Things have been incredibly busy at CBC these days, so I was happy to finally find the time to read the New York Times article “Desperately Seeking Surrogates”. There has been so much in the news these days about surrogacy, mostly being driven by the war in Ukraine, that it’s hard to keep up. In fact, as I am writing this, I am receiving emails about proposed changes to the surrogacy law in New York introduced by Senator Hoylman (S6386) and Assemblyman Lavine (A7674), but I’ll get to that in another article.
It’s disappointing to continue to read about couples like Charlie Lee and his husband, featured in the NY Times piece, who exploit women for their eggs and wombs. It’s repeatedly frustrating to read about surrogacy agencies exploiting the desperation of men and women to have a child. Especially because many believe that surrogacy agencies exist to create little miracles and give longing couples the family they have always dreamed of. But, in the wake of a “surrogate shortage” the New York Times author unnervingly writes, “With the current shortage, agencies have started trying to lure more surrogates in any way they can” [emphasis mine]. Doesn’t that word “lure” leave a chill down your spine?
The article states many reasons for the “shortage of surrogates”:
- Vaccine disagreements: “According to Jeff Hu, a founder and the director of SurrogateFirst in Los Angeles, Covid-19 vaccination is one issue spurring the surrogacy shortage. A number of potential surrogates”, Mr. Hu said, don’t want to get vaccinated. Many intended parents, however, are requiring their surrogates to. Mr. Hu said, as research shows a mother will pass the antibodies to the babies in utero. Additionally, recent studies show that Covid poses many risks to the pregnancy itself.” To me, this exemplifies just another example of how intended parents try to exude control over the women they hire to carry a child.
- Trouble committing due to own family planning: The article points out, as we have in the past, that many potential surrogates are military wives that use the money to boost their meager income. Even those mothers are reluctant to commit to a surrogacy contract due to their own family planning.
- Time to travel: With Covid restrictions lessoning, people are traveling again. Surrogacy obviously requires a lengthy commitment and that commitment restricts travel.
- International crisis: Surrogacy, no doubt, is expensive in the United States. For example, the couple featured in the article, Mr. Lee and his husband, are offering $50,000 to the woman that will commit to carry a baby for them. Many intended parents don’t want to, or can’t, spend that kind of cash and instead turn to poorer countries like Ukraine. War and pandemics have wreaked havoc on international surrogacy contracts. If Covid has one positive, it’s that it has highlighted the problems with international surrogacy arrangements.
Regardless of the reason, in the wake of this new “shortage”, I hope that women continue to hold out. I hope that the “shortage” grows and puts agencies out of business. The female body should not be for sale. The only solution is prohibition, not regulation.
We need to adopt a model like Spain whose Supreme Court has issued a ruling in which it restates that surrogate wombs for rent are prohibited in the country. Further, it harshly charges the agencies and contracts that profit from this type of business, stating that “gestational surrogacy contracts violate fundamental rights” to the woman and the child. We need to reverse laws in the US that allow the sale of wombs and babies, not expand on them.
“We are anxious and we are just waiting,” said Mr. Lee, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and is a student in an M.B.A. program. “There’s nothing else I can do at this point,” he said concerning the wait (15 months and counting) he and his husband are enduring to find a surrogate for their 12 embryos stuck on ice. No, there is something you can do. You can give up. You can change your mind.
You can choose to stop the exploitation now.
- Kallie Fell, MS, BSN, RN, started her professional career as a scientist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center utilizing a Master of Science degree in Animal Sciences with an emphasis on Reproductive Physiology and Molecular Biology from Purdue University. While assisting in the investigation of endometriosis and pre-term birth, Kallie simultaneously pursued a degree in nursing with hopes of working with women as a perinatal nurse. After meeting Jennifer at a conference, Kallie became interested in the work of the Center for Bioethics and Culture and started volunteering with the organization. It is obvious that Kallie is passionate about women’s health. She continues to work, as she has for the past 6 years, as a perinatal nurse and has worked with the CBC since 2018, first as a volunteer writer, then as our staff Research Associate, and now as the Executive Director. In 2021, Kallie co-directed the CBC’s newest documentary, Trans Mission: What’s the Rush to Reassign Gender? Kallie also hosts the popular podcast Venus Rising and is the Program Director for the Paul Ramsey Institute.