In 2010, the last year with data available, there were about 859 reported in vitro cycles initiated using a gestational surrogate in the United States.[i] Each year since 2007 the number of IVF cycles using a gestational surrogate has increased with the practice becoming more widely known and socially accepted.[ii] These numbers, though, are underreported since the data only reflect surrogacy initiated through IVF and only take into account IVF clinics that are members of the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology.
There are many terms floating around in connection with surrogacy. For purposes here, traditional surrogacy represents surrogacy initiated through artificial insemination and use of the surrogate’s gametes. Gestational surrogacy differs from this for it typically involves IVF using the contacting parent’s gametes or the gametes of a donor.
Further still, I will be speaking only of altruistic surrogacy (surrogacy wherein the surrogate is not compensated for the child to whom she has given birth, but may be compensated for medical expenses and gestational services rendered) as opposed to commercial surrogacy (compensation for all of the above including payment for the child).
One common argument against surrogacy is that it makes a strange or unnatural familial unit. For example, the surrogate may be the biological grandmother or aunt of the child or the surrogate may not be any relation to the family at all. This, then, places the child in the awkward situation of not knowing whom s/he should consider his/her mother.
Another argument against surrogacy is that it works best when the surrogate mother is emotionally detached from the baby so that after the birth she is able to hand the child over to the contracting parents with no or reduced emotional difficulty. The obvious problem with this, though, is that this is not healthy for the child in utero to have an emotionally detached mother.
Finally, opponents of surrogacy view this arrangement as a violation of the one-flesh relationship. That is, the familial unit is corrupted when gametes and/or wombs of other individuals are used to produce a child.
These are all functional arguments commonly used against surrogacy. The problem, however, is that all of these arguments could be applied to adoption.
Adoption confuses the familial unit especially in cases wherein grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. are asked to raise a child on behalf of another family member who is unable to parent. Oftentimes the pregnant woman must detach herself from her child while in utero so that on the day of the adoption she may place him/her with the adoptive family. Finally adoption most definitely violates the one-flesh relationship because gametes and wombs other than those of the adoptive parents are being used.
No Christian, however, would be willing to argue against adoption. It is quite the contrary! The theme of adoption runs through scripture from Old Testament to New. A short list of examples include people such as: Moses, Esther, Jesus, and last but not least, those of us Gentiles who have been grafted in.
So what do we do when our own arguments against surrogacy preclude adoption?
The fundamental difference between surrogacy and adoption is children who are made versus those who are begotten. Children made are those who have been solicited by a contracting couple. Those begotten have been conceived free from solicitation of another woman’s womb, gametes, or another man’s sperm. It is here, in the distinction of begotten and made, that arguments against surrogacy should lie. (It is important to note that children retain their dignity and continue to image God no matter the circumstances under which they were conceived.)
To make the distinction more clear, adoptive parents receive their child as a gift—a gift that does not have to be fashioned by them or fashioned to be like them genetically. Contracting parents, on the other hand, accept their child as a product built to their specifications.
Solicitation, on the outside, may not appear problematic because the contracting parents clearly and desperately want the child. However, is being wanted the greatest good or even what is best for the child? Children made through these artificial means have a compromised right to an open future. Adoptive parents, on the other hand, accept their adopted child for who they are instead of determining from the beginning who they should be.
[i] “Clinic Summary Report,” Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies, accessed January 24, 2013, https://www.sartcorsonline.com/rptCSR_PublicMultYear.aspx?ClinicPKID=0.