16 thoughts on “Week 10: Surrogacy Continued

  1. Awesome job Danielle.
    Way to do lots of research and include your own experience in evaluating these readings and this ethical topic. I like how you lay out the assumptions that Teman discusses and I also like how you talk about the altruistic couple Dave and Sam. That was something that I had not even really been thinking about-a surrogacy that was not performed solely for the sake of money. This goes into the assumptions laid out by Teman, and how she explains how those that are this altruistic are really being deviant-and go way past what is normal concerning altruistic behavior.
    But your talk on your own adoption and how that brought you biases in reading these and how you view surrogacy was very valuable. The assumption that surrogates will feel loss when separated from the baby is one of great consideration. But Teman said that those that assert this base their idea off of research on adoption rather than surrogacy. Your experience with adoption certainly would affect how you interpret this.
    All in all, I agree with your conclusion that child-centered thinking needs to be at the forefront of these ethical problem–solving processes.

  2. Hi Danielle, I enjoyed reading your post and appreciate how you connect this week’s readings to outside resources. You do a good job of identifying the limitations to each author’s argument, specifically that neither author considers non-American perspectives on surrogacy even when, as you point out, there are non-American examples of anti-surrogacy sentiment that could be useful to their arguments. I also like how you compare surrogacy research to adoption research. Your mention of “primal trauma” makes me think that some research findings regarding adoption could apply to surrogacy arrangements as well and wonder why adoption wasn’t discussed more fully by either author.

  3. Hi Danielle, thanks for all your thoughtful insights into this week’s readings. I really appreciate all the background information you provided as a part of this paper. What I most liked about this paper was your acknowledgement of the fact that not all surrogacies or surrogacy journeys are alike. We have often resorted to talking broadly about surrogacy, a conversation which can have some value, and makes the most sense within the context of our class. However, the reality is that the ethics of surrogacies are going to vary widely on a case by case basis. For every one case that we get to pick apart through documentaries like Made in India, there are a plethora of cases that we don’t get to evaluate. Some of these instances may be more ethical than others. It’s because of this that I have such a hard time with this conversation. Surrogacy might very well be perfectly ethical and above board in a vast majority of cases. But a small few wildly unethical cases quickly taints that in the eyes of the public. Concerns like these, over even a small number of unethical cases, are why I feel strongly that it is the role of the government and of the established medical institutions to step in and regulate surrogacy and the related agencies. It is clear that there is an economy around surrogacy, whether we like it or not, and allowing them to operate unchecked is what, at the end of the day, leads to such extreme variation in ethics and leads us to be having these continued debates.

  4. I think the very idea that surrogacy is so commoditized confirms people’s notions about surrogates being sexually deviant or abnormal. Surrogacy is a service that one can pay for; in those terms, it sounds a little strange. It is hard to look at something both as a commercialized, commoditized process and a serious medical procedure at the same time. Surrogacy exists in the intersection between money and science and therefore people don’t know what to think about it. Is it deviant to have a baby for money if the baby is wanted by other parents? The thing that keeps coming to my mind when I think about the commoditization of surrogacy is, oddly, prostitution. That too is the commoditization of the female or male body based on their natural functions and in exchange for money. We as a society have deemed that to be illegal and sexually deviant, but isn’t surrogacy similar in that way? Isn’t it also an exchange of physical services for money? I am not trying to demonize surrogacy at all, but I do want to get specific about the way we define it. Without doing that, the boundaries between surrogacy and other commoditized physical services will be too thin, and examining surrogacy on it’s own will be too difficult.

  5. Hi Danielle. Thank you for your post and the way you’ve structured your summary of the topics discussed in the readings in class. The way you’ve organized your post definitely helps me follow your personal thinking and helps walk me through Teman’s article in a very in-depth way while also adding your own opinions. Firstly, I want to thank you for giving us some context when it comes to surrogacy. Despite having learned about it for a few weeks now, your blog definitely helps put it into perspective and helps guide me through your subsequent opinion/summary of the article. Sometimes, it is very difficult to look at relatively unknown concepts and apply yourself in a truly novel way. Your experiences influence how you think, so Teman’s argument and assumptions were strong enough to show you a different way of thinking about surrogacy. Personally, I think Teman’s argument is very strong and well supported by disproving the evidence already in the literature. I also agree with you that Teman did not really address the outliers. I wish Teman had explained more about the ideas behind mothers who do, in fact, go back on their agreement. I also appreciate that you touched on how surrogacy is commercialized in this country. The movie we watched almost took advantage of the ability to make the birth of a child into a business. It makes me wonder about whether some of these surrogacy laws and guidelines are truly made in the interest of the child and family, or if they also largely consider the commodity being sold.

    Thank you for your post!

  6. Hi Danielle! Thank you for providing a wonderful analysis and breakdown about the general topic of surrogacy as well as the main assumptions Teeman made in her work. I appreciate your consistent humility in voicing your own biases, especially as an adoptee. I am consistently impressed by everyone’s vulnerability in their post–this serves as testament that we all take classes we truly are passionate about in how we relate to the topic!

    I, too, held (and still do to some extent!) biases surrounding surrogacy. I agree with you in that it is very difficult to be “pro-woman” and advocate for both the surrogate and a mother at the same time: ethics play such an important yet complicated role in this. One note in particular that stuck with me from your post, though, was your voicing of your commitment to “child-centered thinking.” This reminds me of our lecture about Donum Vitae in which we discussed how the Catholic church does not support using abortion as means of preventing a life that would ultimately “turn out poorly” if raised by ill-prepared parents. The Church argues, here, that we cannot make decisions about the child’s life prematurely. It is interesting in the topic of surrogacy how the choice is reversed: we implant a life to parents in the deep hope that the life will prosper in the womb. With abortion, we hope the life will prosper outside of it.

  7. Hi Danielle!
    Thank you for your insightful comments about the readings this week. I really liked how you laid out the assumptions from Teman’s piece and reflected on how you had your own assumptions about surrogacy that you may have not realized before. I think that it helped me realize that I had similar assumptions—specifically about altruistic surrogacies. I did not really know that many people did that, as that being pregnant is an incredibly taxing process. I only really thought of commercial surrogacy when I thought of surrogacy as a whole—which now I know was a generalization. I also appreciate how you included your personal experience with adoption and how that might have given you a bias on your feelings on surrogacy. I agree with you that Teman’s article does a great job at distinguishing the difference between the two, and the research that is incorrectly applied to both processes. I also think your point about surrogacy being “you get what you pay for” is very true and was defiantly showed in the documentary, Made in India. Comparing the treatment and money Aasia received compared to what Kim Kardashian’s surrogate–who also carried twins–is jaw-dropping.

  8. Hi Danielle. Thank you for such an insightful post. I really liked the way you organized your discussion and the background research you incorporated. I found it really interesting that you bring up your experience as an adoptee. Adoption is something we’ve brushed up against nearly every week, but we haven’t talked about it in depth. I was especially intrigued by the idea of the “primal wound” of separation from the birth mother that is apparently experienced by some adoptees. I think this idea of the “primal wound” can be applied to surrogacy in an interesting way—is there something “primal” (or, as Katz suggests, “natural”) about the child’s attachment to the body of the mother?

    While looking at surrogacy through the lens of adoption might be limiting, I also wonder if considering reproductive issues in the context of adoption might lead us to more insight, especially considering a social constructionist viewpoint like Teman’s. I think much of the way we’ve talked about reproduction this semester has stopped the conversation when the “real” or “intended” parents finally “get” the child. It seems to me that a text like Donum Vitae is right in considering the rest of the child’s life, and not just the very beginning. Here, considering adoption could be especially helpful. At least in my own research in relation to my mother’s adoption, it’s often suggested that the “primal wound” has less to do with separation from the birth mother and more to do with a separation from a setting in which one would “naturally” belong. In other words, issues of “belonging” or not feeling “wounded” have more to do with race and ethnicity than with “natural” connections to the birth-mother. Culture is implicated here in a complicated way, too—displacement makes it clear that race, ethnicity, culture, and even biology are all things that are constructed.

    Discussions about adoption, at least transnationally and in a feminist context, also try to center the rights of the birth-mother and her “right” to her child. I find it interesting how different this conversation is in the context of surrogacy, especially since the political dynamics of adoption and surrogacy seem to me to not be all that different; we saw this in the film we watched in class. Katz highlights this—both adoption and surrogacy often rely on an underlying idea of where the child will be “better off,” often in terms of class.

  9. Danielle, thank you for such a well-composed blog post. I like that you brought some sources from previous classes, as they all connect and feed into each other as evidence that surrogacy is a very complex reproductive technology. You mention the idea that the desire to be a surrogate can come from different origins. There is altruistic surrogacy and there is also commercial surrogacy. I believe that, besides determining if the surrogate decides to undergo the process because she has a familial tie to the individuals in need of the technology or because of monetary compensation, the surrogate’s social and political standings must be taken into account. If a potential surrogate does not feel some sort of social, cultural or political connection to the prospective parents she will be carrying the child for, I believe that that is more cause for ethical concerns than if there is some sort of positive connection. We observed a clear example of this in the documentary Made in India. Unlike how Telman discusses that many women have positive experiences, it is safe to say that the experience for the surrogate, Aasia, and for the intended parents could not have been more negative due to an array of reasons. That is why I believe a better approach to dealing with who is “fit” enough to be a surrogate would be to take into account the potential surrogate’s background, including her social and political contexts. This would mean not allowing someone that is in a more vulnerable position to be a surrogate due to their desperate need for the compensation. In the end, whether or not the surrogate is doing this because she believes in the technology, or because she is in desperate need of the stipend makes a major difference, one being ethical and the other being problematic.

  10. Hi Danielle, great post! I appreciate you bringing in a good amount of outside sources to contribute to this discussion. I also appreciate you pointing out the difference between altruistic and commercial surrogacy, as I believe that altruistic surrogacy is completely okay but that commercial surrogacy can muddy the moral waters of the issue. If a friend wants to have a child for an infertile couple they know, that is up to them. However, when you put surrogacy in the context of needing to carry the child for another couple or else the mother faces poverty, starvation, or other hardships, the relationship can certainly become hierarchical. I think Teman acknowledges both types of surrogacy well enough, but the situation found in “Made in India” and others like it is very different than commercial surrogacy when both the gestational and biological mother are from the same developed country. This specific situation puts the surrogate mother under the “control” of the biological parents, as they are the mother’s main source of funding and job security. This highlights the merits of Katz’s arguments; others are exerting their influence over women’s bodies in order to commodify reproduction.

  11. Thank you so much for this thoughtful reflection, Danielle! I really appreciate the way you organized your response – it helped me to consider each of Teman’s assumptions individually, as well as in conjunction with each other. I’m also impressed with the external evidence you brought in, as the issue of surrogacy is so complex and requires many perspectives to understand. However, I sometimes find myself struggling to evaluate the ethics of surrogacy in general, just because each case/person’s experience with surrogacy is different. So how exactly can we regulate a process that varies case by case? Should we continue to make assumptions like the ones mentioned in Teman’s argument? How far do the limitations to her assumptions go? How do we define “normal” in terms of a person’s psychological state? Can we “test” for normality? Furthermore, if emotional trauma serves as a motive for the process, is there a way for us to “test” a person’s underlying emotional trauma? Could these tests determine whether or not a person should be allowed to engage in the process? And finally, the third assumption – perhaps the most valid of the three. Should we have different contractual obligations based on the kind of surrogacy a person is seeking? Are there emotional repercussions for the surrogate mother when they are forced to give up the child? How can we minimize the emotional trauma for all parties when this separation occurs? Thanks again for your response, Danielle!

  12. Hello Danielle and thank you for your essay! I think you did an excellent and thorough job in analyzing this week’s evidence, and I also think you did a great job building the background from which you established your points. Though you define altruistic surrogacy and commercial surrogacy as two separate entities (which I agree with), this idea really made me think about how surrogacy as an act feels inherently altruistic. Someone sacrifices their body (whether or not it is for a reward) and their health to bring a child into the world – a child that might not have otherwise been there. This brings into question the value of the body and the value of children both as means to an end and even as commodities. Looking at these concepts from an anthropological context as opposed to a biological one or vice versa can have a great impact on the relevant arguments. Solely looking from a biological perspective, it seems crazy to think that a person would sacrifice their health and their personal reproductivity to carry the offspring of another. If only this perspective were considered, I would have to agree. However, I think that humans are different. Humans have the ability to foster complex relationships and intricate cultural phenomena that are impossible to be examined solely from a biological standpoint. Thinking about the motivation of a person to become a surrogate brings this complexity to mind. No, they are not doing it to improve their own reproductive fitness. No, this will not help them spread their own genetic information to future offspring. Beyond the superficial reward of financial gain, surrogacy deepens relationships between human beings through altruism. Though you mentioned personal biases and their influence on our opinions regarding the matter, I feel that since surrogacy is so inherently human (and so are opinions), it might be impossible to form an all-encompassing argument. My aunt carried the child of her best friend. She did not do it for money or any reward. She did it because her best friend wanted a child and could not have one, and in weighing her personal values, she felt that this was a sacrifice she was willing to take. I think that the narrative of surrogacy is best told from an ethnographic perspective, as there are many different contexts that it can occur in that each influence the result uniquely.

  13. Danielle,
    I liked how you opened your paper with more background on the topic and explained how your current views began to change. I found your breakdown of the assumptions outlined in Teman’s article very helpful. It bothers me how much surrogates are analyzed for their intentions, characterized as being “not normal” or having “emotional trauma”. I think these words are often used against women doing anything outside of what society expects. Your description of your personal situation and being adopted was very interesting to me. I feel like when talking about surrogacy, we have been focusing mainly on surrogate women and how it affects them, but we haven’t really talked about how it could affect the future child. I enjoyed reading your perspective because, while it is slightly different than mine, it opened me up to things I hadn’t thought of before and was very compelling.

  14. Hi Danielle! I appreciate how you explained the different types of surrogacies because I was able to learn from this. I also appreciate you sharing about other situations revolving surrogacy. After watching the video “Made in India” I was also curious about learning about other situations where the surrogate mother may want to keep the child or a situation where the future parents did not have the best intentions. I think there could be many circumstances where the surrogate mother would like to keep the child in scenarios where the surrogate mother meets the future parents. For instance, the surrogate mother may meet the parents and think that the future parents are not suited to be parents yet. Because of this, I think it’s important for there to be limited contact between the surrogate and the parents. I also think that in cases of altruistic surrogacy, there is a higher chance for the surrogate mother to want to keep the child later on because the surrogate mother is more likely to see the child more frequently since the surrogate mother may be close to the future parents. I also disagree with the assumptions made by researchers from Teemans article. In response to the assumption that surrogate mothers choose to do surrogacy to deal with emotional trauma instead of financial reasons, I would challenge those researchers to live a day in the shoes of surrogate mothers who have no choice but to turn to surrogacy such as Aasia from the film Made in India. I believe that many of these assumptions stem from the lack of understanding and experience of others situations. I also think that the researchers made many false assumptions, such as researching about birth mothers who put their children up for adoption and then applying that to surrogate mothers. Because these are two very different scenarios, these assumptions cannot be applied and should not be shared with the public.

  15. Great job with your reflection, Danielle! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and you gave me some new perspectives to think about within surrogacy going forward. I think what you hit on in your post and what I also reflected upon during our modules about surrogacy, is just how nuanced it can be–it is hard to take a clear ethical stance on surrogacy when it looks so different on a case by case basis. I found myself aligning with much of the Teman article. There is so much psychoanalysis that goes on surrounding women who choose to carry children for others. I have always wondered why that concept seems so difficult for psychologists/sociologists/etc. to grasp as a desire for someone with a fairly normal psyche, because, to me, yes it is a big sacrifice to carry someone else’s child, but I imagine there is somewhat of a rewarding, fulfilling aspect to it as well.

  16. Hi Danielle, great job with your blog post! I appreciate that you explained the different kinds of surrogacies and broke down assumptions in Teeman’s article. I want to discuss the assumption that surrogates are dealing with subconscious emotional trauma. I agree with you that this ignores potential financial reasoning like we saw in Made in India. I think it is unfair to assume that woman who become surrogates are going through trauma. In fact, you could argue that woman who choose this path are emotionally mature for making this tough decision and are capable of handling the impacts of carrying a child and then not keeping it. I wish this was something Teeman explored further in their article.

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