An excellent article by European Women’s Lobby
Surrogacy: a global trade in women’s bodies
Sweden’s leading feminist lobby regards surrogate motherhood as a revival of serfdom for women
“Becoming a surrogate mother is a way for women in socially vulnerable positions to sell what fundamental human rights should protect them from selling – their own bodies.
A study of surrogate mothers in Anand, India, revealed that 50 percent were illiterate and that many could not read the contract that they were signing.
The Swedish Women’s Lobby views surrogate motherhood as a contract of temporary serfdom, where the surrogate mother waives her rights to bodily integrity during the pregnancy.
We must privilege the right to bodily integrity and fundamental human rights over a supposed right for parents to have children. Children always have the right to have parents, but there is no human right for parents to have children. Every child has the right not to be a commodity on a market. We must renounce the view of a liberal market-approach to surrogacy which privileges paying buyers while women’s rights are negotiable.
Having a feminist approach to surrogacy means rejecting the idea that women can be used as mere vessels and that their reproductive capabilities can be bought. The right to bodily integrity is a right which should not be able to be negotiated by any form of contract. However the contract is worded, surrogacy is still trading with women’s bodies and with children. The rights of women and children, not the interests of the buyer, must be the focus of the debate surrounding surrogacy.”
Great article by Kajsa Ekis Ekman
Margaret Atwood wrote a ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ in 1985.
Almost 30 years ago she forecast, as a future dystopia, what is the reality today.
In her book the religious right have taken over her society. The state has taken control of women, reducing their role to that of reproduction alone. The state has complete ownership and control of women’s bodies.
Due to some unknown widespread environmental catastrophe there exists high infertility and sterility rate, and a higher birth defect rate. So reproducing has become a high priority.
The state ensures that those in power and with higher status have control over reproduction and the raising of children. A selected group of women, the Handmaids, who have potential to reproduce, are forced into being reproducers for the elite.
“The Handmaids themselves are a pariah caste within the pyramid: treasured for what they may be able to provide – their fertility – but untouchables otherwise. To possess one is, however, a mark of high status, just as many slaves or a large retinue of servants always has been. Since the regime operates under the guise of a strict Puritanism, these women are not considered a harem, intended to provide delight as well as children. They are functional rather than decorative.” Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood has written a number of novels which she describes as ‘Speculative fiction’. That is, in these novels
“…nothing happens that the human race has not already done at some time in the past, or that it is not doing now, or for which it has not yet developed the technology.”
The concepts expressed in her novel are reflective of the current situation with surrogacy.
Rich western couples now have the ability to rent women’s bodies to satisfy their own desires for children. Women’s bodies and children are thus commodified.
Women from poor third world countries – are forced as a result of their poverty – to sell their bodies for reproduction.
“Many surrogates are from very poor backgrounds, have little or no education and certainly limited or non-existent financial literacy. There are concerns that some are pressed into the industry by their husbands and families as a quick way to make an otherwise unimaginable $7000AU per birth.” ABC Foreign Correspondent
What does this mean?
Journalist Susan Ince went undercover as a potential surrogate mother in the USA.
This is what she discovered.
It means that women are subjected to multiple intrusive physical examinations and multiple drug treatments. They are restricted in their freedom.
“She may not have intercourse, smoke or drink. She has to submit to all of the physical examinations and treatments the program prescribes.”
Once pregnant, women have an Amniocentesis examination and are forced to have an abortion if results show abnormality.
“If the doctor prescribes a Caesarean section, the surrogate has no right to refuse it.”
“Women have become infertile as a result of serving as surrogates.”
ABC Foreign Correspondent program “The Baby Makers” explored some of the conditions in India where surrogacy has become a booming industry.
“100 surrogate mothers live in a house for the term of their pregnancy. They lie in single bunks.”
Restricted in her freedom for the duration of her pregnancy. And this is a good agency!
According to Renate Klein, the assumption on which surrogacy is based is that the “surrogate” mother will not have a relationship with the developing baby as it is “not her child”. “
“An absurd notion for any woman who has ever been pregnant.” Renate Klein
The sad reality is that women’s fervent desires to have children are reflected in our society’s view of women and motherhood.
Women’s worth is still measured in her ability to have children. And so we have developed industries such as IVF and surrogacy so that rich western women can fulfill society’s expectations of them.
And in the process we treat women and children as commodities who can be bought and sold.
“Surrogacy is a heartless, exploitative, capitalist enterprise.” Renate Klein
Kajsa Ekis Ekman is the author of Being and Being Bought. Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self (Spinifex Press 2013).
She draws a link between prostitution and surrogacy.
“The parallels between prostitution and surrogacy were immediately evident to me. Two industries profit from women’s bodies: one from her for sex, the other from her uterus. Two industries commercialize basic human phenomena: sexuality and reproduction. And these, as it happens, are also the basis of the historical oppression of women and the ongoing division of women into ‘whores and madonnas’.”