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Should surrogacy be legal?
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Surrogacy exploits women

Most women are forced into surrogacy by coercion or economic need.


Commercial surrogacy has been banned in many nation states, on the grounds that it commodifies women. Some countries have special rules around transnational surrogacy where surrogate of a different nationality. Since commercial surrogacy was introduced in the late 1970s, there have been a number of publicised cases in which the system has been exploited or things have gone wrong with the surrogate mother. For instance, the “Baby M” case[1] – in which the surrogate mother was made to give the baby to the parents despite changing her mind – and the Japanese billionaire who ordered 16 children from different Thai clinics.[2] Surrogacy would be relatively easy to ban as gestational surrogacy is almost always in vitro fertilisation which must be licensed.

The Argument

Surrogacy is a form of prostitution. Most women are forced into surrogacy by coercion or economic need. Surrogacy is by definition degrading to women by reducing them to merchandise to be bought and sold. Legalising it would reinforce their oppression by male-dominated societies and present a clear affront to the concept of gender equality. Additionally, surrogate mothers cannot help being emotionally attached to the children they produce, due to the intimacy of the gestation process. It is cruel to then force these women to give up the children they have carried for nine months.[3] The rights of a surrogate in international surrogacy arrangements are more likely to be exploited, especially due to lack of informed consent. International paid surrogacy is exploitative and surrogates from economically disadvantaged countries cannot validly consent because their background circumstances are coercive. Where agencies, particularly international surrogacy agencies, are used they need to be very well regulated or, like in any business, there are corrupt and exploitative practices.

Counter arguments

Surrogacy is just another job. There is no inherent reason, beyond moralistic ones, that women should not be able to sell use of their body for pregnancy. Studies have found most women who enter into surrogacy are completely happy with their decision which they have thoroughly thought through. There is no evidence of pressure and they were usually already mothers. The surrogates in these studies are white, married, Christian," and not especially poor. While they are glad to have the money, they are surrogates for other reasons. Many report that they enjoy being pregnant. They are proud of their accomplishment, and glad that they could make such a difference in the lives of otherwise childless couples.” Studies “conclud[ed] that money was rarely the sole and infrequently even the primary reason for entering the arrangement.”[4] To avoid exploitation, legal parameters can be introduced, such as ensuring prospective surrogates are financially stable and only allowing surrogates who have previously had children so that they are aware of the gravity of the process. Commodification of the body, including surrogacy, need not be an emotionally traumatic experience. Research into sex work shows the Self must be split from the body to make it possible to “sell your body without selling yourself.” The body becomes sex. Sex becomes a service. The story of the sex worker says: the Split Self is not only possible, it is the ideal.



[P1] Women are forced into surrogacy by circumstance, making it an exploitative process.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] There is no inherent reason surrogacy is exploitative.

Further Reading

Krawiec and Busby, K. & Vun, D. (2009) Revisiting The Handmaid's Tale: Feminist Theory Meets Empirical Research on Surrogate Mothers, 26 CAN. J. FAM. L. 13(44). Teman, E. (2010) Birthing a Mother: The surrogate body and the pregnant self. Los Angeles: University of California Press. van den Akker, O. (2017) Surrogate Motherhood Families. London:Palgrave MacMillan.


This page was last edited on Sunday, 8 Mar 2020 at 03:07 UTC

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