Surrogacy, or what many would call “womb renting”, is an increasingly apparent practice where women lend their bodies to undergo pregnancy and give birth to a baby (The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, 2017). This bodily service is usually rendered with a monetary fee. It has since then become a complex issue plagued with several controversial issues on the ethical nature of the practice. Surrogates act as gestational carriers by carrying a pregnancy to delivery after having been implanted with an embryo. Marway (2018) explains that hopeful parents resort to surrogacy as a treatment or option for infertility or as an alternative to adoption. It is important to note however, that it raises concern on ethical issues surrounding gender, payment, labour, women and children’s rights and most notably, exploitation.
There exists moral and ethical consequences in altering or converting of a normal biological function of a woman’s body into commercial purposes. Surrogacy trespasses the very rights of the children produced; the practical consequences of commodifying women’s bodies which as of writing, lacks regulation and; the active exploitation of women hailing from low-income household. The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network (2017) further argues that surrogacy almost ignores the rights of the children. By transferring the duties of parenthood to the contracting couple from the gestating or birthing mother, the process alone denies the child any claim or choice between his or her carrier and biological parents. It also has the tendency to bypasses the child the right to information about any siblings or lineage history. It is also deemed as another method by women’s bodies are commodified. Agencies who generate profits offer surrogate services and in turn, recruit surrogates. This enters the issue commercialism where there occurs an illegal black market and horrendous practice of baby selling. This appalling cycle involuntarily transforms women, who are often times maltreated and are malnourished under inhumane conditions, to become “baby producers.” This heightens the probability of allowing selective breeding at a price. Short of this, researches show that surrogacy degrades the essence of pregnancy into a mere service and a baby to a mere product.
The final and most critical ethical issue that plagues surrogacy is exploitation. Kulkarni (2014) argues that surrogate motherhood can be harmful to the underprivileged women who, for lack of proper knowledge or information, may be taken advantage of in the name of financial gain. They are offered to become surrogates for money and are later isolated during their pregnancy period. This ignored the stress, anxiety and emotional distress that a surrogate mother undergoes. The practice of commercialising surrogacy not only poses ethical issues but it raises the question of whether “lending” her womb is a legal and acceptable means for a woman to earn a living. To minimize, if not completely eradicate, exploitation, countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Ukraine and Australia have varying levels of regulations regarding surrogacy. While some consider the surrogate the legitimate mother and some favor altruistic forms of pregnancy, there are those that tolerate commercial forms. They surrender the parental rights to the coupling parents before the child is even born (Marway, 2018). In reference to the idea I mentioned earlier, this again denies the child his or her right to choose and decide. I find it incredibly alarming to know that in some developing countries, there is a lack of proper provision of support, insurance or assistance when it comes to post-pregnancy medical and psychological needs.
These researches support my strong opposition to surrogacy. I believe the practice is unethical in that it paints an image of a woman who has become a fallen prey to the vicious cycle of exploitation. As we are currently living in a morally ambiguous world, I firmly feel that it is important to recognize that women are not merely commodities or “baby machines” as the despicable, heinous term goes. I agree with Kulkarni (2014) when the author explained that while it seems commendable to donate one’s time an energy to close friends who are intended parents as altruistic surrogates, it can later become unclear if someone can provide consent to surrendering the rights to the baby. There can be unpredictable effects in the mental and psychological health of the surrogate mother whose role ends after separation and giving birth. I dare pose the question with regards to the ethical nature of the issue, where do the roles of the gestating carrier end and where do that of the intended mother begins? In the context of The Center of Bioethics and Culture’s (2017) call for cessation of surrogacy that banks on the promise of giving life only to commodify the very essence of it, I, too, firmly believe that if not properly regulated, the practice can do more harm than good by endangering women’s bodies and their health which in turn, can be inherited by the offspring. I found myself asking, is not adoption a better practice than surrogacy? I am against surrogacy because the many ethical dilemmas associated to it are barely answered. The rights and interests of surrogate mothers whom poverty makes vulnerable are not protected and secured. These ethical challenges can be addressed by enforcing stricter laws and prohibitions to ensure that we will not one day wake up to a world where surrogacy has become a thriving business. The complexity of surrogacy can be deemed resolved only if the ethical, legal and social issues are properly resolved and adhered to by our society which, I believe, is the only occasion where pure intentions can coexist with the needs of hopeful parents.
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