Breeders: A Subclass of Women? What People Are Saying

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From the idealized view of surrogacy as an altruistic choice to satisfy an infertile couple’s longing for a child, Breeders moves through the too-often unexamined and disturbing reality of surrogacy. The film takes a compassionate look at the emotional and physical impact on the surrogate, but also, importantly, on the child. Breeders is an important new contribution to the dialogue about this unregulated and expanding practice.

Patricia Ireland, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), 1991 – 2001, Author of What Women Want

Breeders dares to go where few documentaries have dared yet to take us and where the assisted reproduction/family building industry really doesn’t want us to go: the dark heart of surrogacy where women with less financial means are treated like vessels and the children created are products made to fit the adult needs. For anyone who doesn’t want to believe that “modern family building” involves contracts, injections, donors, lawyers and payments changing hands, a strong dose of reality and compassion could be salvaged by watching this film.

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, writer, speaker, activist on adoptee rights, and organizer of the Adoptee Rights Coalition. She blogs at Musings of the Lame

Great documentaries move the viewer with simple facts, delivered in first-person accounts. Breeders accomplishes this. It offers the facts about the market for eggs and wombs from the lips of the sellers, while it overwhelms you with the human consequences of a trade in human beings.

Helen M. Alvare, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law

Jennifer Lahl’s eye-opening interviews with surrogates, doctors, psychologists, and advocates across the political spectrum explain why surrogacy is either illegal or far more limited in other industrialized countries. Two NOW officials weigh in on the commodification of the financially strapped women who become surrogates and the widely ignored increased risk of maternal death in gestational surrogacy. Surrogates describe medical and emotional nightmares for themselves and the children involved; one who was allowed to visit the child to whom she’d given birth when the little girl was five months old describes finding that the until then constantly collicky infant did nothing but sleep peacefully on the surrogate’s chest the whole time she was there. Until then, she says, “I at no point in time thought about how it would affect her.” Perhaps most sobering, though, are the words of a young woman who was the result of such an arrangement: “Most of the consideration is for the adults” who can afford to effectively buy their children, she says, exploiting both the women hired to bear them and the children whose “foundation of existence is a contract, and money.”

Melinda Henneberger, Washington Post

Breeders is a fascinating film that highlights the many tensions between women’s status, the free market demands of the fertility industry, and the fragmentation of women’s fertility and reproductive labor. This is a must-see film for all those who care about women and human rights.

Hedva Eyal, Medical Technologies Policy Researcher and feminist activist, Israel

Breeders takes a hard look at the often unacknowledged bioethical complexities, and individual and societal risks, associated with the global rise of commercial surrogacy. Its thoughtful analysis and interviews with a range of surrogates, family building brokers, and health professionals make important connections between those who purchase assisted reproductive technology services, the poor women who exchange their wombs for cash, and the impact third-party reproduction has on children and families.

Miriam Zoll, author of Cracked Open: Liberty, Fertility and the Pursuit of High-Tech Babies

Anyone who cares about women, about children, and about human dignity should watch this film. The film hits the economic injustice and personal exploitation of the global surrogacy market with precision and compassion. This movie will awaken your conscience, regardless of where you stand politically. Women aren’t breeders, and children aren’t products. This film shows us, brilliantly, why that matters to us all.

Russell D. Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention

Those who may doubt the truth of the old adage that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” will have their doubts erased by this remarkable film. It powerfully indicts an industry that promises the infertile the joy of a baby but treats women as breeders and children as products. What began with laudable intentions ushered in a form of dehumanization. Jennifer Lahl has done the nation a great service by drawing attention to it.

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University

Jennifer Lahl has made a powerful documentary about “surrogacy” as it unfolds in the U.S. for several women with diverse experiences. She, and they, raise many questions that strip the sugar-coating from what may really happen to women and children when babies are made for others.

“Breeders” may strike some as a harsh label for the women who go through a pregnancy for another to whom they will give the babies (if) born. But seeing this film exposes the very problematic aspects of this highly commercialized — and seriously unregulated — global activity that need to be understood to have a true picture of this bit of the “baby business” and parenting. It should be required viewing for all of us, not only those taking part in these exchanges.

Abby Lippman, PhD, Professor Emerita McGill University; Research Associate, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, and longtime feminist activist with special interests in women’s health and women’s health policies. She has one foot based in academia and the other, the foot she favors, involves her in social justice and reproductive activism with community groups in Montreal and beyond its borders.

This fascinating documentary raises urgent issues for humanity that transcend existing political divisions. It explores the ramifications of the market’s intrusion into women’s bodies and its inevitable undermining of bodily integrity, human dignity and autonomy. The film exposes commercial surrogacy’s devaluation of the bond of human gestation and some of the tragic consequences of the deliberate destruction of the primal relationship between newborns and their mothers. Thankfully, this film promises to stimulate a long-overdue expansion of the public debate on this topic.

Diane Beeson is Professor Emerita of Sociology, California State University, East Bay and Associate Director of the Alliance for Humane Biotechnology.

In this powerful documentary, surrogacy, perceived as ‘the gift of life’ by many, is exposed for what it really is: a dangerous unequal business transaction between rich people buying a baby and poor women whose bodies and lives are harmed and exploited. Through the diverse stories of four brave women we learn about the heartaches this cruel game of commodifying women as ‘breeders’ causes: to the women who suffer bodily and emotional pain, to the children born of surrogacy who feel abandoned or bought. A must watch for anyone who wants to learn about ‘free’ reproductive slavery 21st century style.

Dr. Renate Klein is a long-time feminist author and critic of reproductive technologies, co-founder of FINRRAGE (Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering), and former Professor of Women’s Studies at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

The desire to love a child is a beautiful one and infertility is a heartbreaking pain. As we rush to remake family using all technology available to us, pushing aside wise law, veiling the commodification of life in euphemism, this documentary is an alarming wake-up call. Breeders stands athwart this dehumanization yelling Stop! Please, listen to the brave victims of cries of “love” and “hope.” Our desires can never justify human servitude.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, Editor-at-large National Review Online & nationally syndicated columnist