What is “Baby Selling” & When Does Surrogacy Cross the Line

Dawn Davenport

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What is “Baby Selling” & When Does Surrogacy Cross the Line

What is “Baby Selling” & When Does Surrogacy Cross the Line

By now, most of you have heard about the third party reproduction scandal that has engulfed the surrogacy community.  I posted this information the morning the news broke, but have kept quiet simply because there didn’t seem to be much I could say that would add any value other than echoing the awfulness and sadness of the whole situation.  Then I had a conversation that reflects the huge gap between the general public and the infertility community over the legal, moral, and ethical issues inherent with third party reproduction.

The person I was talking to expressed dismay that someone could buy eggs and sperm, and then pay a surrogate to carry the child.  “They are buying a child, which is clearly illegal.”  I explained that paying for egg, sperm and surrogate is legal in many states in the US and some other countries as well.  What was illegal in the recent surrogacy fraud case was that there was not an intended parent that had signed a surrogacy arrangement before the embryos created by donor egg and sperm were transferred into the surrogate and then misrepresenting this information to a US court.  My conversation-mate was horrified.  She saw no difference between this practice and what was actually illegal.  “This is worse than baby selling since you are creating a child for the purpose of selling it.”

I relayed this conversation to a third party reproduction professional (egg donation and surrogacy) and she was equally horrified that anyone would have a problem with the practice of egg and sperm donation combined with surrogacy.  These conversations brought home to me the gap between those inside and outside the infertility world.

I see the distinction.  Regardless what you think about buying eggs and sperm and paying surrogates, it is clear from an ethical standpoint that prior to conception someone needs to be committed to parenting this child.  It cheapens the value of human life to create a child and then shop the surrogate around looking for someone willing and able to pay the cost.  What would happen if the child was born premature with significant medical concerns before a parent was found?  Also, someone needs to be legally and morally “on the hook” for paying the surrogate’s and child’s medical costs and the surrogate’s fee.

Clearly this is an extreme case and the guilty parties will be punished.  But the truth is that much of the advanced forms of infertility treatment and third party reproduction exist on the edge of legality and ethics.  How many embryos should be created, how many should be transferred, what to do with unused embryos, selective reduction of triplets and twins, payment for third parties, and on and on.  I think that it is easy for those who work in this area to lose the ability to see the different shades of gray.

It is often not clear what is “right”, which means it is incumbent on the medical and legal professionals to give respectful and thoughtful consideration to these issues and be willing to voluntarily curtail practices that begin to edge over the ethical line.  Infertility patients are often not in the position to accurately weigh the morality of these issues.  They are not trained, and quite frankly, many are so desperate that they aren’t able to step back and view the situation with an ethical eye.  They must rely on the infertility medical and legal professionals for guidance.  These professionals need to carefully and rigorously regulate themselves to protect their patients, to keep treatment options open, and ultimately to protect the children that will be born.

For more information on this recent surrogacy scandal and what others are saying, check out these resources. My thanks to Evelina Sterling for helping to compile this list.

 

Image credit: Truthout.org

16/08/2011 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 5 Comments



5 Responses to What is “Baby Selling” & When Does Surrogacy Cross the Line

  1. Nancy Hoggarth says:

    With husband we were really depressed when got to know that we both can’t have a child. We got many treatments in the different clinics. But everything brought no results. We didn’t know what to do. We even went to the USA. There we were told that they can’t do something to help us. Before going to Ukraine we also were in Georgia. As prices there is more or less acceptable. But nowhere had we received positive result. To my surprise, Ukraine is very popular in the internet. So we went there. I will not tell a long story, but only say the most important thing surrogate mother gave birth to our boy. By using donor eggs, from the second attempt she got pregnant. So today we have a healthy beautiful son. I even can’t imagine how it can be named kids’ sale when it’s real life saving. Women’s bodies, and children, are not merchandise. So, I suppose surrogacy should be allowed for sure, but strictly regulated.

  2. Pat Johnston says:

    Excellent article, Dawn, I specially agree with this part
    “It is often not clear what is “right”, which means it is incumbent on the medical and legal professionals to give respectful and thoughtful consideration to these issues and be willing to voluntarily curtail practices that begin to edge over the ethical line. Infertility patients are often not in the position to accurately weigh the morality of these issues. They are not trained, and quite frankly, many are so desperate that they aren’t able to step back and view the situation with an ethical eye”

    • Dawn says:

      She holds no punches. I have never seen written what she said about the competitiveness within the infertility professional community, but have certainly felt it.

      Pat: I have been pondering over something that you said: “They were then impregnated with donated sperm and egg in Ukraine without having signed the required pre-implantation surrogacy contract with any IPs and then the attorneys lied to the court in order to claim that these women were birthparents making adoption plans for their babies.” I too have been confused by the references in the media to “adoption”. I have not had time to read the court papers, so if you have, I will defer to you, but I think that the attorney lied to the court by claiming that the surrogacy agreement had been signed before the embryo transfer in order to make the court think that this was a legal surrogacy. I had assumed that the media was using the incorrect term (adoption) to describe the surrogacy arrangement. Am I wrong?

  3. Keiko says:

    Dawn, thank you so much for writing about this very important distinction, and also for sharing the links to my posts. When it comes to family building, it feels like there are so many grey areas, but this case has illustrated that there are clearly things that are wrong and things that are right. Great post that gives me even more to think about and consider in the aftermath.

  4. Thanks for this link. From an intended parent’s perspective, I can totally understand how they wouldn’t know it was illegal.

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