I have an extremely erratic internet connection just now, so I guarantee you this will be short. That’s if I can get it posted at all. There’s a short story in today’s paper about Thai surrogacy–the fallout of the Baby Gamay story I already blogged about. The main point is that Thailand is not letting intended parents leave Thailand with the children Thai surrogates gave birth to at the moment. It’s a drastic remedy when you think about it. No question in my mind that Thai surrogacy needs reform, but keeping the children (and through the children, the intended parents) in Thailand hardly seems an answer. On the other hand, it surely a deterrent. Who would choose Thai surrogacy knowing that the risk was you’d be living in Thailand. (Nothing against Thailand–but if you didn’t plan to move there, it would be rather a complication.)
What really moved me to write, though, is the last sentence of the story in the Seattle Times. It is by Rod McGuirk who writes for AP. I cannot find a link to this anywhere–but as I say, my access if really spotty.
So here is what it says:
Scores of Australian biological parents are currently pregnant through surrogates in Thailand.
This, to my mind, is newspeak–the language of George Orwell’s 1984. There may be biological parents in Australia (though remember I prefer “genetic?”) But there is no way they are pregnant. And I haven’t the slightest idea what it means to be pregnant through another person. It is (to my mind) bad enough when a non-pregnant person with a pregnant partner says “we’re pregnant.”
Pregnancy is personal. The surrogates are pregnant. The providers of genetic material are not. It’s a terrible thing to twist language to suggest otherwise.
Gonna go now while the connection holds…..
I consider this a continuation of the last few posts about the darker sides of surrogacy. (Just as a reminder, I don’t think surrogacy is inherently bad or wrong, but I do think it subject to abuse. The recent stories illustrate the sorts of abuse I worry about.)
As I read about the Thai case one thing I noticed is that the focus of concern seems to be either Gamay (the infant boy who remains in Thailand) or Pattaramon Chanbua (the surrogate). There isn’t much concern about the infant girl, who is presumably with the intended parents in Australia. But the girl is who I want to think about here for a bit.
I suppose I should start by saying that I don’t have universal concerns about the well-being of children born of surrogacy. I think the evidence gathered thus far shows that they, like children conceived/born other ways, are mostly just fine. This is important because it means I don’t see the well-being of children as a general objection to all surrogacy.
But this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to think about. Continue reading
There’s a story that has been all over the media the last few days involving an Australian couple who used a Thai surrogate. I’m sure you can find a dozen different versions of the story, but I’ll start with this one from the Washington Post. One of the reasons I’ll use this one is that it makes it clear that a lot of the details are unknown and/or unclear.
That said, here’s the bare-bones account. (I’m trying to stay to the facts we know, but I think I have to make some assumptions, too. I’ll try to identify them.). An unnamed (and presumably heterosexual) Australian couple went to Thailand to hire a surrogate. (While it doesn’t say this, I think we can assume that part of the reason they went to Thailand is that compensated surrogacy is prohibited in Australia.)
Pattaramon Chanbua is a 21-year-old Thai woman. She is food vendor and earns $622 per month. A surrogacy agency offered to pay her somewhere between $9300 and $16,000 to serve as a surrogate. She agreed to do so. Continue reading
There’s something weird about the ebb and flow in the media attention to surrogacy. You seem to get a blast of positive coverage and then, a few weeks later, a corresponding blast of negative coverage. Right now we are clearly in negative territory, as this article nicely shows. It’s about the black market for surrogacy that currently exists in China–and apparently exists on a pretty large scale. (The article quotes an estimate of “well over 10,000 birth a year.” That is a pretty huge number (though of course, China has an enormous population.)
No one could mistake this for a positive article. As with most black market enterprises, black market surrogacy is rife with abuse and exploitation. While the surrogates employed by one agency (Baby Plan) are (to my mind, anyway) surprisingly well-paid ($24,000), the conditions under which they operate seem nightmarish to me: Continue reading
As my vacation winds down, I have been thinking about this article, which I’m sure many of you saw. (It was on the front page of the New York Times a couple of days ago.)
There’s been a lot of discussion about surrogacy here over the years (and I’m actually working on a more sustained law review type piece on the subject.) You all probably know that mostly I worry about the vulnerability of the surrogates. They are virtually always women who have less power, less money and less education than the intended parents.
While I haven’t written much about it, I know many people worry about the vulnerability of children conceived via surrogacy. No question that children are vulnerable. But all the studies I’ve read tend to show that children born via surrogacy don’t really fare differently than other children–which is to say that most do just fine. Nothing I’ve seen suggests that surrogacy per se is a problem in this regard.
Anyway, in general the people I’m the least concerned about are the intended parents–those who contract with the surrogates in order to become parents. And that is where this article comes in: Continue reading
I’m sure many of you saw and read this story that was in the NYT a couple of days ago. The headline (“Coming to US for a Baby, and Womb to Carry It”) doesn’t really do it justice. While it is, in fact, a story about the US as a destination for what is sometimes called reproductive tourism, it isn’t only that. It’s full of interesting little points about surrogacy and many of the hard questions surrogacy raises. From my point of view, this makes it hard to know where to begin. So I guess I’ll just dive in……
The article does a nice job of at least touching on some of the issues that can arise with surrogacy. So, for example, the question of compensation is raised. Do you pay a surrogate? How much and for what? Perhaps it isn’t clear that even within the US there’s enormous variation on the approach to compensation–from making compensation illegal to facilitating it.
Does the exchange of money mean that surrogacy exploits women? Continue reading
I have been thinking about this story from yesterday’s NYT. (I think it was yesterday as it marked “Sunday Review” but the date on it is November 3. In any event, I only saw the on-line version.) I found it both sad and disturbing and I assume my reaction was not unlike that of many other people.
The essay, by Susan Straight, portrays the life of C, a neighbor of Straight’s. C is something like a professional surrogate. She’s been pregnant for other couples three times. She has been paid a total of $115,000. While that is doubtless a lot of money, the day to day circumstances of her last pregnancy weren’t pretty and nothing in this story would make you want to rush out and be a surrogate. Indeed, I think it is hard to finish the essay without a feeling that something is wrong with this picture.
And what is it that is wrong? Continue reading
Okay, time to play serious catch-up. I think this may take more than one entry, which is why I’ve included the “I” in the title here.
I’ve written in the past about the globalization of surrogacy. It’s really just a more specialized form of medical tourism. But it brings its own very special complications, largely because variations in law regarding parentage. There have been a few stories in the news recently that really drive that point home.
Consider this story, for instance. The UK has its own rules regarding surrogacy. (I’ve written about this, too, in the past.) Surrogacy is legal but you are not allowed to pay the surrogate fees (as distinguished from expenses.) Not surprisingly, this means there are fewer surrogates available in the UK. Thus, it has become somewhat common for people to use a surrogate in another country–one where the surrogate can be paid. India is a popular destination, and though far more expensive so, it seems, is the US. Continue reading
My last post discussed a recent paper reviewing the empirical research about surrogacy. I think it’s an important paper because empirical research, if properly done, helps us understand how something is actually working the the real world. This allows us to evaluate whether our theoretical critiques are valid, or whether our theoretical concerns are born out in the real world.
The main point of the paper (authored by Professor Karen Busby and Delaney Vun) is that the three main feminist critiques of surrogacy are not, in fact, born out by the empirical research. Or at least not in the US, Canada and the UK, which is where the empirical studies were conducted. According to the paper, surrogacy does not lead to the exploitation of women generally or of women in any particular class/racial group.
Further, women seem to be generally capable of making the decision to become a surrogate and following through on that decision. The vast majority find the the experience of being a surrogate to be satisfying. It does seem that the relationship between the surrogate and the commissioning parents is important here. Continue reading
There have recently been a couple of interesting articles about surrogacy worthy of comment but I’ve just been too busy. Now I’ll play catch-up. The more prominent article was on the front page of the Sunday NYT. I guess it’s third in a series, and I’ve commented on the earlier articles as well. The article offers several anecdotes of people using surrogacy and, for the most part, focusses on the legal uncertainties and risks.
A couple of weeks earlier there was an article focussed on a single clinic in Madison, Wisconsin, in the Madison Isthmus. It offers a much more positive view of surrogacy.
I’ve been thinking about how these two news stories fit together, and I’ve been thinking back on what I’ve written about surrogacy in the past. (I’ll link to the entries collected under the tag and you can thread some of those together if you want to get a more detailed sense.)
I’ve come to the conclusion that surrogacy is, in and of itself, neither necessarily good nor necessarily bad. Continue reading