Fri 31st Oct 2014 | Last updated: Fri 31st Oct 2014 at 14:03pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo

Comment & Blogs

The business of transferring an embryo to a surrogate mother’s womb is, to me, deeply disquieting

The woman who travelled to India for a surrogate was overjoyed, and saw the commercial transaction as mutually beneficial. But I found out it hard to celebrate

By on Thursday, 9 February 2012

Surrogate mothers at the Kaival Hospital in Anand, Gujarat, India (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

Surrogate mothers at the Kaival Hospital in Anand, Gujarat, India (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

I blogged last week about the hapless Captain Schettino, who skippered the doomed cruiser Costa Concordia, and whose excuse for being in a lifeboat while hundreds of passengers were still left on board was that he tripped and fell into it.

Well, my daughter, who is a detective constable with the Metropolitan Police, has since told me a funnier tall story. During last year’s London riots a man was caught on CCTV rushing at a police cordon three times. Faced with this incontrovertible evidence in court he told the Bench that he had simply been trying to get across the road to reach a newsagent on the other side – in order to buy a birthday card for his wife. You have to applaud his ingenuity.

I heard a programme on the World Service last Tuesday night: on surrogacy. It made sad listening. An Irish woman, Carolina, who had had ovarian cancer some years previously and who had subsequently married, had travelled to India to find a surrogate to carry “her” baby. All this had been arranged very professionally by a Dr Patel, who kept repeating that no exploitation had taken place: the surrogate had come forward of her own free will, had been well looked after and had been well paid for her trouble. After all, she had received over $7,000 – enough to pay for a new home and to educate her children.

Carolina spoke too; she was overjoyed to have a baby and saw the commercial exchange as mutually beneficial. She had hired a nurse to feed the infant while she was in India as it wouldn’t be right for the surrogate to breastfeed; that would be “a step too far” in her view. When all the legalities and paperwork had been completed, she would fly home to Ireland with the baby and all would be well.

The surrogate was also interviewed, through an interpreter. She was crying: why could she not even be allowed to breastfeed the baby she had carried in her womb? She had chosen to become a surrogate without telling her relations, apart from her husband; they would have objected so the pregnancy had to be kept secret. They had found out anyway and this had caused problems. Her two children had to be cared for while she was living at the surrogacy house and she was missing them. Yes, the money would change their lives and without it they would never own a proper home – but she sounded downcast and her tears kept flowing.

Throughout the programme we never heard about the test tube conception or the transfer of the tiny embryo to the surrogate woman’s womb, or what was really going on: a childless westerner; a poor Indian woman; a Home where surrogates incubated babies they would never hold in their arms; the fee paid to Dr Patel’s clinic. What will Carolina’s baby be told in years to come and what will he/she think? As infertility rates climb in the West, is this new form of imperialism the future? The programme caused me deep disquiet; I couldn’t find anything in it to celebrate.

  • Bob Hayes

    Heart-rending – and yes, it is a form of imperialism.

  • Anonymous

    “I heard a programme on the World Service last Tuesday night: on
    surrogacy. It made sad listening. An Irish woman, Carolina, who had had
    ovarian cancer some years previously and who had subsequently married,
    had travelled to India to find a surrogate to carry “her” baby.”

    ## What’s the alternative: the integrity of the mother’s womb at the price of cancer for the baby ? God forbid anyone should suggest such a horrible thing :(

    An unborn life is apparently far less important than the death of the baby from an incurable disease which can be avoided if the unborn is transferred to a healthy womb. The life of the unborn & the health of the mother & the happiness of the post-unborn (AKA, the child) matter far more than whether the pre-born comes out of the body in which it spent the time thar elapsed before it was transferred. If the folk in the Vatican cant see that, they are even more batty than I thought. Mothers worthy of the name love their children, and seek their good. They do not let them catch deadly diseases when this can be avoided. This mother is acting as any decent mother would, presumably at great cost to herself. If Rome thinks otherwise, this shows only how anti-life Rome really is.  By Rome’s logic, heart-transplants and other organ-transplants of every kind must be condemned. Moving an organ from donor to recipient is as much a violation of the bodily integrity of the patient as moving a living foetus from mother to surrogate mother. That organs are not persons does not change this.  

    “Throughout the programme we never heard about the test tube conception
    or the transfer of the tiny embryo to the surrogate woman’s womb, or
    what was really going on: a childless westerner; a poor Indian woman; a
    Home where surrogates incubated babies they would never hold in their
    arms; the fee paid to Dr Patel’s clinic.”

    ## What’s “really going on” is that the mother has the effrontery to want her baby to live. To do that, she has to ignore the Scribes & Pharisees and their pettifogging, dangerous, piffle about surviving by being in the wrong womb rather than dying by being in the right one. No mother sacrifices her baby to the scruples of those whose doctrinal purity requires her baby’s death. What matters is the well-being of the baby, not Rome’s fetishisation of symbols. Rome is obsessed by the mechanics of maternity – it doesn’t care about the happiness of mother and child. And that is dangerous – not benign.

  • NescioQuid

    Parasum you clearly miss the point. This Irish woman was clearly unable to conceive and bear a child naturally because of ovarian cancer. In otherwords she circumvents nature to obtain a child.

    This raises the ethical question, do all woman have the right to a child, irrespective of their circumstances and whatever the means possible? Is a child a commodity that we can obtain if we pay a good price?

    The second ethical issue here concerns the consequences of obtaining a so-called willing surrogate who carries the child to term because she needs the money. Let’ s be clear, the the woman was being paid to carry the child and give birth, but obviously she has to make quite a few sacrifices. For a start she is separated from her own children while carrying the child. Second she is ostracized by her own community. This begs the question, why did the doctor arrange for a surrogate in the developing world and choose a mother with few rights. And choices. Why not just arrange for one in the West?. The answer seems obvious enough, obviously it was cheaper and less trouble. It is the reason given for most offshoring activities, only in this case we are talking about carrying a child not building. A car.

    To compare this to organ donors is like comparing apples with pears. The two are nor comparable. Donating an organ is a lifegiving choice to preserve the life of someone who would otherwise die.

  • http://towertales.tumblr.com/ Londonistar

    Extend my heartfelt sympathy to any childless woman reading this for the uncharitable and uncaring way it dismisses her childlessness and desire to have her own child as somehow selfish and deplorable. It is inherent in all of us from God that we should want children. It isnt some flimsy notion. This particular case raises issues regards ethics in financial arrangements in third world countries which need to be addressed but noone forced the young woman concerned and this reads to me like a rather nasty flippant attack on desperate childless couples. Yuck

  • AB

    It is not possible today to transfer a foetus from one womb to another. Surrogacy is a form of IVF where the woman carrying the (test-tube-conceived) child is not genetically related to the baby and agrees to give it up after birth. (Also, foetuses cannot ‘catch’ cancer from their mothers.) Even many people who disagree with the Catholic Church on various reproduction-related issues have serious moral qualms about surrogate motherhood because the surrogate’s body is used as just a vehicle for the fulfilment of another woman’s wish for a child.

  • theroadmaster

    I do not see any kinship between the selfless act of organ donation and the exploitative nature of the rent-a-womb business of surrogacy.  The former is done with the objective of securing the health of another human while the latter often involves a rich client taking advantage of a poor women to carry for them that much sought after trophy child.

  • Katerina Ambrose

    Echos of ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’?
     

  • Donrita

    Thank you NescioQuid for hitting the issue in the centre.  While we may sympathise with the childless (my own parents tried for over 7 years to conceive me and then, after 10 years of more trying, my sister was adopted) this is not enough to justify exploiting the poor.  Why indeed not ask a westerner?  If health for the baby is an issue, surely the baby’s health would be better ensured in the west.  By all means assist the childless to have a child. But it is never just to ensure my own happiness at the expense of that of another, even if I pay money to qualm my conscience.  And remember always that a child is not a comodity, nor is having one a “right”.  It is the child who has a “right” to life, love and care (and there are plenty of children out there who need this desparately – why not offer a home to such as these?), not the adults who have a right to owning one.

  • Mnv

    Another incidence of the dishonesty our western societies practice as a norm. Yes we have laws, we have politics, we have token values it seems. Commercialisation of human life is becoming more and more scandalous.
    Of course the surrogate mother would be crying, she had just given birth and hormones had not adjusted. For a women used to doing things naturally, even if impregnated artificially the bearing and birthing of a baby would culminate in breastfeeding and the baby needs that initial colostrum and milk as a natural immune development.
    Western women have let themselves be talked into wanting everything possible and available and forgotten the ethics and values of human life and its responsibilities, when they deny their own selves these rights and responsibilities.
    Economics has become their god and all that it requires.
    Why are so many western women now infertile? Why are so many leaving child bearing until the last procreative period of their lives? Why are so many western men less fertile? And why is free sex, the natural instrument of having children, used mostly as a sport?

  • Bob Hayes

    I agree totally. Well said.

  • Pingback: buffet hai san cung mua