11 votes

Should surrogate mothers be paid for their labour?

23 comments

  1. [11]
    paddy
    Link
    I have all the feels about this subject, because my husband and I would very much like to have children, and so far, being two guys has stymied our attempts to do it ourselves. We're going to keep...

    I have all the feels about this subject, because my husband and I would very much like to have children, and so far, being two guys has stymied our attempts to do it ourselves. We're going to keep trying, but in the meantime, it seemed prudent to look into alternatives.

    We're really heavily set on adopting the child as close to birth as possible, ideally even being there for the birth. Not because we don't think we could love or do a good job of raising a kid we adopted at an older age, but because we really want that from-birth parenting experience.

    That would seem to imply that we'd be interested in surrogacy more than adoption, but in reality, we ruled out surrogacy pretty quickly. We had several friends offer to be a surrogate for us, but we're not super-comfortable having the child's mother be someone they know and see regularly. While there's nothing wrong with that arrangement, we did some soul-searching and decided that we really wanted to raise a kid together, and not in partnership with some third individual. And our kid is already going to have to navigate two dads, we didn't want to throw confusion about who the parents were into the mix. I keep imagining trying to navigate the "mom said I could" scenario, or having to deal with other adults that hear "I'm having lunch with my mom" and don't grasp the complexity of the situation. So we'd need a stranger to be our surrogate. But that's a risky and complicated process. I know @DangerChips mentioned some iron-clad contracts, but historically, those can be hard to enforce, and the specifics vary on a state-by-state basis. In our state, mothers can't sign away their parental rights until after the child is born. So while the contract may say they'll sign away their parental rights, there's enough history of surrogates changing their mind at the last minute, after the medical expenses have all been paid, to scare us away. Because everything we've read indicates there's a non-negligible risk that you'll not recoup any of those expenses.

    So we've opted to look at infant adoption instead. Which, of course, carries that same risk--that anything you pay will be lost and the mother will keep the child, anyways. The difference with infant adoption is that we can go through well-established agencies that will help us handle the legal complexities but will also absorb the risk of a mother changing her mind. The process, from what I've seen, is basically to put together information on ourselves, and mothers who are already pregnant but have decided they do not want to have the baby will select from that set of parents who should raise the baby instead. We then take over the medical, living, and other related expenses (as permissable by law) involved in the pregnancy, and the agency refunds that money to us if the mother decides to keep the child. But the agency takes care of the actual payment of these funds, because a lot of times they can't be paid in cash to the mother, for legal reasons, and so the mother will get a gift card, or the necessary items purchased for them, or whatever. Because there's a lot of laws trying to prevent people from selling children, which I understand.

    A lot of the discussions about adoption (we're given a big checklist of things we're comfortable with a mother doing while pregnant, and risk factors in their medical history, etc.) and around this "price of a human life" strike me as really bizarre. I'm paying for an opportunity, not a child. This isn't shopping for a computer, I'm not going to build something to spec and am looking to get exactly what I want. I'm paying to have the same opportunity couples capable of making a baby have, with all the attendant risks that involves. The fact that it complicates things that a child may be born with disabilities and questions about whether I'd be willing to accept a child that has disabilities always strike me as uncomfortably close to eugenics. I just want the chance to have a kid. If my husband and I had the equipment to do that ourselves, there'd be a risk that our child would have disabilities, and we shouldn't have a kid if we're not prepared to accept that risk and do whatever we need to to make that child happy and healthy. The only thing we would be able to control is the things we do while pregnant--smoking, drinking, drugs, etc.--and so I'd expect to be able to enforce that in a contract with a surrogate or mother we intend to adopt from. But if the mother engaged in good faith and treated her pregnancy the way we would have treated our own, and miscarried, I'd think it fair that we pay the medical expenses up to that point, because in a situation where we got pregnant ourselves, we would have had to pay those expenses. But if a mother decides to keep the baby, that's no longer our baby, and we shouldn't be paying for any of the medical expenses.

    This is already absurdly long, because I've had to think a lot about and research extensively how money (our expected costs for adopting a child--just to bring it home with us, not any furniture, or flights to be at the birth, or hotel to wait for the birth/wait for adoption paperwork to go through after the birth, etc. comes to around $50,000), surrogacy, and adoption all interact in the last six months, and it's a lot to sort through. I really envy people who can accidentally get pregnant. But to wrap this all up:

    I see no real reason why people shouldn't get paid to be surrogates, and think it's problematic that men can be paid to donate sperm but women can't be paid to carry the child. (Though, in fairness, you can be paid to donate eggs, too, I believe.) The argument I don't really understand is that it opens the door for exploitation. This bit here is mind-boggling:

    "We need to really be sure that that these women are making the choice on their own... not because they have to, or they have no other way to make money."

    Like, what's the alternative, that they die because they have no other way to make money? If we're going to need every market to be immune to the coercion of capitalism before it's legalized, oh boy do I have bad news for you. This feels like someone almost got to the "capitalism puts people in inhumane positions, let's reevaluate what our social safety net looks like" and then veered away hard before reaching the conclusion.

    I'm not saying don't regulate it, I'm just generally on the side of "starting a family, if you consider literally anybody not capable of having a child on their own, is a really complicated thing before the law even gets involved, so we should really have some clear and evidence-supported risks or harms that we're trying to mitigate if we're going to complicate it more with laws, and the laws should be tailored to those risks and harms." I don't know that a blanket ban on getting paid for carrying a child meets that standard.

    12 votes
    1. [10]
      Catt
      Link Parent
      You mentioned adoption as an alternative, but how do you feel about most domestic adoptions have some contact with their birth mother? And nowadays, it's consider health for the child to know...

      We had several friends offer to be a surrogate for us, but we're not super-comfortable having the child's mother be someone they know and see regularly.

      You mentioned adoption as an alternative, but how do you feel about most domestic adoptions have some contact with their birth mother? And nowadays, it's consider health for the child to know "where they're from".

      3 votes
      1. [9]
        paddy
        Link Parent
        So, for us, we're actually pretty keen on an open adoption. Given the choice, it's what I think we'd go with. All the research we can find seems to open adoptions being better for the child, as it...

        So, for us, we're actually pretty keen on an open adoption. Given the choice, it's what I think we'd go with. All the research we can find seems to open adoptions being better for the child, as it can help answer medical history questions, as well as give the child the opportunity to hear why their birth mother gave them up directly from her, which (from what we can find) seems to generally-speaking lead to the child having a more healthy relationship with being adopted.

        Of course, open adoption is a spectrum, so we've had to talk a lot about where exactly on that spectrum we fall. The requirements the agencies we've found have have been safely within our comfort limits, because they never involve any unsupervised time or communication with the child, or often any time with the child at all.

        We intend to be fully honest with our kid about being adopted, what we don't want is confusion for the child if the birthmother and we have different values. To put it in an extreme example, if the mother was homophobic (this isn't a worry, as they'd be unlikely to pick us then, but it's illustrative) I wouldn't want my kid eating lunch with them every month, because that's a bad influence on my kid. And if it's one of our friends, all of whom I love dearly and think will be great influences on my children, my child will see them often, and I don't want my parenting choices (or their parenting choices!) to be constrained by any confusion my child may have over what "mother" means in this context. Because I signed up to raise a child with my husband, not with my husband and a third party. I don't know that I'm equipped for that.

        But I also know we're going to have to navigate a lot of adults that aren't used to seeing kids with two dads, and I want to try to avoid complicating that further if I can. So if my kid is in class with my friends' kids, and my friend was a surrogate for us, a teacher hearing them refer to "our mom" is going to complicate matters. If someone asks our kid "where's your mom?", it's a lot easier to teach a child how to react appropriately if they don't see their mom regularly.

        So for us, the comfort line has a lot to do with the role the mother plays in the child's life, not the child knowing about the mother or us talking to the mother. We'd even be ok with our kid talking with or spending time with the mother, as long as it's infrequently enough that the child never comes to think of her as a parent, and when anyone asks about their mother, the child intuitively knows that person is actually asking about their daddies.

        There's a lot of power and good that is done with having family structures that don't fit the expected mould, and I never want to imply otherwise. I think they're awesome. But after a lot of conversation about what we want and what we're comfortable with, we're trying to approximate that mould as best we can, to try and latch on to some of the privilege it grants.

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          meristele
          Link Parent
          I understand about the feels. Before I get into the topic, I want to wish you and your husband success in your desire for a child. Best of luck, hope, and joy for your endeavour! On whether or not...

          I understand about the feels. Before I get into the topic, I want to wish you and your husband success in your desire for a child. Best of luck, hope, and joy for your endeavour!

          On whether or not there should be monetary compensation for surrogacy...
          To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this too. I've been pregnant, and more than once at that. There are specific consequences/effects on the body each time. For a random example, shoe size. My feet are half a size bigger for each of the two pregnancies I carried to term. Now, I personally think that it would be silly to hold a contracted parent responsible for replacing all my shoes. I think I would rather have a negotiated fee and take care of all the little adjustments myself.

          If I were getting a surrogate parent for my potential child, I would want someone without a history of mental illness. Someone emotionally well adjusted. Someone intelligent. Not just for the future of the child, but also for the interaction before and after the birth.

          Guess what...people like that tend to have busy and productive lives. They have jobs. They have various levels of insurance plans that cost money. They have paid sick time and maternity leave that the surrogacy would use up. They are aware of nutritonal issues and opt for organic, which can be more costly. This is totally aside from health related things like hemorrhoids.

          I think the method of compensation and details of the contract should vary, depending on what the surrogate and the parents are comfortable with. I think things will become much less complicated when science advances to the point of gamete selection and repair. And I sincerely hope that @paddy and his husband are able to become fathers. :)

          6 votes
          1. [2]
            paddy
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Thank you! I'm unclear if my lack of sleep and/or rambling distorted my message, so I just want to be super explicit that I totally agree the fine points of this should be between the parties...

            Thank you! I'm unclear if my lack of sleep and/or rambling distorted my message, so I just want to be super explicit that I totally agree the fine points of this should be between the parties involved.

            2 votes
            1. meristele
              Link Parent
              I didn't take any of your comments in a negative way. :) I was unclear myself - I just wanted to put out a small view from the other end in support of your comments. The thoughts you have are...

              I didn't take any of your comments in a negative way. :) I was unclear myself - I just wanted to put out a small view from the other end in support of your comments. The thoughts you have are exactly the sort of things I'd like people to have if I were to carry a child for them.

              3 votes
        2. [5]
          Catt
          Link Parent
          Thanks for the thoughtful response. This is a really good point. There is still a lot of, maybe not judgement exactly, but assumptions that are made.

          Thanks for the thoughtful response.

          So if my kid is in class with my friends' kids, and my friend was a surrogate for us, a teacher hearing them refer to "our mom" is going to complicate matters.

          This is a really good point. There is still a lot of, maybe not judgement exactly, but assumptions that are made.

          1 vote
          1. [4]
            paddy
            Link Parent
            Yeah, I've been thinking about them for a while, ever since I saw this. I think of it as privilege, just because anyone that doesn't have it has extra work in their life. Doesn't mean it's...

            Yeah, I've been thinking about them for a while, ever since I saw this. I think of it as privilege, just because anyone that doesn't have it has extra work in their life. Doesn't mean it's malicious.

            But, for example, I took my husband's last name when we got married, and a large part of that decision included knowing that at some point, I'll pick my child up from some adult that has temporary custody of them (daycare, school, a friend's house, etc.) and is expected to not give them away to a stranger, and will introduce myself as their father, and get "you're not their dad, I met him" in response, referring to my husband. And knowing that having a different last name than my child will only make that situation worse.

            It also means that we'll be reinforcing with our child constantly the importance of always answering "yes" if someone ever asks if one of us is their dad, because that will also be a not-fun situation to find ourselves in.

            1. [3]
              Catt
              Link Parent
              I can sort of see where you're coming from. If my spouse and I adopted, statistically the child will not share our ethnicity. Our worry is that we already run into identity issues ("where are you...

              I can sort of see where you're coming from. If my spouse and I adopted, statistically the child will not share our ethnicity. Our worry is that we already run into identity issues ("where are you from from?" kinda things), so how will we help them create a complete sense of self when there's going to be so many external forces questioning them?

              1. [2]
                paddy
                Link Parent
                The agency we're going through has a big checklist of which races you're willing to adopt, which is a really ethically difficult decision to make. For our part, we're doing a lot of reading on...

                The agency we're going through has a big checklist of which races you're willing to adopt, which is a really ethically difficult decision to make.

                For our part, we're doing a lot of reading on "transracial" adoption, from the perspectives of parents, adopted kids, and specialists. We talk a lot about how we'd help our kid be comfortable with their culture if we had a kid of a different race, what challenges it's responsible for us to take on, and what we are likely to be equipped to help our kid with. At the end of the day, our kid will have problems we don't have the experience or expertise to help with, and we're going to just have to do the best we can, love them, and hope that's enough. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do what we can to limit those situations, either.

                1. Catt
                  Link Parent
                  Absolutely! The agency we looked at had quite a "shopping list" too, and it awkwardly felt a bit like that. But of course, at the end of the day, we had to be honest about what we were comfortable...

                  Absolutely! The agency we looked at had quite a "shopping list" too, and it awkwardly felt a bit like that. But of course, at the end of the day, we had to be honest about what we were comfortable with and what was truly within our abilities. And honestly, the transracial aspect didn't bother us nearly as much as possible medical risks. Definitely still required a lot of discussion though - my spouse and I are also not the same ethnicity and we've both talked about preserving a bit of our own culture too. The thought of tossing in a third one, though definitely doable, will without a doubt come with it's own set of challenges.

                  I have some idea how long and crazy the adoption process can be, and I with you and your husband the best of luck :)

                  1 vote
  2. [5]
    ajar
    Link
    This argument always sounded strange to me. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but I see it as very puritan. Don't we already put our brains and bodies for rent in all paid jobs? What makes it...

    While some welcomed the idea to change the law, one bioethicist warned about Canada "putting the human body in the marketplace.

    This argument always sounded strange to me. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but I see it as very puritan. Don't we already put our brains and bodies for rent in all paid jobs? What makes it different here?

    I understand the other concerns, but this argument by itself seems weird to me. Like pregnancy is somehow holier than other things. Which I'd understand from a religious person, but I've heard it from all types of people. Anyone can enlighten me about its rationale?

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      harrygibus
      Link Parent
      I would have to say that it's not that pregnancy is "holier" than other things, but rather that the mother develops a bond that is probably unquantifiable and unimaginable pre-pregnancy,...

      I would have to say that it's not that pregnancy is "holier" than other things, but rather that the mother develops a bond that is probably unquantifiable and unimaginable pre-pregnancy, especially to the mother and she may likely change her mind about the situation after a contract is already in place - this is already the case in most surrogacy (in the US at least). As far as I know, the precedent for mother's rights is pretty ironclad. Uncertain ownership of the final product seems like a lot of risk to build a business around.

      1 vote
      1. ajar
        Link Parent
        Ok, that makes some sense, I think. However, afaik, most surrogacy agencies implement specific measures to try to avoid these situations. For example, they require that the egg comes from a third...

        Ok, that makes some sense, I think. However, afaik, most surrogacy agencies implement specific measures to try to avoid these situations. For example, they require that the egg comes from a third person, that the surrogate mother already has had at least one child of her own, and even that she is in a relationship, I think.

        Regarding changing her mind, I agree and I think that's good. I believe she should pay back any money received though, whether medical bills paid or compensation up to that point.

    2. [2]
      heart_container
      Link Parent
      And we do it in other ways and in other contexts... don't they pay for plasma in the US? Not to mention that sex work is legal in some places which has been put in place to protect the rights of...

      And we do it in other ways and in other contexts... don't they pay for plasma in the US? Not to mention that sex work is legal in some places which has been put in place to protect the rights of workers whose bodies are their business. What about manual labour? I don't get the difference either.

      1. ajar
        Link Parent
        To be honest, I think there is some exploitation. But just as much as with any other work. There are so many people who work just in order to survive, and I don't like it. So I am conflicted in...

        To be honest, I think there is some exploitation. But just as much as with any other work. There are so many people who work just in order to survive, and I don't like it. So I am conflicted in the sense that I don't like the current arrangement of having to work in order to live. But if society accepts this, I don't see why it shouldn't accept compensating surrogates to some degree. After all, they're taking care of the child for 9 months and putting themselves into risk.

  3. [6]
    Luna
    (edited )
    Link
    There are some interesting points in this article, and it's something that I've never thought of before. I think this is a bit flawed because pregnancy isn't required to stay alive. Having a child...

    There are some interesting points in this article, and it's something that I've never thought of before.

    "We don't celebrate something like selling organs, selling bone marrow, selling skin, selling blood, selling plasma," Fran├žoise Baylis said on CBC's Information Morning: Nova Scotia on Thursday.

    I think this is a bit flawed because pregnancy isn't required to stay alive. Having a child in your life could improve your happiness (though it would undoubtedly reduce your sleep and free time in the short term), but it's entirely optional. Getting an organ transplant or blood transfusion isn't something you do just because you want to, it's done because you'll die or your quality of life will be significantly decreased without it (using dialysis machines, carrying around oxygen tanks, etc.). I think it's similar to prostitution in this regard, but more intimate because a prostitute is only around for however long you pay them, whereas a child is going to be with you for much longer.

    She also fears that allowing payment could open the door to exploitation.

    "We need to really be sure that that these women are making the choice on their own... not because they have to, or they have no other way to make money."

    I feel that argument is also a bit flawed. There isn't a market for pregnancy like there is for sex (and sex workers put much less effort into their work by comparison), and even if you were to agree to be a surrogate mother, you could renege and get an abortion. (However, if a contract stipulated you would have to pay a penalty for reneging, I would consider that exploitation. The only thing the surrogate should pay is the cost of an abortion if they want out but the prospective parents still want the child. If both the parents and surrogate want an abortion, the cost should be split.) One thing that I was wondering about was the costs of the pregnancy itself, but it seems that is already addressed, assuming you document everything properly:

    Under the law, surrogates can be reimbursed for pregnancy-related expenses, but only if they provide proof of payment.

    Although I feel the arguments against it (edit: "it" being paying surrogates, not the quote above) aren't the strongest, it makes me a bit uneasy because it is indirectly putting a price on human life. The idea that there could develop a market for surrogate mothers seems weird, but I imagine this wouldn't be a very large market. Chances are, you'd want to personally know the surrogate beforehand, and in that scenario, I would be fine with the parents paying the surrogate as a token of their appreciation. The idea of a market for surrogates, however, is what makes it feel weird.

    I would be curious about the prospective parents' right to renege. For example, if the child is found to have a severe genetic disorder while it can still be aborted, could the parents say they won't take the child and leave it up to the surrogate what to do? Should they be allowed to force an abortion? I'm conflicted. I don't think parents should be allowed to force the surrogate to abort, but I also don't think they should be able to walk away without any consequences. If the surrogate is uncomfortable with abortion (though I think it's a bad idea to be a surrogate if you are against abortion for this reason), the child(ren) will go up for adoption if the surrogate doesn't want to raise them, and I would be worried about the potential for malicious couples to intentionally walk away. Maybe force the prospective parents to pay for an abortion if they renege and the surrogate doesn't want to carry the child to term, but what if it's too late for an abortion? I feel that if we are to impose penalties on the prospective parents, there should be some differentiation between not wanting the child due to a genetic disorder vs. a dispute between parents (i.e. divorce/cheating) or just having a change of heart about parenthood (or outright malice and intentionally wanting to put their surrogate in this position).

    My concerns might be addressed by existing laws related to surrogacy, but I'm not a lawyer. On another note, typing "prospective parents" seems weird, as if couples were shopping around for children like you would a house.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      DangerChips
      Link Parent
      There is a market for surrogate pregnancy here in the States. Payment ranges anywhere from 5 to 25k for the surrogate and medical expenses are covered by the organizations that facilitate it. I...

      There is a market for surrogate pregnancy here in the States.

      Payment ranges anywhere from 5 to 25k for the surrogate and medical expenses are covered by the organizations that facilitate it. I know this because my ex-gf was interested in doing it. She liked the idea of being pregnant (just not having a kid to be responsible with just yet) and the cash was alluring to her. This was at a time when combined we made well under 40k/year so the idea that some company would pay you up to 25k to rent your womb out was.. well, hell that's a new car right?

      As far as rights of the surrogate parent go, the surrogate pretty much had to sign some pretty iron-clad contracts to ensure that the surrogate wouldn't pull a fast one (in the info packet they provided, this was positioned as a way to protect the prospective parents as well as the surrogate).

      As far as shopping for children, we already live in that world and I fear it's only going to get weirder as we go along on this ride we call the human condition. Aside from actually shopping for children via third world orphanages, gene screening is already a thing to make sure you don't have any 1 out 240+ genetic markers that make me more likely to pass some affliction onto my potential children. There's also a bevy of biotech startups which are aimed at basically providing you, the parent, with a sort of character creation like process for giving your potential offspring with the best genetic chance possible in excelling in this world.

      We live in strange times.

      5 votes
      1. Luna
        Link Parent
        Wow, that's a lot more than I imagined (but given the time, pain, and potential complications, $5k seems like a low-ball). I have never put much thought to surrogate mothers other than some...

        Payment ranges anywhere from 5 to 25k for the surrogate and medical expenses are covered by the organizations that facilitate it

        Wow, that's a lot more than I imagined (but given the time, pain, and potential complications, $5k seems like a low-ball). I have never put much thought to surrogate mothers other than some discussions about the movie Gattaca (which isn't so far fetched anymore). It's good to see that both parties are protected from one walking out of the deal. (That makes me curious about what would happen if both parents died, such as in a car accident, and had no relatives that could take the child in.)

    2. [2]
      ajar
      Link Parent
      You make good points. And the ethical ramifications are definitely complicated (especially regarding when the baby has some disorder, or when the parents or the surrogate want to back off the...

      You make good points. And the ethical ramifications are definitely complicated (especially regarding when the baby has some disorder, or when the parents or the surrogate want to back off the deal, for example).

      it makes me a bit uneasy because it is indirectly putting a price on human life

      Regarding this... I don't think that is a fair assessment. I wouldn't mind surrogates getting paid for the service they provide. But I wouldn't say that is putting a price on a life, just on the service.

      I'm not sure if this analogy is fair either, I know it's not exactly the same, but I'll say it. When a doctor is paid for operating on someone, or a firefighter for saving a person from a fire, we wouldn't say the money they get is the price of a human life.

      2 votes
      1. Luna
        Link Parent
        That's a good point. A lot of things could be considered putting a price on human life by my line of thought, including every payment health insurance companies make after haggling the price with...

        But I wouldn't say that is putting a price on a life, just on the service

        That's a good point. A lot of things could be considered putting a price on human life by my line of thought, including every payment health insurance companies make after haggling the price with the provider. After reading the responses, I'm more comfortable with the idea, provided there are adequate protections for both parties.

        1 vote
    3. Catt
      Link Parent
      I can see how it might feel this way, but I think it's more about acknowledging the service that is being provided. Surrogates commit to a huge range of risks, and I think if someone wants to...

      it makes me a bit uneasy because it is indirectly putting a price on human life.

      I can see how it might feel this way, but I think it's more about acknowledging the service that is being provided. Surrogates commit to a huge range of risks, and I think if someone wants to compensate them for it, they should be allowed too. The current laws are too extreme, incidentally, for adoption too.

      2 votes
  4. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. Catt
      Link Parent
      Economic exploitation comes in many fields, and I don't think we should ban a specific practice since it can be exploited. I mean, I'm sure we all know someone treated unfairly at work, maybe...

      ...it doesn't outright solve the issue of economic exploitation.

      Economic exploitation comes in many fields, and I don't think we should ban a specific practice since it can be exploited. I mean, I'm sure we all know someone treated unfairly at work, maybe unpaid overtime, that just lives with it.

      I do absolutely agree with you on the importance of keeping things above board and away from a possible black market.

      1 vote