The Surrogate Mother - Womb For Rent
In 2000 the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) defined reproductive rights as "the basic rights of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children; to have the information and means to do so; and to have the right to make decisions concerning reproduction, free of discrimination, coercion or violence." Traditionally society defines reproductive rights in the context of one's being able to make decisions about his or her own reproduction; other individuals, unrelated to that person, were not considered as being involved in the decision. With the onset of in vitro fertilization (IVF) in 1978, reproductive processes have become more complicated. For example, in gestational surrogacy a surrogate mother, not genetically related to the embryo, is brought into the process of reproduction. This technique allows infertile couples to carry a child or children in the womb of a carrier, rather than in the womb of the biological mother. As a result of this ethically controversial technology, society must modify its reproductive rights. In vitro fertilization (IVF) alone will not solve people's reproductive problems and protect everybody's rights. Society, therefore, must distinguish whose rights-the rights of biological parents or those of the surrogate mothers-should be protected.
Gestational surrogacy, especially when it involves commercial surrogates, challenges the status quo in the ethical theory of reproduction, because with this technology the process of producing a child can no longer remain a private matter. Now a public contract exists between two parties, the couple and the surrogate mother. Such a gestational surrogacy arrangement has tied people into a market relationship rather than an intimate and private family relationship. Accepting this new technology has raised an ongoing debate in courts, among scientists, feminists and social scientists.
In the legal world gestational surrogacy has created several controversies. One such controversy was the Baby M case, in which a surrogate mother claimed to have the right of custody of the child to whom she was genetically unrelated but had carried in her womb. In addition, new laws must be created to regulate the use of these techniques. For example, California's 1975 National Uniform Parenting Act presumptively regards the birth mother as the natural mother. According to this law, the surrogate mother has the right of custody of the child she carried. However, New Jersey state law regards "surrogacy as the sale of a child, or at the very least, the sale of a mother's right to her child, with the only mitigation factor being that one of the purchasers is the father." A consequence of this controversy can be seen in an example of a doctor commenting on surrogacy in relation to legal issues, who said that "the legal...