While New York’s medical systems are stressed to the limit, the state made the decision to legalize commercial surrogacy, i.e. paying a woman to have a child that is not biologically related to her for another individual or couple.
In the media, the practice of surrogacy is portrayed as an altruistic endeavor where a woman who’s already had a child can help an individual or couple expand their family. It’s described as an act where the risks are minimal, but the rewards are great. After all, women have babies every day so what does it matter if the baby is for her or another family.
Unfortunately, surrogacy isn’t that simple, and the risks far outweigh the supposed rewards.
Pregnancy and childbirth may pose some medical risks to the mother, but a surrogate inherits these risks and others while the intended mother’s or parents’ health, especially in the case of male homosexual couples, is uncompromised. According to medical research, the risk for pre-eclampsia and ectopic pregnancies can increase for a woman who is a surrogate because of the IVF process. Both conditions can have potentially fatal complications.
The IVF process itself, both for the biological mother or an egg donor, requires the extraction of multiple eggs for the creation of embryos for fertilization. This poses a danger to women who take high doses of hormones in order to trigger ovulation followed by an invasive procedure to obtain the eggs, which can lead to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and potentially leave the egg donor infertile. A situation that is both incredibly ironic and tragic. Research also indicates that women who engage in surrogacy through IVF with donor eggs are more likely to become pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, etc. and may face requests to reduce or abort one or more of the babies).
It’s not just about the physical risks either, but the immense emotional turmoil that many women experience during the surrogacy process. Regardless of how a mother tries to distance herself intellectually and emotionally from the preborn child she’s carrying for someone else, the child becomes attached to the mother he or she knows in the womb and not the mother who funded the surrogate. After birth, there is usually no time for the baby to bond with the mother he or she knew in pregnancy before the child is in the arms of what are essentially strangers to the child, even though they may be the biological parents.
This industry also has little to no regulation or oversight. This has led women and their families into terrible and often emotionally gut-wrenching situation.
There was the couple in California who ended up conceiving their own child while she was implanted with the embryo of another couple (yes, this can actually happen) and gave birth to twins. Due to the fact that she gave the children up immediately at birth, the surrogate did not even know she gave birth to her own child for months while the couple that paid for the surrogacy demanded that she repay the $5,000 bonus she got for having twins to get her own child back because they felt like she had somehow cheated the system.
Tragically, it’s always possible that the worst can happen. In a recent story, a woman in California died while giving birth during her second surrogacy for the same couple. While the child survived, her two young children and husband now have to live without their mother and wife.
There are dozens of other stories like this. Women think that they’re helping someone else experience the immense joy of parenthood, only to experience manipulation, exploitation and, in some cases, the forfeiture of their lives to fulfill the dreams of another.
It’s disappointing that New York, one of the few states that did outlaw commercial surrogacy, finally capitulated to wealthy families willing to pay anything to have a child, regardless of the potential cost to the woman who will be paid to use her body for that to happen. There is nothing wrong with a couple desiring to have children, and obviously it’s a perfectly natural thing—but couples should carefully weigh the ethical, medical and legal issues surrounding surrogacy before pursuing that path. There’s a reason nearly every country in the world has banned commercial surrogacy.
Adoption, both of children and embryos, is a fabulous option for those struggling to have children of their own.
On the surface, surrogacy can sound like a win-win for everyone involved. Some would argue that a mother who has successfully given birth to her own children can return the favor by renting her body to a woman who is struggling to have her own or a homosexual unable to biologically have their own children, but the exchange has an exploitative quality that should not be ignored.
For more on this topic, visit the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network’s website for more about the dangers of the surrogacy industry and view some of their films.
Follow Brittany on Twitter @brittanyraymer.