Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Surrogate Motherhood

Before anyone panics, I am not having a baby for *anyone* at the moment, or anywhere in the near future. Okay?

Years ago, when a friend of mine was getting married, she and her husband were discussing children. Now, they both want kids, eventually (not at the moment, because they have a hard enough time taking care of themselves, let alone a tiny person), but my friends family has a notoriously hard time getting pregnant. Why, you may ask, does any of this concern me?

Well. In their discussions, they decided that, should they not be able to conceive on their own, rather than adopt, they would prefer (if possible) to have someone carry a child for them. Surrogacy. Ordinarily, around here, the couple would turn to relatives first. Sisters of either one of them. Unfortunately, my friend is an only child, and her husband has only brothers. Which is where I come in. As best friend, I'm next 'in line'. And, of course, I told them that, if it ever came to that, that I'd be more than willing to be their surrogate mom.

Personally, I'd go the adoption route (if I were in their situation), because, well, those kids already *exist*, and there aren't enough people who want to adopt them, and it's just *sad*. But I do, also, understand the urge to have a child that is (even if only in part), *yours*. Your flesh. Your blood.

Fast forward a few years, and I become Catholic. Wandering around, I discover that, apparently, the Catholic Church teaches against surrogate motherhood.

The reasoning is tied into the argument against contraception. In the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI state that sex within marriage is to be *both* unitive and open to the creation of new life. (Which does not mean, of course, that one can only have sex in order to have a child. We've covered that.) The sticky part here is that Pope Paul VI taught that the connection between unity and procreation is inseparable and a requirement in each and every single instance of sex within marriage.

So, if they are inseparable, then contraception, clearly, contravenes natural law by delivering unity without the possibility on conception. And, if they are inseparable, then they have to be inseparable both ways. It follows (according to this theory) that it is *equally* wrong to have a child apart from the unitive aspects of sex within the marriage.

Let me just take a second here and say, 'Do they think that a couple is going to *stop* having sex within their marriage if they have a baby using a surrogate?' with my eyebrow cocked in Spock-like fashion. Do the couples stop having sex when they adopt children? I don't *think* so.

Okay, but, the Catholic church *does* encourage couples who can't conceive to adopt. So how is that not just as wrong? The answer seems to be that making the best of a 'bad' situation that already exists is different from creating the 'bad' situation.

Just for the sake of it, two instances of surrogacy come to mind, from the Bible. Sarah gave Abraham her maid, Hagar, when she thought she couldn't conceive. No, that didn't turn out particularly well, in the end, but I tend to think that was more because Sarah and Abraham had been *told* they would have a child, and lacked the faith to wait for their promised offspring, even when it seemed impossible. The other is Jacob and Leah and Rachel, who each gave him *their* maids - Bilhah and Zilpah. Anyway. That just seems to me to be the ancient form of surrogacy.

As you may guess, I don't find this argument convincing. I don't see adoption as *that* different from surrogacy. And I *don't* buy the whole, surrogacy = a form of prostitution argument I saw, either. Money changes hands in adoptions too. You're not buying the *child*, in either case.

Anyhow...what do you guys think? Opinions, comments? Am I missing a big, obvious clue stick here?

ETA: I'm curious, what does your faith (denomination or entirely different religion, if applicable) say about surrogacy? Do you know? Do you think it'd be an issue?


  1. I'm not surprised but my first thought was just as you thought "Then isn't adoption an equal problem?" Now the church would never say "don't adopt" because that seems heartless. But it really isn't much different. I personally don't get it. Just because you biologically can't conseave shouldn't mean you can't have a child. Then what do all the orphans do?

    And yeah, they did it in the Bible. So what is the problem? Yeah sometimes it worked better in some cases than others. I never thought about Abraham and Sara just not being able to wait. I mean, they got Ismail, he is good and all but God did say he'd give them a child in time. Then they got two...which I guess is better :). Even though Abraham then had to let go of Hagar and Ishmail :( Sad.

  2. Are you talking about husband's sperm + wife's egg + your body? I don't see why that's problematic except it might be more difficult for YOU than you'd guess. Maybe those hormones have to do with it. I've never researched this religiously, but I think it's a VERY kind offer for you to give your body in this way - WOWOWOWOW!

  3. LK,

    I wasn't really all that surprised either. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. One argument was that the child has a right to be conceived in love. (Let's ignore the issue of children that are the product of rape right there...) least in my case, I'd be carrying the child out of love. Love for my friend, who is like a sister to me!

    I'll admit that 'they did it in the Bible' is not a good reason to be allowed to do things (see slavery). I just brought it up to point out that an ancient practice occurred, oh, and hey, what about the Jewish practice of having a brother marry his dead brothers wife and the child being counted as the dead brothers? That's happened, and God never smote anyone for it, as far as I can tell.

    'I never thought about Abraham and Sara just not being able to wait. I mean, they got Ismail, he is good and all but God did say he'd give them a child in time. Then they got two...which I guess is better :). Even though Abraham then had to let go of Hagar and Ishmail :( Sad.'

    I've always viewed it as a lack of faith. Don't get me wrong, I can understand Sarah's problem. Someone tells you will conceive, great, but after a while, with no start to doubt. Theirs was a very hard test. Ishmael, in my view, was a child born because Sarah and Abraham doubted God. That doesn't make him good or bad (in the overall scheme of things), but he wasn't the promised child. He wasn't the child that God had told Abraham would carry on his legacy.

  4. Susanne,

    'Are you talking about husband's sperm + wife's egg + your body?'

    Ideally, yes. Of course, ideally, this'll never be an issue, and when they're ready, they won't have any trouble conceiving and carrying the child. But, should this *become* the scenario, then yes. I'd just be carrying the baby - it'd have no genetic relationship to me at all.

    'except it might be more difficult for YOU than you'd guess. Maybe those hormones have to do with it.'

    I have no illusions that it'd be easy on me. I can't imagine carrying a child and *not* becoming emotionally attached to it. Loving it, even though I'd know from the beginning that it's not 'mine'. But, in my case, it's not as though I'd be having the child and giving it up to complete strangers. I'd be giving it to my friend, who is like a sister to me. I'd still be involved. World's Most Awesome Aunt anyone? But, again, this is just a remote possibility.

  5. I don't know exactly how I feel about surrogacy. I'm lucky to not have to think about it since I have a daughter and in the case that I can't conceive others, I know I'd just accept having one child only. And I also know that I wouldn't find it in me to carry the child of someone else. So problem inexistant for me, I guess!

    It seems that in Islam, the prominent opinion is that it's not allowed, but what I read from the "Islamic" point of view was not very convincing for me.

    At the same time, I feel weird about the idea, mostly because it seems like lack of faith that God will put you on the path you need to be on (having children or not). And fostering/adopting children is such an amazing deed that I can't help but think that people who can't have children would be so much better off taking care of orphans than creating children in this way that is not really natural. I don't feel strongly enough to feel anything negative about anyone in that situation. In fact, I can only feel happy if people found a situation to satisfy them in life that worked out for everyone!

  6. Candice,

    And, see, for me, personally, if I couldn't have children, I'd choose to adopt. And I'd never even think about carrying someone else's child for anyone but my friend. Well, and my sister, of course, but I highly doubt that'd ever be an issue. My family is notoriously fertile...

    I'm not surprised that Islam is, apparently, against it. Islam doesn't even really allow for adoption. Not the way we understand it, anyway. Which raises the question, what does Islam do with children that have no family name? I get that they don't want the children adopted into the family to loose their familial name/inheritance, but what about a child that has no history? Somebody just leaves the kid at the door of the orphanage? Could *that* child be adopted in a more conventional sense?

    Hmm...I can see your point about it almost seeming like a lack of faith, but who knows, maybe, for some people, this is the way God wishes for them to go?

    I agree that adopting is an amazing thing to do, and, again, that's the route I'd go. My co-teacher at church has fostered many children, and her two children are both adopted. It's a wonderful thing to see them all together!


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