In the past, surrogacy in countries other than the United States was a popular option for hopeful parents. It offered a cheaper overall cost, less legal restrictions and more advantages that made it an attractive choice for those looking to become parents through surrogacy.
However, times have changed. What was once a seemingly easy and simple process has now become associated with things like “womb-renting,” “surrogacy-tourism” and other situations that harm both surrogates and intended parents. Today, international surrogacy not only comes with increased risks but also potential ethical dilemmas that can weigh heavily on intended parents.
Of course, with proper foresight, these ethical dilemmas can be solved or avoided. However, if you’re considering pursuing surrogacy in another country, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these dilemmas. Then, you can make sure you choose an international surrogacy agency that effectively addresses the potential for these ethical complexities.
In this article, we’ve given a run-down of the biggest ethical questions international surrogacy tends to raise.
Is it Right to “Rent” a Woman’s Womb?
At its simplest, surrogacy is a transaction — an intended parent pays a surrogate for the time, energy and sacrifice of carrying a baby to term. Admittedly, surrogacy is much more than just a business transaction (it’s also a beautiful, selfless way to create a family), but it’s important that surrogates feel appreciated for their decision, which is why many U.S. surrogacy agencies only complete compensated surrogacies.
In countries where compensated surrogacy is outlawed, however, surrogacy can be controversial — especially when international intended parents are involved. Is it right for an intended parent to come abroad and use a surrogate’s womb to have a child if she doesn’t get anything in return for it?
Even in countries where surrogates are compensated, this can be a tricky subject. Critics of the surrogacy process compare it to prostitution, for a woman is using her body to bring in money that she may not have been able to otherwise. In the U.S., surrogates are heavily screened to make sure that they are not just doing it for the money, but international surrogacy agencies may not do the same thing. Surrogates in poorer countries may find the compensation of surrogacy impossible to refuse and, therefore, may enter into the process even if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. In some cultures, the surrogate may not ever have control of the money she earns; it will be transferred directly to her husband instead.
Before you choose to pursue an international surrogacy, ask yourself this: Is the lower cost of surrogacy abroad worth the possibility that your surrogate is being financially forced into the process?
To address this concern, talk with your international surrogacy agency to learn more about how surrogates are compensated and screened in the country you’re interested in.
Are a Surrogate’s Rights Protected?
In surrogacy, a surrogate should always have certain rights — most importantly, the right to accurate information and the right to medical resources.
Before any woman decides to be a surrogate, she should receive accurate, up-to-date information about the process that she is considering. This includes all potential risks, rights, and responsibilities that she’ll be held to during the process. In the United States, this is usually handled when a surrogate completes pre-match screening.
However, in other countries, this may not be the case. Women becoming surrogates may not completely understand the process they’re entering into due to a lack of education or even complete illiteracy. It’s not uncommon for women to become surrogates without comprehending what surrogacy actually requires from them. They also may not have a separate surrogacy attorney advocating for their rights like surrogates in the U.S. do and, therefore, may find themselves and their own health as a second priority to the baby.
That comes to another right of a surrogate — the right to medical assistance. In the U.S., surrogates can receive medical care that fits the standards of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine from a local professional. In lesser-developed countries, however, this medical care may not be as readily available. A surrogate may undergo medical procedures in undeveloped medical facilities, may have multiple embryos transferred to her uterus (despite the risks of doing so), or even be forced to live in a “surrogate camp” until she gives birth to the baby she is carrying.
There’s a reason why surrogacy in a different country than the United States costs less; it’s because surrogates and intended parents are not receiving all the services they need to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible. And, when you’re located halfway across the world, you won’t know if your surrogate is receiving the services she needs (like counseling or childcare).
Even in a properly completed surrogacy process, surrogates are sacrificing their time and energy to help intended parents like you bring a child into their lives — but they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their personal rights, as well.
Will a Different Culture Embrace Surrogacy?
It’s also important to recognize that surrogacy may be viewed differently in another country than it is in the United States. Religious and cultural views of sexual relationships may interfere with the science of the in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer process, which may be problematic for those whom you involve in your surrogacy journey.
For example, consider a surrogate whose parents do not understand the science behind the medical process. They (and, by extension, her community) may view her as an unwed mother or a woman who has had relations with someone other than her husband.
Even if there is proper education, there are still many in the world who believe that using assisted reproductive technology is “playing God” and, therefore, immoral. Your surrogate and her family may be opening themselves up to targeting from others in their community by working with you.
Any international surrogacy process that you choose should only be selected after you make sure that your working with a surrogate will not negatively impact how society views her.
Why Go Abroad for Something that Can Be Completed Domestically?
Finally, when you research international surrogacy, you may come across the term “surrogacy tourism.” Simply put, this is the idea that you are going abroad for the same services that you can access from within the United States, which causes economic controversies.
When you choose to go abroad to complete surrogacy, you are putting your hard-earned money into another country’s economy. This is completely your right. However, many medical professionals in different countries receive subsidies for or tax-payer-funded education and infrastructural support. Critics argue that their services should go to the citizens who are actually paying those taxes, rather than foreign intended parents.
It’s common for American intended parents to consider international surrogacy because of the seemingly lower cost associated with it. However, as mentioned above, this means that you and your surrogate will not receive all off the supportive services necessary for a positive surrogacy experience. By going abroad, you could be preventing yourself and the surrogate you use from a healthy, safe surrogacy. Critics of international surrogacy say that this trade-off is not worth the money that intended parents save.
There are several ethical controversies surrounding international surrogacy today, so it’s important that all intended parents completely understand what their process could mean for those involved before beginning. With the proper steps to solve these dilemmas (working with a reputable agency, making sure a surrogate receives proper compensation, etc.), an international surrogacy need not be a moral quandary. Talk in detail with your international surrogacy agency to learn how they can help you address these potential ethical dilemmas and create a process that you and your surrogate will be comfortable with.
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