Minnesota Surrogacy Awareness

PIONEER PRESS, Sloan, Lahl: Inconvenient truths about commercial surrogacy

By Kathleen Sloan and Jennifer Lahl
April 1, 2014

The Minnesota Senate and House are currently considering two separate bills to legalize commercial surrogacy in the state (S.F. 2627 and H.F. 291).

This is occurring despite that similar legislation was defeated just last year and a bill similar to what has been proposed in the Senate was vetoed in 2008. One would think that since Minnesota has twice rejected the proposal of legalizing baby-selling and creating a breeder class of women that the matter is settled. The surrogacy industry, however, is like a hydra that refuses to respect legislative precedent. As soon as a surrogacy bill is defeated, another one immediately appears to take its place. In action more characteristic of a dictatorship than a democracy, the proponents of contract pregnancy insist on enforcing their will no matter how many times their discredited proposal is rejected.

It’s time for the shenanigans and propaganda to stop and for the inconvenient truths about commercial surrogacy to be told. First and foremost, surrogacy commodifies women and their bodies, turns children into products for sale, poses serious risks to women’s health and exploits marginalized women as a breeder class for the wealthy. Recognizing that surrogacy is a fundamental human rights issue, in 2011 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on violence against women that condemned surrogacy as a violation of women’s human rights.

In the media, the longing of childless people to have children always takes center stage. The woman who gives birth is never presented as the mother or even a person with a background and a will of her own. The surrogate is just a selfless soul, a fairy godmother, an angel who helps the people who pay for the child get what they want. They never talk about how much money was paid or address the two elements that lie at the heart of the issue: a woman signs away custody for money, and an industry (brokers, lawyers, clinics, fertility doctors) profits from trafficking in babies and women’s bodies. They say that blood is thicker than water but in the case of surrogacy, money is thicker than blood.

In surrogacy, linguistic tricks are played to distance the mother from the child, to claim that she doesn’t have a right to the child and that she is not the child’s mother. Surrogates often attend support groups arranged by the brokers where they learn the art of being pregnant without relating to the child developing inside them. The journalist Susan Ince went undercover as a potential surrogate and concluded that anyone would be accepted as long as she was fertile and compliant. The psychological tests are not to determine if the woman is stable but rather to determine whether she can be relied upon to give up the child.

Why is going to such extremes to have a child a guarantee that she or he will have a good childhood and life? Applying this logic, children for whom parents pay more will have better childhoods because how desired the child is can be measured in monetary terms. Surrogacy is also presented as if it necessarily were a desire on the part of the surrogate to share the children she bears — as opposed to the buyers of these children who are not interested at all in sharing the children with the surrogate. But the surrogate is not the driving force here; it is the buyer who creates the demand for surrogacy.

Those who support surrogacy say we should see women as owners of their bodies. Pregnancy is a job just like waitressing or factory work. But if pregnancy is a job, what is the product? The product of surrogacy is absolutely tangible: a newborn baby. If pregnancy is the same as any other job, then the child is comparable to a car or a cell phone. The woman bears and gives birth to a child and then hands the product over. At the same time she gives up the child, she receives payment. The honest question is: why should this not be considered human trafficking?

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