Surrogacy has come a long way since it was first introduced in the 18th century, quite ironically in the West. It has also become one of the most contentious issues in recent times. The opponents of surrogacy particularly target commercialization, which they view as exploitative and morally atrocious. On the other hand, the legal systems of many countries including India have not been able to put a full stop to it for a variety of reasons. Surrogacy has been practiced for many years, but with the rise of advanced reproductive technology, it found its way into commercial practice. Commercial surrogacy usually involves gestational surrogacy—a surrogate who carries and gives birth to a baby she has conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment using the egg and sperm of intended parents.
Commercial surrogacy, or paid surrogacy, involves monetary compensation to the surrogate mother. Commercial surrogacy has recently gained prominence as more than 300 Indian women have found willing candidates in the U.S., Russia, Europe, and Australia. The availability of lucrative surrogacy contracts in the States and other parts of the world has encouraged some Indian women to take up the profession. The practice of commercial surrogacy poses several ethical questions regarding the safety of motherhood, exploitation of poor women, issues of child legitimacy and status. In India, commercial surrogacy is illegal. But there is a booming market in surrogate pregnancies for foreign couples who come to clinics and hospitals here in this country. Now, the government wants to ban the service. There’s been a big debate on this issue. Most people are against the ban. They argue that banning surrogacy will disincentivize poor women from becoming surrogate mothers, and could lead them into greater poverty as they will be less likely to be able to provide for their children.
Surrogacy may be considered against women’s empowerment as it would suggest women cannot decide by themselves what is best for them. Thus, if they want to have a child, they can and should. In the case of bio-medical conditions and infertility, surrogacy is the only option. Ban on surrogacy may imply that in case of infertility those who want to have a child are not allowed to have a genetic connection with their child, which is a very common dream for many people. To understand the ethics behind surrogacy we need to discover a surrogate mother’s aims and interests. Merleau-Ponty’s theory of embodied subjectivity could be used to argue that surrogates are not merely passive instruments of the natural physical process, but agents with hopes and fears: individuals with a past, present, and future in which they are interested and have plans.
The commercial surrogacy ban has created a set of ethical dilemmas for those intending to become commercial surrogates. The law defines a gestational mother as a woman who has agreed to become a gestational carrier for a particular baby. While everyone may be eligible to become a gestational carrier, only certain women are likely to be chosen due to their circumstances or the value they may add to the commercial plan. This creates a dilemma for those wishing to become a gestational carrier and have their child.