' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Wall Street Journal decries loss of 'right' to be surrogate

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wall Street Journal decries loss of 'right' to be surrogate

Indian surrogates
The Wall Street Journal owned by billionaire media magnate Rupert Murdock rarely sheds tears for the poor and downtrodden.  It's come to bat, however, for Indian women threatened with losing income as surrogates if the India passes proposed legislation which criminalizes surrogacy for foreigners. A government-appointed body has already notified clinics they should stop offering such services to couples overseas. Since WSJ's readers are comprised largely of moneyed readers who are the ones to seek out surrogacy services, WSJ's crusading for wombs-for-hire is merely self-serving.

In "India's Surrogate Birth Mothers Grow Anxious after Restrictive New Regulations,"* WSJ profiles an Indian woman who earns $3,800 for the baby, plus $150 a month during the pregnancy--about twice what she could earn in her usual occupation as a maid. Another woman claims she is getting better care from the surrogacy clinic than she got from government doctors when she had her own children. A third said she wanted money to buy a house with a separate room for her two children.

So yes, these women and the many other surrogates could use the money or, in some cases, need the money. The government's action is intended to end exploitation of women. Clinics deny exploitation and WSJ gives their argument more credence than that of the Indian government. Clinics claim that prospective surrogates are thoroughly counseled and the doctor's primary interest is the health of mother and child. (Well, natch, a sick mother can't deliver a healthy child and a dead or crippled baby brings no money). It's exploitation all the same, which is precisely the reason for the new rules: to protect poor and illiterate women.

Not mentioned is the unequal economic footing between surrogates and those paying for their services, what Barnard College president Debora Spar, author oThe Baby Business describes as "Rich people buying bodily functions of poor women." WSJ's indignation reminds me of an infamous 1905 U. S. Supreme Court case, Lochner v. New York. The Court struct down a state law designed to protect bakers from exploitation by limiting their work hours to 10 per day and 60 per week. The Court held "there is no reasonable ground for interfering with liberty of person or the right of free contract by determining the hours of labor in the occupation of a baker." In other words, bakery owners can go on exploiting the workers who make their products. This case has since been overruled.

The surrogacy business isn't the win-win arrangement the article implies. "Intended parents" can refuse to accept the baby if it isn't "perfect." It happened where the intended parents left an infant with Down syndrome with the surrogate mother in Thailand. A clinic can close, leaving pregnant women in the lurch. Tonya Collins, who owned California-based SurroGenesis absconded with $2.5 million paid by hopeful parents and leaving a pregnant surrogate, Salina Ramirez, a single mother with two young children, without any way to pay for her medical care. The intended parents, a Spanish couple, came up with some money and took the baby. Ramirez was left with medical bills and received only half her promised fee.

Having babies has health risks and having lots of babies increases the risks. These include uterine rupture, gall bladder disease, depletion of stores of iron and other nutrients, varicose veins, blood clots, and dental caries, even death. If the surrogate dies, how will her other children be cared for? If surrogacy were merely an altruistic act, it would not be the desperately poor women around the world--including the United States--who take on this risky job. No matter how you slice it, surrogacy is exploitative. Money changes hands, poor women are at risk, bartering their body parts and future health for the advantage of those who can pay. Though the circumstances are different, Margaret Atwood expertly nailed this kind of exploration in  The Handmaid's Tale, a book everyone considering surrogacy needs to read.

Adoptive parent Professor David Smolin of Cumberland Law School, Samford University argues that most surrogacy arrangements as currently practiced constitute the sale of children and should be illegal. We wholeheartedly agree. At the same time we recognize that surrogacy is not going away; the demand for babies with the genetic traits of those who will raise them is simply too great and the promise of large profits too attractive. If India shuts its doors, windows will open in other countries. Last fall I met a woman at a Portland adoption conference who was brokering surrogacy agreements with Romanian women.  Reasonable regulations, though could do much to reduce the exploitation.--jane

*Referring to these women as "surrogate birth" mothers rather than simply "surrogate" mothers seems an over kill, a way to reinforce the notion that they are not, no way in hell, real mothers.
On a personal note. I attended the wedding of my granddaughter Chelsea, the daughter of my lost daughter Rebecca, last weekend. A grand event--not in the sense of a large cathedral, a fancy hotel ballroom, an elaborately catered dinner--but because of the overflowing love and joy.  I was thrilled to be included as a grandmother of the bride, no "birth", "first" or "natural" qualifiers. I met my new grandson-in-law, his parents, and brothers, and several members of Rebecca's adoptive family for the first time. Wonderful people, all.
Wall Street Journal, India's Surrogate Birth Mothers Grow Anxious after Restrictive New Regulations, 11/16/15
Thailand's booming Business in surrogacy is an ethical swamp
PBS, Surrogacy: Wombs for Rent (2009)
NY Daily News, The health risks of many pregnancies (12/16/09)
David Smolin, Surrogacy as the Sale of Children (2015)
Lochner v. New York, 198 US 45 (1905)

Making babies just to make ends meet
Surrogate Mother Wins Right to Sue for Custody; Police Chief Sentenced for Stealing Surrogate Items
When a child of surrogacy asks: Who is my mommy?
Thailand's booming business in surrogacy is an ethical swamp
Baby Farming Hits a Bump in the Road
Adoption from India: 'Second' mother now runs orphanage there



BY Debora L. Spar 
"This is good stuff-if not juicy, and Spar casts a wide net that doesn't miss a thing: conception techniques, fertility markets, surrogacy, designer babies, human cloning, and adoption. The writer also has the guts to have a lucid, constructive point of view-never backing away from the controversial subjects many would balk about discussing. This book is a must read for anyone who might, is, or has gone through any of the processes above, and for the rest of us like me, just a great eye-opening read. In fact, I kept thinking as the pages turned: "I had no idea..." As a piece of scholarly writing it is immaculate (check out the pages of footnotes!), but more impressive is the fact that Spar's writing style is trenchant, entertaining and unwavering in it's ability to present a point of view to the reader. I wasn't expecting it, but Spar continually challenges and provokes as she weaves her riveting tale of the dynamics of a topic-both moral and technical-that is dear to the hearts of us all: babies. Wow. A scholarly page-turner!? Shouldn't there be an award for that? It's great read, and I highly recommend it."--Amazon reviewer
The Handmaid's Tale
By Margaret Atwood
"A novel that brilliantly illuminates some of the darker interconnections between politics and sex . . . Just as the world of Orwell's 1984 gripped our imaginations, so will the world of Atwood's handmaid!"--Washington Post Book World


  1. does it surprise any one that Murdock and Furness are buddies?

  2. i dont know the details of the proposed law but i hope that the focus is indeed on the clinics and not on the women. i support the right of women to choose - even if that choice is surrogacy. i dont support exploitation.

    1. Me too, Kaisa, as long as she has all the facts and quality care. Really not my business what she decides to do with her body and it's folly to think that an Indian woman is not capable of thinking this through--paternalistic, in fact.

  3. As an Indian woman, it is my hope that the number who feel compelled to seek surrogacy as the means to financial security goes down, over time. I do not think most of them do this out of choice, but out of a sense that there are no other options available - much like most women who surrender their children to adoption.

    While WSJ's motives may well be self-serving, I am concerned that the law, without alternative resources for these poor women, ultimately victimizes these women and leaves them high and dry. I support the law if we can provide viable, financially supporting alternatives to surrogacy.

    On an optimistic note, in many parts of Southern India, where I am from, women who come from generations of families working as maids (for a pittance, I might add) are turning that around. They are saving portions of their meager earnings diligently, to educate their children (some are even able to afford private school, through very hard work). The first of these children, young men and women, are now grown and successful software engineers, teachers, etc. - who are now repaying their mothers by supporting them financially and telling them they no longer need to be maids. I wish for that type of change all over India - education and family resources replacing exploitative avenues like surrogacy.

    Finally, it warmed my heart to read about your granddaughter's wedding, Jane. What a long way you have come - from the young woman who was pregnant and helpless and abandoned by Rebecca's father, to the proud grandparent, *just* grandparent , of a beautiful bride. Congratulations!

  4. In Australia women's voices are silenced and no media outlets support women's voices speaking out against surrogacy - Australia Government believes in surrogacy and adoption but supports surrogacy with Victorian Government recently legislating adoption amendment for same sex couples - we need media support especially in Victoria and women magazines - so our voices are no longer ignored. Well done

  5. I almost forgot what the post was about after reading your wonderful "On a personal note" at the bottom. Thanks for sharing that update about your inclusion in your relinquished daughter's family. I'm very happy for you.

  6. Many years ago I attended a symposium on surrogacy with speakers both pro and con. One of the best arguments against it was made by a law professor from Yale. She felt the legality of surrogacy was a matter of inches. Rent a womb for 9 months and it's okay. Rent a vagina for a few hours and it's illegal. Just inches apart...

    1. i guess in keeping with that analogy then marriage is analogous to owning both locations.

    2. Nice one, Kaisa :-) I was trying to come up with a response to that one, but I think you've aced it.

    3. Do husbands pay by the minute, the hour, the day, the month for such services?

  7. Jane, congratulations on the wedding of your granddaughter!!

    Did she get married in the temple?

    1. No, she and her husband have left the LDS Church. The wedding took place in the main lodge at a small resort in Southern Utah. The officiant was a co-worker licensed to perform weddings.

    2. Jane, that is such good news! It must have been great to be Grandma at the wedding. I hope all the LDS relatives were there as well. There are many personal reasons to leave the LDS church, but recently there is a new one. People who have been members for years are resigning in droves over the new LDS policy of not blessing or baptizing the children of gay parents, and asking that they renounce their gay parents if they want to join the church as adults. There have been mass resignations of thousands in Salt Lake City in the past weeks. Punishing the children for the "sins" of the parents is seen by many as going too far and not at all Christian.

  8. Maryanne, your comments regarding the LDS church are entirely not factual. I invite you to look at statements from LDS Church leaders, as well as one the numerous blog posts written by active LDS children of gay and queer parents. I will only refute a couple of your claims here, and that is to say that children are not asked to renounce their gay parents. Ever. Secondly, children are not punished for the sins of the parents. Ever. That line of thinking is more in line with some other faiths, which baptize infants in order to wash away original sin. In Mormon doctrine, there is no original sin. There is no one ideal time for baptism to occur in a person's life. Nothing is lost to the child if they wait until they are an adult. We don’t want a developing child to have to deal with issues that might arise where their parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church they joined are very different. Let them navigate that as a adult, if they choose to.

    The policy is not really new, just a clarification. The LDS church does not baptize minor children of polygamous relationships either. Hasn't for over 100 years, and no one is protesting that.

    As far as the quantity of members tendering resignations from the church, the number is about 1500 according to CNN, so I think it is an exaggeration to say "mass resignations of thousands." It would be more accurate to say "over one thousand" or "less than two thousand." I am data analyst by profession, and that is how I would report it. Btw, 1500 people out of a worldwide membership of over 9 million, gives us a rate of less than 0.02% of church membership resigning.

    1. In answer to your question, maryanne, yes LDS relatives of both the bride and groom were at the wedding. Many of the guests were Church members as well. They came as I did to honor the bride and groom and celebrate their marriage.

      Regard people leaving the LDS Church, according to a Salt Lake City "Tribune" article, the great majority of the 1000 or so Mormons who lined up 10 days ago to submit resignations from the LDS Church were non-practicing Mormons. These were people who had not been active in the Church but had not gotten around to resigning.

    2. Megan,

      First of all I agree that not too many people have resigned over this, and most of those who did were already basically non-members. Second, I agree that the LDS Church is not a believer in original sin. (BTW, are we spelling it right? Should the "O" and "S" be capitalized in Original Sin?)

      Now, as for the new policy:

      1) I believe it is a new policy. I have never before heard of the LDS Church denying baptism to the children of gay parents who are in same-gender relationships. I have heard about the Church denying communion to people in prison, but not about special conditions for children from gay families. Granted, I am not LDS, but I have never heard a story about the kids being denied baptism, ordination, or mission calls.

      2) The policy was altered within a few days. The revision was called a clarification, but it clearly seems different to me. Originally, it applied to all children with gay parents who were married or living with someone. Now it only applies to those who are primarily being raised by the gay parent. "Primarily" is a vague word that can be interpreted in different ways, so the number of people this applies to just went way down. Of course, I am sure that leadership roulette will be a factor. But I assume that most bishops will jump at the chance to look the other way.

      3) The conflicting messages will still be sent. This policy does not stop children from attending church, or seminary, or Mutual. It simply denies them full fellowship. Also, conflicting messages are also sent when the child has a parent living with someone of the opposite gender out of wedlock. Or when a parent drinks alcohol, tea or coffee.

      4) Polygamists generally don't want their children to grow up LDS. They have their own churches and their own doctrine.

      I think a big issue here is that for a non-polygamist Mormon the LDS Church is the only game in town. If you want your child baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, by a non-trinitarian Church, then it has to be the LDS Church. (The Community of Christ/RLDS is Trinitarian). A lot of inactive or semi-active Mormons still want their kids baptized, and to have the option of the Church, even if they don't attend themselves. It's like that in all religions. And I imagine that it is hard for a child to attend church, seminary, or mutual if they are not baptized, or a priesthood holder if they are a boy.

      Kids might not be asked to renounce their parents, but they are being asked to renounce the legitimacy of the family that they are part of. That is not something that other Mormons have to do, since they are allowed to disagree with the church about same-sex marriage, so long as they don't take part in one.

      I like a lot of things about Mormonism. Their sense of community, for example, is tremendous and admirable. I just wish they could understand that there isn't a one-size-fits-all reality to human sexuality.

    3. Steve,
      Your comments are insightful! I have some thoughts I'd like to share with you, but they are not relevant to the topic of Indian surrogacy or Jane's Granddaughter's wedding, and I'm not comfortable having the conversation on this forum. If you are interested in continuing the discussion, please email me at earthstains@gmail.com.

  9. QUEER parents ! Really Megan ?????

    1. What's wrong with that? Some LGBT identify as queer. That's why it's often referred to as LGBTQ. Or were you protesting the notion of LGBTQ parents?

    2. Jess, i agree, some identify as queer. but i thought the Q meant Questioning? hahaha i dunno i'm so qonfused :)

  10. Oh , I have read statements by Mormon authorities, including Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He tries to explain but digs himself a deeper hole by asserting that same-sex relationships and marriages are considered a grave sin worthy of "discipline" by the LDS Church. What Steve says above is similar to things I have read. No matter how you slice it, this does not look good for compassion being shown by the leaders of the LDS Church. The Catholic church has a terrible record of dealing with gay rights and human sexuality in general, but even they do not refuse to baptize a child because the parents are gay, at least not as policy, but some local priests go by their own prejudices.

    About the age of baptism; in the LDS church, while a person can be baptized at any age and even re-baptized if returning after excommunication (which is another way LDS differs from Christian churches) in believing LDS families it is traditional for children to be baptized at age 8, the age of reason. There is considerable pressure in the church to get your kids baptized at that age and your family can be looked askance at if this is not done. It is similar to age 7 being the age for First Communion in Catholic families; it can be done at any time, but it upsets the relatives if not done in second grade like all the other kids. LDS baptism, does not have to do with original which is a doctrine they do not believe, but makes the baptized child culpable and responsible for her own sins from that time forward. It is a serious first step for full fellowship in the church. Dave is correct that an unbaptized child attending LDS services cannot move on to the priesthood if male, which generally happens at age 12 for the lower ranks of priesthood and around 16 for full priesthood, I think.

    This will hurt some people, and to portray this policy as loving shows callousness and lack of charity on the part of the leadership. As to numbers, many who resigned may have been Jack Mormons, but I know some who were sincere believers and genuinely shocked by this pronouncement. For others it was the last straw in many inconsistencies in leadership.

  11. Jess I was objecting to the use of the word queer. I haven't heard it used since high school.

  12. I haven't either. But, interestingly, the word "queer" is back and in favor as a self-identifier. A Google search of "queer parents" turns up many articles and support groups.
    This definition from PFLAG National:

    Today, more and more young people are coming out “queer,” much to the dismay of the older generation of the LGBT community who is used to hearing it as the oppressors attempt to degrade and dehumanize them. Although not exclusively used by the younger generation, and not used by all youth in all cities and towns, it does seem that more LGBT people are choosing Queer as their term of identification than LGBT people ten years ago and that those who choose to identify in this way actually benefit from not choosing a specific label. . . .


  13. Thanks for the up date. This old learned something new. :))
    Not sure I will ever use it. Is fag coming back? I think that was 5th grade.
    Have a nice Thanksgiving everyone.

  14. Meryl, no, fag is not coming back. Didn't you never hear of Queer Nation?



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