Opposition to Surrogacy: Not Just a Religious Issue

I have often sought to make the case for concerns about surrogacy. It is problematic on so many levels. Like the other Assisted Reproductive Technologies, our scientific and technological abilities to do things are outstripping and outpacing our moral reflection on them.

And in the process, plenty of harm is being done. One of my earlier pieces on this sought to introduce some of the many worries about this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2006/11/10/surrogacy-concerns/

My final book in my bioethics trilogy will look much more closely at surrogacy and IVF. Until that appears, I will continue to write articles on all this. And one thing that needs to be pointed out is the fact that it is not just religious concerns that can be brought to bear on this.

Those concerned by these new technologies are often dismissed as religious nutters, and our concerns are rejected out of hand. But as I have shown in my previous volumes, arguments against these various matters need not be based on religion or Holy Scriptures, but can be done so on other grounds.

As with my various books on ethical issues, I offer the secular case in the first half of the book. I then look at religious and theological reflections which can be brought to bear on these topics in the second half. But here I want to simply emphasise again the truth that the issue of surrogacy can be fully argued against on purely non-religious grounds. And the truth is, there are plenty of people concerned about surrogacy who are not the least bit religious.

I could highlight a number of such folks. One prime example is Australian social scientist Renate Klein. She is a secular academic, leftist, social activist, feminist and lesbian – hardly a fightn’ fundie religious conservative. But for some three decades now she has stood strong against the various reproductive technologies, including surrogacy.

She has written often on surrogacy and related issues, culminating in her recent book, Surrogacy: A Human Rights Violation (Spinifex Press, 2017). As the title makes clear, she sees surrogacy as violating the rights of everyone involved, of “the egg ‘donor,’ the birth mother and the resulting child(ren).”

Her 200-page book offers many of the criticisms of surrogacy that I have made over the years. As but one example, she speaks of the many parties involved in the process of producing such children. Instead of a mother and a father, there are all sorts of players involved in surrogacy.

Ma and pa are replaced with a committee, a host of technocrats, and the depersonalisation and dehumanisation is compounded. Since gestational surrogacy always involves IVF, she lists some of the many folks and entities involved:

The parties involved in these transactions include a fertility clinic with IVF doctors, a surrogacy law firm (in the US often a surrogacy broker), a surrogacy agency with a register of available ‘surrogates,’ and an egg ‘donor’ agency with suitable young and good looking women on their website. And there are third-party surrogacy facilitators who oversee transnational egg and embryo transfers, and, in some cases, counsellors.

She concludes her book by saying that surrogacy is a “dehumanising trade that creates children who are ‘for sale’.” Moreover, “the whole surrogacy industry is so deeply problematic on so many fronts, that it is hard to understand why anyone with a social justice conscience could support it.”

In addition to Klein, let me focus on several further examples. First, let me mention Swedish feminist and writer Kajsa Ekis Ekman. She is an activist, and the founder of Feminists Against Surrogacy. She has recently written a book looking at sexuality, surrogacy and the new reproductive technologies. The book, Being and Being Bought, looks at how surrogacy and prostitution are in fact very much similar in the way they exploit women.

She writes: “Surrogacy can be seen as an extended form of prostitution. Someone, most often a man, pays for the use of the woman’s body. In both cases, his needs take centre stage, while the woman is only the means to achieving an end.” And this is really nothing more than the manufacture of babies:

The story of surrogacy tells us about the new, the modern. It tells us what will bring unique human happiness to everyone: a baby. Everyone can now have a baby: childless couples, infertile couples, heterosexual or homosexual couples, older women, single men. And the best thing of all is that everyone can have their very own biological baby without having to go to the trouble of bearing or birthing it. We can outsource this bodily hardship, exactly as we have outsourced manufacturing, and still have our very own newborn babies the minute they are born.

One more quote is worth offering here: “It is just like prostitution all over again, coming back to haunt us. It is the same division of the Self and the body, person and function, mother and child, soul and sexuality. And the same fear that the two will be reunited. The division is made sacred while the unity is demonised.”

And in a recent article she says this:

In the final analysis, there is no such thing as the right to have a child. There is, however, a UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which says “children should not be separated from their parents unless it is for their own good”. Surrogacy violates this convention, as all children born through it are separated from their mothers — not for the good of the children but for the sake of the intended parents. In this sense, the children of surrogacy are destined to be motherless.
The time to be naive about surrogacy is over. The UN says trafficking for surrogacy is increasing. Several developing countries are restricting the industry and the European Parliament has passed a resolution asking member states to address the “serious problem of surrogacy which constitutes an exploitation of the female body”.
I believe we need a global ban on surrogacy. Children are not commodities to be bought and sold. Pregnancy is not a job. Women of the working class and the global south are not breeders. Let us stop this industry now before it grows too big.

Also, consider this case where secular feminist groups are actually siding with religious groups to fight against surrogacy. A recent article entitled “Surrogacy Gives Birth to an Unusual Alliance” explores this new development:

Reproductive technology has made surrogacy possible since the 1980s, but it remained relatively rare until recent years as the technology improved and the legalization of same-sex marriage increased the number of childless couples eager to have children. The Catholic Church has long opposed surrogacy, whether paid or unpaid. Nowadays, with increasing pressure for the legalization of paid surrogacy, the church has found itself with an unfamiliar ally: feminists.
The Catholic Church and women’s rights groups are accustomed to clashing over policy matters involving contraception and abortion. But now the two camps can often be found working hand in hand when it comes to protecting both women and children from being exploited in the growing and largely unregulated fertility industry. Recent episodes involving surrogacies gone wrong have shown that there is reason for concern.

So it certainly is not just religious folks who have an array of concerns about surrogacy. Many decidedly non-religious thinkers and experts also have their worries about this reproductive technology, and are calling for a rethink before things get even worse.

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10 Replies to “Opposition to Surrogacy: Not Just a Religious Issue”

  1. In the ironically titled ‘Brave New World’ (1931), Aldous Huxley determined that reproductive technology would prove dystopian, but the real issue, canvassed extensively, is that technological advance outstrips the ability of value systems to keep up. The Enlightenment experiment proves that science and theology are mutually inclusive. One need only think of ‘Dr Strangelove’, the satirical film starring Peter Sellers to be reminded that the Book of Revelation reveals the fate of a world that refuses to interpret the teaching of Christ literally.

  2. After my (now departed) wife had two ectopic pregnancies that had both resulted in emergency surgery to prevent the internal bleeding and had, in the first instance, resulted in one ovary being taken and in the second instance, in a tubal ligation the other side, effectively leaving her sterilized, we looked at the possibility of IVF. At that time we were still reasonably young Christians and had not really considered the fact that IVF kills fetuses but we both had faith in God and we both came to the conclusion that God did not want us to do this. It was, at that time, more of a matter of simply following after the peace of God which, after we made the decision that we would need to be content with our one child, we had in great degree, rather than an understanding of why God did not want us to do this thing. It was after this time, when we had settled into the peace that God had given us, that we had one of the greatest miracles of our lives. The biggest part of the miracle was that God told us, through my wife, that she was going to have a baby, something that we both kept quiet about, even amongst ourselves, because it was such an “out there” kind of thing which, in the natural, we knew was impossible. A few weeks later, I can’t remember how many, sure enough, we went to the doctor with my wife feeling sick. The doctor wanted to do x-rays but when he suggested this we looked at each other and asked the doctor whether we should consider the possibility of pregnancy. This was the first time we had mentioned anything about what God had said to us, to each other or anyone, but we both knew we had to raise the possibility at that time. Our GP knew the medical history but, after we asked, he agreed to do a pregnancy test and hold off the x-rays. When the test came back positive we were overjoyed but our doctor said it was impossible that the fetus would be implanted in the womb and we would need surgery. As far as he was concerned it must have been that the sperm, being much smaller than the egg, had escaped from the womb and the fetus would be implanted somewhere in the stomach lining. We then had to wait until the fetus was large enough for an ultrasound before any decision could be made regarding surgery. When the results came back Joshua (as we later named Him because Jehovah saves) was implanted correctly in the womb. Our GP admitted that he thought it impossible before it happened but called it a million to one after. Both ectopic pregnancies were operated on by reputable doctors, the first in Ryde hospital and the second by Doctor Simcock at Westmead hospital, both in the Sydney region and we never had another child. To me the greater miracle was not the birth but that we were told that the impossible was going to happen before it happened but of course, every pregnancy is an absolute miracle, something that the world does not fully understand but we now understand more of why God is opposed to IVF and why, when you are not sure about things, simply following God’s peace is a good approach.

  3. It is human trafficking.

    Australian Nurse praised by the ABC for selling babies to gays Tammy Davis Charles has 6 months left on her human trafficking conviction in Cambodia.
    ABC promoted her warez before her jailing here:

    She says on her and her employer’s website you have AIDS you can pay extra to put your AIDS semen in a 3rd world homonazi baby factory breeder. So does her former employer New Life IVF and @gaydads on twitter in his illegal business praised in a pay per play appearance on Sunrise on Channel 7 British Surrogacy Centre.

    How do you wash the HIV virus out of human cells. Do tell, they have the cure for AIDS if they do and they are not sharing it outside their gay baby selling business community.

    (there is antoher link I have archived for Thailand and Nepal who banned their business and shut them down – Tammy Davis Charles worked there doing gay baby flesh trading crimes before being jailed in Cambodia. Her customers included VIP Australian LGBTI politicians but that’s another story.


    “We are also extremely pleased with our results working with HIV+ surrogacy. We are happy to announce that the BSC has been working with the HIV+ community for several years and has built links with clinics to ensure HIV+ men may now have a biological child of their own, without transferring the HIV virus to either the child or surrogate mother. This service is open to both the gay and heterosexual community.”

    Don’t be homophobic and oppose making gay AIDS babies everyone……

  4. I would like to see your religious reasons. If the left hates this so much that makes it seem more like a correct thing then a wrong thing.

  5. Thanks Paul. But if you want the full set of religious concerns, wait a bit more and you can read my book! But as to lefties being onside, that happens on occasion. Some do not like porn, or IVF, or drug legalisation, or any number of things. I am always happy to run with a lefty when they get it right on certain issues.

  6. Thank you for another great article and your book about surrogacy, a process that can have so many pitfalls for everyone involved. The Book of Genesis tells the story of the first couple who, at the wife’s insistence, enlisted the help of a surrogate mother and the myriad of problems that have plagued the world ever since. Of course, I am referring to Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar and the surrogacy Sarah insisted upon because she lacked faith in God’s promise to Abraham. The rivalry between Isaac and Ishmael continues to this day, and one need only pick up a newspaper to read about the latest conflict.

  7. Bill, will your book canvass the ethical pros and cons of the adoption of an IVF-generated frozen embryo or embryos by a couple unable to have their own children naturally? I understand that there is already a Christian adoption agency in America which facilitates these kinds of adoptions in an attempt to answer the serious ethical dilemma of couples who have had children via IVF but have those spare embryos “on ice” which they have no hope of bringing into the world via the genetic mother’s womb.

    How will this version of adoption compare to the adoption of a newborn infant by a hitherto childless couple?

  8. Any idea when your book might come out?? I can’t find a place on here to email you maybe you can point it out to me.

  9. I too would like to know your take on the snowflake babies as they are called.

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