Where is the feminist outrage over surrogacy? A Western couple travel to Thailand to hire a poor women’s womb for their own use. She produces a healthy girl, but her twin brother has Down syndrome so he is promptly rejected.
Pope Francis has lamented the increase in ‘wombs for hire’ and the Vatican has condemned the increasing Western view that children are consumer products, similar to Mulberry handbags. Condemning the rejecting of a child because he has Down syndrome, it pointed out the inevitably of such an act where, ‘a child becomes a product to buy, it is obvious that as with any acquisition it must be to the purchaser’s liking.’
Even without the rejection of baby Gammy because he was less than perfect, this story sums up all that is wrong with surrogacy industry that is booming in India and it seems Thailand. There are some feminists that do oppose this exploitation of women’s bodies, as this condemnation of the industry by Suzanne Moore demonstrates. But there are others that support it.
The first argument is predictable: if the Right oppose surrogacy, then it must be good. Secondly the feminists argue that any interference with a commercial surrogacy arrangement restricts the “agency of the mother” and her “reproductive choice”.
First, it is not the reproductive choice of the mother feminists care about: it is the reproductive choice of the purchasing always, richer Western couple that want a womb to rent. The mother is reproducing on their behalf so it is their demand to access another woman’s womb that the feminists wish to protect.
The issue of agency is also bogus. It means that every single exploitative and damaging practice against women’s bodies can be justified on the grounds of ‘agency.’ This writer dismisses concern that women are often exploited by the purchasing parents as “rhetoric (that) insults women who serve as gestational carriers by portraying them as people who have no agency.”
I would think treating women, as “gestational carriers” is pretty insulting. It is dehumanising, and an offence against their personhood. If ‘respecting their agency’ means justifying surrogacy which ignores their dignity as human persons and reduces women to their body parts, then I will settle for ‘stripping them of their agency’.
However, this agency argument is ultimately garbage because it means any part of a women’s body is up for sale for any reason whatsoever, as it is “her choice” to use her body as she wishes. It provides a defence for selling yourself into slavery, which is what surrogacy is: ‘my body, my choice.”
Finally, the fallacy of the agency argument is demonstrated by the fact that commercial surrogacy is booming in poor countries where women have low status. I would be interested to see the number Oxbridge graduates that are commercial surrogates, or how many CEOs who are commercial surrogates? My guess is they are far more likely to use one than become one. When Sheryl Sandberg becomes a surrogate for a poor Thai women – call me. Until then the surrogacy-supporting feminists should get with the programme.
Western feminists like to think they are the forefront of protecting women’s rights, especially their bodily integrity. But their support or silence on commercial surrogacy makes them complicit in the exploitation of poorer women by those in the wealthy West.
But I am sure they are busy banning boobs from page 3 – now there that is exploitation. What is carrying a child in your womb for nine months to hand over to another couple compared to a partially clothed photo shoot? Surrogacy is the new slavery, the use and abuse of poor women. It should be condemned by all right thinking people.