Louise Perry, a rising young British thinker, has written a very important cover story for The Spectator on the moral dangers of surrogacy. Perry is also the author of a new book making a secular and highly reasonable case against the sexual revolution.
In her new Spectator piece, Perry laments a crucial and disturbing change that the U.K. government is considering making to the parental status of a baby born by surrogacy. This change should concern us all.
Currently, the woman who gives birth to a child is considered the child’s legal mother and the woman who has contracted with and hired that mother’s womb must apply to become the legal parent. Perry explains, “But if the Law Commission gets its way, the situation will be reversed.” Gestation and the birthing process will not determine motherhood, but the desires of the contracting party will become dominant.
Perry correctly warns this will flip the most natural and vital thing in the world on its head: motherhood. Perry writes, “there remains a profound problem with surrogacy, even in its free-range and organic form: it deliberately breaks apart an essential human relationship – arguably, the foundational human relationship.”
Surrogacy favors the commercialization of motherhood over nature. Perry adds, “When we decide that an egg donor has a better claim to motherhood than a surrogate, we are privileging the male-type relationship over the female-type relationship.” This is because surrogacy buys into the falsehood that a womb is merely a utility, a child-incubator and not what actually contributes to who that baby is. Surrogacy challenges the nature of motherhood itself.
Perry highlights this in the overwhelmingly natural power of mother attachment.
Women sign surrogacy contracts thinking they will be able to serve the purpose of life and then simply hand the baby they grew in their womb over to a desiring family. But that is not what often happens. The woman realizes mothering is more than a service rendered and is unable to give her baby over to the contracting couple. She finds herself deeply attached to the life she grew.
Perry shares her own experience of becoming a new mother and how, as a feminist, this took her by complete surprise. “I remember vividly the strange and obsessive psychological state I entered when my son was born. I thought only of him, dreamed only of him and, even while waking, would close my eyes and see only his face.”
Such is motherhood.
We understand this essential mother/child bond in other parts of nature. In both the United States and United Kingdom, it is illegal for dog breeders to separate puppies from their mothers for weeks because we realize the essential nature of the mother bond for both mother and baby. Perry laments, “yet the surrogacy industry has no such limits placed on it.” She adds, “And this despite the fact that the emotional bond between human mothers and babies is much stronger, by virtue of the fact that babies are much more vulnerable than puppies.”
Perry quotes the staunchly pro-family feminist writer Mary Harrington who correctly observes, “Pregnancy doesn’t just create a baby, it creates a mother.” She cites British pediatrician Donald Winnicott who once said, “There is no such thing as a baby. There is only a baby and someone.” And that someone is naturally the mother.
Growing a baby in one’s womb, even if it is not one’s biological offspring, is indeed more than incubation. It is a biological process. It is a mothering process.
Perry cites the work of acclaimed science writer Abigail Tucker in her recent book Mom Genes. She explains a phenomenon known as fetal microchimerism where a baby’s own unique cells remain in his or her mother’s body for the remainder of her life. Gestation fuses mother and baby at profound levels. Tucker explains, “Our children colonize our lungs, spleens, kidneys, thyroids, skin,” adding “their cells also embed in our bone marrow and breasts – and often they stay forever.”
Mothering is more than a service women provide to others who desire children. It starts in the womb and it continues throughout the life of both child and woman. We lose something very important if we accept the mistaken idea that gestating a baby is a task a woman can do for others with no ill effects for mother or child, much less society as a whole.
Surrogacy helps erase the essence of motherhood. As Focus on the Family has explained on this issue, “Do we fully understand the implications of turning conception and childbearing into services for hire? Even the idea of ‘renting a womb’ is ethically questionable.” We add, “The questionable nature of surrogacy should raise red flags for those who want to follow the Lord’s plan for human procreation.”
Christians must think deeply about such things as they relate to family and human nature, and Louise Perry has provided helpful insights in her important commentary.
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