5 things to know
1. Lower income women lose.
Lower income women usually have more incentive to be a commercial surrogate, but they also have more to lose.
Typically, surrogate mothers are not the very poor— not because impoverished women don’t want to be surrogates, but because surrogacy agencies (and their clients) don’t want them to be. Instead, the surrogacy industry seeks women who are lower-middle income mothers, like military wives: they have just enough financially to be desirable surrogates, but not enough that renting their bodies is off the table.
A surrogate mother usually makes around $20,000, which is a lot for a woman who is unable to work outside the home because she is taking care of her children.
Yet, the surrogacy arrangement this woman enters into is likely to be unequal, favoring the desires and preferences of the more affluent “intended parents” over her needs and rights as a pregnant mother. With this buyer/seller imbalance, she becomes vulnerable to inadequate “informed” consent, coercive situations, inadequate health care coverage, or short- and long-term emotional trauma.
2. These arrangements affect the mother-child relationship.
A child may be separated from one of his or her birth parents for many unfortunate circumstances, but surrogacy is different. It intentionally creates the situation instead of trying to fix it. It sets out from the beginning, on purpose, to separate a child from his or her birth mother.
The Minnesota adoption system has many laws and processes to protect potential parents, birth mothers and, most importantly, the “best interests of the child.” These considerations are essentially absent from the current discussion about surrogacy, and a surrogate child in the U.S. currently has no right to any information about his or her biological family or birth mother.
Additionally, the first children born via surrogacy are now becoming adults and some are beginning to speak out about their feelings of abandonment and isolation due to their separation from their birth mother. The well-being and long-term effects on children should be given more scrutiny before introducing laws and policy that allow the surrogacy industry to grow.
3. Surrogacy contracts don’t solve the problem.
Many of the court battles regarding surrogacy agreements happen when one party changes their mind. A couple decides they want a surrogate to terminate her pregnancy because they no longer want the child. A surrogate mother begins to agonize about giving up a child as she begins to bond with the child in-utero.
The commercial surrogacy industry has good reason to want iron-clad contracts—a contract protects their client’s investment.
But, the morality or ethics of an economic arrangement like commercial surrogacy cannot rest solely on the apparent consent of the parties to a contract. For example, even if a worker consents to sweatshop wages, he or she is likely doing so out of an economic desperation that limits his or her freedom in a way not felt by the person paying for their services. Similarly, people nearly universally agree that even if both parties consent, a contract for the buying and selling of human organs must not be valid.
Some contracts are simply immoral—namely, those that exploit the powerlessness of the underprivileged or more vulnerable, or those that constitute a direct affront to human rights and the dignity of the human person.
4. In the surrogacy industry, money talks.
If the practice of surrogacy is as beautiful and inconsequential as the surrogacy industry wants us to believe, they wouldn’t keep pushing to create Minnesota laws that legalize commercial surrogacy agreements. There would be no need.
Other states that have passed legislation to legalize surrogacy contracts, like Illinois and California, have seen their surrogacy industries boom. Meanwhile, the ethical dilemmas and concerns for the well-being of women and children who are negatively affected by surrogacy arrangements are largely going unchecked in the U.S.
5. Taking a closer look at commercial surrogacy agreements is the most responsible and compassionate next step for Minnesota.
Minnesota has already identified the need to take a more serious, in-depth look at the many concerns associated with gestational agreements like surrogacy contracts. Forming a legislative commission to study surrogacy would be the best way to help ensure Minnesota is protecting the well-being of women and children.