Surrogancy In the sense When a surrogate agrees to carry a pregnancy for another person (s), new relationships are formed. Surrogacy is an arrangement or agreement whereby a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for another person or persons, who will later become the new-born child’s future parent(s). Surrogate motherhood’s entrance into the public spotlight with the Baby M case captured the concerns and tensions over the trends of the preceding two decades. William and Elizabeth Stern entered into a surrogacy argument with Mary Beth Whitehead, who they found through a newspaper advertisement. According to the agreement, Mary Beth Whitehead would be inseminated with William Stern’s sperm (making her a traditional, as opposed gestational, surrogate), bring the pregnancy to term, and relinquish her parental rights in favour of William’s wife, Elizabeth. After the birth, however, Mary Beth decided to keep the child. William and Elizabeth Stern then used to be recognized as the child’s legal parents.

surrogacy becoming threat to women

The New Jersey court ruled that the surrogacy contract was invalid according to public policy, recognized Mary Beth Whitehead as the child’s legal mother and ordered the Family court to determine whether Whitehead, as mother or stern, as a father, should have legal custody of the infant, using the conventional ‘best interests of the child’s analysis’. Stern was awarded custody, with Whitehead having visitational rights. While some praised the diversity of new family forms, others bemoaned the breakdown of the family and the changing status of motherhood.  Baby M, in a new way, came to symbolize changing and competing notions of kinship relations and mothering. But, it is wrong to expect a surrogate mother to honour contracts to hand over children, because pregnant mammals, bond on their foetuses well before parturition. Recently surrogacy has become a more widely-accepted way of building a family, helped in part by media coverage of its use by high-profile celebrities. This paper is looking at whether, and how, surrogacy affects family relationships.

Each year an increasing number of children are born who lack a genetic and/or gestational link with their mother. In the case of surrogacy, the mother who parents the child and the mother who gives birth to the child are not the same. The picture of a mother handing over her child and getting paid for it does not fit the ethical values and conventional notions of the family. In the 1980s and early 1990s, when public debate about surrogacy peaked, the concept of “Family values” was prominent in political discourse. It is not surprising then that the rhetoric surrounding surrogate motherhood and its construction as a social problem was tied to concerns over and debate about the future of the family (its forms, its members’ obligations and even its existence.)

Surrogacy is also devastating to the family in more palpable ways. For example, it will surely affect the older children who most surrogates have. How can a mother explain that her children that she is selling their new-born sister? How can she then assure that they do not also have a price tag? Often the surrogate’s parents and even her in-laws are also very upset that their grandchild is being given away or sold and the conflict can cause a permanent rift in the family. Lisa Walters, a Wisconsin housewife, performed as surrogate, her in-laws threatened court action to remove her other two children on the ground of unfitness.

Beyond such harms to family life, surrogacy poses threats to the family as we know. On October 1, 1981, a gestational surrogate in South Africa, gave birth to her own grandchildren. Their story illustrates the complications that surrogacy can bring to the traditional family structure, and it also shows the family values that surrogacy can serve.

Pat Anthony bore triplets from ova supplied by her daughter Karen and fertilised in vitro by Karen’s husband’s sperm. Mrs. Anthony is recognised as the legal mother in South Africa. Karen, the egg donor, legally has three new siblings. But in accordance with their plan, Karen and her husband adopted the children, so she became their mother instead of their sister and Mrs. Anthony changed from mother to grandmother. In a cartoon welcoming their birth, one triplet claimed to be others uncle. Why do not we accept surrogacy since they are being used to create families for couples who could not procreate. Why, then should it be seen as undermining our family structure? The Roman Catholic Church, which objects to separating sex from procreation says it threatens the sanctity of the traditional family unit for a third party to have “any role in donating or gestating the child”. From this perspective surrogacy is objectionable because one of the genetic parents will not be part of the child’s family. The orthodox Jewish organisation Agudath Israel of America, states that, the practise represents threat to the stability and continuance of the family. For others, surrogate motherhood signalled worrisome change in the value place on family relationships.

The practice of adoption, which the catholic church supports, similarly involves the separation of childbearing and childrearing. (A response, of course, is that adoption is laudatory but is not analogous to surrogacy or other methods of creating children because it addresses the needs of children already in existence.)

Surrogacy is now being used to serve the desires of childless couples to achieve a nuclear family, but potentially it can make the traditional nuclear family even less of a norm than it now is. The treat to the nuclear family is a sufficient reason to many religious groups, political movements and individuals for opposing surrogate motherhood. Surrogacy challenges not only what remains of the traditional family as a norm, but even our ways of thinking about ourselves nuclear family. Current ethical objections to surrogacy reflect a reasonable prediction that the means we are now using to make the traditional family possible for those who cannot otherwise achieve it carry with them the seeds of destruction of the concept of family as we know it.

Share on: