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The Other Side of Surrogacy: Your Thoughts
Feedback on my interview with Jennifer Lahl
Have a lovely weekend!
Zahira on the nature of surrogacy contracts:
Interesting conversation. On the issue of being called "homophobic", I am noticing more and more discussion around surrogacy in the legal sector being framed as an equality and discrimination issue. I think it will be one of the next "civil rights issues." The argument goes that if straight couples can have IVF to conceived biological children, then it is indirectly discriminatory to not allow surrogacy arrangements or extended fertility arrangements with genetic material from others, as two gay men or two lesbian women cannot conceive "naturally" or without generic material from someone else. And in the case of two gay men in particular, without someone to gestate the baby. For example, this long read from the Guardian a while ago talks about this in detail: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/oct/01/how-gay-parenthood-through-surrogacy-became-a-battleground
I used to be persuaded by some of these arguments until, in my work, I first came across and read full surrogacy contracts. My clients were wealthy gay men, and I was horrified at the terms of the contracts. People are distantly aware of the India style baby farms, but not so much that a standard surrogacy contract, say, in the US is horrifyingly extensive and gives the "intended parents" an enormous amount of say over the life and death of the "gestational mother" and the pregnancy itself.
It's desperately sad when a couple cannot conceive naturally for any reason and want to, and I don't know what the solution is. But feeling entitled to the use of some other woman's body to achieve it is another thing entirely.
Carina on alternatives to surrogacy:
One possible solution is unconventional arrangements that respect biological bonds. For example, I know a gay man who had a baby with his straight female friend. She was getting older and hadn’t found a man. He was single and had always wanted to be a dad. They are both legal parents and share custody--happily, as far as I know. I wonder if something similar could work for gay couples, sharing custody with a biological mother who has legal rights and co-parents the child.
I mentioned in another thread that I’m a lesbian with a donor-conceived child, so the subscriber-only section has personal relevance to me. But I was mostly in agreement, actually. We conceived with a known donor (a family friend) and have an open arrangement so that our son has access to him. This was important to me because of what donor-conceived adults tell us about their desire to know both biological parents.
It’s another example of balancing desire with respect for biology and the bond that my son has with his other biological parent (who is a wonderful person and friend to all of us). It's still a loss to not be raised by his biological father, and I don’t pretend otherwise. But I don’t believe it was unethical to have him.
David ties the issue of surrogacy to the decline in birth rates discussed in the previous episode:
Could I throw a potential problem into the mix? What if there is a change in attitude in the next few years and families/relationships come back into fashion. Depending on demographics, that could lead to a panic around fertility. If that happened, IVF and Surrogacy would see a spike in demand that any regulator would struggle to keep up with.
Trends are linked to demographics which means correcting this could have other social costs unforeseen. It’s why I think fixing this needed social issue is really complex.
And finally, L. Clayton Wolf pushed back on my argument (central to the Spectator piece) about the emotional harm done by separating women and their newborns:
I did not find any of the points about stress to the child, risks to the child, or removing the child from the mother (like we don’t do with puppies) to be convincing in raising surrogacy to the level of those “outside of two consenting parties” actions.
However, let’s say those do raise it to that level. It then has implications on other situations. If we outlaw surrogacy on grounds of stress/cruelty to the mother or child, we would then need to consider:
1) All adoptions should now be banned, right? A mother cannot give up her child due to the stress on the child whether surrogate or not. What other factors do we consider to make adoption exempt from this reasoning?
2) Any situation that increases the potential of genetic diseases should be banned, right? Two people who may pass on a disease cannot have the child — should it be aborted if already conceived?
Or further, sex and natural childbirth without medical screening must be banned, otherwise the risk the child is too great to even allow possible conception. How would we enforce this? How is this okay if stress or disease risk of the child is paramount?
3) Mothers who don’t stay with the child and breastfeed may increase the risk of stress and disease to the child, right? Is there data showing mothers who don’t want their children, do breastfeed for months, and give their child away for adoption after are healthier children than surrogate children who are taken away immediately?
Why is this situation given precedence over other scenarios based on the health of the child? (Happy home — loving family, safe environment, opportunities, etc.)
How would we draw the line differently on these other implicated situations if the basis of the arguments are about the child’s health and stress?