…eventually, surrogacy and gay couples: time for some ethical thinking

OK, so I haven’t actually been in Suffolk for a week.  Returned home early ostensibly because of the weather but really because Walter couldn’t get an internet connection, even with a dongle, and he gets twitchy if he isn’t connected.  He may have had his 67th birthday whilst we were away but this is a modern man whose Blackberry flicks many times from it’s case in the course of a day.  Sadly our grand-daughter didn’t stay with us long either as she developed a fever so mum and dad decided to head for home and when our borrowed car developed a noise like a souped-up bird on cocaine we decided that this was ill fated trip that needed to be abandoned.

Back in London and trying to remain in holiday mood, I spent 24 hours resisting opening up the Mac and watching the French Open Tennis Championships but the lure of the little screen beckoned and once I could see that there were emails needing a response I was done for.  Back to work.

Surrogacy seems to be taking up more than it’s fair share of headlines at the moment.  Natalie Gamble had a good article in Bio-News this week where she argues that if we want fewer women being exploited as donors in India and couples taking risks about getting children back into the UK, then we need to change the rules around surrogacy in this country.  http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_149168.asp?dinfo=2uL952VlWahLy5RT8ZNOYW3g

There is also a largely unspoken-about issue to do with the increase in gay male couples wanting to become parents but needing surrogacy and egg donation to bring their desire to fruition.  They form an increasingly large component of the surrogacy ‘market’.  Bio-Edge put out this thoughtful commentary and challenge to the gay community a couple of weeks ago –

The hottest debate in town at the moment is same-sex marriage. In itself, this is not really a bioethical issue, but it necessarily involves the controversial issue of surrogate motherhood.

If lesbian couples want children, all they need is a sperm donor and possibly IVF. But if gay couples want children, they need a womb. In the United States, the UK or Australia, these do not come cheap. In India, Greece, the Ukraine, Panama or Guatemala, they do. Click on the siteAffordableSurrogates.com to see how babies are effectively being sold as a product. “Did you know that thousands of people are saving money by going to foreign countries to have a child through hassle-free surrogacy?” this India-based website asks its gay clients. 

More demand will drive the price of surrogacy down, especially in countries where women are in desperate financial straits. When Greek women turn to surrogacy, there is an obvious link with their country’s economic freefall.

The opportunity for exploitation is neither small nor theoretical. It is huge and it is already happening. As we pointed out in BioEdge last week, an Indian woman died recently in Gujarat. I have not been able to find out whether the American woman who commissioned the baby has taken her back to the US.

But the remarks of one of the best-known Indian surrogacy bosses are chilling (see this week’s BioEdge): “the contracts signed between the surrogate mother and the couple (whose baby she is carrying) does not talk of any compensation in case of death of the surrogate mother. Those who agree to become surrogates are told well in advance about the complications involved in pregnancy.” In other words, if a surrogate dies, tough luck. Get over it. She signed a contract (even if she couldn’t read it). She’s a grown-up. Death is her problem.

Are gay couples ready to face the ethical consequences of getting outsourced and exploited surrogate mothers to bear their children? This is an essential element in the same-sex marriage debate which is being completely ignored.


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About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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3 Responses to …eventually, surrogacy and gay couples: time for some ethical thinking

  1. Marilynn says:

    I fail to see why the sexual orientation of the people paying her is germane to the exploitation.

    Gay men don’t become parents together any more than straight people become parents together if one or both of them is infertile or sterile…And really what you talk about above has nothing to do with who are parents and who are not parents anyway. Your talking about whether or not the people who pay a woman to bear a child are responsible for paying compensation to her family if she dies and I would have to say no more so than had they impregnated her naturally. So that is a big fat no. You cannot take responsibility for another person’s health except for offering them a life insurance policy I suppose

    • Kriss Fearon says:

      A surrogate in the UK is more likely to be on a financial level with the people who need her help. If you’re putting people in a country as poor as India in the position where they’re getting a house or a year’s wages – well above the compensation they’d get over here – then that’s bound to make people downplay the risks and side-effects. It is potentially far more exploitative. You’re right that the sexual orientation of the commissioning couple isn’t an issue, but the poverty gap really is.

  2. Clark says:

    Thanks to surrogacy, gay couples can start their own families. It has in fact given a lot of hope to millions of families worldwide. If you take my opinion, surrogacy is more than just a market; it is like a hope to people who cannot otherwise conceive.
    Read more: http://www.growinggenerations.com/

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