Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Why Surrogacy is Wrong

I do get that, for some women, infertility is a major sorrow in their lives.  They want to be mothers, but, physically, it just isn't possible.

For those women, and their husband, adoption is also not possible.  Unless they have a LOT of money to spend, legally adopting a child is hard.  It's made harder by social workers who oppose adoption if a parent is living, however ill-suited they are to raise that child.  Too often, that opposition keeps children in foster care for years.  Some have accused agencies of keeping kids in foster care for the money it brings in - I can't believe that.  I think it's an ideological position that is to blame.

For those reasons, some women feel that they have no alternative to surrogacy.  Today's surrogacy has evolved into a multi-partner process, that splits the pregnancy action into parts:

  • The male contribution - sometimes from the prospective adoptive father, other times from donors (the men are generally paid for their sperm).  Sometimes, the sperm samples are mixed, so the father-to-be can assume a biological connection.

  • The egg contribution - an egg donor is paid far more than the sperm donor.  That's because she is pumped full of drugs to stimulate release of multiple eggs.  Research on the dangers has not fully explored the long-term damage to the egg donor's system.  See information about Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, which is just ONE of the problems that can arise.  For this part, younger, more educated women are preferred; often, these egg SELLERS are recruited via ads in college newspapers.  The high cost of college makes them a vulnerable population.

  • The Surrogate - that's the woman who actually carries the child to term.  Since there is no genetic connection, she may be of any race or background.  Previous mothers are preferred for this part of the "job".  Third-World women are often recruited for this.  India is one of the countries that have taken over this "job that Americans won't do".  Since the surrogate has to be pumped full of hormones to carry the pregnancy, it may well have a lifelong effect on that woman's health.


Breaking the motherhood part into 2 separate parts (it can be more, if the egg of one woman is used, but the DNA of another woman) virtually eliminates the problem of the "Baby M" case, where the genetic mother carried the baby, and bonded with it, leading her to challenge giving the child up after birth.

Older would-be mothers are often encouraged to use eggs from another woman, as their own might be old enough to have potential damage.  For very busy women, or those who don't want to "ruin" their figures, the surrogate option is preferred.

The whole process is expensive, involves multiple payments to the various people in the process, and legally severs the connection to original mothers and fathers.  For that reason, it is strongly promoted by well-off older partners, straight and gay.  They are the core group that has the financial resources to engage in the practice, and the ones that cannot, or would prefer to not, biologically create the child the natural way.

Who loses in this?

  • The sperm seller, who has left pieces of himself spread around the country.  In some cases, donors have been forced to contribute to the support of children they helped create.  The secrecy of the system can lead to unaware grown children becoming involved with their genetic brothers and sisters.

  • The egg seller, who, for a substantial amount of money, risks her health and future fertility.  Like the sperm seller, she has unknown numbers of potential children.

  • The surrogate, who takes some of the largest risks (pregnancy is still a risky proposition, especially when assisted with extra, injected chemicals).  During the pregnancy, both the hormonal changes, and the natural emotions of a mother contribute to a wrenching separation at birth.  Some husbands may resent the intrusion of the infant.  Children may have trouble understanding how mother could give away a child; lifelong insecurity may result.

  • The buyers, who are benefiting from many people's loss.  They have to know that only their money made this possible; the ethics of it all are questionable, at best.  At the worst, it is exploitation of vulnerable and poor people.  The surrogacy is a form of temporary slavery-for-hire.


As Pope Paul VI made clear in his encyclical, the conception process is a holistic endeavor.  To divorce one part from another, or to mechanize part of the process, is wrong.  He wrote that modern man had:
...a new understanding of the dignity of woman and her place in society, of the value of conjugal love in marriage and the relationship of conjugal acts to this love.

I do realize that Pope Paul VI was widely disparaged for his encyclical.  Few were the clergy that actually taught their congregations about the thinking behind it.  It was reported in the press and on TV as the anti-sex preaching of an out-of-touch papacy.
The encyclical warned of four resulting trends: a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.

Fast forward almost 50 years, and we have:

It is, in part, because surrogacy does not respect the dignity of women, that I am opposed to it.  It isn't that I don't understand (as far as I am able) the torment of a woman and a man that cannot conceive naturally.  The Biblical story of Abraham and Sarah is filled with that pain.

But, it is also filled with the consequences of going outside of natural marriage means to solve that problem.  Sarah insisted that Abraham impregnate a slave, Hagar.  After the child was born, Sarah did NOT bond with it, but resented both the child, and his mother.  She eventually insisted on banishing Abraham's son and his mother.

Why might Sarah have been infertile?  Well, Abraham had to labor 7 years, only to be tricked into marrying the wrong daughter.  He then had to labor another 7 years - 14 in all.  Let's assume that Sarah was 16 when Abraham first proposed.  Add 14 years to that age, and she would have been 30 when finally married.  By 27, women have lost 10% of their fertility.  By 30, women have lost 90% of their eggs.

That story is an object lesson in the perils of waiting to start your family.

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