Against Womb Outsourcing
Surrogacy is a form of assisted reproduction in which a baby is carried in the womb of a woman for another woman, for couples that she is not part of, or for a man she is not married to. There are three forms of surrogacy: gestational or full surrogacy; genetic or partial surrogacy; and total surrogacy (Twine, 2011). With gestational or full surrogacy, an already formed embryo is implanted into the surrogate mother’s womb. The egg is not from the surrogate mother. With genetic or partial surrogacy, the surrogate mother’s egg is fertilized by the sperm of the commissioning male, thus genetically linking the surrogate mother to the baby. With total surrogacy, the surrogate mother’s egg is fertilized by a donor’s sperm. (The donor is not one of the commissioning parents).
Whatever form of surrogacy, whoever is genetically linked, the question is whether the practice should be carried on or be discontinued. (Genetically linked surrogate mothers are not likely to form a stronger bond with the babies than other surrogate mothers (Jadva et al., 2003).) Surrogacy has been seen as a solution to infertility. While the practice has helped some women have their own biological children, some fertile women have taken advantage of it and opted to use it rather than give birth by themselves. The good that surrogacy has done infertile women should not be overlooked. Its negative impacts and repercussions of should not be overlooked either. Some of the concerns raised by the practice of surrogacy include: the impact of the separation of the surrogate mother from the baby; the business nature of surrogacy in terms of its commoditization of babies; the exploitation of surrogate mothers and human rights issues; the rejection of unhealthy babies by the commissioning parents; and conflicts and disagreements among the parties involved as to the custody of and parental rights to child.
The issues that come up during a surrogate mothers’ pregnancy period can be causes of pain and psychological trauma to surrogate mothers. For instance, most Indian families prefer male children to female children. In the event that the expected baby has been found out to be a girl, Indian commissioning parents ask for the abortion of the unborn girl (Chambers, 2012). Usually, the surrogate mother never has a say in such situations. The abortion is carried out even in situations where the surrogate mother is willing to give birth and take care of the baby herself. The process of abortion itself can be physically and emotionally harmful to the mother, not to mention the possibility of long-term medical/anatomical complications. This behavior can be argued as being inhuman and amounting to a violation of human rights.
The surrogate mother can still find herself in a difficult situation if nothing stops her giving birth. In situations where the baby is born with a form of disability or any other medical condition, the commissioning parents can reject the baby. Last year, Moore-Bridger and Gidley reported of an Australian couple’s rejection of one of the twins given birth to for them by a Thai surrogate mother for the reason that the boy was born with Down syndrome (2014). The commissioning parents took the healthy baby boy’s sister with them back to Australia. The surrogate mother agreed to take care of the unhealthy baby boy in spite of her hard economic situation, which is what pushed her to surrogacy in the first place. (It is more difficult to raise a child with a medical condition than to raise a healthy one, the implication of which is a difficult time for the surrogate mother).
In most cases in which the commissioning parents are willing to take the baby, the separation can be a source of emotional and psychological suffering to the surrogate mother. The development of the baby in the surrogate mother’s womb, and the labor pain the surrogate mother experiences during the baby’s birth, creates an emotional and psychological attachment of the surrogate mother to the baby (Leon, 2008). In fact, surrogate mothers experience psychological problems not only after the detachment, but during the pregnancy period as well (Jadva, 2003). The separation causes suffering to the surrogate mother.
The surrogate mother is not the only one to whom the separation causes suffering. Studies have shown that the unborn baby is conscious about the environment around the womb it is in. From inside the womb, the fetus is capable of learning to recognize flavors, music, language melodies, and the gestational mother’s voice (Mampe et al., 2009). It is not just the separation of the baby from the surrogate mother that makes the baby suffer psychologically. In the case of gestational surrogacy, the baby’s parenting may be compromised by the absence of genetic link between the child and the commissioning parents. This can have long-term impacts on the child’s psychological development.
Surrogacy can also be seen as commoditization of babies. As such, it has no regard for human dignity. It compromises the dignity of not just the baby, but that of the surrogate mother as well. The child is only thought of as commodity that is manufactured in the surrogate mother’s womb, upon completion of which it is sold to the customers in exchange for money. It is a business that exploits surrogate mothers. The women who find themselves getting involved in baby manufacturing or the surrogacy business are, according to Overall, usually poor, uneducated, unemployed and economically desperate women, most of them from the rural areas as in the case of India (2012).
These women are exploited economically, among other ways, but they do not realize it because they do not fully know their rights. It is easy for infertility clinics to exploit the women’s naivety and profit from renting the women’s wombs. The cost of surrogacy services in developed countries like Canada and the United States ranges “between $ 30,000 and $ 70,000” whereas in India “the whole process can cost less than $20,000” (Chambers, 2012, p. 170). It was reported in Forbes that working as a surrogate mother pays $3 dollars an hour in the United States (“Surrogacy,” 2009). This pay is far much less than the legal minimum wage in the country. The Google Baby documentary revealed that while surrogacy costs $100, 000 in the United States, it could costs as less as $ 6,000 in India, which is far much less compared to the previous figure (“Google Baby,” 2010). The infertility clinics get their cut and hence make a lot of profit from the flood of people seeking the relatively cheap surrogacy services in third world countries. The fertility clinics make a lot of money out of facilitating the immoral, unethical, and exploitative process.
Lastly, surrogacy can raise issues as to the custody of, and parental rights to the child, soon after the child’s birth or after a long time. There can be up to five adults involved in the child’s conception, development in the womb and ownership: the surrogate mother, a sperm donor, an egg donor, the commissioning parents and the surrogate mother’s husband. Conflict and disagreement among all the individuals as to who the rightful owner of the child is, can arise. Also, the child may feel the need find out who he/she would consider her true parents, the process of which can be difficult
Surrogacy is a behavior that should not be tolerated in today’s world. The practice must not be seen as a justification for the physiological and emotional suffering it takes both the surrogate mother and the baby through. On the contrary, it is inhuman to put a human being through the suffering just to give birth to a baby, and have the baby go through the same. In addition, by the commoditization of babies and the exploitation of surrogate mothers, surrogacy amounts to a violation of human rights. Furthermore, surrogacy gives rise to conflicts and disagreements among the parties involved as to the child’s rightful ownership. Lastly, upon having grown up, the child may feel the need to find out who he/she considers to be her ‘rightful parents’. The process of this search can be physically and emotionally demanding, and hence be a difficult time for the seeker. Both practicing and potential surrogate mothers should be provided with social welfare and jobs to stop this unethical, cold blooded and exploitative business.
Chambers, D. (2012). A sociology of family life: Change and diversity in intimate relations.
‘Google Baby’ Follows Birth Outsourced To India (2010, June 15). Retrieved from
Jadva, V., Murray, C., Lycett, E., MacCallum, F., & Golombok, S. (2003). Surrogacy: the
experiences of surrogate mothers. Human Reproduction, 18(10), 2196-2204.
Leon, I. (2008). Psychology of reproduction: Pregnancy, parenthood, and parental ties. Global
Library of Women’s Medicine.
Mampe, Birgit, Angela Friederici, Anne Christophe, and Kathleen Wermke. 2009. Newborns’
cry melody is shaped by their native language. Current Biology 19: 1994-1997.
Moore-Bridger, B. and Gidley, I. (2014). Australian couple accused of rejecting Down’s
Baby say they never knew he existed. London Evening Standard. Retrieved from
Overall, C. (2012). Ethics and Human Reproduction (RLE Feminist Theory): A Feminist
Analysis. Hoboken: NJ: Taylor and Francis.
Twine, F. W. (2011). Outsourcing the womb: Race, class, and gestational surrogacy in a global
market. New York: Routledge.
Surrogacy: Wombs for Rent? (2009, Sept 18). Retrieved from