The film is also available in French: “Breeders – une sous-catégorie de femmes?”
THE CENTER FOR BIOETHICS AND CULTURE presents BREEDERS: A SUBCLASS OF WOMEN?
Written, Directed, and Produced by JENNIFER LAHL and MATTHEW EPPINETTE
Cinematography by CAMERON SHAW Edited by BRENDAN KRUSE
COLOR | RUN TIME APPROX. 52 MINUTES
Director’s Statement on Breeders: A Subclass of Women?
Surrogacy is fast becoming one of the major issues of the 21st century—celebrities and everyday people are increasingly using surrogates to build their families. But the practice is fraught with complex implications for women, children, and families. What is the impact on the women who serve as surrogates and on the children who are born from surrogacy? In what ways might money complicate things? What about altruistic surrogacy done for a family member or close friend? Is surrogacy a beautiful, loving act or does it simply degrade pregnancy to a service and a baby to a product? Can we find a middle ground? Should we even look for one?
From The Center for Bioethics and Culture, producers of the award-winning Eggsploitation (2010, 2013), and Anonymous Father’s Day (2011), Breeders: A Subclass of Women? explores this important issue, talking with surrogates, physicians, psychologists, and activists across the political and ideological spectrum.
About Think Again
Think Again is a campaign to protect the most vulnerable among us from exploitation.
La maternité de substitution est en passe de devenir l’un des grands enjeux du 21ème siècle. Les vedettes et les gens ordinaires utilisent de plus en plus des femmes porteuses pour fonder leur famille. Mais la pratique est lourde de conséquences complexes pour les femmes, les enfants et les familles. Quel est l’impact sur les femmes qui servent de substituts et sur les enfants qui sont nés de mères porteuses? De quelle manière est-ce que l’argent pourrait compliquer les choses? Qu’en est-il de la maternité de substitution altruiste faite pour un membre de la famille ou un ami proche? La maternité de substitution est-elle un bel acte d’amour ou réduit-elle la grossesse à un service et le bébé à un produit? Pouvons-nous trouver un terrain d’entente? Faut-il encore en chercher un?
From the idealized view of surrogacy as an altruistic choice to satisfy an infertile couple’s longing for a child, Breeders moves through the too-often unexamined and disturbing reality of surrogacy. The film takes a compassionate look at the emotional and physical impact on the surrogate, but also, importantly, on the child. Breeders is an important new contribution to the dialogue about this unregulated and expanding practice.
— Patricia Ireland, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), 1991 – 2001, Author of What Women Want
Breeders dares to go where few documentaries have dared yet to take us and where the assisted reproduction/family building industry really doesn’t want us to go: the dark heart of surrogacy where women with less financial means are treated like vessels and the children created are products made to fit the adult needs. For anyone who doesn’t want to believe that “modern family building” involves contracts, injections, donors, lawyers and payments changing hands, a strong dose of reality and compassion could be salvaged by watching this film.
— Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, writer, speaker, activist on adoptee rights, and organizer of the Adoptee Rights Coalition. She blogs at Musings of the Lame
Great documentaries move the viewer with simple facts, delivered in first-person accounts. Breeders accomplishes this. It offers the facts about the market for eggs and wombs from the lips of the sellers, while it overwhelms you with the human consequences of a trade in human beings.
— Helen M. Alvare, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
Jennifer Lahl’s eye-opening interviews with surrogates, doctors, psychologists, and advocates across the political spectrum explain why surrogacy is either illegal or far more limited in other industrialized countries. Two NOW officials weigh in on the commodification of the financially strapped women who become surrogates and the widely ignored increased risk of maternal death in gestational surrogacy. Surrogates describe medical and emotional nightmares for themselves and the children involved; one who was allowed to visit the child to whom she’d given birth when the little girl was five months old describes finding that the until then constantly collicky infant did nothing but sleep peacefully on the surrogate’s chest the whole time she was there. Until then, she says, “I at no point in time thought about how it would affect her.” Perhaps most sobering, though, are the words of a young woman who was the result of such an arrangement: “Most of the consideration is for the adults” who can afford to effectively buy their children, she says, exploiting both the women hired to bear them and the children whose “foundation of existence is a contract, and money.”
— Melinda Henneberger, Washington Post
Breeders is a fascinating film that highlights the many tensions between women’s status, the free market demands of the fertility industry, and the fragmentation of women’s fertility and reproductive labor. This is a must-see film for all those who care about women and human rights.
— Hedva Eyal, Medical Technologies Policy Researcher and feminist activist, Israel
Breeders takes a hard look at the often unacknowledged bioethical complexities, and individual and societal risks, associated with the global rise of commercial surrogacy. Its thoughtful analysis and interviews with a range of surrogates, family building brokers, and health professionals make important connections between those who purchase assisted reproductive technology services, the poor women who exchange their wombs for cash, and the impact third-party reproduction has on children and families.
— Miriam Zoll, author of Cracked Open: Liberty, Fertility and the Pursuit of High-Tech Babies
Anyone who cares about women, about children, and about human dignity should watch this film. The film hits the economic injustice and personal exploitation of the global surrogacy market with precision and compassion. This movie will awaken your conscience, regardless of where you stand politically. Women aren’t breeders, and children aren’t products. This film shows us, brilliantly, why that matters to us all.
— Russell D. Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention
Those who may doubt the truth of the old adage that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” will have their doubts erased by this remarkable film. It powerfully indicts an industry that promises the infertile the joy of a baby but treats women as breeders and children as products. What began with laudable intentions ushered in a form of dehumanization. Jennifer Lahl has done the nation a great service by drawing attention to it.
— Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University
Jennifer Lahl has made a powerful documentary about “surrogacy” as it unfolds in the U.S. for several women with diverse experiences. She, and they, raise many questions that strip the sugar-coating from what may really happen to women and children when babies are made for others. “Breeders” may strike some as a harsh label for the women who go through a pregnancy for another to whom they will give the babies (if) born. But seeing this film exposes the very problematic aspects of this highly commercialized — and seriously unregulated — global activity that need to be understood to have a true picture of this bit of the “baby business” and parenting. It should be required viewing for all of us, not only those taking part in these exchanges.
— Abby Lippman, PhD, Professor Emerita McGill University; Research Associate, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, and longtime feminist activist with special interests in women’s health and women’s health policies. She has one foot based in academia and the other, the foot she favors, involves her in social justice and reproductive activism with community groups in Montreal and beyond its borders.
This fascinating documentary raises urgent issues for humanity that transcend existing political divisions. It explores the ramifications of the market’s intrusion into women’s bodies and its inevitable undermining of bodily integrity, human dignity and autonomy. The film exposes commercial surrogacy’s devaluation of the bond of human gestation and some of the tragic consequences of the deliberate destruction of the primal relationship between newborns and their mothers. Thankfully, this film promises to stimulate a long-overdue expansion of the public debate on this topic.
— Diane Beeson is Professor Emerita of Sociology, California State University, East Bay and Associate Director of the Alliance for Humane Biotechnology.
In this powerful documentary, surrogacy, perceived as ‘the gift of life’ by many, is exposed for what it really is: a dangerous unequal business transaction between rich people buying a baby and poor women whose bodies and lives are harmed and exploited. Through the diverse stories of four brave women we learn about the heartaches this cruel game of commodifying women as ‘breeders’ causes: to the women who suffer bodily and emotional pain, to the children born of surrogacy who feel abandoned or bought. A must watch for anyone who wants to learn about ‘free’ reproductive slavery 21st century style.
— Dr. Renate Klein is a long-time feminist author and critic of reproductive technologies, co-founder of FINRRAGE (Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering), and former Professor of Women’s Studies at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
The desire to love a child is a beautiful one and infertility is a heartbreaking pain. As we rush to remake family using all technology available to us, pushing aside wise law, veiling the commodification of life in euphemism, this documentary is an alarming wake-up call. Breeders stands athwart this dehumanization yelling Stop! Please, listen to the brave victims of cries of “love” and “hope.” Our desires can never justify human servitude.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez, Editor-at-large National Review Online & nationally syndicated columnist
Spiking Surrogacy, The Dish
Writing in the NRO, Jennifer Lahl issues a call to end surrogate motherhood…Mark Joseph Stern seizes on the piece, arguing that “the larger question of surrogacy is poised to cause a catastrophic rift within the conservative movement as a whole”:
The case of an Australian couple accused of abandoning their child with his Thai surrogate mother after discovering he had Down syndrome — and taking home his healthy twin — has turned global attention to the murky underworld of international surrogacy.
Such cases have raised ethical and legal dilemmas, which experts say are the inevitable consequences of an unregulated multibillion-dollar industry dependent on impoverished women in developing countries providing a “product” — a child — so desperately wanted by would-be parents in wealthier nations.
End Third-Party Conception Arrangements, National Review Online
Regulations can’t solve the tangle of moral wrongs that beset surrogate motherhood.
How Surrogacy Can Create Victims, Daily Signal
Surrogacy remains a morally fraught issue even as an increasing number of couples—unable to have children naturally—opt to have a surrogate bear their children. (These children are either biologically related to their parents or conceived through egg and/or sperm donation). Between 2004 and 2006, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine reported a 30 percent increase of live births via surrogacy in the United States, bringing the total to 1,059 in 2006, the latest year for which data on surrogacy is available.
Coming to U.S. for Baby, and Womb to Carry It, New York Times
At home in Lisbon, a gay couple invited friends over to a birthday celebration, and at the end of the evening shared a surprise — an ultrasound image of their baby, moving around in the belly of a woman in Pennsylvania being paid to carry their child.
When we think of surrogacy, we often think of a woman and a couple coming together to create a new life. We see happy faces and beautiful babies like the twins Sarah Jessica Parker welcomed via surrogate, but Jennifer Lahl says there’s definitely a darker side to the process. In her new film, Breeders?, the former pediatric nurse and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network explores a side to surrogacy that we don’t see on TV or read about in the papers. The film features several surrogates speaking about the physical, emotional, and psychological toll that their “good deed” took on them and the child they carried. Their stories, which include abortion, legal battles, and near-death experiences, open viewers’ eyes to the flaws that exist in, what appears to be, a perfect solution to a heartbreaking problem.
A recent People magazine story reported on a “paralyzed bride” whose college friend offered to be her pregnancy surrogate. Rachelle Friedman’s neck had been broken at her bachelorette party when one of her bridesmaids playfully pushed her. Fast forward a few years later, and Friedman and her husband Chris Chapman anxiously await the birth of their first child via Rachelle’s college friend Laurel Humes, who has agreed to be their surrogate.
Sherri Shepherd’s Surrogate Baby, Aleteia
“It’s cases like this that underscore the fact that we need in the United States a comprehensive ban against surrogacy,” said Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. “Children are seen as products or commodities we can at will contract for, and then can at will say ‘No thank you, I don’t want that child.’” It’s for this reason that Lahl producd the film Breeders: A Subclass of Women?
Missouri Surrogate Supports New Jersey Family, Columbia Daily Tribune
Center for Bioethics and Culture President Jennifer Lahl said surrogacy is not like what is seen on TV or in magazines. Lahl, who worked on the documentary “Breeders: A Subclass of Women?” said a primal wound is inflicted on a child that has been separated from his or her birth mother. She said ethical questions arise when the child has a disability or if the parents break up before the child is born. “There are really bad situations” that can come from surrogacy, Lahl said.
Jessica Kern was sixteen the day she found the missing puzzle piece that finally made her life make sense.
Jennifer Lahl, who has 25 years’ experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, told ABC News that separating a child from its birth mother is morally reprehensible because it creates a ‘primal wound’.
Woman Sets Out to Ban Surrogacy, ABC News
“It always strikes me that the children are so absent in the discussions,” Lahl told ABC News. “It’s all about adults – who wants, who needs, who buys and what I can get.”
Gestational surrogacy is poorly regulated and can often be problematic, filmmakers claim.
Confessions of a Surrogate Mother, New York Post
When surrogate mom Jessica Szalacinski told her tween son she was planning on having a baby for a male couple in New York City, he refused to speak to her for three whole days.
Child of Surrogacy Campaigns to Outlaw the Practice, New York Post
When Jessica Kern gave evidence to lawmakers in Washington, DC, last summer opposing the legalization of surrogacy in the district, she was pointedly asked why she wasn’t grateful for the procedure that created her.
In 1987, Charlotte Lee agreed to become a traditional surrogate mother for her barren sister. Lee grew up in an abusive home, so she relished the opportunity to help create a loving family for her sister and her husband. After four attempts to become pregnant through insemination with her brother-in-law’s sperm, Lee joyfully announced a successful pregnancy.
The Other Side of Surrogacy You Need to Know About, Women’s Health
Carrying and giving birth to another couple’s child is bound to come with complications—and we’re not just referring to the health risks associated with being a surrogate. There’s also the matter of what pregnancy-related expenses (if any) you should be compensated for—and visitation rights for the surrogate need to be established. Of course, there are also the unexpected issues that can happen after the baby is born—such as dealing with the emotional attachment between a surrogate and a newborn. And these are just a small sampling of the rarely discussed topics that a documentary called Breeders: A Subclass of Women? aims to shed light on.
Center for Bioethics and Culture Founder Releases Documentary on Harmful Effects of Surrogacy, Lozier Institute
Jennifer Lahl, founder of the Center for Bioethics and Culture and an award-winning film director, recently released her latest documentary entitled Breeders: A Subclass of Women?. The new film examines the harmful consequences of surrogacy. Breeders? concludes her three-part film series on sexual reproductive technologies. The first installment, Eggsploitation (California Independent Film Festival Best Documentary, 2011), highlighted the risks for women in selling their eggs, and was followed by Anonymous Father’s Day (2012) which featured the stories of men and women conceived as a result of sperm donation.
The legality of surrogacy is currently on the hotplate of political discussions throughout the nation. Just last weekend, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed a bill for the second time to legalize compensated surrogacy for married, heterosexual couples. A bill introduced in D.C. last year would allow residents above the age of 21 to enter into surrogacy agreements. After the parents agree to pay medical expenses, the gestational carrier surrenders her rights to raise the child. In New York, State Senator Brad Hoylman is co-sponsoring a proposed law to overturn the current prohibition, making compensated surrogacy legal.
Wombs For Rent?, Dead Reckoning.TV
Jennifer Lahl of the Center for Bioethics and Culture talks about her new documentary, Breeders: A New Subclass of Women? and the moral, legal, and cultural problems of surrogacy.
Women as Breeders?, Women Speak for Themselves
Breeders?, breaks open the issue of surrogacy by revealing what shiny, happy surrogacy ads fail to reveal: the real struggles on the part of the surrogate moms, and the kids they bear. The film explores surrogacy from every angle, ethical, legal, medical and psychological. It’s all there.
Interview: Jennifer Lahl on Breeders: A Subclass of Women?, Human Life Review
Ms. Lahl, whose Breeders? completes a trilogy of documentary films on artificial reproductive technologies, has been a pediatric nurse and hospital administrator for 25 years. She is also a member of the editorial board of Ethics & Medicine. Her previous films, Eggsploitation (2010) and Anonymous Father’s Day (2012), considered ethical problems for donors and resultant children of sperm and egg donation. Breeders? examines the moral issues posed by surrogacy, a growing phenomenon with the rise in infertility and the emergent same-sex-marriage movement’s quest for parenthood. Ms. Lahl discussed her film and surrogacy with John Grondelski.
Surrogacy Industry a Return to the Dark Days, Sidney Morning Herald
Adelaide couple Mark and Matt, both 29, have acquired Thai-designed newborns Tate and Estelle through commercialised surrogacy overseas. According to Adelaide’s Sunday Mail, the dual boy-girl delivery an hour apart by caesarean section to separate surrogate women for gay parents is believed to be an Australian first.
Surrogacy and the Commodification of Human Life, Breakpoint
Increasingly, infertile couples are turning to surrogate pregnancy. And it’s become a big business — with winners and losers.
Breeders?: A Cautionary Tale, Acton
It is a cautionary tale, and a very sad one. The film focuses on women who chose to be surrogates (one chose surrogacy several times), and the turmoil that arose. The issue of surrogacy comes down to the buying and selling of children, one woman states; contracts and money are involved. Yet, one lawyer interviewed admits surrogacy is a “chaotic” area of the law – there are few standards and precedents to help when things go wrong, as they often do.
Jennifer Lahl’s Breeders? Completes Trilogy on Reproductive Technology, National Catholic Register
Jennifer Lahl has just released her latest film, Breeders: A Subclass of Women?, which examines the unexpected problems that arise when women are contracted to serve as surrogate mothers and children discover that their conception was the outcome of a commercial transaction.
Breeding Exploitation, National Review Online
Breeders? opens a window into surrogacy and its devaluing and demeaning of women and life, showing the details of an industry in which realities are often masked by unobjectionable words like “hope,” assuming the best of intentions and practices.
Director’s Statement on Breeders: A Subclass of Women?
Film Puts Surrogacy Under Examination As Legislation Is Debated Nationwide
Producers of Breeders: A Subclass of Women? to Hold Special Screenings In New York City & Washington, D.C.
PLEASANT HILL, Calif., June 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Jennifer Lahl and The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network (CBC), producers of the award-winning documentary, Eggsploitation (2010) and Anonymous Father’s Day (2011), announced they will host special screenings of their new film, Breeders: A Subclass of Women?, on June 18 in New York City and June 19 in Washington, D.C.
The legality of surrogacy is currently on the hotplate of political discussions throughout the nation. Just last weekend…[continue reading…]
Here is a two-page fact sheet highlighting and providing references to medical and scientific literature on issues that arise in third-party reproduction. The information is divided into three sections that address (1) health and psychological risks to women serving as egg vendors or surrogates, (2) health and psychological risks to the children born via third party reproductive arrangements, and (3) serious problems associated with the commercialization of conception.
Here is a one-page fact sheet on the drugs that are commonly used for women in gestational surrogacy pregnancies. It includes a list and brief discussion of the drugs commonly used to prepare the surrogate for embryo transfer.
Think Again: A Study Guide on the Legal, Medical, and Ethical Questions of Third Party Reproduction is intended for a wide audience as we aim to meet the needs of high school groups, university students, law groups, church groups, and any other group interested in the issues of third party reproduction. Most importantly, the study guide is available for FREE in order to maximize distribution and use. You can download it here.
In the months ahead, we encourage you to utilize this invaluable resource and let us know how it works. If you have suggestions or feedback, please let us know as well! We plan to update and modify the study guide on a regular basis, so your input is essential to its success. And remember, if you’re interested in screening one of our films on your campus or for your organization, please do not hesitate to let us know!
State-by-State Summary of Surrogacy
This chart briefly summarizes the relevant laws and court decisions regarding surrogacy for each state.
Worldwide Surrogacy Laws
Worldwide Surrogacy Laws by Comment on Reproductive Ethics
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We welcome small home and community screenings of Breeders. Here are a few guidelines to help you get your screening set up:
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- Let us know if you would like one of the filmmakers present at your showing to discuss the film. Travel costs and honorarium must be covered.
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