October 5, 2022

What about the welfare of the baby in a surrogacy transaction?

Their interests are too often ignored, argues Singaporean academic

“Ad for surrogate mothers, Burbank, California, USA” by gruntzooki is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In debates over surrogacy, most of the battles are fought over the rights of the commissioning parents or the welfare of the surrogate mother. But what about the welfare of the baby? This is an area investigated by a Singaporean legal academic in the journal Public Discourse.

Seow Hon Tan, of Singapore Management University, says that surrogacy must not be legalised as it is not in the best interests of the child. She advances several reasons.

Epigenetics. Life in the womb can affect the foetus. Since surrogate mothers often have, and are always encouraged to have, weak emotional attachments to the child they are gestating, this could somehow be communicated to the foetus. Furthermore, surrogacy places unpredictable stresses on the surrogate mother. “Evidence of poorer attachment in surrogate pregnancies should make us uneasy, as it can lead to problems for the children later on,” she writes.

Separation from the Gestational Mother. The baby could suffer trauma when it is separated from its mother. This is well documented in cases of adoption. What gives commissioning parents the right to impose this trauma on surrogate children?

Bonding to Commissioning Parents. “After being separated from their surrogate mothers, newborns may face problems in reattaching to new parents,” Dr Tan writes. The commissioning mother lacks a genetic link to the baby, which could lead to difficulties in bonding. “Disconnecting childbirth from child-raising means commissioning mothers must raise their infants without being able to draw upon the benefit of maternal–fetal sensitivity and attachments in pregnancy.”

The desires of adult children. Children who want to meet their gestational mother in later life will probably be frustrated in that desire. “Surrogacy leaves a child wondering about the gestational, and possibly genetic, environment that so deeply formed the person he or she became.”

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge   

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