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As an inhabitant of this planet, you realize very early in life that there are certain things around you that are utterly profane. Things like rape, murder, corruption, and the like are rightfully-hated acts, which should certainly be outlawed and eliminated in a developed society, but pregnancy by surrogacy is certainly not one of them. When I started to research this topic extensively, I found a rather troubling pattern. It was not just the countries like Saudi Arabia that we generally view as backward who have implemented strict and regressive anti-surrogacy laws, but also countries like France and the United Kingdom.
These laws vary based on, among other things, the types of surrogacy they ban. In some countries, both altruistic surrogacy (wherein there is no monetary gain for the woman carrying the child) and gainful surrogacy (wherein there is monetary gain for the woman carrying the child) are both banned, and in some countries, only the latter is banned. There are also, of course, countries that only ban surrogacy for same-sex couples.
The core of most of these laws centers around the idea that surrogacy is nothing more than the renting of human bodies. This notion ignores the fact that adoption remains legal, and surrogacy is nothing more than the adoption of a child before the child is born. The rights of gay people and the sterile are at stake here.
In America, couples seeking a surrogate have to go through heaps of legal mishigas, and regulations vary wildly state-by-state. While my home state of Maryland is known to be rather surrogacy-friendly, surrogacy is outright banned in Arizona.
According to AGAR (Asociación de Gestación Asistida Reproductiva), most of America’s surrogacy law remains uncertain, and though couples can still manage to find surrogates in large parts of the country, this spells a whole lot of logistical confusion for them. This issue has mostly fallen under the radar for most of the populace, or at least for the people who haven’t had to deal with this kind of thing for themselves.
We in the West have this idea that we are more progressive than the primal autocracies and theocracies, and this notion is often accurate. But this is one issue where we really don’t have much to brag about in terms of the way we do things. We’ve let the groanings and moanings of all the bible-thumping moral busybodies get in the way of human rights. Aren’t these the same people that go on and on about the importance of the American family? Clearly they only wish to talk up their families, and dismiss anyone who falls outside of the extremely tight circle they’ve drawn.
Of course there are complex aspects of surrogacy, and the legality of these things should be discussed. What if the surrogate refuses to give up the child? What if the adopting parents reject the child after birth due to unforeseen complications? All of these issues should be figured out with the rights of the surrogate, the child, and the adopting parents in mind. But simply outlawing surrogacy or making it unnecessarily difficult for people to participate in surrogacy is just not the right way to go about this.
Ezra Kronfeld is an independent writer, poet, journalist, and author.