Many decades ago there was an argument that women shouldn’t have access to birth control. The argument was that they shouldn’t have the right to decide what was right for their bodies and their lives. Those opposing surrogacy based on the basis of exploitation are fighting an ideologically similar war.
They argue that any woman willing to consider surrogacy is like a child who can't assess the situation in an adult way, and needs the government to keep her from making a wrong choice. They’re arguing that women are not mentally capable of choosing to be pregnant, in the same way that they once argued that women were not mentally capable of choosing to prevent pregnancy.
Surrogacy is a controversial subject. And, just like with any other controversial subject in the world, there will always be assumptions and opinions. Some have the opinion that it is wrong for religious reasons relating to the conception of a life outside of the body. Others simply can’t comprehend why a woman would choose to become a surrogate and assume that she must have been exploited.
Whatever the motivations, many who have never even experienced surrogacy have positioned themselves to talk about why it is harmful and why it should be illegal.
In my more than two decades in the assisted reproduction arts (ART) industry, I have worked with both compensated surrogates and those who were doing it altruistically. That means that they’re acting as a surrogate for compassionate reasons and will receive no compensation in exchange for their gift.
No matter the circumstance, compensated or altruistic, surrogacy is a gift. Not a crime.
If done ethically and with proper preparation and care throughout the process, surrogacy is far from exploitation. Agencies work hard to screen and find only women with an absence of exploitable life circumstances to work with. For example:
- Ethical agencies will not work with women who earn below a certain level of income so that the risk of financial exploitation does not exist.
- Ethical agencies complete medical screenings and review all previous pregnancy and birth records of a surrogate applicant to ensure that her health is stable enough and in good enough condition to endure a pregnancy, thus removing any undue risks to her health.
- Ethical agencies complete in-depth psychological screenings to ensure pure motives, a genuine desire to help, and a vetted emotional response to any potential complications that could arise.
- Many ethical agencies will complete a home study on surrogate applicants ensuring that she is truthful about her living situation and that her home life is physically and emotionally steady enough to support a surrogacy arrangement.
- Ethical agencies will not allow women to become surrogates if they have not had their own children. They also must be raising those children.
- Ethical agencies will only work with a surrogate applicant who has the full support of her spouse or partner in order to ensure that the process doesn’t create an emotional riff in her personal life.
In the end, after weeks to months of in-depth screening, only intelligent, well adjusted, emotionally mature applicants will go on to become successful surrogates with reputable agencies.
By this point in the process industry professionals have explained the process and any potential risks involved with the surrogate many times, each time giving her the opportunity to ask questions or back out of the arrangement entirely.
But that’s not where the dedication to informed consent ends. Next time we’ll talk about how an ethical agency stays with her through her entire medical, conception, pregnancy, and recovery journey. At each step, offering support and proving that, when done right, surrogacy is not exploitation. See you next time.