Society of Bioethics and Medicine
1 (800) RENT A WOMB
By - Sanjana Ahmed, Edited By - Anling Chen
Due to the technological advancements of today’s world, there are many ways to procure children. Surrogacy is one particular mode of having children that has become a hot topic for discussion in recent years, with a particular focus on how ethical the procedure is.
Surrogacy is an option usually taken when someone does not have the means to carry a child on their own but still desires to have a biological connection to their child. In order to do so, a surrogate mother is hired. She is then artificially inseminated with the intended parent’s zygote and carries the child to term. And due to modern-day technology, the procedure is safer than ever. Approximately 65% of all surrogates’ pregnancies in the United States and 58% of international arrangements are successful (MEDholiday Staff, 2015). This has also led to an increase in people opting to hire their own surrogates. However, this has also led to an uptick in the number of “birthing factories” all over the world, particularly in impoverished nations (Fenton-Glynn 2019).
The colloquial term is used in reference to the dehumanizing treatment of surrogates at these centers. It is specifically used to refer to surrogacy clinics where surrogates are treated as the equivalent of baby-making machines (Lakshmi 2013). It should be noted that since they occur in disadvantaged regions, there is generally very little regulation in place regulating surrogacy there. This is why many of these clinics have a reputation for coercing women into the system with monetary incentives (Crozier et al 2019). Typically, women who enter the system this way have little in the means of support as they must physically carry the child to term and deal with the emotional and lasting physical impacts of the ordeal, including the intense hormonal changes, mood swings, high blood pressure, and other ailments. In conjunction with their susceptibility to postpartum depression, this can have lasting impacts on their psyche.
A prime example of where this had been the norm was in India, which became a hub for medical tourism; the practice of traveling to a destination with the purpose of receiving medical treatment (T a 2018). Due to the desire to avoid paying steep prices for the service elsewhere, foreigners flocked to nations with similar circumstances as India in order to visit the aptly dubbed birthing clinics (Ray 2018). In India, surrogates were paid the approximate equivalent of four thousand United States dollars on average in comparison to their western counterpart’s five number figures. That is, if they are paid at all (Ray 2018).
While this toxic environment is the norm in several countries, many have taken precautions to avoid such scenarios. For example, India, Canada, and Australia have made commercial surrogacy illegal, which is any surrogacy arrangement that involves the surrogate being monetarily compensated. However, nations with this type of legislation in place generally allow altruistic surrogacies (Ray 2018).
Another downside to surrogacy is the fact that there are many children who need to be adopted throughout the world. In the United States alone, there are over 400,000 children who are in the foster care system (Adoption Network Staff 2020). Studies have shown that with the increase in people opting to use surrogacy as a means to expand their families, adoption rates have been steadily plummeting (Grace 2019). As Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program director and law professor Elizabeth Bartholet has stated, this trend is ‘illogical’ when the global population is taken into account. Overpopulation in conjunction with limited resources makes the idea of bringing more children into the world while millions already need a home ludicrous (Voigt 2013). The driving force behind the professor’s argument is that the world cannot simply carry such a large population.
That being said, we cannot ignore why people turn to surrogacy. Many people struggle with having children and strongly desire a familial connection to their child that they believe would best be cultivated if they were genetically related. It is also key to note that not every surrogacy arrangement is marred with toxic aspects. For example, altruistic surrogacies are carried out due to the proxy mother’s desire to help others achieve their dream of having a child.
Ultimately the decision to hire a surrogate is a choice that the intended parents of the child must decide upon. The process of adding to a family is an extremely personal ordeal where those involved must deliberate all of the factors involved in the process. If the intended parents decide to use surrogacy, they need to have a strong understanding that the breadth of impact the process has encompasses far more people than just themselves.
Adoption Network Staff. (2020, December 18). US Adoption Statistics: Adoption Network: Adoption Network. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://adoptionnetwork.com/knowledge-hub/adoption-myths-facts/domestic-us-statistics/
Crozier, G., R. Deonandan, M., Kirby, J., K. Orfali, P., Colen, S., Rapp, R., . . . Mazumdar, I. (1970, January 01). The social paradoxes of commercial surrogacy in developing countries: India before the new law of 2018. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://bmcwomenshealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12905-020-01087-2
Fenton-Glynn, C. (2019, April 25). Surrogacy: Why the world needs rules for 'selling' babies. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47826356
Grace, C. (2019, January 10). Adoption rates falling because of an increase in IVF and surrogacy. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.stowefamilylaw.co.uk/blog/2018/11/06/adoption-rates-falling-because-of-an-increase-in-ivf-and-surrogacy/
Lakshmi, R. (2013, July 26). In India, a rise in surrogate births for West. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-india-a-rise-in-surrogate-births-for-west/2013/07/26/920cb5f8-efde-11e2-8c36-0e868255a989_story.html
MEDholiday Staff. (n.d.). Medical Tourism Articles. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from http://www.mymedholiday.com/article-info/50/639/surrogacy-statistics-numbers-success-rates-worldwide#:~:text=Success%20rates%20in%20surrogacy,can%20be%20nearly%2060%20percent.&text=The%20overall%20surrogacy%20success%20rates,embryo%20transfers%20is%2045%20percent.
Ray, S. (2018, December 20). India bans commercial surrogacy to stop 'rent a womb' exploitation of vulnerable women. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/20/india-bans-commercial-surrogacy-stop-rent-womb-exploitation/
T a, Binoy. (2018). AN EVALUATION OF SURROGACY TOURISM IN INDIA. Volume 10.
Voigt, K. (2013, September 18). International adoption: Saving orphans or child trafficking? Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/16/world/international-adoption-saving-orphans-child-trafficking/index.html