The case of the couple who paid a surrogate to have their fourth baby is disturbing in so many ways. As I understand the reports, the surrogate decided to keep the baby well before it was born. To further complicate matters, she has allegedly demanded money from the couple for ‘maintenance’, and it appears they have been ordered by the Child Support Agency to pay it.
This is so complicated it is hard to know where to begin, except to feel dreadfully sorry for the couple. Turning to the general question of surrogacy, I will lay my cards on the table now and say that personally, I do have a problem with the concept. For me it is another example of a consumer world where anything is available at a price. For me surrogacy does not seem to be about wanting to be a family but rather about ‘wanting a baby.’
While I understand there are many ways to become a parent including adoption, IVF or remarrying someone who already has children I do struggle with the moral issues around surrogacy. Is it morally right to pay someone to be pregnant for you? I know I’m not the first to ask that question and there are better minds on the job, but nonetheless it is a tough call.
For me it isn’t, just as it wasn’t right for the corrupt Mexican lawyer we met during our travels to adopt our daughter, to organise payment for poor women to have children by the same father so that couples could adopt children who were already a ‘family’ and looked alike. This is explained in my book Mexican Takeaway. Both situations are troubling because they are all about the needs of the parents and have nothing to do with caring for children. For the lawyer it was supply meeting demand.
It’s not just surrogacy that is the problem. It’s the fact that because it’s possible to buy something on the open market, then it is automatically assumed that it is okay to do so. You’re seventy, have money and want a baby? Sure, there’s an IVF doctor somewhere who will do it for you. Never mind about the child and their future past teenager hood with no living parent. Are you a wealthy single woman who has no need for a father but just wants someone with perfect genes? Get down to the clinic and for a tidy sum you too can have that perfect child injected into you.
What is right and what is wrong? Have we crossed a line so far we can’t see that we’ve commoditised babies into a business?