Still cleaning up stories that piled up on the desktop here. (Can things pile up electronically?) Here are two different stories about close family members offering to serve as surrogate mothers–one about a mother serving as surrogate for her daughter and the other about a woman serving as a surrogate for her brother and sister-in-law.
I’ve written about surrogacy countless times on this blog–you can use the tags to find past entries. There’s a way in which neither of these stories adds anything new. It’s all been done before–mothers helping daughters, sisters helping siblings. And yet it still makes the news.
Surely this ought to be the least controversial sort of surrogacy. The last post I put up–the one about the egg market–was all about the problematic effect of money in the ART arena. And indeed, most of what I find troubling about surrogacy circles back to issues around money. When surrogates are paid, you typically see wealthy intended parents hiring economically needy surrogates, after all. There’s an entire surrogacy industry in India that is built around a model where wealthy European or US intended parents (though it’s not always those countries) use women who live in poverty in India as their surrogates.
Now I am not one who thinks that the money makes surrogacy indefensible. But surely money can make things more complicated and far more problematic. And the thing about the cases featured in the articles I started with is that they are not about the money. These are family members doing it for those that they love.
This doesn’t mean to me that surrogacy will always be a terrific idea. Even without money there’s a lot to work out before entering into an arrangment like this. You have only to read the story about Tiffany Burke, carrying twins for her brother and sister-in-law, James and Natalie Lucich, to see how big an undertaking surrogacy can be. Notice that the parties involved here underwent some serious counselling before starting down the path they’re on. That’s critical, I think. At least in theory, counselling can help people decide not to go forward, which is sometimes the right choice.
In many ways these stories seem to me to be the least objectionable ART I can imagine. The intended parents are genetically related to the children they will raise, so those who value genetic linkage ought not to object. The surrogates volunteered and aren’t motivated by financial need. There’s going to be an on-going relationship between the surrogate and the children-to-be. While in neither case will the surrogate be identified as the child’s mother (or at least, I assume this is so), in one she’ll be the grandmother and in the other the aunt.
Finally, given the publicity at this point, it seems unlikely that the families involved here intend to keep the manner of the child’s conception/birth a secret. I’m inclined to think that this, too, is a good thing. There’s no shame here–unless it is externally imposed by those who wouldn’t make the same choices these families made.
And I suppose that is the one thing I do worry about–at least a little. Not everyone would make the choices that these families made–not everyone would be comfortable with their choices. That’s fine– no one should have to be a surrogate and no one should have to use surrogacy or IVF. But in an age of some notable outbursts of intolerance, how will others treat these families, and in particular, how will others treat these kids? Will they accept whatever terms the kids use to talk about their parents and the women who gave birth to them? Because, of course, while the families involved here can do a lot to shelter their children and make them secure, they cannot fully protect them from the judgment of others.