February 22, 2024

The Economist backs surrogacy

But neglects an ethical analysis

The world’s most influential news magazine has given commercial surrogacy full-throated support. Under the headline “Carrying a child for someone else should be celebrated—and paid”, The Economist argues that a market for babies gestated by surrogate mothers, carefully regulated by governments, is a necessary development. Some countries, like Sweden, have banned it completely; others, like India, have banned foreign clients.

These restrictions are harmful [says The Economist in its leader]. By pushing surrogacy to the legal fringes, they make it both more dangerous and more costly, and create legal uncertainty for all, especially the newborn baby who may be deemed parentless and taken into care. Instead, giving the gift of parenthood to those who cannot have it should be celebrated—and regulated sensibly.

Getting surrogacy right matters more than ever, since demand is rising.

Oddly enough for a magazine whose bread and butter is statistics, there are few firm figures in The Economist’s discussion of the issue. Demand is rising – but there were only 2,200 surrogacies in the US in 2014. On the source of the demand the magazine sheds no light at all. There are more single men, infertile couples, and gay couples having babies, obviously, but the proportion is unknown.

The Economist makes little effort to defend the ethics of surrogacy, other than that a smoothly functioning market and a light regulatory hand will succeed in making clients happy, while banning it will only force the market underground. “Becoming a parent should be a joy, not an offence,” it concludes.

It mentions nothing about hotly-debated topics like the commodification of human life, the tangled identity of the child, or the exploitation of the surrogate mothers. 

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