Soon Americans may face a new ethical dilemma


In the aftermath of legalized same-sex marriage, Americans may soon face a new ethical dilemma: commercial surrogacy. In the article on The Public Discourse, Christopher White reports “Surrogacy and Same-Sex Marriage: A Tale of Two Countries,” the issue of “marriage equality” is morphing into the question of “family equality.” As White observes, “While many consider the contest over same-sex marriage in the United States to have been settled by the Supreme Court, the debate over surrogacy is just beginning.” Within the last decade, an increasing number of homosexual couples, especially gay men, are turning to surrogates in order to have genetically related children.

For example, Ireland, where the legalization of same-sex marriage occurred just weeks before the U.S., is no stranger to this ethical question and gives some insight into the cultural debate. Days before Irish citizens voted on the referendum, the concern over third party reproduction made headlines. Those voting “Yes” assured the public that surrogacy and same-sex marriage were two separate issues. Those voting “No,” however, feared that the right to marry would lead to a demand for the right to procreate, despite the obvious biological impossibility.

In the discussing on commercial surrogacy, in which a couple hires a woman to carry an embryo, Ireland’s Iona Institute, a Catholic organization, claims it exploits women. The 2013 Iona Report states, “In surrogacy, the woman rents her body. This should at a minimum alert us to the very strong possibility that surrogacy is a new form of exploitation and trafficking in women. In surrogacy, the child is treated as a commodity, the object of a legal agreement. The aim of surrogacy is to fulfil the desire of adults, to enable foreign parents to satisfy their wish for a child at any price.”

But contractual surrogacy isn’t the only problem. Even without a legally binding agreement, the definition of parental origin, or “parentage,” comes into play. In Britain where surrogacy is legal (as long as it’s not a commercial, business arrangement), a High Court judge settled a parental rights dispute of one homosexual couple and their surrogate in May 2015.

Since the child belonged to the mother (artificially inseminated by her gay friend), she was not legally required to give up her parental rights. The homosexual couple had to apply for a parental order to legally become the child’s parents. But, according to the birth mother, she always intended to keep her baby, and after giving birth, refused to give the infant to her gay friend. She even implied the two men would not be good parents, something the judge called “homophobic and offensive.” The judge ruled in favor of the gay couple, requiring the woman to relinquish her rights as a mother.

Despite the growing number of homosexual men who make use of it, White notes that many people of the LGBT community actively oppose the practice of surrogacy.

People like Julie Bindle, a lesbian feminist in the UK. Bindle observes, “[C]ommercial surrogacy is fast becoming the preferred route for gay couples to have children, so much so that the trend is now known as the ‘Gaybe’ revolution.” Like many others, Bindle is outspoken in her disapproval of surrogacy among would-be homosexual parents, calling it “reproductive trafficking.”

The ethical dilemma surrounding surrogacy, same-sex couples, and “family equality” is the logical progression of same-sex marriage. If a same-sex couple is considered married with all that being married implies, and if biological procreation is considered a right for all married couples, then it follows that same-sex couples may legally demand the right to procreate. And since that is biologically impossible, they must look to other solutions, like surrogacy, to fulfill that demand.

Ultimately, the practice of surrogacy, especially commercial surrogacy, exploits women for their reproductive capacity. It uses women’s bodies for the sake of having genetically related offspring. And, it reduces a woman’s role in raising a child to a nine-month pregnancy.

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International Reproductive Technologies Support Agency | Legal support of ART programmes
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