Ethics of surrogacy: photo of golden egg in a nest.

The Ethics of Surrogacy: A List of the Pros and Cons of Surrogacy

  • Interested in reading about the ethics of surrogacy from a neutral, non-biased perspective?
  • Great!
  • Just read on and I'll provide you with a list of the typical pros and cons of surrogacy!

A Quick Intro into the Types of Surrogacy!

Before we proceed it's important to mention that there are different types of surrogacy.

Some types of surrogacy refer to the genetic circumstances and others types refer to the types of arrangement (is money involved or not!).

There are 3 types of genetic surrogacy circumstances:

  • Genetic surrogacy or partial surrogacy: This is the most common type of surrogacy. Here the egg of the surrogate mother is fertilized by the commissioning male's sperm. In this way the surrogate mother is the biological mother of the child she carries.

  • Total surrogacy: Here the surrogate mother's egg is fertilized with the sperm of a donor - not the male part of the commissioning couple.

  • Gestatory surrogacy or full surrogacy: Here the commissioning couple's egg and sperm have gone through in vitro fertilization and the surrogate mother is not genetically linked to the child.

There are 2 types of surrogacy arrangements:

  • Altruistic surrogacy: In this type of surrogacy, the surrogate mother is not paid for her 'service'. She 'offers her womb' as an act of 'altruism'. Often there will be a pre-established bond between the surrogate mother and the expecting couple. Typically the surrogate mother is a friend or a relative.

  • Commercial surrogacy: In commercial surrogacy the surrogate mother receives compensation for carrying the child. Often there will be a mediating party, a surrogacy agency that deals with all the practical arrangements for the commissioning couple: finding a suitable surrogate mother and dealing with all the paperwork etc.

Let's now proceed with what this article is really about, namely the ethics of surrogacy.

The Ethical Hot Zone of Surrogacy!

Ethics of surrogacy: picture of pregnant belly. Mother holding her belly.

Why is it that every time someone mentions the topic of surrogacy, giant waves of powerful emotions come washing in from both pro and con surrogacy camps?

One of the reasons is that surrogacy is balancing on a very sharp ethical edge when mixing the perceived 'sacred' process of reproduction and having children with work and money. Many people believe that these two domains should not mix.

Just so that you know, I'm neither pro nor con surrogacy - I'm just interested in exploring the philosophical and emotional dimensions of the ethics of surrogacy.

I will now present you with a list of the pros and cons of surrogacy. I will not comment on them or judge them - I will just list them and then leave the opinion making of the ethics of surrogacy up to you.

The Ethics of Surrogacy:
The 'Con' Voice Against Surrogacy

Against Surrogacy: Argument No. 1:
Surrogacy is Like Prostitution!

A typical objection to surrogacy (particularly that of commercial surrogacy) is comparing the physical aspects of surrogacy to a form of prostitution:

In both cases one can view the women as selling physical, intimate, bodily services. Selling their bodies and their function for money!

Against Surrogacy: Argument No. 2:
Surrogacy is a Form of Alienated Labor!

This objection borrows its logic from Hegel's philosophy of alienated labor.

So what's the problem with alienated labor? Many people work and are not emotionally attached to the 'product' of their work or the work process for that matter.

Well, the difference with surrogacy (or prostitution for that matter) is that we're talking about physical reproductive labor.

Reproduction is something that many people believe belong in the private sphere and should be surrounded with respect and emotional attachment.

According to people against surrogacy, women's reproductive capacities should not be used as physical labor and the status of a child, should not be relegated to that of a commodity.

(If you want to read more about the ethics of surrogacy and the discussion of alienation, you might like this surrogacy article)

Against Surrogacy: Argument No. 3:
Surrogacy Turn Babies into Commodities!

During a pregnancy a woman is supposed to bond with her unborn baby. Con speakers claim that surrogacy prevents the mother from forming a natural bond to her baby and therefore forces her to emotionally detach herself from her pregnancy.

Normally the child is the end goal in a pregnancy. For the surrogate mother the child becomes the means (as distinct from the goal), for something else, namely money.

When the child becomes a means, the child is commoditized, speakers against surrogacy claim.

Against Surrogacy: Argument No. 4:
There Are so Many Children in Need of a Home - Adoption Is Better for the World!

Everybody knows that the world is 'overpopulated' and that there are many orphans whose parents have died from decease or because of war. There are also many children who are living in children's homes because their parents couldn't afford to keep them.

The argument here is that people have a moral duty to care for the already existing children in need of a loving caring family rather than proceed to make new babies into an already too crowded world.

Against Surrogacy: Argument No. 5:
Surrogacy is for the Wealthy Only!

This objection is one of class.

Needless to say that surrogacy can be a very expensive affair and it is therefore not an option for those of few financial means. However, contrary to myth, many commissioning couples are not rich in the traditional sense but middle class / upper middle class.

The surrogate mothers are typically, but not always, in the lower income range and therefore a typical argument is, "The rich are exploiting the poor!"

Against Surrogacy: Argument No. 6:
Exploiting Third World Women as Baby Machines!

Contrary to many Westerns countries, commercial surrogacy is legal in India and many Indian women have chosen to become surrogate mothers for Western couples.

The typical reason for couples choosing Indian surrogate mothers over Western surrogate mothers is that they are cheaper.

This was a relatively long list of arguments against surrogacy. Let's now turn our attention to the pro arguments in the discussion of the ethics of surrogacy.

The Ethics of Surrogacy:
The 'Pro' Voice for Surrogacy

Pro Surrogacy: Argument No. 1:
Fulfilling the Deep Seated Wish for a Family

Today up to 10% of American women have difficulties getting pregnant. For couples who dream of having their own children, infertility is frustrating and stressful.

Having children and fulfilling the wish for a family with the help of a surrogate mother is therefore a possibility of living out that dream.

Pro Surrogacy: Argument No. 2:
Adoption Is not That Easy!

Contrary to sensible logic (there are many children in need of a home - so adoption should be easy), being allowed to adopt a child is difficult and takes a long time.

The whole paperwork process along with psychological evaluations and waiting list etc. may take many years.

Pro Surrogacy: Argument No. 3:
Surrogate Mothers Are Conscious of Their Choice!

Under normal circumstances surrogate mothers are very conscious of their decision to carry someone else's child. They are well informed and well paid.

Most of these women have a positive experience and feel satisfied in what they perceive as an altruistic gesture (even though they are getting paid).

Pro and Con Surrogacy Voices on the Internet

Here are some pro and con websites on surrogacy. They all participate in the debate on the ethics of surrogacy:

Voices from Surrogate Mothers - Why I Did It
In this article you'll hear the story from 5 different surrogate mothers on why they chose to carry babies that they were not supposed to raise themselves. What is interesting is when they admit that their feelings are not all black and white.

The Moral Implications of Motherhood by Hire
An article by Trevor Allis (a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the Sophia College for Women, Mumbai) in which he raises ethical concerns and potential moral implications of surrogacy.

Share Your View on Surrogacy

Do you have a personal opinion surrogacy? Share it right here!

Perhaps you're considering surrogacy, already have experiences with surrogacy or just feel like sharing your philosiphical insights - whatever the case, this is the place.

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Rights of the Child 
(Visitor's opinion): A child has the natural right to be raised by their natural father and natural mother. With surrogacy, we start with the intent to …

Surrogacy: A God Sent 
(Visitor's opinion): I have always wondered why surrogacy could be considered wrong. Giving people the chance to bring a new child into this world seems …

Surrogacy Should Be Regarded as a Gift by Medical Science and not Exploited  Not rated yet
Visitor's opinion: No doubt with the option of surrogacy, disappointed couples are granted their happiness in the form of a child, which is a right …

Adoption Is also an Option Not rated yet
Visitor's opinion: I understand people wanting to pass on their blood line. But adopting is also an option as it gives orphan children new parents, …

Paid Surrogacy Not rated yet
Visitor's opinion: Let me start off by saying I have no issue with altruistic surrogacy. The type done out of the kindness of one's heart and not rooted …

I'm Alive Thanks to Surrogacy  Not rated yet
(Visitor's experience): My mother couldn't carry any children so my parents went to California so they could have me and my brother thanks to a Wonderful …

Surrogacy and Egg Donation
- A Mother's Tale
 Not rated yet
(Visitor's story) If you think about your feelings to a child who was not born with your own egg, it means you are not yet at the necessary stage of expectations …

Surrogacy Is a Personal Event, a Personal Decision Not rated yet
(Visitor's opinion on the ethics of surrogacy:) I believe surrogacy is such a personal event that we cannot understand until we are put into a circumstance …

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