Yesterday I followed this post over at Crunchy Cons dealing with gay marriage (I know, I know, but fools rush in, etc.). When a gay man remarked that he and his partner are expecting a daughter, and received congratulations, I finally had to jump in this morning, asking whether it was appropriate to congratulate the mother of the child. I couched it as a matter of etiquette--e.g., that it's so hard to know, when the mother could be anything from a "parenting partner" to a mere paid "rent-a womb" whether it's appropriate to congratulate her on the impending arrival of the child who is undoubtedly hers, regardless of the child's relationship to either of the two men (one of whom is probably her father, but who knows, these days?).
The reaction has, so far, been to accuse me of snarky ulterior motives (no comment) to a polite discussion of the matter as an etiquette issue (in which the gentleman who first announced his impending "parenthood" participated). There has been no acknowledgment that there is anything wrong with contracting with a living human being to, essentially, pay her to provide the genetic material and the womb in which to manufacture another living human being, a child whose right to both her father and her mother are being ripped away from her before she's even born. One commenter even compared the situation to adoption, in which a woman who, for whatever sad reasons, finds herself unable to raise her own child--even though such a comparison is a deep insult to any woman who has ever made the loving, selfless decision to allow her child to be placed with a caring father and mother who will provide the security and stability she cannot. There is simply no comparison whatsoever between a mother who accepts the necessity of adoption for the child she can't raise, and a woman who willingly rents herself and her genetic material out to manufacture a child as a commodity for a couple; while it's even worse if she's planning to hand the child over to a "couple" who will deprive her child forever of either a father or a mother, it's still deeply, deeply wrong for her to do so if the couple involved are a married heterosexual couple.
The commodification of a child is a grave evil. Though surrogate mothers may think they are acting altruistically, they are not; they are denigrating the very notion of motherhood and reducing both themselves and their children to objects which may be purchased. In the event that the surrogate only "rents" her womb, "growing" a child manufactured from the husband and wife's own intact embryo or embryos, she is still participating in the grave evil of IVF, with its multiple murders of innocent unborn humans; surrogacy itself is a grave evil, with its supremely reductive view of a human being to a collection of body parts which may be used by others in exchange for money or other considerations. There is very little difference between a surrogate and a prostitute; both are selling what must not be sold, and cheapening not only their own dignity but the dignity of every member of their gender in doing so.
Ironically, it is not the "pro-choice" side which finds anything wrong with the use of surrogate mothers or the notion of surrogacy. Indeed, in regard to the manufacture and sale of children to gay male "couples," the pro-choice side is wildly enthusiastic for the most part. And while a few feminists have raised concerns that widespread cultural acceptance of surrogacy may lead to the exploitation of women in the third world, these concerns are muted against the push to create gay "families" in which many of the children are brought into being in this very way.
Consider this, from a NY Times article from March of last year in which the problem of surrogacy in India was discussed:
Words fail to express the diabolical level of evil involved in what these men are doing. Yet in our modern culture, there's no problem here: the poor women get money, the gay men get a baby, and everybody's happy. Only homophobia and bigotry could possibly object the the manufacture and sale of children to those whose sex acts will never produce one, right?
Although some Indian clinics allow surrogates and clients to meet, Mr. Gher said he preferred anonymity. When his surrogate gives birth later this year, he and his partner will be in the hospital, but not in the ward where she is in labor, and will be handed the baby by a nurse.
The surrogate mother does not know that she is working for foreigners, Dr. Kadam said, and has not been told that the future parents are both men. Gay sex is illegal in India.
Israel legalized adoption by same-sex couples in February, but such couples are not permitted to hire surrogates in Israel to become parents. A fertility doctor recommended Rotunda, which made news in November when its doctors delivered twins for another gay Israeli couple.
Rotunda did not allow interviews with its surrogate mothers, but a 32-year-old woman at a fertility clinic in Delhi explained why she is planning on her second surrogacy in two years.
Separated from her husband, she found that her monthly wages of 2,800 rupees, about $69, as a midwife were not enough to raise her 9-year-old son. With the money she earned from the first surrogacy, more than $13,600, she bought a house. She expects to pay for her son’s education with what she earns for the second, about $8,600. (Fees are typically fixed by the doctor and can vary.) “I will save the money for my child’s future,” she said. [...]
So far, for the Israeli couple, the experience of having a baby has been strangely virtual. They perused profiles of egg donors that were sent by e-mail (“We picked the one with the highest level of education,” Mr. Gher said). From information that followed, they rejected a factory worker in favor of a housewife, who they thought would have a less stressful lifestyle.
One thing is clear: it's not the pro-lifers who view women as incubators.