There’s a not so very recent story from Alternet that I’ve been meaning to comment on for some time. I’ve been waiting until my thoughts were properly collected, but I’m beginning to think that will take too long, so I figured I’d just start thinking out loud, as it were.
The story is really worth a read. It starts me down two different trains of thought. One is really about surrogacy and that whole set of questions. I’ve said quite a lot about all that before (just look at the tags–altrusitic surrogacy, gestational surrogacy, plain surrogacy, and so on.) I should revisit all that to see if I’d still say the same thing, but I won’t do that just now.
Instead, this story set me thinking about a different and broader topic: what can/should/do people pay to have a child. There’s at least two different ways in which one could expand this question.
I take it as a given that children are not to be bought/sold, but you could quibble with this assumption if you chose to. Given that point, you could think about all the different things that might count for some as buying a child. So for example, in the US (but not Canada) sperm and eggs are readily bought and sold. For some, perhaps for most, this is fine. But for some this is the moral equivalent of buying a child.
If not buying sperm and egg does not amount to buying a child, what about a buying a pre-embryo (which some might call an embryo and some a blastocyst)–the fertilized egg in the 8-call stage? This is not readily bought/sold in the US. Is it across the line into buying a child?
Binding surrogacy? Is that the moral equivalent of buying a child? I have suggested that it is, because to me the woman who is pregnant and gives birth (and we cannot separate those two tasks) must be a parent.
So one avenue of discussion/conversation/analysis would examine those practices and try to articulate a principled place to draw a line.
The second avenue is less clearly visible to me and it seems that it, too, may branch. When we talk about buying a child, we usually think in terms of money changing hands. I give you $10,000, you give me a baby. But not everything you pay is measured in money. One could consider more broadly what people give up in order to get/have a child. So I might give up my chance at a particular job because I choose to be pregnant and have a child. This is not buying a child, but it is about what people will forgo to have a child.
Many people–primarily women–undergo intrusive, expensive and even dangerous medical treatment in order to have a child. Is it right to put this in the category of what will people pay to have a child? It seems to me in a way it is.
I don’t mean to suggest it is wrong to do this, by the way. But the headline of that article is “How much would you pay” and it seems to me that payment may come in many different forms. It’s wrong to think only of monetary payment.
Of course, not everyone can pay as much–no matter how we interpret “pay.” What to make of that?
Money is the easiest cost to quantify. It is readily measured in dollars and cents. But it is not the only way in which we pay. I think it might be worth thinking a bit more about how and why payment of money might be different. Is it the easy of seeing payor and payee? If I give up my job to have a child, I might be constructed as a buyer, but who is the seller?
Murky, you see? But I’m convinced there is something to think about there.