“Inside India’s international baby farm” ought to give us chills -- baby farm? Babies are not animals, they are human beings. The story is told in endearing fashion, but the ethics of surrogacy are too grim to be glossed over. As I have said many times on this blog, all human beings (and thus born and unborn children) have intrinsic dignity that is unique to us as humans. And so, the method by which children are born matters too.
In a previous post on Peter Singer’s low view of human life, I wrote that “the tendency to refer to creation of new life as 'reproduction' rather than 'procreation' implies that babies are primarily ours for the making, rather than gifts of infinite value.” The same applies to surrogacy. Some our readers may have been born because of a surrogate mother, may have used a surrogate to have children, or may be considering this reproductive technology. But before assuming that surrogacy is best for all parties involved, consider what “goods” are being advanced through surrogacy. According to Nicola Smith’s article, 50 Indian women are being paid for use of their wombs. Their wombs! Our bodies are not mere machines for reproduction and wombs are not spaces for rent.
One couple featured in Smith’s article discuss their experience with surrogacy. Alison, the mother, is quoted as saying “it’s a difficult issue and everyone has to form their own opinion.” Her view, instead of being grounded in absolute truth, is relativism. Her husband, William, adds, “I don’t personally feel bad. These women are all adults and they know what they’re doing. The reason is mainly financial and it gives them a chance to improve their lives. Are they being exploited? I don’t think so.”
“I don’t personally feel bad” follows his wife’s understanding of surrogacy and babymaking as primarily a personal enterprise that affects no one else and is related only to one’s desires. The Indian women who are selling themselves as surrogates are indeed being exploited -- sure, they may be adults but mere age does not entail understanding or correctness of choice. These are women who need protection and options other than renting their wombs. The financial gain surrogates may receive neglects the intrinsic problems with surrogacy and human dignity -- our bodies are not for rent! And babies deserve to be carried in the wombs of their biological mothers. Impoverished women selling themselves are hardly improving their lives. Don’t overlook the problems and justify the issue. Having children is a deep and good desire, but this desire does not justify using any means available to have a child.