Surrogacy: What's the Big Deal?

A surrogate, or gestational carrier, is someone who carries a child for someone else.

Welcome to this, the second of a four-part series on reproductive technology! If you haven't already, check out my first post discussing where I'm coming from along with a Biblical example.

I have spent a lot of time trying to puzzle out the best way to approach reproductive technology. The problem is this: there are a lot of different options and they tend to be all mixed up together.

This post is going to deal mainly with surrogacy, a topic I am frequently asked to weigh in on. I will also briefly touch on donor eggs/sperm as well as IVF (in vitro fertilization). If you have questions about donor eggs/sperm or IVF, hold off until those posts come out.

I tend to really irritate people when it comes to surrogacy. Someone will come up to me and share that they're currently a surrogate carrying a child for another couple or they'll share that they have retained a surrogate to carry a child for them. They seem awfully put out when I don't get excited about the process. What kind of pro-life person doesn't get excited about babies?

There also seems to be this idea that I think children born from surrogacy arrangements are somehow flawed or inhuman. The response to my opinion can be an outburst of something like, "Well, my granddaughter was born through a surrogate and we're happy to have her!"

Here's the issue. I love babies, I really do. I have dedicated my life to protecting them and the mothers who carry them. There are some serious issues with surrogacy, however, and I believe as pro-life believers we need to address them. That doesn't mean that someone born of surrogacy is not a human, it just means that there are ethical problems with the process that need to be discussed.

First of all, we need to address the belief that we are entitled to have children. The Bible says many things about children. They are a reward and a responsibility. They are not, however, a right. There is no Biblical guarantee that a couple, whether or not they're living according to God's law, will have children.

As Christians, we need to realize that not all of us are called to have children. And, that's OK. If God has not blessed you with children it's not because you're sinful or you would be a bad parent, it's because He has another plan for you.

Christians are not supposed to make idols of anything, even children, and if having children has become all-consuming for you then it's time to take a step back and listen to what God has for your life. Infertility is an extremely difficult subject, especially for people who very much want to have children but are unable to do so. Some people facing infertility, like the biblical example discussed two weeks ago, decide to use a surrogate mother.

Christians are not supposed to make idols of anything, even children, and if having children has become all-consuming for you then it's time to take a step back and listen to what God has for your life.

Essentially, a surrogate (or gestational carrier) is a woman who carries a baby to term for someone else. Sometimes she uses her own eggs and the intended father's sperm. Other times she uses the intended parents' egg and sperm, the intended mother's egg and donor sperm, or both a donor egg and sperm.

When the pregnancy is complete and the baby is delivered he or she is turned over to the intended parents. The "intended parents" are the couple or individual(s) that commissioned the baby. In many cases, this is the last contact the surrogate has with the child.

What's the motivation? Sometimes parents want a child of their own and can't have one. Sometimes they're a homosexual couple who can't carry a child. Sometimes they don't want to be encumbered with a pregnancy or wish to be a single father.

For the surrogate, or gestational carrier, there is usually a significant financial incentive. Surrogates can earn tens of thousands of dollars for carrying a baby to term. During this process, their medical bills are covered and they can help provide for their families. In the United States, these women often choose surrogacy as a way to earn income while staying home with their own children.

Buying and selling humans is illegal, as it should be. What is commercial surrogacy other than buying a baby?

So, what's the problem? Seems like a great deal. Right?

Not quite.

First, in the case of surrogacy the focus isn't the wishes or well-being of the child, it's the intended parents. What do they want? Do they want a boy? Or, a girl? Will they be happy with a child with disabilities or does the child need to be perfect? When should the child be born and how much do they want to pay for him/her?

When someone commissions a child to be created the child becomes a product. Children are not things. You can't go onto Amazon and order one and you shouldn't be able to order one through a surrogacy company either. When researching this topic, I kept running into websites that boasted they had the "cheapest" place to hire a surrogate. Or, others that indicated their surrogates were "high quality." Is this really how conceiving and bearing a child should be discussed?

The surrogacy arrangement is typically governed by a contract. What happens if the intended parents want one child but two embryos "take" or one of them twins? The surrogate may be expected to have an abortion (in this case it's usually referred to as a "selective reduction" because they select a child to kill and leave the other alone). What if the child has a disability? The surrogate may be expected to have an abortion.