Mommy War: Surrogate vs. Bio

William Saletan considers what happens when you can't pay the woman carrying your baby.

Topics: Broadsheet, Health, Love and Sex,

SurroGenesis USA, a firm that brokered arrangements between infertile couples and surrogates, recently sent its clients an e-mail that can be summed up like so: Dear Expectant Moms and Dads, You know those massive payments you made to us so that we could make your dream come true by arranging for a woman to give birth to your biological child? Yeah, well, the money is gone. All of it. About $2 million that you all gave us just — poof! — disappeared. Weird, right? And now we can’t pay the surrogate carrying your baby! Oops, our bad. Then they permanently closed up shop and now the FBI is checking them out.

This enraging story stirred Slate’s William Saletan to return to his philosophizing about surrogacy and abortion — because, of course, some of the surrogates might opt out of their now unpaid pregnancies. “Surrogates aren’t mercenaries. But they do need to be paid for their sacrifices,” he writes. “If you stop paying your surrogate, she needs to quit and find another job, just like any other worker.” Well, she doesn’t necessarily need to, but it’s certainly within her rights to quit, just as it would be regardless of whether the cash flow suddenly dried up. He continues: “But surrogacy isn’t like any other job. The only way to quit a pregnancy is to abort it.” That just might be the decision some of these women make. Saletan prays “the women carrying these pregnancies will see them through,” though, “even if the company that hired them doesn’t.”

You Might Also Like

This is a sympathetic position — what person wouldn’t want these couples, who have likely lost their life savings, to have their bio-baby! — and similar to the one Saletan took in his column last week.  He wrote about a case he said morally complicates the pro-choice argument: A Japanese woman was accidentally implanted with another baby-seeker’s embryo and became pregnant; after the mistake was discovered, she decided to abort at eight weeks without the other woman’s consent or knowledge. He then posed a polemical question: Is that right, is it morally OK to abort another woman’s fetus? In response, Broadsheet’s Amy Benfer offered up a refresher on Repro-Rights 101: Men — who, like egg donors, contribute half the genetic material required for a pregnancy  — don’t get to decide whether a pregnancy is carried to term because they aren’t the ones carrying it to term. Why should it be any different in a case of swapped embryos?

Indeed, this latest column prompts a similar question: Why should it be any different when it comes to surrogacy? Like Saletan, I would love for these couples — who are victims of crime and should be paid major damages — to get the babies they have been anxiously anticipating, but it simply, painfully isn’t their decision. I generally enjoy the kind of philosophical gymnastics that are part of Saletan’s routine and, for that matter, any contrarian who can consistently set your brain aflame; I don’t enjoy feeling led on by a politically motivated mental exercise, though. When Saletan asks me to picture myself in one of these anomalous and horrific situations, in which another woman is carrying my baby, it makes my heart drop, my stomach churn — and all those other clichés that convey absolute devastation. It doesn’t, however, make me reconsider that most fundamental pro-choice principle: It’s her body. Abortion is absolutely a complex moral issue, which is why it’s a decision a woman should get to make about her own body, but these cases don’t present us with essentially new ethical challenges in the realm of reproductive rights.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>