“The Vatican is against surrogate mothers. Good thing they didn’t have that rule when Jesus was born.”
Forms of Surrogacy
Couples who are unable to have a child due to any number of medical conditions are increasingly utilizing the services of surrogates. Surrogacy involves one woman carrying the biological child of a couple to term. The two common processes of surrogacy are the traditional and the gestational.
In the traditional process, the surrogate is inseminated with donated sperm, and the surrogate mother is also the biological mother. In the gestational process, the biological parents donate the egg and the sperm. The egg is fertilized in the laboratory and then, implanted into the uterus of the surrogate in a process called a blastocyst transfer. The success rate of this method has increased by 10% in recent years.
To become a surrogate usually requires that a number of health tests be administered to determine eligibility, including a hysteroscopy to determine the size, shape and health of the uterus. Other tests include an infectious disease test, a pap smear. Another important test is a psychological one, which determines belief and the level of commitment to the process, as well as addressing the likelihood of some level of emotional bonding with the child during pregnancy and potential sense of loss upon completion of the process. Sometimes, mock trial pregnancies are conducted with the use of estrogen.
Legal Issues About Parental Surrogate
Experts estimate that approximately a thousand children each year are born in the U.S. as a result of the use of a parental surrogate. Other countries in which the use of a parental surrogate is legal include Russia and the Ukraine. In many European countries, including France, Italy, Germany and Spain, the use of a parental surrogate to conceive a child is still illegal.
Although soliciting a parental surrogate is illegal in the U.K., a non-profit organization called Surrogacy UK supports couples seeking surrogates through process of introduction of people interested in participating in the process. The number of people who, after being introduced, are able to forge a personal relationship between themselves with the level of trust required for the lengthy process of surrogacy is not a matter of public record. However, the laws may soon be changing. Despite surrogacy being illegal, as of 2014, the number of babies registered in Britain showed a 255% increase over the previous six years.
In India, where the use of a parental surrogate is legal, it is estimated that up to 40,000 children are born to surrogates each year. One of the reasons for that high figure is that in India, the cost is approximately $60,000, less than half of the average cost of $150,000 in the U.S. Thailand is also a favored destination for couples seeking a parental surrogate. A surrogate mother there receives the modest sum of only $13,000 dollars for her services, the majority of the fee going to brokers and doctors.
Ethical Concerns Surrounding Surrogacy
Despite the increase in the number of couples utilizing a parental surrogate, the industry remains largely unregulated. The lack of regulation leaves a number of ethical questions without legal answer and can also result in unforeseen events having life-long consequences.
One ethical issue is the potential exploitation of women living in poverty, but there are others, both from religious and ethical perspectives. One example of is that of an Australian couple who hired a surrogate in Thailand. She became pregnant with twins, one of whom was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome in utero. The couple advised the surrogate to abort the child, but the surrogate refused. The couple accepted the other twin, but left the infant with Down’s syndrome to be raised by the surrogate.
Another ethical considerations is whether or not the surrogate mother has a right to remain informed regarding the health and welfare of the child. Many parents who utilize the services of a surrogate do maintain a life-long relationship with the surrogate. However, unlike legal open adoptions, which are more regulated, they are not legally required to do so. Just as with adopted children, parents of children born to a surrogate using the traditional method must also consider the ethical question of whether their child has a right to know about their biological origins. Many believe that knowledge of one’s true origins is vital not only for health reasons, but for developing a healthy personal identity.
Despite the potential for ethics violations, the use of surrogacy has brought untold joy to live lives of thousands of hopeful would-be parents. Many surrogate mothers have reported that participating in bringing joy into the lives of others in this has increased the joy in their own lives as well.