The hottest debate in town at the moment is same-sex marriage. In itself, this is not really a bioethical issue, but it necessarily involves the controversial issue of surrogate motherhood.
If lesbian couples want children, all they need is a sperm donor and possibly IVF. But if gay couples want children, they need a womb. In the United States, the UK or Australia, these do not come cheap. In India, Greece, the Ukraine, Panama or Guatemala, they do. Click on the site AffordableSurrogates.com to see how babies are effectively being sold as a product. “Did you know that thousands of people are saving money by going to foreign countries to have a child through hassle-free surrogacy?” this India-based website asks its gay clients.
More demand will drive the price of surrogacy down, especially in countries where women are in desperate financial straits. When Greek women turn to surrogacy, there is an obvious link with their country’s economic freefall.
The opportunity for exploitation is neither small nor theoretical. It is huge and it is already happening. As we pointed out in BioEdge last week, an Indian woman died recently in Gujarat. I have not been able to find out whether the American woman who commissioned the baby has taken her back to the US.
But the remarks of one of the best-known Indian surrogacy bosses are chilling (see this week’s BioEdge): “the contracts signed between the surrogate mother and the couple (whose baby she is carrying) does not talk of any compensation in case of death of the surrogate mother. Those who agree to become surrogates are told well in advance about the complications involved in pregnancy.” In other words, if a surrogate dies, tough luck. Get over it. She signed a contract (even if she couldn’t read it). She’s a grown-up. Death is her problem.
Are gay couples ready to face the ethical consequences of getting outsourced and exploited surrogate mothers to bear their children? This is an essential element in the same-sex marriage debate which is being completely ignored.
Why aren’t gay couples thinking about the ethics of exploiting surrogate mothers?
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