Friday, January 04, 2008

A Modern Day "Handmaid's Tale"?

In the latest and, in my opinion, grotesque twist on medical tourism, Judith Warner, author of “"Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" and host of "The Judith Warner Show" on XM Satellite Radio, writes about the commercialization of surrogate motherhood in India. Her report can be found on the New York Times “Domestic Disturbances” blog, located here.

Many of us have talked, debated and written on the topic of surrogate motherhood, but all too often in the academic abstract. For someone like myself, who has thought about surrogacy in terms of commodification and exploitation, it is interesting to read Ms. Warner take on the issue, especially when she states “Our rules of decency seem to differ when the women in question are living in abject poverty, half a world away. Then, selling one’s body for money is not degrading but empowering.”


SabrinaW said...

This has enormous potential to get ugly quickly - there have already been conflicts over surrogacy in America, and bringing international and inter-cultural dynamics into the mix will only complicate things more.

There are a lot of ideological conflicts too - how can a line be drawn between this type of "body renting" and other types, such as sex prostitution? There is no longer a procedural difference, only a substantive difference (one goal is seen as pleasant and desirable, the other is seen as merely crass), and in a free society, can such differences be effectively enforced to the extent of encouraging one and rendering the other illegal and shameful?

MLO said...

Actually, surrogacy makes MORE sense in India than it does in the USA. The genetic parents are legally the parents by Indian law - the US has a patchwork of laws that only contribute to lawsuits.

Also, in real terms, the women in India are making much, much more than surrogates in the West. So, the question is really, why are western women being exploited?

Of course, I, for one, am for the legalization and regulation of prostitution. I'm tired of the religious nuts controlling the debate.



J.E. Cochran said...

I believe that the idea of surrogacy has the potential to help loads of people, until someone starts using the women in other countries, as human "blackberrys": Commodities to make life faster and simpler. The idea that ideas laws favor genetic parents, even if its true, isnt necessarily a license to go and rent other people's bodies.
Conversely, knowing something about idea, the women value the chance to better lives. If bearing babies for rich snobs is the way to do it, they dont see it as a problem.

The question really is: Is something exploitation if neither the "exploitee" nor the "exploiter" object.

Bea said...

Commercial surrogacy is rightly a contentious issue, but I must strongly object to JE Cochran's portrayal of its use as something done by "rich snobs" to make life "faster and simpler".

Please have the depth of understanding to acknowledge that turning to a surrogate is an incredibly difficult decision made by highly unfortunate couples. Only then can we start to debate the issue in a reasonable manner.


MLO said...

J.E. Cochrane,

How incredibly ignorant to say "rich snobs." Do you know what type of women actually use surrogates?

Women born with bicornate uteruses
Women who have lost their uteruses due to medical malfeasance such as a burst gallbladder that causes an infection demanding the removal of said uterus.
Women born without a uterus.

So, no, they are not rich snobs. Surrogacy is the LAST thing most people turn to. (If you don't have a uterus, there are no other options.) Why do you think the Saudi's have been working so hard to transplant uteruses? Women want to carry their own child, but if they can't there is this option.

Now, if you really want to stop this, support research on growing uteruses for women and / or creating artificial uteruses. But, the same people who say the things you have said are against that kind of research as well.

Anonymous said...

Infertility cannot be cured by baby brokering, buying, trafficking, pandering... call it what you will. It's still Sexual (reproductive) Slavery... and it stinks.

If it's illegal and unethical to buy, sell, broker your liver or your kidney, then the same ethics should apply to ova, sperm, and all body parts.