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
I’ve been working on a piece of writing–something a good deal more extensive than the blog generally allows–about surrogacy. It’s an effort to look back and think about how views on surrogacy (and the practice of surrogacy itself) have changed over the years. Imagine my surprise when this video appeared on the NYT website early this week. It’s worth a look.
It’s nearly 30 years since Mary Beth Whitehead entered into a surrogacy contract with William and Elizabeth Stern. Baby M is grown and has children of her own. And the world has changed in oh-so-many ways. Does any of this matter in how we think about surrogacy?
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Baby M shaped how we (as a legal culture) thought about surrogacy in a lot of ways, even though it was a decision binding in only one state. But it was generated in a different time, against a different background. That doesn’t mean that it is meaningless, but it may mean that our understanding of it has or will change. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
For some reason, I’ve recently come across a whole bunch of personal essays on various topics relevant here. A couple of recent ones that I’ve talked about have been about adoption, both written by adoptive mothers. (There was an earlier account of a surrogacy I wrote about and there are other personal essays on other topics that I just haven’t gotten to yet.)
Now I think the personal essay is valuable and can be a thought-prov0king read. They offer us insights that are important. But they can also be idiosyncratic and unrepresentative. I don’t think you can take them as representative of the typical experience–after all, the person who chooses to write publicly about personal topics isn’t exactly typical to begin with
Neither do I present them to you all so that we can judge the authors worthiness, though this often seems to be the first reaction (and I’m sure I fall into that myself sometime.) 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
While I’m playing catch-up, here are a couple of recent surrogacy related items–one fact and one fiction.
There’s this story from The Today Show. Robyn and Jason Wright used their own gametes and a surrogate in India. It’s sort of a standard globalized surrogacy story with a small but notable couple of twists. First, the surrogate actually has a name–Usha. And consistent with that, the Wrights recognize her as an important player in their child’s life. Indeed, there’s this striking quote:
“She’s ultimately his mother too. I truly feel that way: that he has two moms,” says Robyn. “My goal is to get him to understand that she cares for him as much as we do.” Continue reading
Once again I’ve been derailed, this time by a story about surrogacy this AM on Morning Edition. (I’ve linked to a text version but from there you can listen to it, too. The radio version is not identical to the text version.) It’s a thoughtful discussion of surrogacy. This post will make more sense if you listen (or at least read) first.
The most obvious taking-off point for me, given my last post, is the varying regulation people participating in surrogacy face. The story follows the work of Diane Hinson, who helps arrange surrogacies. There’s this map she uses. It shows the different laws in the different states, ranging from green to red. As Hinson notes, though, there are 24 (I think) states with no statutory law and no cases–which basically means no guidance. Continue reading
Again I digress (and postpone engaging with comments for a little bit) to cover a story from the issue of Time Magazine on newsstands now. You must be a subscriber to read the article on-line, but you can read about it here and here. I read it in the print edition. The story is by Jay Newton-Small and it is worth trying to get a copy of it to read. The snippets you can get access to give you the main point of the story.
Here’s the bottom line: The US has become sperm exporter to the world. Newton-Small attributes US dominance in the field to “quality control and wide product selection.” I want to think about both of these but I’ll take them in reverse order.
The product selection: Because the US population is diverse, the pool of sperm providers here is diverse. Continue reading