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So here's the thing: I listened to this Radiolab episode the other day about surrogacy and I cant shake it.
I don't know why.
Maybe because today is International Women's Day and because I'm in a point in my life where I've got babies on the brain fairly often, but I just cant decide how I feel about the international surrogacy that the podcast episode covered.
On the the one hand I have my really deep gut, traditional feminist reaction of: No, this is WRONG. We shouldn't do this to women, we reduce women to their womb. We shouldn't allow a woman to just be a baby factory. That was, and is in some parts of the world still, how women were treated before the advent of the modern idea of women as equals. Women pumped out baby after baby after baby because a) it was expected of them, b) it's what they're husbands and families expected of them and c) there just wasn't safe and reliable birth control and sex on-demand was expected of them. The idea of "renting a womb" has this icky feeling of reducing a woman to her parts, which we do so terribly often these day already, but in this case, it's literally reducing her to her reproductive organs. It feels wrong to think of a woman having no other way to support herself other an by taking on pregnancy which is inherently dangerous, there's just no way around that.
On the other hand, who am I to judge? Listening to the episode and hearing how these surrogates understand their pregnancies as a transaction and that's it, it sounds like they're aware of what is going on. They understand the process and everything involved and they are thus making an informed decision on using their bodies in this way. Listening to their hopes for what can be done with this money, how it can benefit their families, how it really does help them.... what can I say to that? How can I sit in judgment of them? The podcast talks about pity and how it's not fair for us to pity them, how they don't see this as an exploitative act, but as a way that they can contribute or make their lives and the lives of their family better by doing this. How do I think about that? I feel like I fall in with the podcasts host in being really infuriated about the fact that most of the money that those paying for surrogacy send ends up in the hands of middlemen, but as for the actual sum they get and how many feel it is adequate and does indeed help them. How can I judge that?
Surrogacy is an issues I've encountered before in conversations with friends an family, both gay and straight. Questions like 'would you carry a baby for a friend?' or 'would you contribute an egg for a family member to be able to have a baby with your families roots' to 'do you think this is morally wrong?'. The answers are ones I've had to think deeply about. No, I don't think I could carry for a friend of family member, mostly because I get overly attached to friends dogs when we pup-sit, so growing a person just ups that, I don't think I could carry and give up the baby, even if I wanted to. Yes I would contribute an egg to a family member to have a baby that carries our genetic heritage. Why? Because I can't find a good reason why not. If my eggs are viable and I know these family members are going to take care of that baby, then why not give that gift to them when I'm not using that egg? It feels selfish not to and there are a lot of good people out there who would raise AWESOME tiny humans, why not give something to make that happen? And lastly, is it wrong? I don't think so. If a woman wants to do this, if it TRULY is her choice, then why not? Who am I to sit in judgment on someone who wants to use herself to give to others? Even if it's a transaction? Is she properly informed? Properly compensated? Properly cared for? Will the baby be properly cared for? Are the donor parents good people? Then why not?
I mean, I guess that answers my question. Yes. Surrogacy is ok with me. Not something I could do, but something I'm good with as long as the transaction is fair and all parties involved are vetted, protected and properly cared for.
So then why does this podcast feel so weird? I guess because of the middle-men they discuss and the fact that there isn't a ton of transparency on where the bulk of the money goes. So then it's kind of back to that original question. Is this morally right when that transparency isn't there?
Oy. How about you. What do you think? Is this surrogacy ok with you? Do you have any moral barriers you're bumping up against? Do you walk away from this podcast feeling a bit weird? How would you answer those questions presented about being a surrogate yourself? I'd love to hear your thoughts!