A new article from the Pew Charitable Trusts charts the patchwork of surrogacy legislation in the United States and abroad and considers how the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage has increased pressure for more states to legalize the practice.

One Swedish couple interviewed for the piece, whose daughter was born via surrogacy in 2014, commented:

We could have gone to India, and it might have been a positive experience for the surrogate…But we felt that maybe they would be doing it because they didn’t have any other way to survive. And when our daughter grows older, we didn’t want her to think she had been born because someone was being used.

The absurdity of this reasoning is both baffling and illuminating. Here we have couple that is supposedly concerned that the practice involves the exploitation of women—yet somehow geographic location is the only distinction that makes a difference.

If pressed to clarify, I’m sure this couple would claim something to the effect that women in India lack the ability to make free choices and are forced into the practice out of desperation, whereas women in the western world sign up for surrogacy on their own terms and with greater knowledge of what the practice entails.

The fact remains, however, that the practice of surrogacy depends on finding those of a lower class to provide services to those of means. Surrogacy—in India, the United States, or elsewhere—relies on the ability to take advantage of those of a lower social position in life and then exploits it. The entire practice fuels a market that is defined by commodifying human bodies and their parts.

Geography is a dubious distinction here—and that’s why the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, along with organizations from around the world, support a full and total ban on the practice—in the United States and anywhere this exploitative practice is given the protection of law.

Image by Mahalie via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Christopher White, Ramsey Institute Project Director