Spiking Surrogacy

by Dish Staff

Writing in the NRO, Jennifer Lahl issues a call to end surrogate motherhood:

[T]hese arrangements in my view are fraught with medical, ethical, and legal problems that affect women and the children they produce in negative ways. Take the breaking news of Baby Gammy in Thailand: The surrogate mother was carrying twins for the intended parents and did not know until late in her pregnancy that Baby Gammy had Down syndrome; allegedly the parents did not want the disabled child and asked the surrogate mother to abort the disabled fetus; the surrogate mother refused, carried the fetus to term, and is now parenting that child. Or consider the story breaking in Italy about an embryo mix-up, in which a woman just gave birth to the twins of the wrong couple; or the case of the wealthy young Japanese businessman who has fathered 13 babies via surrogacy. These stories should wake the world up to the gross human-rights abuses of women and children in the surrogate-mother industry.

Mark Joseph Stern seizes on the piece, arguing that “the larger question of surrogacy is poised to cause a catastrophic rift within the conservative movement as a whole”:

Why do some Republicans want to legalize surrogacy contracts? Easy: Straight people, including straight men, need surrogates. Although some surrogacy opponents try to frame their argument as a fundamentally anti-gay one, this is a bit of a ruse. Gay couples represent only a fraction of all potential surrogacy clients; most people in need of a surrogate are infertile straight couples. Surrogacy opponents, then, may try to capitalize on existing anti-gay animus to further their cause—but really, their hostility to the practice is tethered to their broader enmity toward modern conceptions of sexual autonomy.

This animosity toward sexual liberty is the barely stifled undercurrent of pretty much every anti-surrogacy article out there. For a fringe group of conservatives, gay marriage and abortion are just the tip of the iceberg. What truly disgusts them is the whole array of modern sexual and reproductive practices, from egg donation and IVF to divorce and remarriage. To orthodox Catholics, the widespread acceptance of assisted reproductive technologies and non-traditional families is a grotesque violation of natural law and the start of a horrifying brave new world in which technology trumps humanity.

Zooming out, Amel Ahmed notes that about 100 policymakers and activists will be meeting in The Hague this week to discuss ways to improve and standardize national laws on surrogacy:

Some nations tightly restrict surrogacy or ban it outright, while others have no surrogacy laws and provide no oversight. In the United States, some states forbid surrogacy contracts. Others, including California and Illinois, have regulations to help enforce agreements. Some countries, including India and Thailand, have fairly lax regulations and are popular destinations for parents from developed countries such as Australia and Japan who are looking for affordable surrogate mothers. In India alone, about 3,000 clinics offer surrogacy services, according to Sama, a New Delhi organization working on women’s health issues. Despite the proliferation of clinics, there is no international consensus on how to establish legal parentage in the context of surrogacy arrangements. This can leave children exposed to potential risks, including abuse and denial of citizenship.

Writing last week, Jessica Grose examined the situation in Thailand:

I asked Joan Heifetz Hollinger, an affiliate of Berkeley Law School’s Center for Reproductive Rights and Justice, if we are going to keep seeing these legal messes for decades to come. In a word, yes. … It’s a particular mess in Thailand right now, Heifetz Hollinger says, because it’s currently a boom country for surrogacy, but, in another legal gray area, surrogacy is not explicitly legal or illegal there. (In the case of Chanbua, the Thai Ministry of Public Health is now reportedly saying that by being a surrogate, she violated their human trafficking laws.) A lot of couples who had previously used Indian surrogates are now using Thai surrogates, because some Indian provinces are starting to make restrictive laws around surrogacy, doing things like banning foreign gay couples and single people from using Indian surrogates.

In Thailand, the state recognizes the surrogate as the legal mother, according to the U.S. Embassy (though, again, surrogacy isn’t exactly legal). But the biological father can be listed on the birth certificate as well – only if the surrogate is unmarried. If the surrogate is married, her husband is listed as the father. … There are no easy answers here, only questions, often ones that are so complicated that you could not make them up if you tried.