Like many other new means of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), surrogacy is claimed to help women, and be a great social good. But a closer look at surrogacy reveals that there are certainly some darker sides to the whole practice, and caution must be taken in this area.
There are plenty of problems associated with all this. For example, there have been many tragic legal cases of surrogate babies and questions about their “ownership”. Surrogate parenting can result in many of these babies being booted around like a football. And often all the various parties involved seem to be left in a state of grief and turmoil.
These cases simply highlight the fears many have had about allowing surrogacy to occur in the first place. I have already shared concerns about this industry. See here for example: billmuehlenberg.com/2006/11/10/surrogacy-concerns/
In surrogacy arrangements, a surrogate mother agrees to carry a baby for another woman, and give it up upon birth. This can be done with or without a fee, and regulations around the globe vary greatly as to if and when this can occur. For example, commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia, but legal in the US.
Now that the practice has been around for a while, we can finally hear from the children of surrogacy themselves. How do they feel about all this? Many are now sharing their stories, and they can be pretty devastating. Indeed, entire groups have now been established, to let their stories be heard.
It seems there are now a number of such groups and sites around the globe. In Australia for example there is a site which discusses “the other side of surrogacy” and what it is like to be “a product of surrogacy”. The testimony of one such person is worth sharing here in part:
For almost two years now I’ve been trying to deal with the feeling of rejection from my biological mother. I still feel extremely blessed to have found her because, it did inform me so much about myself and I got to meet a huge extended family through her. But, I still haven’t figured out how to get past that feeling. As I have been reading other donor conceived blogs, and read about other donor conceived going through similar experiences or being rejected before they even got to meet their parent and or siblings it reminds me that I’m not alone. That this is just another one of the pits for third party reproduction for some of us.
And research is confirming all this, demonstrating that children of surrogacy arrangements are more likely to experience adjustment problems and the like. As one report states:
A team of British researchers, led by Susan Golombok, a professor of family research and director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge, has found that children born with the help of a surrogate may have more adjustment problems – at least at age 7 – than those born to their mother via donated eggs and sperm. Their results, published in the June issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, suggest that it’s more difficult for youngsters to deal with the idea that they grew in an unrelated woman’s womb, than with the concept that they are not biologically related to one or both parents.
In surrogacy in particular, as in IVF technologies in general, the family group can become a deformed freak: various combinations of blended and strange step-families emerge. One, two, three mums or more, perhaps several fathers, various unrelated siblings. And what of the hapless child? Even the wisdom of Solomon cannot prevent the child from ultimately being torn in two (or three, or four…), by the competing factions.
Even more bizarre permutations continue to develop. Consider the case of a surrogate mother in Los Angeles who recently made medical history by bearing the child of a woman who had been dead for a year. A surrogate mum was paid $20,000 to bear the child of the deceased woman who had her eggs harvested and fertilised by an anonymous donor. Imagine the baby’s sense of connectedness and rootedness, or lack thereof, as it grows up.
Many similar cases could be mentioned. Consider several more: a set of twins born 21 months apart have 3 different mothers. Each twin was reared in a different surrogate mother, with the second baby kept in deep freeze for over a year. And a British surrogate mother aborted the baby she was carrying for a Dutch couple when she decided they would not be suitable parents for the child.
Also, in England a woman has given birth to her own grandchildren. Her daughter had IVF treatment, and used her mother as a surrogate, by having the embryos implanted in her, and had twins through her. Talk about strained relations!
Finally, it can be mentioned that so problematic is surrogacy becoming, with so many heart-wrenching stories of really bad outcomes, that now we have documentaries being produced to warn about such problems and dangers. For example, early in 2014 the American-based group the Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC) released a 52-minute video, Breeders: A Subclass of Women?
It contains very moving stories of four surrogate mothers, revealing a much darker and more serious side to the whole industry. A short official trailer of this documentary can be found here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNNCqs52jFU
One of these surrogates is Angelia Gail Robinson, 51, who agreed to carry twins for her brother and his male partner. But the arrangement turned sour and degenerated into a three-year legal stoush, resulting in a 2009 court decision in which she was legally recognised as the twin girls’ mother, and later given limited custody. Robinson said this about the situation:
“I think all surrogacy should be banned. The whole idea that you can just pay a fee and get a child is horrifying. Everything is focused on the people that can’t have children. Nothing is focused on the children themselves or the breeding class of women we’re creating.”
Jennifer Lahl, founder of CBC, says this: “A lot of lawmakers aren’t looking at these issues. They’re seeing things at the People magazine level. Someone can’t have a baby, here’s this technology and let’s change the law so we can help them. But is this really good for women? [Will we] create a new class, or maybe a subclass, of women who will become breeders?”
For these and other reasons we certainly need to proceed with great caution here. As is once again the case, the wants of adults are simply trumping the needs and wellbeing of children. That simply should not be the case.