Last night before heading off to bed I happened to check my email, only to read this unbelievable headline – “Obama Administration Allows Fertility Clinics To Sell US Citizenship.” Boy, did that catch my eye!

I’ve just finished reading the Policy Alert issued by the Department of Homeland Security. You can read it here but the gist of it is laid out in these three points:

  • A “natural mother” or “natural father” is a genetic parent or gestational parent. Accordingly, the “natural mother” of a child born out of wedlock includes a non-genetic gestational mother if she is the legal parent at the time of birth.
  • A gestational mother has a petitionable relationship without a genetic relationship to the child, as long as she is also the child’s legal parent at the time of birth.
  • A non-genetic gestational legal mother who is a U.S. citizen may transmit citizenship at birth, or after birth, when all other pertinent citizenship and naturalization requirements are met.

What are the implications of this policy?

First, it will encourage much more reproductive tourism. If anyone from another country wants access to U.S. citizenship for their child, all they have to do is hire a woman in the U.S. to serve as their surrogate. This will no doubt raise the price a surrogate can charge. I can only imagine the advertising and marketing that will come when the wealthy want to buy their way into the U.S.

Second, nothing in this policy even hits at questions of whether surrogacy might be bad for women or children. Rather, it sends a very clear message that surrogacy is good policy, something our organization has been pushing back on for years.

Finally, it seems to me that the claiming the surrogate is the mother until citizenship is conferred on the child and then quickly asking the mother to terminate her maternal parentage status for the “intended parents” instrumentalizes motherhood in the worst ways. Is the surrogate a mother or isn’t she?

Sadly, we’ve just opened the flood gates and hung a sign out at our borders saying “Babies for Sale! Complete with U.S. Citizenship!”

Author Profile

Jennifer Lahl, CBC Founder
Jennifer Lahl, CBC Founder
Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.