A discussion about surrogacy could result in many different arguments, but one of the most important would be that which deals with the ethical and moral relevance of surrogacy as it relates to both the surrogate and the contracting parents. In terms of ethical and moral relevance, we might consider whether the parties involved are being denied any negative rights and furthermore, how that could produce an unwanted outcome, for example commodification or exploitation. In what follows I will argue that full gestational surrogacy commodifies and exploits women and children; however, I question the negative connotation of the word “exploit” when the surrogate is fully educated about the process. Although surrogacy should be legally permissible, I argue that adoption should be the primary means of "having" a child.
Surrogacy commodifies women and children by selling that which is “market-inalienable,” meaning something that should not be sold, but even more broadly it takes humans and treats them as things rather than thinking and reasoning beings (p.174). Radin identifies non-fungible objects as alienable or central to who the person is, fungible items, however, are those that can be replaced by money (p. 176). I take the above argument to show that regardless of whether the surrogate or contracting parents think of this exchange as commodification or not, it is beyond doubt turning both the surrogate and future child into a commodity.
Thinking of women and children/fetuses in terms of market rhetoric feels intrinsically wrong and results in devaluation of life and morals. For example, prostitution commodifies women and even children by selling their bodies—something that is extremely personal to them. If we accept that prostitution is wrong and devalues women and children individually and as a whole, then it follows that full gestational surrogacy is also degrading because it treats women and children as mere things.
Some might object to this view, arguing that surrogates are providing a service and that it does not matter whether the surrogate needs the profit that will result or if the surrogate is doing it out of the kindness of her heart. Nevertheless, if you regard bodily integrity as a negative right, then it follows that the commodification of that negative right is wrong because it should not be subject to the action of someone else, here payment for full gestational surrogacy.
On the other hand, if the surrogate offers this “service” for free, meaning it is not commodified, then I argue along with Radin that the “noncommodified version is morally preferable” (p.182). However, I realize that since surrogacy has already become a commodity around the world it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to reverse. Because surrogacy is a growing field, attracting more and more families and surrogates it is becoming less likely that women will offer to carry a couple’s baby for altruistic reasons when they could be paid...