As my vacation winds down, I have been thinking about this article, which I’m sure many of you saw. (It was on the front page of the New York Times a couple of days ago.)
There’s been a lot of discussion about surrogacy here over the years (and I’m actually working on a more sustained law review type piece on the subject.) You all probably know that mostly I worry about the vulnerability of the surrogates. They are virtually always women who have less power, less money and less education than the intended parents.
While I haven’t written much about it, I know many people worry about the vulnerability of children conceived via surrogacy. No question that children are vulnerable. But all the studies I’ve read tend to show that children born via surrogacy don’t really fare differently than other children–which is to say that most do just fine. Nothing I’ve seen suggests that surrogacy per se is a problem in this regard.
Anyway, in general the people I’m the least concerned about are the intended parents–those who contract with the surrogates in order to become parents. And that is where this article comes in: Continue reading
I’m sure many of you saw and read this story that was in the NYT a couple of days ago. The headline (“Coming to US for a Baby, and Womb to Carry It”) doesn’t really do it justice. While it is, in fact, a story about the US as a destination for what is sometimes called reproductive tourism, it isn’t only that. It’s full of interesting little points about surrogacy and many of the hard questions surrogacy raises. From my point of view, this makes it hard to know where to begin. So I guess I’ll just dive in……
The article does a nice job of at least touching on some of the issues that can arise with surrogacy. So, for example, the question of compensation is raised. Do you pay a surrogate? How much and for what? Perhaps it isn’t clear that even within the US there’s enormous variation on the approach to compensation–from making compensation illegal to facilitating it.
Does the exchange of money mean that surrogacy exploits women? Continue reading
I wanted to carry on a bit with the conversation I started in my last post. What got me going was the media attention to the Sherpas who climb Mt. Everest. It’s obviously a dangerous occupation, one that is engaged in purely for the gratification for far wealthier tourists. There’s a general concern about whether the Sherpas (who are, as far as I can tell, all men) are paid too little for the risks they take.
By contrast, the concern with women who may be surrogates or provide eggs for ART is that they are paid too much. You can read the last post and the accompanying comments to see more about this. The gendered nature of the too little/too much discussion bothers me. But there’s something else going on, too.
I know my thinking is a bit muddled here (I’m not clear in my own mind(yet?)) so let me begin by setting out another example. Can a person donate a kidney? I think it is widely agreed that this is okay. But can that person be paid for a kidney? Again, I think it is generally clear that the answer is “no.” This is so even though paying for kidneys would clearly make more kidney’s available, which arguably is a good thing. So there are indeed things which can be given away but not bought/sold.
A Sherpa’s labor is clearly not in this category. Continue reading
I’m sure many of you have read about the tragic deaths of 16 Sherpas on Mt Everest. This story, about the local response here in the Pacific Northwest, caught my attention this AM. And oddly (or perhaps not so oddly, given my general interests in all things ART) it made me think about surrogacy and surrogates.
I actually think surrogates and Sherpas have more in common than you might think even though there are obvious differences. Both undertake difficult and dangerous jobs. Most surrogates do so for money and Sherpas are paid, too. And both Sherpas and surrogates are doing work which really, when you get right down to it, doesn’t have to be done. No one has to climb Mt. Everest. No one has to use a surrogate to have a child or even has to have a child, come to that. (This last point is the subject of some of the discussion of my most recent post about social surrogacy.) Continue reading
There’s a new opinion from Texas that serves as a bit of a cautionary tale. Marvin McMurray and his partner wanted to have children. A friend of Cindy Close agreed that she would become pregnant via IVF using embryos that were created from McMurray’s sperm and an egg from an unknown provider. Close gave birth to twins–twins she was not genetically related to.
I think what I’ve said so far is what everyone agrees about. But if that looks like an odd telling of the story, it’s because at the core of the story is a fundamental disagreement and so I haven’t recited it. Instead I’ll give you two versions–keeping in mind that I have NO IDEA what’s true here.
McMurray version: Close was a friend helping out McMurray and his partner by serving as a surrogate. She wasn’t going to be a parent to the children. (It says she would play “no role” but I assume this might mean “no special role” since if she’s a good friend she’d like be around some.).
Close version: McMurray was aware of Close’s desire to have children and they agreed to coparent. (This of course makes me wonder about why the third party egg, but there could be reasons for that.) Continue reading
This essay is from today’s Motherlode blog. It’s by David Dodge, a gay man who lives in NYC. He’s provided sperm so that a lesbian couple he knows can have a child. He did this as an act of friendship and so, I think, is rightly described as a sperm donor.
The essay recounts all the things he thought about as he considered his friends’ request for his sperm. I think it gives a great sense of the issues that anyone contemplating providing gametes for third-party reproduction ought to think about. Indeed, I think it’s a list of considerations that women considering being surrogates ought to read and think about, too.
For those who are worried about the identity issues that might arise with a sperm donor, I’ll note at the beginning that it is clearly the plan that he will be known to and, to an as yet undefined degree, involved with the child. At the very least this ought to allay concerns about family medical history questions. Should a question come up the people to ask will be available. Continue reading
I’ve been working on a piece of writing–something a good deal more extensive than the blog generally allows–about surrogacy. It’s an effort to look back and think about how views on surrogacy (and the practice of surrogacy itself) have changed over the years. Imagine my surprise when this video appeared on the NYT website early this week. It’s worth a look.
It’s nearly 30 years since Mary Beth Whitehead entered into a surrogacy contract with William and Elizabeth Stern. Baby M is grown and has children of her own. And the world has changed in oh-so-many ways. Does any of this matter in how we think about surrogacy?
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Baby M shaped how we (as a legal culture) thought about surrogacy in a lot of ways, even though it was a decision binding in only one state. But it was generated in a different time, against a different background. That doesn’t mean that it is meaningless, but it may mean that our understanding of it has or will change. Continue reading
This is spurred by a substantial article in this morning’s NYT. I haven’t talked/written about surrogacy for quite a while and so perhaps it is time to circle back to the topic. I’m well aware that there is some extensive discussion under the last post (the one about birth certificates), but I lost track of that while I was travelling and this seems timely. I can only hope I’ll get back to the birth certificates shortly.
So surrogacy. There are so many things to say about it, so much to discuss. I’m going to pick a few points that leapt out at me reading the article. There are many others.
1. Surrogates prefer working with gay men than with straight couples (or I assume with single women.) Continue reading
I’ve written before (though I think not for a long time) on globalized surrogacy. It’s pretty widely known now that some–perhaps many– people travel from countries where access to surrogacy is restricted to those where it is not in order to use surrogacy. India and the US are two common surrogacy destinations that many Europeans select. (There’s obviously a much more complicated picture here–I’m just using broad strokes for the moment.)
Anyway, here’s a story that makes me think about resistance to this practice. France is a country that restricts the use of surrogacy. But nothing prevents (and I’m not sure anything can prevent) French citizens from travelling to the US to use surrogates here. (There are many ways that French law can make this more difficult–including restrictions on citizenship. But of course, very few pe0ple just happen to fly off to the US to engage in surrogacy without engaging in some planning, and that seems to be what the French lawmakers here are focusing on. Continue reading