Before we get to the ethical dilemmas surrounding surrogacy, we must understand what surrogacy is. Surrogacy is a legal arrangement wherein a woman agrees to bear the child of another person(s) who will become the parent(s) of the child. There are two kinds of surrogacy possible- traditional and gestational.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm. She carries and delivers the baby and remains the biological mother of the child as she contributes to the genetic makeup of the child. On the other hand, in gestational surrogacy, the eggs from the mother and the sperm from the father are collected individually for the process of in-vitro fertilization and the embryo formed is placed into the uterus of the gestational surrogate. She is expected to carry the baby until birth and is called ‘birth mother’ as she doesn’t contribute to the genetic makeup of the child.
For both these kinds, many ethical questions arise. There are various aspects regarding society, gender, exploitation and law that make surrogacy an ethical standpoint. One of the most pertaining questions regarding surrogacy and its use is:
With the ease and increase in the use of this method, does surrogacy remain a medical need or has it turned into a matter of convenience?
It is assumed that since the surrogate mother is the bearer of the child and is making use of her body for this purpose, she must be the sole source of consent for all questions regarding prenatal care and delivery. Additionally, since this process is an emotionally taxing one and involves maternal instincts, the surrogate mother should have a specified time period after the birth of the infant during which she can decide whether or not to carry out her original intention of placing the infant for adoption.
Currently, the most contentious issue surrounding surrogacy is the payment to the surrogate mother. There are extensive debates regarding the need to pay the surrogate, how much to pay, how to pay and the legal route taken to make the payment legitimate. Since the duration and complexity of the surrogate mother’s involvement in reproduction is substantially high, greater payments are expected. However, in many countries, surrogacy is seen as an altruistic act rather than a commercial one which further complicates matters. In fact, many times couples approach friends and family for surrogate wombs with the expectation of altruism.
There are many social repercussions caused by surrogacy as well. For instance, the surrogate mother is publicly visible and accessible. This is because many a times, not enough care is taken to protect the identity and privacy of parties involved. Furthermore, the surrogate mother may not wish to give up the child after delivery which further strains the whole equation. There also arises the question of exploitation of the child due to the circumstances, such as the child may find himself in the middle of a custody dispute or may get rejected by both parties due to an abnormality.
It also raises the question of exploitation of the female gender which further triggers feminist concerns such as bodily autonomy, vulnerability, inequality and rights over self. It also provides room for exploitation of the poorer classes by manipulating them into something like this without providing them with the complete requisite knowledge.
Since every country has its own laws regarding surrogacy, there are many opportunities for legal loopholes and exploitation of the surrogate. For this reason, a global approach towards surrogacy is required.
Kreator: Trisha Welde