Surrogacy is riskier for both women and babies than most people realize

In an essay for The Dispatch, Elizabeth Nolan Brown makes the bold and erroneous argument that surrogacy is good for women — including the surrogates. She also claims that “both devout feminists and devout Christians” should embrace it. But surrogacy is dehumanizing for both the surrogates and the children — and as Pope Francis recently said, is the result of “false compassion” and should be ended.

Surrogacy involves the exchange of money for the use of a woman’s body

Surrogacy involves the rental of a woman’s body — typically an underprivileged woman — for the benefit of someone else. Brown calls surrogacy “a sisterhood of women helping other women fulfill their dreams of motherhood.” But it isn’t that simple, and it isn’t that pretty.

Surrogates are often treated as disposable objects, personal property, or employees — not as “sisters” or family. Lance Bass and Michael Turchin provide just one example of this. They turned to surrogacy to obtain a child but have treated the women involved — egg donors and surrogates — as either practically invisible or, said Live Action News’ Cassy Fiano-Chesser, as “though they were farm animals who were not producing enough eggs to meet [the] demand.”

“We got all the way down the path of about to retrieve their eggs,” Turchin said, describing the process of IVF and surrogacy. “Some just wouldn’t produce enough eggs, some weren’t good genetic matches. If you’re going to be a match, you don’t want to even risk it.”

According to Fortune, “Today, the cost to the prospective parents can reach over $300,000 – and surrogates themselves may be paid anywhere from about $35,000 to $100,000 for a pregnancy.”

Fiano-Chesser reported on surrogacy as a “Handmaid’s Tale” epidemic, in which poor women are attempting to better their situations through an act they see as generous and altruistic. However, as Fiano-Chesser explained,”[T]heir wealthy clients all too often tend to treat their bodies as property, buying insurance in case the woman’s body doesn’t perform on demand as expected, or forcing a surrogate into abortion if the preborn child she’s carrying has a disability, if she has too many multiples, or even if the baby is the ‘wrong’ gender.”

Taslima Nasreen, a feminist and humanist activist, issued a statement on surrogacy in 2022, saying, “Surrogacy is possible because there are poor women. Rich people always want the existence of poverty in the society for their own interests. If you badly need to raise a child, adopt a homeless one. I won’t accept surrogacy until rich women become surrogate mom [sic]… [people] are abusing me for my comments on surrogacy. They claim it’s my stone-age idea to not rent wombs for making babies. I suggest to adopt homeless children [and] to not exploit/invade poor women’s body. Actually its a stone-age idea by any means to reproduce babies for following traits.”

Surrogacy is dangerous 

One woman who acted as a surrogate explained that it isn’t as safe as the fertility industry would have women believe.

“Surrogacy is a for-profit business,” Ceara Lewis explained. “No one’s going to tell you that there’s a possibility you could die. They’re trying to make money, so they tell you about the glitz and the glam. I would never do it again – and I would never recommend it to anyone.”

IVF pregnancies, which most surrogacy requires unless the woman is willing to carry and give away her own baby, hold higher risks to the mother than spontaneous pregnancy.

One 2017 retrospective analysis looked at women who had experienced a natural conception and later went on to be a gestational surrogate using IVF. That study found that twin pregnancies were much more likely in IVF surrogacy pregnancies (33%) than in natural pregnancies (1%).

Fortune explained, “That is riskier in part because multiple-birth infants are at significantly higher risk of being born preterm, delivered by c-section, and needing expensive care throughout their lives. In the analysis, surrogate pregnancies (those with a single baby) had higher rates of maternal complications, including gestational diabetes,  hypertensionplacenta previa, and c-section – and were three times more likely to result in preterm birth when compared with their own spontaneous pregnancies.”

Likewise, 2019 research found that surrogates are at higher risk of gestational diabetes, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and bleeding complications after birth.

However, the CDC does not track pregnancy complications specific to surrogacy, which means there is little data available on how much more risk can be involved with IVF and surrogacy than with natural pregnancy.

Children conceived through IVF are also at higher risk for certain complications, especially those associated with preterm birth. Children conceived by IVF from donors’ eggs have the highest rates of admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.

Surrogacy dehumanizes children

Children conceived through IVF and surrogacy suffer dehumanization. Human embryos are typically created in abundance during the IVF process often linked to surrogacy — Paris Hilton boasted of having “20 boys” — and then are graded for their “quality.” Countless embryos are destroyed during the process for not making the cut. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis allows couples to further test the embryos for health conditions, and destroy any who are not deemed ‘healthy.’ Couples also can choose a boy over a girl or vice versa.

Only the chosen will be implanted, and even then, if more than the desired number of embryos implant, abortion is used to destroy some of the once very much wanted children. Abortion is also seen as a way out if a disabled or ‘unhealthy’ baby survives the screening only to be diagnosed during pregnancy.

Surrogacy is traumatic for children

The children who do make it to birth can suffer significant trauma when they are taken from the woman who carried them — even if they are handed directly to their biological parents.

As previously reported by Live Action News, “[S]tudies have shown that taking babies from their birth mother — whether she is biologically related to them or not — causes immense trauma for the baby and can permanently alter a child’s adult brain function later in life. This is the case even with adoption, which seeks to give a child a family when that child is unable to be raised by his or her birth mother. Surrogacy, on the other hand, deliberately creates a child knowing he or she will lose the birth mother, with a child typically removed from the birth mother’s life immediately after delivery. This was the plan from before the child was conceived: to remove her from the only mother she’s ever known. Surrogacy creates trauma because it has the goal of separating a baby from her parent(s).”

A woman who was born via surrogate recently spoke out about how it affected her and her childhood, and why she wants surrogacy to be banned.

“Mere seconds after I was born, I had been rapidly removed from the woman who had become pregnant with me — using her own eggs — and had carried me for nine months,” said Olivia Maurel. “Rather than being placed in my biological mother’s arms to be nurtured and adored, I was handed over to a man and woman who had, put simply, paid an awful lot of money for me.”

She called surrogacy a “profoundly painful experience” which severs the connections between mother and child. Despite growing up extremely privileged, Maurel said she struggled to bond with her mother.

A recent social media post from a foster mother discusses a newborn’s ability to feel grief when they lose the woman who has been carrying them for nine months. “While in the womb the child knows not any difference between mother and self; they are one. They are tasting, smelling, touching, hearing, and seeing within the womb,” said the post from A View From Home. “Upon birth, a separation occurs and what had once been a unified, indistinguishable source of life, is now separated. And suddenly there are things that prohibit the attention and care that had once been always present and never-ending. So the baby learns to express a need for this attention and care; they learn to cry. And the mother responds, and she is known . . . the baby knows her smell, her sound, her touch, her taste. All is remembered and well.

“But then imagine, this mother is suddenly gone. It is now someone else’s face and eyes; someone else’s touch, smell, and routine. The mother is gone and replaced by someone who is unknown. All is not well. Where has the known mother gone?”

Children have the right to be treated as human beings, not as business transactions. “When you are commissioning and swiping your credit card for a product, even one that you want badly, you are participating in commodification, regardless of whether the intended parents are the biological parents of the surrogate-born children. In this case, the products are human beings,” explained Katie Breckenridge of the children’s rights advocacy organization Them Before Us.

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail this Christmas for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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