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The Carletonian

Wombs for rent and children for sale: the cruel transaction of surrogacy

On Jan. 8 2024, the Pope called for an international ban on surrogacy, describing it  as “a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs. A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract.” Interestingly enough, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, in a press release, said something not too different in 2018: “Children are not goods or services that the State can guarantee or provide. They are human beings with rights.” However, it seems that no amount of outcry, whether by religious officials or the UN, can stop the surrogacy industry. The surrogacy industry is a $17.9 billion industry and it’s expected to be worth $132.9 billion in 2032. With infertility rates on the rise, more people are undoubtedly going to look for ways to become parents. 

Surrogacy, it seems, is one of the many different viable options. After all, what could be so heinous about this process? Proponents of surrogacy say that the transaction allows couples who can’t have children, especially same-sex couples, to become parents. Additionally, the surrogate gets paid a large sum of money to cover her medical expenses and for her services. Both parties are assumed to be mutually consenting and benefiting from this process, but that is rarely the case. Often, women from economically disadvantaged backgrounds see surrogacy as one of their only options to improve their circumstances and are often inadequately informed of the risks. Even in the case of altruistic surrogacies, the woman can be guilted into becoming a surrogate for the intended parents. Pregnancy is also not without its complications, many of which, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, can be life-threatening and lead to future health problems such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Surrogates are often left to deal with those problems and find themselves being paid less money than was guaranteed, especially if there’s a miscarriage or a stillbirth. Additionally, a surrogate can often find herself surrendering control of her bodily autonomy to the commissioning couple during her pregnancy. It’s not uncommon for the commissioning couple to tell the surrogate what to eat and drink and to prohibit her from daily activities such as riding a bike or going to doctor’s appointments alone. Finally, at the end of the pregnancy, the surrogate is forced to give up the child that she grew in her womb. In the case of traditional surrogacy, the father’s sperm is used to fertilize the surrogate’s egg. In a gestational surrogacy, an embryo created from the father’s sperm and the intended mother’s egg are implanted into the surrogate’s womb. In the case of traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is the child’s biological mother. Regardless of how the surrogate was impregnated, it’s cruel to expect a woman to give up a child that she gestated from conception and to regard the child with detachment. It’s not uncommon for surrogates to change their mind about giving up the child or regret their decisions after the transfer of custody. Once the surrogate gives up her child and is compensated for her service, the sale of a child has occurred. The child is deprived of their right to know their birth mother and the mother her child. However, unlike other commodities, one can’t simply return a child and be refunded. 

Among the 30 articles listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nowhere does it say that one is entitled to a child. In fact, if one looks at any constitution in any country for the right to have a child and, more specifically, the right to use another woman’s body to bear a child and take that child away from their biological mother, one would come up with nothing. There are, however, several articles in the Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 1, 3 and 4) entitling people to equality and dignity and the rights to life, liberty, security of person and freedom from slavery or servitude. Surrogacy goes against the most fundamental rights to life and freedom from coercion and servitude. No one is entitled to a biological child. No one is entitled to a womb. The practice of surrogacy is quite literally the sale of children and the rental of wombs. The surrogate is deprived of her bodily autonomy and made to risk her health for the happiness of rich childless couples. If an infertile couple desperately wants children there are other options, such as adoption. Surrogacy is a barbaric and cruel practice that violates the rights of women and children and should be banned in all countries.

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