‘I Started Calling Myself A Commodity:’ Surrogacy In The U.S.
Religion & Liberty Online

‘I Started Calling Myself A Commodity:’ Surrogacy In The U.S.

: a language teacher and a surrogate. She’s rented out her womb several times, as a way to help mainly gay couples have children. She says being pregnant is rather easy for her, but even she has some issues with the process.

[Jessica] had a less positive experience with a third set of New Yorkers seeking her services. She signed a nondisclosure agreement, which prevents her from naming the couple, and will only say they are “well-known,” “mega rich” and working in the entertainment industry. They were due to pay her a fee which was significantly higher than the amount she received the first time she was a surrogate.

“I really tried to bond with them, but it just wasn’t there,” she says. “It was like a business transaction. After a while, I started calling myself a commodity.”

It’s this “commodification” of both women and children that makes surrogacy a cesspool of muddled morals and tragic tales. Szalincinski says that even she, a proponent of surrogacy, raised questions about eugenics when the couple mentioned above started trying to “engineer” a child.

The problems started when the couple revealed over dinner that they specifically wanted a boy. “I laughed and said, ‘Well, I’ll work on that for you, but you have a 50/50 shot!’ And they’re like, ‘No, there’s this test they can do on the embryos.’ I didn’t know about it but they can determine the gender five days after the fertilization. It sounded like science fiction. And I said, ‘That’s kind of eugenics-like, isn’t it?’ But they hadn’t thought of it like that.”

Another warning sign was the couple’s determination to stick with one particularly attractive egg donor, despite evidence that showed her eggs were subpar. “They chose her solely due to her beauty, which really got under my skin,” says Szalacinski, whose first two implantations failed to result in pregnancy.

One surrogate mother, Angelia Gail Robinson, had a horrible experience, and wants surrogacy banned. She volunteered to be a surrogate mother for her brother and his homosexual partner but things did not go well.

The agreement turned sour and, after three years of bitter wrangling, resulted in a landmark 2009 court decision in which Robinson was legally recognized as the girls’ mother, and later given limited custody.

“I think all surrogacy should be banned,” concludes Robinson, of Middletown, NJ, who worries that widespread legalization of the practice will see more women like her being treated like commodities. “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.”

Surrogacy in the U.S. is a hodge-podge of regulations and laws, varying from state to state. Where it is legal, it can cost big-time: anywhere from $20,000 and up. Jennifer Lahl of the Center for Bioethics and Culture says that surrogacy says the surrogacy lobby is “strong, wealthy, and powerful.” She warns that the surrogacy industry and egg donation are “predatory:”

Unlike sperm donation, egg “donation” is an onerous procedure, requiring weeks of hormone injections, as well as anesthesia and a surgical procedure to remove the eggs. It has severe short- and long-term risks.  Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is the most serious short-term risk, and young women are the most at risk for OHSS – precisely the target population of the industry.

In addition to cancers that are linked to fertility drugs, there are risks of compromised or entirely lost future fertility. There have been no long-term studies on the aftermath on these young women, no tracking or long-term follow-up. Consequently, potential egg suppliers cannot possibly give truly informed, “informed” consent. Moreover, it is easy to see how financial compensation can make consent coercive. People who have financial needs will take risks if they feel those risks will help to meet their financial needs. The greater the financial need, the more risks one will assume.

You will hear that this is a safe procedure with minimal risks but I submit that it is easy to say something is without risk when you have never done the hard work of data collection, follow-up, and academic peer reviewed studies. It is grossly irresponsible and highly unethical to gamble with the health and very lives of vulnerable young women for selfish aims or industry profit. I urge you in the strongest terms to reject this predatory legislation.

Human beings are not factories, meant to produce a commodity. Children are not possessions to be purchased and sold. The surrogacy industry is built on a false and undignified understanding of the human person. It degrades women and society.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.