Gloria Steinem is spearheading an effort to lobby the state of New York, and Governor Cuomo in particular, away from supporting the “Child-Parent Security Act,” a radical piece of legislation which would legalize commercial surrogacy contracts that could exploit vulnerable women. Surprisingly, Steinem’s arguments against commercializing surrogacy are rooted in an intelligent and insightful warning against the potential perils for vulnerable women. Despite Steinem’s consistent outspoken support for abortion, pro-lifers should not feel any qualms about throwing their support behind efforts to stop this particular initiative. But we should equally be ready to point out that many of the same arguments used against commercial surrogacy apply to the pro-life argument against the legalization of abortion.
The law Steinem decries would enable individuals to create surrogacy contracts with women for the carrying of their children in exchange for money. As Steinem points out in her statement, legalizing commercial surrogacy would victimize poor and vulnerable women and children:
Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others. The surrogate mother’s rights over the fetus she is carrying are greatly curtailed and she loses all rights to the baby she delivers. The bill ignores the socio-economic and racial inequalities of the reproductive commercial surrogacy industry, and puts disenfranchised women at the financial and emotional mercy of wealthier and more privileged individuals.
READ: ‘Social surrogacy’ on the rise in U.S. for reasons of convenience
Gloria Steinem’s points about surrogacy have a natural overlap with abortion. Just like the disastrous proposed commercial surrogacy law, legalized abortion allows an entire industry to prey on vulnerable women in need. Steinem warns against the “the commercial and profit-driven reproductive surrogacy industry”; pro-lifers have noted that, like the commercial surrogacy industry, the abortion industry — which shrouds the ugliness of abortion in altruistic-sounding notions of “rights” and “empowerment” — is also at its core a “commercial and profit-driven” enterprise.
As its most recent annual report made clear, Planned Parenthood has continued to expand the number of abortions committed while offering fewer of the less lucrative services, like cancer screenings. Former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino has also pointed out that abortion can be a lucrative and alluring industry for those willing to prey on vulnerable women.
Renders women vulnerable to exploitation
Steinem claims that commercialized surrogacy “renders women vulnerable to reproductive trafficking and exploitation, and further subordinates women as second-class citizens, all with a third-party profit motive that is unregulated.” All true and valid points. Similarly, legalized abortion, especially in states like New York that have radical pro-abortion legislation, makes women vulnerable to abusers and left without important protections. And it is no secret that abortion frequently involves coercion that enables the exploitation of vulnerable women.
Live Action’s investigation into court documents and police reports shows a large-scale picture of the role abortion plays in aiding abusers and traffickers:
Documented potential medical risks
Steinem also points to the documented medical risks that are part of the surrogacy procedure. She argues many women are “not warned about such side effects as headaches, bloating, nausea, breast tenderness and an ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHHS) that can vary from physical discomfort to life-threatening illnesses.” Pro-lifers likewise raise the alarm about the potential abortion risks that many women aren’t told about. In addition to the death of the preborn baby, even first trimester abortions, which abortion activists routinely cite as risk-free, can have serious health risks for women. These were described by the pro-abortion University of California San Francisco (UCSF) as “cervical laceration, re-aspiration, excessive bleeding, excessive pain, hemorrhage, unanticipated surgery, infection, perforation of the uterus, death.” These risks increase in second and third trimester abortions.
Ultimately, the effort against commercializing surrogacy contracts is one that pro-lifers can get behind. But Steinem’s advocacy here exposes a key blindspot of the feminist movement’s treatment of legalized abortion. After all, how can Steinem not see the parallels between the dangers of legalized commercial surrogacy and the dangers of legalized abortion for vulnerable women?
The history of the feminist movement’s capitulation to abortion activists is explained in Sue Ellen Browder’s book Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement. While there remains clarity on certain issues among the feminist movement, there is a need for pro-life feminists to restore an authentic and holistic feminism, one that rejects the idea that the violence and violation of abortion empowers women.
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