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. I’m inclined to think that, particularly given the wonders of modern communication technologies, it’s relatively unlikely you can cut off communications between US agencies that provide/promote surrogacy and interested French citizens, but I have no doubt that things can be made relatively more difficult.
Where does this leave us? Does the US expansive approach to surrogacy (or at least, some US states’ expansive approaches) mean that there will inevitably be reproductive tourism? I think it probably does.
But there’s another feature here that really caught my eye. Notice what the organizational spokesman has to say about what is wrong with surrogacy:
“They bring a child into this world that doesn’t know his parents.”
What does this mean? Is the objection that they (the French people using surrogacy) bring a child into the world that doesn’t know “his parents”–meaning the surrogate who carries and gives birth to the child? Since at least some of the people interested in surrogacy are interested in using their own gametes, I have to believe that is what is meant. Indeed, the fact that the quote goes on to say “they take him away from his mother” seems to confirm this.
What’s striking about that is that I have seen–more than once–exactly that sentiment in a rather different context. People who object to the use of donor gametes say almost exactly the same thing–that you create children who do not know their parents. But here by parents they mean “genetic parents.”
What’s going on? I think the idea of bringing a child into the world who does not know his/her parents is immediately arresting and generally seems wrong–so those opposed to whatever practice is at stake want to use that language. But what different people means by “parents” varies. To the French anti-surrogacy forces it’s the woman who gives birth. To others it is genetic parents.
Actually, this seems to me to illustrate the importance of the focus of the blog: it all depends on what you mean by “parent”–and different people really do mean different things.