Contract Pregnancies Exposed: Surrogacy Contracts Don’t Protect Surrogate Mothers and Their Children

Jennifer Lahl for Stop Surrogacy Now writes:

The crux of the disagreement is over what should be done in order to minimize the harms to those women who serve as surrogates and to the children who are produced from these contract arrangements. How can we protect all the stakeholders, including the intended parents? Many trust that regulations, laws, and contracts will provide sufficient protection. My position, however, is that regulations, laws, and contracts do not—in fact, they cannot—protect women and children. The only way forward is to pass laws to stop surrogacy now.
Most contracts explicitly control the surrogate’s diet, exercise, living arrangements, travel, and activities. I’ve seen language requiring the surrogate to consume a vegan diet or only eat organic foods. Some intended parents do not permit the surrogate to dye her hair. One contract stipulated that “The Surrogate and her Husband agree that they will neither form, nor attempt to form, a parent-child relationship with any Child the surrogate may bear.” Contracting against maternal-child bonding, as if such a thing is even possible! . . . All of the surrogate’s medical information is available to the intended parents, who are often total strangers. . . . Contracts also regulate when the surrogate can engage in sexual activity and with whom.
Contracts also contain an Abortion/Termination Clause:
“Surrogate specifically agrees to terminate prior to eighteen weeks at the election and discretion of the Intended Parents.”
Fetal reduction is addressed as well:

“The Intended Parents reserve the ultimate and sole legal right to selectively reduce before the completion of twenty (20) weeks of gestation”
As a nurse, I have to confess that when I read this clause on end-of-life decision-making, my blood ran cold:

“If the surrogate is in her second or third trimester of pregnancy and in the event that medical life support equipment is required to preserve and maintain the life of the Surrogate and if requested by the Intended Parents, the Surrogate and her husband agree that the Surrogate’s life will be sustained with life support equipment for a period to achieve viability of the fetus taking into account the best interests and well-being of the fetus

I’m often asked, whether these contracts are legal. If they are written and executed in a surrogacy friendly state, they absolutely are legal. But do surrogacy contracts violate aspects of the common good? How can they not? Take your pick—privacy, doctor/patient confidentiality, bodily integrity, medical decision-making power, and more. Surrogacy contracts are written to protect the Intended Parents, not the surrogate mother nor the child.
People often ask me why a woman would sign a contract that surrenders so much of her personal life—her very bodily integrity—to strangers? The short answer is “money.” Financial motives often compel women to become involved in a marketplace that is, frankly, predatory. Surrogacy is presented to potential surrogates as an opportunity to “give the gift of life,” and the risks are minimized. This is exactly why it is illegal to buy and sell organs. We know that if organ donation were to become a commercial marketplace, the need for money combined with the opportunity to help someone in need would drive people to take serious risks with their health. Money undermines the informed consent process. It will always be the people who need money who are selling; the wealthy will be the consumers/buyers.

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