Rewarding Biological Colonialism

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on April 16, 2012

By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

We shouldn’t always get what we want — particularly when it comes at the cost of exploiting the world’s destitute or taking advantage of despotic circumstances to benefit personally. But we do. Westerners increasingly go to poor countries and use the living bodies of people as if they were so many copper mines — and often get rewarded with oohs and aahs of approval from friends and the media, even book deals.

Take the odious Larry’s Kidney, as one example, by Daniel Asa Rose. He was applauded in the Washington Post and other places for having written a laugh riot book detailing his purchase a kidney in China for his cousin — even though someone was almost surely murdered to obtain the tissue-typed organ. Now, Adrienne Arieff rented a uterus in India and then wrote a book about the experience, rewarded with a friendly interview from CNN. From “The Highs and Lows of Foreign Surrogacy:”

After considerable soul-searching, Arieff traveled in 2008 to Anand, a city in western India that has earned a reputation in recent years as the capital of India’s so-called “rent-a-womb” industry. The 36-year-old marketing specialist from San Francisco met Vaina, the 26-year-old married mother who would be her surrogate, and began fertility treatment at the Akanksha Infertility Clinic. Weeks later, Arieff’s husband arrived in India for the final stage of IVF, setting the stage for the emotional journey at the heart of her new book.

She didn’t search her soul deeply enough. And could CNN be more fawning? Not to worry, Arief feels just fine about herself!

I never wanted to exploit anyone and there’s so much exploitation in India. I definitely wanted to make sure that my surrogate was really on board and wanted to do this and felt empowered as a woman to be doing something to help me and her family. The whole “womb for rent,” that’s where the medical contract and the business transaction side of things comes in, but after doing my research I felt comfortable that she was helping me because she wanted to and I was helping her. You have to be an advocate for yourself and surrogate and I always made sure she was OK. I wanted her to feel special because for the rest of your life I was going to put her on pedestal.

Right. As long as she gets what she wants, it isn’t exploitation. But women bond emotionally with the babies they gestate. Women’s bodies are impacted by pregnancy. Sometimes things go wrong physically. And speaking of exploitation, sometimes people decide they don’t want the babies that are born or for reasons of red tape, the babies end up in orphanages.

But so what? Westerners are entitled!

This was going to start out as a diary for our girls so they’d know how much we wanted them. It turned into a book because when I started telling people I was doing surrogacy I had so many friends call and e-mail with questions. It got a little out of hand. Because the questions were all so similar I thought maybe I will write a book about this and it was such an easy process and even while writing the book I wondered, should I be doing this? But in the end it turned out very powerful.

Ah, the usual “hand-wringing-before-doing-what-I-want” gambit. How often do we see it?

There are desperately alone children all over the world begging to be adopted. But me-me, I-I, trumps all. Color me disgusted.

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