The Ethics of Surrogacy — Grace

Should surrogates be paid for carrying a child?

What we will be exploring…

The Controversy

Commoditizing Babies:

A common ethical question is whether you can put a price on human life. This creates the argument or, when paying surrogates, are you paying the mother for their service or are you ‘purchasing’ the product, or the life of the child you will be receiving.

Commoditizing Women’s Bodies:

In many places in today’s society, one may see the commercialization and objectification of women’s bodies. One side of the anti-surrogacy argument is the idea that surrogacy is the commoditization of a woman’s body- if paid, it is simply nothing more than a money maker. Though the surrogate is the one carrying the child, it is likely that the decisions made for her body are not being decided by her, but rather the people who are paying her to carry their child. A woman’s autonomy is a controversial topic when it comes to the issue of pregnancy and childbirth, surrogacy being a small piece of a larger feminist argument. If not paid, a woman is allowed to carry out a pregnancy on her own terms, possibly putting the baby at risk or inciting conflict between the future parents and surrogate mother over the treatment of the pregnancy.

Labor and Payment

Surrogacy involves many physical and mental strains. Because of these strains, many consider surrogacy to labor that should be paid. However, the argument arises that pregnancy is not like a working job that requires manual labor but instead is a natural bodily function. For example, organ donors do not get paid for their donations simply because their organs were functioning. Furthermore, a surrogate cannot simply work 9-5. Pregnancy and birth take around 9 months, creating abnormally long “work hours” for a surrogate mother. However, others treat surrogacy as a traditional job. The surrogate’s autonomy is, in many ways, taken from them while carrying the child. Many demands are placed upon them such as doctors’ visits and health habits, much like the responsibilities of an employee in the workforce.

Who’s Baby is this?

The most prevalent issue in the courts today involves the issue of custody. Depending on the type of surrogacy carried out, the surrogate mother may or may not have a genetic link to a the child. In cases where the surrogate mother passes her genes to the child, does she have the right to file for custody at birth/at any point up to the child’s 18th birthday? Not only does the mother have the right to, but will she win in that case? Genetically and legally, she has paternal rights over the child. Should the surrogate have the right to change her mind and keep the child? In instances where the mother has no genetic link to the child, should the fact that the surrogate held the baby throughout the entire gestation period have any bearing on her parental rights to the child?

Application of Bioethical Principles

Dive In: A Case Analysis: Johnson Vs. Calvert

If you are unable to listen, here is a link to a transcript!

Conclusion— Share YOUR thoughts!

In conclusion, I’d like to share my own personal thoughts around the question, “Should surrogate mothers be paid for carrying children?”. Overall, I believe there are pros and cons to both sides, depending on one’s own perspective as well as the intentions of the people surrounding them. Firstly, to address the issues of the commoditization of babies and women’s bodies, one may assume the position that they are not paying for the child or the use of the women’s body, but rather they paying the surrogate a courtesy fee for the physical labor and pain she will endure during the pregnancy. If viewed from that perspective, the issue of putting a price on human life is waved. In my opinion I believe that surrogacy should be viewed as a traditional job due to the labor and long work hours of the pregnancy, therefore they should be paid similar to a traditional job. Following along with that concept, this implies that a clear work contract must be written and agreed on by both the surrogate parents and the surrogate mother. If terms and conditions are clearly stated from the get-go, most, if not all, legal complications regarding who the baby truly belongs to will be abolished. I do understand that emotional attachment to the surrogate child due to hormones or other causes are likely, however, if stated in the contract prior to the birth, this threatens a lawsuit on the grounds of breech of contract, deterring any custody battles. All in all, I firmly believe that surrogacy should remain legal and paid.

Disagree? Agree or have something to add? I’d love to hear from you!—

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  1. April 25, 2020 by Mutin

    Hi Grace! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your webpage about the bioethics of surrogacy from the infographics to the case study. I think I agree with your opinion, but I would also take into account who it is the arguments of whether surrogacy is ethical or not. If it is coming from a male perspective, although it adds to these opposing arguments can not be considered valid as it is up to the women who are providing surrogacy because they are the one going through it. I don’t think people besides the woman who is providing the surrogacy has a say in whether they get paid or not. I would leave it up to the surrogate mother to choose such choices when signing the contract.

  2. April 25, 2020 by Mutin

    Sorry I meant ethics not “Bioethics”

  3. April 25, 2020 by Elizabeth Yun

    Hi Grace, I really liked your presentation and I think that this is a very eye-opening project that I haven’t considered in much detail. Personally, I feel like there shouldn’t be any set in stone rules for all pregnancies. I think that surrogacy should be legal (obviously only with the mother’s consent), and the amount of payment (if any) should be decided when the parents and surrogate mother meet. There are some surrogates who carry the child just as a volunteer and they want to do something good for the family trying to have a child, but sometimes the mother really needs money and the pregnancy should be paid. I don’t think that there should be any strict rules that apply to all cases, and decisions on custody, payment, amount of payment, etc. should be made by only the mother and parents in agreement.

  4. April 25, 2020 by Sofia Cicci

    Hi Grace,

    I really enjoyed learning about the controversy surrounding surrogacy. I especially like the question: Are you paying for the mother’s service or are you ‘purchasing’ the product? I understand how you think surrogacy should be treated as a traditional job and I agree with you in some aspects however, I think surrogacy is more complicated than a 9 to 5 day job. I think all surrogate mothers should be paid because it’s a job, however, smaller details of the pregnancy should be discussed between the surrogate mother and the surrogate parents. All pregnancies are different so they should be altered and adapted depending on the surrogate mother and the surrogate parent’s needs. Thanks for sharing!

  5. April 25, 2020 by Cecelia

    Hey Grace,

    I really enjoyed reading your project, and I found it super interesting. I believe that surrogacy should be legal. I think that surrogacy is a great option for people who cannot have their own children. I agree with you that the surrogate should be paid due to the labors on her body and lifestyle. I do find the point interesting how money seems to take away a woman’s power over herself. I think that if a woman chooses to be a surrogate then she should know exactly what she is signing up to.

  6. April 26, 2020 by Ashlin Carlisle

    Hi Grace,
    This was a very interesting and well thought out project. I had never really thought about this topic deeply before so it was interesting to see that there was in fact a debate surrounding it. You very clearly defined this topic, which I was thankful for because I have very limited surrogacy knowledge, and the arguments surrounding it. I could tell that you were very knowledgable about your project by the end of it and I enjoyed that you shared you own thoughts regarding this dilemma.

  7. April 26, 2020 by Emma

    Hi Grace,
    This is a great presentation, really well put together and thoroughly researched! I’ve never truly thought about the issue of surrogates being paid or unpaid, I just always assumed they were paid because to me that seems like the most ethical decision. I completely agree with your stance that surrogacy should be legal and paid. If a couple is using a surrogate to have children, they clearly want that child, and I believe that paying the surrogate would only solidify the commitment of the parents to fully care for their child.

  8. April 26, 2020 by Claire

    Grace, I’d read about the debate over surrogacy before, but I think that your approach did a really great job of laying out what surrogacy is and what the controversy is about. In my opinion, I think that all surrogacy should be legal so that the parents and the surrogate have the right to choose. As for the payment aspect, I do shy away from believing that surrogacy should be paid. I read a story about a woman who was going to be paid for her surrogacy, but the parents had a lot of criteria she had to fulfill because they were trying to create the perfect baby. As it was a traditional surrogacy, their criteria for her included aspects of beauty, similarity to the future mother, intelligence, heritage, ethnicity, and more. In that case, I don’t like that a price was put on the child. However, surrogacy and especially the prep work before the implant can be really painful and stressful, so monetary compensation does make sense in that lens.

  9. April 27, 2020 by Catherlin Lu

    Hi Grace,

    This was such a well put and interesting presentation. It did not occur to me the bioethics of both paid and unpaid surrogates as I thought that it was more moral to pay them. The argument you make about insuring autonomy by not paying surrogates was really well argued and brought forth some opinions I had not heard of before. I do however, fully agree with you on that surrogates should be legal and paid due to the difficult and complex nature of the job they hold. Being a surrogate is difficult and tasking which is why I believe that monetary compensation is applicable in this situation.

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