Here’s some recent news coverage of what really must be the worst of surrogacy. At least I hope it doesn’t get any worse than this.
I don’t imagine there is anyone who would defend this practice and most certainly I will not. Here’s the website the news story asserts is connected to the abuse reported and though the English translation may be far from perfect, the general tone if it is still chilling. (The translation issue might be important because as I wrote not long ago, “eugenics” is a rather loaded term in English . A mindless machine translator might not be aware of that.)
You may recall that I am generally inclined towards permitting surrogacy. (You’ll find dozens of posts here discussing surrogacy under the appropriate tag.) That being the case, you might wonder why I’d publicize a case story like this, which can hardly advance the acceptance of surrogacy.
It’s really for the same reason I’ve also recently written about the rather dreadful case out of the UK, though its dreadfulness frankly pales in comparison to this one. I think that surrogacy in and of itself is neither good nor bad–as I wrote some time ago, it all depends on how it is done.
That means it is important to identify the instances when it is bad and think about what makes them bad. It also means thinking about what it means to have it done well. (You won’t find much news about surrogacy done well–when it works properly, everyone is happy, nobody sues, there’s no story to tell.)
Now back to surrogacy done badly–here is one possible response–although this clearly was passed before the specific story broke. New South Wales has made it illegal to to pay a woman overseas to become a surrogate. That’s obviously an effort to get at the globalization problem exemplified by the Thai story I lead off with. But I wonder if it works? The UK case I wrote about is one where the surrogate was not paid (at least that’s the way the story is told.) Is that better?
Maybe I’m just being pragmatic here: Surrogacy is going to be available in some places on this planet. The best we can do, particularly for the women who will be surrogates and perhaps also for the children who will be born via surrogacy, is to make it work. Making it work doesn’t mean driving it underground–it means thinking about the forms of regulation we might impose.
I think you could say something of the same thing about adoption. Adoption can be a wonderful thing, but there are also instances where it is little more than baby-stealing and/or baby-selling. We don’t seek to make adoption illegal (or at least, most of us don’t.) Instead, we seek to control how it is done. And we do the best we can.