Last week I discussed a case of surrogacy gone badly awry. It’s been a while since surrogacy has been my topic and it was interesting to revisit it. The last post was an effort to move back to a broader context. But I’m about to go to a meeting to discuss surrogacy and between that and the comments, I thought I’d return to that topic once more to try to organize my thoughts.
One way to begin to think about surrogacy is to start with a question: Is the woman who gives birth a mother?
If she is, then I don’t think the law can compel her to give her child to the commissioning parents. I don’t think this makes surrogacy impossible, but it obviously shapes the practice of surrogacy. It’s the way the law is in the UK. A long time ago I started to think about a name for this sort of surrogacy and didn’t really come up with one, but I do think it would be useful to have something to call it. Continue reading
I came across this story on the web this AM. It seems to me to illustrate surrogacy at its finest. Because I’ve gone at length about surrogacy at a number of different times in the past, and because I am deeply skeptical of much about surrogacy, I thought it might be worth lingering here for a few moments.
Jamie Underwood Collins is 8 1/2 months pregnant with a baby that is intended for a New York couple. She’s married and has four kids of her own. While she’s being paid something around $25,000 it doesn’t seem that the need for money was her primary motivation. Rather, this was something Collins wanted to do for someone. There’s nothing shameful about being a surrogate, at least as Collins sees it. (She wears a T-shirt that says “This is not my husband’s baby” on the front and “But it’s not mine either. I’m a proud surrogate” on the back. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Over the last year or so there have been occasional stories about the globalization of surrogacy, some of which I’ve commented on here. Two related stories from the UK have made me want to revisit this thread.
This story (with it’s rather spectacular headline, but then, this is UK journalism) is really just another instance of the global surrogacy–a minor variation on an established theme. Here, a UK couple (Nicky and Bobby Bains) purchased a donor egg which was fertilized with the husband’s sperm. The resulting pre-embryo was then implanted in another woman’s womb. This last women–the surrogate–eventually gave birth to the child.
This is essentially routine gestational surrogacy, of the commercial sort, with a global twist. Continue reading
I’m taking up from yesterday’s post, since I was hardly finished. Mostly I ended up discussing why looking for the differences matters to me.
Now that would be the difference between surrogacy and adoption, I’m thinking about just now. And I think before I get to “what’s the difference” I need to do a really brief recap of “what’s the same?” (It’s easy for me to imagine some readers going “huh?” at the “what’s the difference” question, as they can seem pretty different.)
In both surrogacy and adoption you have a pregnant woman who is going to give birth to a child, in both you have a person or a set of people who intend to be parents to that child, and in both the plan is that the woman who gives birth will turn the child over to the intending parents. In both (I’m thinking here of open adoption) the intending parents can be involved during the pregnancy and in both, they may be giving the pregnant woman money (though we might articulate what the money is for in different ways.) There’s a lot of similarity. Continue reading
I feel like I’m starting a game show here. What is the difference between A and B? (Or perhaps Sesame Street?) Perhaps this will be a standard feature now. We’ll see.
Background first. I care a lot about articulating and examining differences. I start with a general principle that we should/do treat like things alike. Thus, if we treat two things differently, it should be because they are different in some meaningful way. Otherwise, we are likely looking at some sort of fairness problem.
But of course, simply identifying some difference isn’t enough. There are two further points. First, we generally agree that some differences are not legitimate bases for differential treatment. Think skin color or ancestry. Second, the identified difference has to somehow justify the difference in treatment. The mere existence of a difference doesn’t make it okay to treat people differently. Continue reading
I am interrupting my own thread because there is this ill-formed idea that has been bothering me I want to try to write about. You will recall that NYT magazine piece on surrogacy? I wrote about it a bit earlier and there has been discussion of it all over the web. (I’ve actually written quite a lot about surrogacy over the last year, which you can find under the various tags.)
Really the catalyst for this post is one of the pictures in the article. (There was an interesting sort of follow-up about it in the public editor’s column section this past Sunday, which in part discusses the selection of pictures.) This picture. One could write quite a bit about it, I’m sure, and much has been written. For the moment, let’s just say it is fine depiction of master (mistress?) and servant. No question really about which is which.
Once you see master and servant you see a whole set of power and class relationships, too. The master controls, the servant is controlled. The master is strong (at least with regard to the relationship), the servant is weak. The master is unique, the servant fungible. The master has more, the servant has less. I’m not saying that all of these things are necessarily true in every master/servant relationship, but they are generally part of the assumed picture. Continue reading
It’s curious to me that I seem to have backed into this topic (see yesterday’s post), which is really much the same as the place I started months ago.
What I mean is this. The universal I started with yesterday is the desire for certainty with regard to becoming a parent. Very likely even people who have not been and do not wish to be parents can see this. Becoming a parent, no matter how you get there, if fraught with anxiety. Uncertainty about any factor–will the baby be healthy, will the adoption be completed, will the surrogate change her mind–simply magnifies the range of anxiety. It stands to reason that prospective parents using surrogates would prefer what I’ve called binding surrogacy. For the same reason, I would assume that prospective adoptive parents would prefer that a woman giving birth not be given a chance to change her mind after the birth of the child. Continue reading
Though I’ve been writing about determinations of parentage for months now, I’ve paid virtually no attention to adoption. It’s a notable omission because adoption is one of the most obvious and important ways in which people become legal parents. (I have written a bit about second parent adoptions, but they are really somewhat distinct.) Adoption is also important because people readily recognize adoptive parents as parents, even though they are not genetically connected to their children. Anyway, there is a story in today’s New York Times that spurs me to briefly touch on adoption here. (It obviously warrants more extended consideration, which I shall defer to a later time.)
The story is about current strains on adoption agencies caused by a confluence of events. These include some changes in the law governing international adoptions, various internal political developments in countries that have been the sources for adopted children, and general economic conditions. It’s a sad story on many levels, but what caught my attention was the response of one of the agency people. He said ,”No adoption agency can guarantee a couple a child.” Continue reading
Over a week ago I wrote that I needed to come up with some new language to distinguish between two forms of surrogacy that I had been calling “altruistic surrogacy” and “commercial surrogacy.” The distinction is, to my mind, crucial. But the designations I was using weren’t really apt. The vast majority of surrogates are motivated in part by altruism, whether they work in a more generally commercial system or not. And the majority of surrogates receive significant amounts of money, whether they are engaged in what has been called compassionate or altruistic surrogacy or not. Thus, most surrogacy is both altruistic and commercial.
This recognition lead me to want to find a better name for the forms of surrogacy I seek to distinguish, one which actually emphasizes the difference. I’ve been casting about now for over a week with little success. In the meantime, I must have something to use. So for now, though I don’t think it is perfect, I will settle on “binding surrogacy” instead of what I have been calling “commercial surrogacy.” “Binding surrogacy” is at least a move in the right direction. In what I have been calling “commercial surrogacy” and will now call “binding surrogacy” the surrogate is legally bound to surrender the child when it is born. Continue reading