India has long been an international center of biological colonialism, including a shameful industry in surrogate motherhood, in which desperate destitute women sell their gestational capacities — occasionally at the cost of their lives. Now, a bill (SB 162) has overwhelmingly passed the Louisiana Legislature that will bring biological colonialism to the Pelican State by establishing an industry in surrogate motherhood. Hmm. Perhaps they should change the state’s moniker to the Stork State.
Of course, the term “surrogate mother” has long gone out of fashion in the powerful infertility industry. Rather, women who give birth to others’ children are known by the dehumanizing terms of “gestational carrier” or “gestational surrogate,” which makes me think “brood mare” every time I see it.
In any event, “genetic surrogacy” would remain outlawed — that is a mother agreeing to carry her own child for money to be given to others. But “gestational surrogacy,” in which a woman is impregnated with the biological embryo of others, would become a legal Louisiana industry. And guess which women would (mostly) be desperate enough to carry babies for others, to be compensated for things like living expenses and costs of travel? It sure won’t be the professional classes, the people most likely to rent the wombs!
Kathleen Parker has a good column raising some pertinent objections. From, “Surrogacy Exposed:”
There is a dark underbelly to the surrogacy industry — and it is a business — including a burgeoning industry that preys on vulnerable women, commodifying them as “ovens” — a term Smith [the bill’s sponsor] himself used. Never mind repercussions for the children themselves, who may have as many as five “parents” — from the egg and sperm donors, to the woman who carries them to the couple or single parent who adopts them . . .
The simplicity of the human desire for children notwithstanding, there’s nothing simple about the surrogacy business — and we haven’t scraped the surface of the metaphysical, spiritual, emotional and psychological issues with which a brief flirtation evokes mind-twisting complexities. Physical concerns, meanwhile, are plentiful.
Indeed. It used to be that women were commodified primarily for their sexual functions and features. Today, their reproductive parts and biological functions are being turned into natural resources to be exploited by those who can pay the tab.
Parker’s conclusion nails it:
While no one wishes to cause pain to people who, for whatever reason, can’t have a child on their own, there are more compelling principles and consequences in play. Human babies are not things; their mothers are not ovens. But bartering and selling babies-to-order sure make them seem that way. By turning the miracle of life into a profit-driven, state-regulated industry, the stork begins to resemble a vulture.