Reading Renate Klein’s elegantly argued Surrogacy: A Human Rights Violation, it’s difficult not to keep repeating to oneself, “How did we get here?”, all the while trying to keep at bay a sense of despair.
“Here” is an allegedly civilized world in which treating a woman’s body as a commodity is regarded in polite liberal circles as not just acceptable but a sign of being progressive. Klein’s analysis of surrogacy focuses on the renting of women’s wombs, what she and others appropriately describe as “reproductive prostitution.” The term reminds us that many liberals also endorse “regular’ prostitution, men’s use of objectified female bodies for sexual pleasure.
Klein’s definition of surrogacy reflects those basic values: “Pared down to cold hard facts, surrogacy is the commissioning/buying/renting of a woman into whose womb an embryo is inserted and who thus becomes a ‘breeder’ for a third party.”
Key observations and insights that Klein’s book provides include:
- While many people have strong emotional desires to have children, there is no “right” to have a child genetically related to you. The moral claim for surrogacy is an illusion.
- The surrogacy medical machine comes with risks for the women who sell eggs and those who carry the fetus, as well for the children born through this method, and there has been little research/testing on the long-term health effects. The health claims of surrogacy are distortions.
- Surrogacy routinely involves the exploitation of poorer women, increasingly in the Third World. The political practice of surrogacy is exploitation.