According to welfare economics, a decision is rational as long as the parties involved have all possible information (and the consumer chooses consistently, but for the sake of this argument, we are concerned with complete information).
Most often, a surrogate mother does not have enough information to make a rational decision, as she does not know what it means to be separated from her newborn.
Therefore, her consent cannot be considered valid due to a lack of information. More so, the act of buying and selling human life is rashly unethical and degrading, both to the child and the mother.
Commercial surrogate motherhood, therefore, is both economically and morally incorrect and should not be legal (note: I have specified “commercial”).
Morally speaking, a contract that requires a mother to give away her child is outrageous in itself, but to accept money in exchange is simply degrading to the mother as well as the child. The father is only required to pay the medical expenses of this transaction. The likely expenditure on therapy, after having been separated from her child, falls on the mother.
Let us assume that the father agrees to pay for the therapy. This would at most heal the wounds but not erase the scars. Depression caused by the loss of a child is not something that any form of therapy can completely cure.
Another fundamental issue with commercial surrogate motherhood is that the child is never taken into consideration.
We never consider the impact on the child who has just realized that his parents had bought him off a market. His fear of not being loved will pressure him into expressing the characteristics that his parents had intended to purchase.
Many argue for commercial surrogate motherhood claiming that every citizen has the right to procreate and the freedom of contract.
The truth is that the right to procreate implies “being able to create and sustain a family life with some integrity,” as E.S. Anderson states in “Is Woman’s Labor A Commodity?”
Surrogate motherhood effectively destroys a family before creating another, as it first separates the mother from her newborn child.
Also, there is no integrity in the buying and selling of human life. Thus, legalizing surrogate motherhood would violate the true implication of the right to procreate.
The freedom of contract is “already constrained, notably in preventing the purchase and sale of human beings,” according to Anderson. Therefore, these two rights can’t justify commercial surrogate motherhood.
It is often said that the surrogate woman’s labor is the ‘labor of love.’ It is true that most surrogate mothers aren’t in it for the money. Most (not all) of them are either punishing themselves for not having fulfilled parental responsibilities in the past, or view pregnancy as a way of feeling ‘special’ and ‘appreciated’. In reality, these women are treated as mere objects.
The adopting family is seldom concerned about the surrogate mother’s emotional well-being.
While a prime reason for a woman to consent to commercial surrogate motherhood would be to be able to share the joys of raising a newborn, most adopting families would rather keep her away from the child as, in Anderson’s words, “to them, her presence is a threat to marital unity and a competing object for the child’s affections.”
They mercilessly use her to produce their desired goods and then conveniently discard her, leaving her degraded and miserable.
Commercial surrogate motherhood is often considered the same as ‘morally acceptable’ practices, like adoption and artificial insemination by donor (AID). But are they really the same?
Adoption aims at providing those children with families whose biological parents either “cannot or will not discharge their parental responsibilities,” according to Anderson. There is no profit-motive here.
On the other hand, AID does not uphold the buying and selling of human life. In Anderson’s words: “The semen donor sells only a product of his body, not his child, and does not initiate the act of conception.” Therefore, we can chalk out a clear difference between ‘accepted practices’ (like adoption and AID), and surrogate motherhood.
A common reason why couples would opt for surrogate motherhood over adoption is the shortage of children that are available and also the difficulty of qualifying as adoptive parents. The truth is that there is only a shortage in ‘healthy white children’.
There are plenty of children of other races, including the handicapped children. These are the children that desperately need families. As Anderson rightly said, “We should be wary of the racist and eugenic motivations which make some people rally to the surrogate industry at the expense of children who already exist and need homes.”
One might say that giving the surrogate mother the option to keep her child could solve the above problems. Even if she had the option, it would be useless as her contract would then imply that she is not to love her child, for the only reason why a mother would willingly part with her child would be if she didn’t love it (or if she thought she was incapable of raising it, but that is seldom the case).
As Anderson states: “And what judgment do these norms make of a mother who, out of love for her child, decides that she cannot relinquish it? They blame her for commercial irresponsibility and flighty emotions.”
She is also somewhat pressured into giving her child away as she had given her word and keeping the child would mean breaking a legal promise. This state of confusion wouldn’t allow her to act rationally.
In conclusion it can be said that the introduction of market norms automatically converts children and women to objects of use.
They are no longer considered humans but mere commodities. Thus, commercial surrogate motherhood, according to the “In The Matter Of Baby M” ruling of the Supreme Court of New Jersey on February 3, 1988, “guarantees the separation of a child from its mother…it totally ignores the child…and it does all of this, it accomplishes all its goals, through the use of money.”
Surrogate motherhood should be a mutual agreement to create, and raise human life.
It should not be a service that is offered in exchange for monetary benefit, but out of emotional consent.
Yes, this will probably shrink the supply of surrogate mothers, but then again there is always adoption—those kids deserve a family more than any child who hasn’t been born yet.