigh her right to refuse life-affirming medical procedures like childbirth.
The prohibition of surrogate maternity is paternalistic. Surrogacy concerns only the commissioning parents’ rights, who are eligible to use the surrogate’s body for their own benefit. In some people’s controversial opinions, surrogacy objectifies the pregnant woman in this approach since people see her as merely a means to an end.
- Debilitation of Couple’s Relationship
The surrogate pregnancy has some adverse effects on the family. It is not rare for a woman to develop some emotional and even sexual feelings toward the man who donated his sperm to her. Unfortunately, it may lead to serious problems if the surrogate mother has a close emotional relationship with this man, who is also married.
Surrogacy solution for infertility jeopardizes the marriage relationship of infertile couples. Would the marriage union become strained when the couple cannot have children together, or would it even be broken down?
In patriarchal and polygamous communities, adoption by her husband of a second wife could be a solution for their family formation. It happens due to the childlessness of one of the spouses, particularly of the female partner.
In more conservative and traditionalist sections of these communities, surrogate maternity may seem like a solution for some couples. These include those whose infertility jeopardizes their marriage and serves to keep the marriage intact.
- Refusal of Baby Withdrawal
The postpartum period is particularly stressful for surrogate mothers who, following the separation from the newborn, may experience grief for losing the baby.
In some cases, this grief may persist during the pregnancy and even after birth, resulting in ambivalence towards the baby.
The possible complication during the surrogacy process is psychological support to both parties before and after delivery.
Preparing and rendering psychological support to both parties before and after delivery is important. For instance, if the surrogating mother changes her mind and decides not to deliver the newborn to the voluntary couple, the guardianship challenge will be on its way.
- Right of Baby
Surrogacy is a questionable practice, especially when it comes to the issue of parental consent. Since the baby is not considered autonomous, it is uncertain whether it can consent.
There are also doubts about whether or not the surrogate mother is actually volunteering her services, as she may have been forced into this by poverty or other reasons.
- Sale of Children
Experts argue that surrogate maternity and the contract of surrogacy violate children’s rights. First, such practices create a situation where people seek a child to satisfy their needs so that the child becomes a product to be sold or purchased.
Secondly, the child is treated as an object or tool that one could use for those purposes, so commissioning parents would infringe on his rights.
Those who oppose surrogacy claim that it is the same as purchasing a baby since buying and selling babies encourages this type of industry. Others, however, believe that the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Surrogacy has to be seen as a kind of human sale and exploitation, which would be like treating a child only as a commodity for sale. Therefore, surrogacy is usually damaging and jeopardizes the mother-child relationship.
Surrogacy and Religion
A common issue with surrogacy is the religious element. In some religions, scholars see surrogate motherhood as an abomination, illegal activity, and sin. The fundamentalist wing in Western society also considers it an immoral act.
Though it might be legal in the United States, surrogacy is still a gray area for orthodox Christian couples. The priests that work in these churches have said that they oppose extra-somatic pregnancies and will not sign off on surrogacy contracts if they feature this method of pregnancy.
The Catholic Church prohibits such practice due to the negative effects that it has on the pregnant woman as well as on the child. In Israel, people perceive surrogacy as a good deed for men and women who cannot conceive biologically to seek help from surrogate mothers for bearing their children.
Through surrogacy, the surrogate mothers served the religious purpose of helping childless women to become mothers. This was revealed in Teman’s (2003) study.
The issue of surrogacy receives a denial from the Islamic perspective, as if at odds with God’s creation and the marital relationship between husband and wife. Therefore, it is not legal to intervene in this matter by using new scientific techniques or changes in technology,
Surrogacy is a legal, ethical and moral issue in Egypt. Under religious law, no one is eligible to be a surrogate except the wife. In Saudi Arabia and the UAE, surrogacy is morally unacceptable.
Way to Human Trafficking
It is estimated that surrogacy will become a global industry worth more than $20 billion, but no exact figures are available on how many babies have been born through surrogacy arrangements.
The United States is a popular destination for surrogacy services. American law permits intended parents to hire an American woman to carry their child often referred to as commercial surrogacy. The U.S. provided a legal system explicitly supportive of commercial surrogacy: a contract between the surrogate and the commissioning parents.
Compared to the U.S., many countries have far fewer regulations and oversight, especially those considering international surrogacy arrangements in countries like Ukraine and Russia. These nations have virtually no regulations for surrogacy. They are not subject to American laws governing compensation for expenses and breach of contract, which can be problematic for both parties.
The stories of surrogates and commissioning parents aren’t always pretty, as they’re often forced to face all the difficulties that come with international interactions. Many remain torn apart today, caught in the legal limbo surrounding international surrogacy. Trapped within a labyrinth of laws without any pathways to citizenship or permanent residence, surrogates and commissioning parents often struggle to reunite.
When it comes to intercountry surrogacy, there are two major camps. The first is international feminist groups who believe surrogacy commodifies women’s bodies and life-giving capabilities. In contrast, the second features another type of feminist. They believe a woman should have every right to choose whether or not she becomes a surrogate mother.
Unfortunately, human trafficking is growing more involved in the international surrogacy market. The amount of money involved makes it an attractive opportunity for traffickers to sell girls and women into surrogacy arrangements.
Response of Government
In the course of time and evolution, the regulations concerning commercial surrogacy have become more flexible. The vast majority of the states and legal systems now allow this form of maternity to a certain extent. However, there are still many limitations, primarily imposed on the women who wish to become surrogate mothers.
A group of international experts is developing new rules to help ensure that surrogacy arrangements are ethical. Several countries, including India and Thailand, have recently closed their borders to such arrangements. These countries have historically provided many international surrogates.
Sadly, the United States government maintains that commercial surrogacy arrangements are outside the scope. They don’t violate the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocol prohibiting child trafficking and sale.
Regulating surrogacy agreements is one mechanism to prevent their use as a way of selling children, says the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children.However, she has not advocated for a global ban on surrogacy, although an increasing number of voices do advocate for such a ban. In 2018, hundreds of organizations from 18 countries signed an International Statement for a Global Ban on Womb Rental.
What Principles Make Surrogacy Generally Ethical?
People have widely discussed the ethical concerns of surrogacy and/or assisted reproductive technologies in recent decades. These issues are valid and worthy of note in more ways than one. Especially with regard to morals, surrogacy raises quite a few questions. However, not all these concerns are solid and widespread enough to ban surrogacy completely.
Indeed, there are concerns about autonomy and the risks of delivery as well as exploitation. But it’s important to note that there are people who truly cannot conceive or carry a child to term. In such cases, if a willing woman is interested in helping the couple and is compensated properly for it, the ethical gray areas lighten up noticeably and quickly.
For this to happen, though, governments must set up adequate guidelines to reduce the ethical issues with surrogacy. They are:
The government should address the arguments made against payment for surrogacy. Considering all the arguments, the most acceptable practice is altruistic surrogacy.
Reimbursement of the surrogate’s medical expenses and compensation for physical discomfort should be lawful. The commissioning parent should compensate the surrogate for pregnancy expenses. It includes the loss of actual income if it falls out of health insurance and the national social security system. But, ultimately, profit shouldn’t be the primary motive behind surrogacy.
The law should recognize that the parties involved in a surrogacy agreement are committing themselves to certain restrictions on their autonomy. The surrogacy agreement creates moral obligations for both parties, which cannot be broken without subjecting one party to legal action.
In divorce, the intended parents are still the child’s parents. If one of the intended parents dies during the pregnancy, the surrogate can choose whether or not to continue with the pregnancy. She also has a right to keep the child after birth if she chooses.
It is important to remember that surrogacy is a very personal and emotional decision. The surrogate, the commissioning parents, and the surrogate’s family should receive all consent to the arrangement before it begins.
One should make things clear from the beginning. The surrogate will have no right to the child, and she will hand over the baby to the commissioning parents.
Conclusion – Must Surrogacy Be Banished?
Surrogacy allows people who cannot biologically have children to become parents. It is useful when there are male infertility issues, female infertility issues, or both male and female infertility issues. It also allows same-sex couples to have children by using a surrogate partner.
Although surrogacy benefits the intended parents, it is not always a great experience for the surrogate mother and the baby. The legalization of surrogacy in some countries has raised concerns regarding the ethical values of surrogacy.
The first objection is that surrogacy does not follow the “natural reproduction” ways in this practice. The surrogate mothers do not use their own eggs to fertilize a donor sperm from an intended parent. Nevertheless, women ultimately get power over their own bodies and consciously choose to bring joy into many families.