This Week in Bioethics #106

by Matthew Eppinette, Director of Programs on April 6, 2018

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1. Surrogate Pregnancies are Different

Our friend K, a labor and delivery nurse, wrote a summary overview of an important new study that appeared in the journal of Fertility and Sterility. While the study isn’t perfect, it is, as she says, a big deal. The bottom line is that gestational surrogacy pregnancies put both women and children at significantly increased risk compared to “spontaneous” (or ‘regular’) pregnancies. These risks cannot simply be regulated away, which is why we continue to work so hard to #StopSurrogacyNow.   

2. Offering an International Solution to an International Problem

Speaking of #StopSurrogacyNow, CoRP, a French organization that is part of our international coalition, recently called for “an international convention for the abolition of surrogacy, on the model of what was done against slavery.” In their press release explaining this, they carefully go through the ways in which surrogacy harms both the women who are surrogate mothers and the children who are born through surrogacy. They argue that surrogacy is well out of step with the framework of basic human rights that the world has come to recognize and that are enshrined in a number of International Conventions.

 

3. A New Low

In what might be one of the most tasteless April Fools jokes ever, the German LGBTI website Queer.de offered to raffle off the services of an egg donor and a surrogate mother. After being called out, the website’s Managing Editor offered a #SorryNotSorry statement:

Surrogate babies are a controversial topic, so we expected some moral outrage.

Our April Fool’s joke is indeed sarcastic, but not sexist or racist. It’s a well known fact that gay couples from first world countries with a desire to have children use surrogate mothers from third world and emerging countries.

We would never raffle a real surrogate mother – even some users took it on trust. We wanted to start a debate about surrogate motherhood, and I guess that worked.

Um, no. If you want to start a debate about surrogate motherhood, maybe start with something like “3 Things You Should Know About Surrogacy” or a documentary film like Breeders: A Subclass of Women? instead.

4. Canada: An Ill-Conceived Bill

Efforts are underway in Canada to reverse a 2004 law that allows only ‘altruistic’ sperm donation, egg donation, and surrogacy, and that carries criminal penalties for paying anything other than expense reimbursement. Prime Minister Trudeau recently said the issue should be a matter of national conversation, and promised, “Of course we will need to listen to everyone’s perspectives, that we learn about their experiences and that we try to find the best solution for us as a society.”

Unfortunately, the way these kinds of conversations often run is that the women and children who are directly affected are not listened to closely, and indeed they are often effectively shouted down by those who want to build a family at virtually any cost. Canadians would do well to heed professors Françoise Baylis and Alana Cattapan who write:

the planned private member’s bill is ill-conceived (pun intended) . . . The governance of assisted human reproduction is too important to the future of Canadian families to be undermined by a private member’s bill calling for an open market in human reproduction.

5. Caring for and Valuing Human Life

Two scientists, including the son of our Paul Ramsey Institute Scholar Bill Hurlbut, have carefully studied recent advances in gene editing. Their findings have led them to encourage both individual scientists as well as the broader scientific establishment to take a step back in order to consider the broader implications of what these new techniques allow. Often the ethical questions are limited to issues of short-term safety, but this leaves out, as they so eloquently put it, “the central question of how to care for and value human life, individually, societally and in relation to other forms of life on Earth.” I could not agree more. May their advice be widely heeded.

Lagniappe

You’ll have to watch the live video to get the full details on this week’s lagniappe.

This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image by Kaboompics via Pexels (CC0 1.0)

 

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