Surrogacy and the Commodification of Human Life

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Increasingly, infertile couples are turning to surrogate pregnancy. And it’s become a big business -- with winners and losers. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.

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Eric Metaxas

Some of the most moving biblical narratives involve childless women. The stories of Sarah, Hannah the mother of Samuel, and Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, serve as reminders of God’s faithfulness and power.

When Hannah, after learning that she’ll have a son, exults and declares, “The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn,” her joy is born out of the anguish of childlessness.

Three thousand years later, infertility is still an issue. Some women who want children but can’t have any are today embracing new medical technologies to fill the void in their lives. But increasingly, as an important new film tells us, many couples are going too far.

The film is entitled “Breeders,” and it was produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture daily_commentary_02_11_14Network. In it, Jennifer Lahl, who wrote and directed the film, gives viewers an unsentimental, behind-the-scenes view of surrogate pregnancy.

In a surrogate pregnancy, a couple that cannot have children on their own pays a woman to carry their child to term.

Promoters of surrogacy tout the practice as a “win-win”: infertile couples get the child they’ve always wanted and the surrogate gets money she needs.

But as Lahl’s film shows us, surrogacy has it losers as well.

In interview after interview with former surrogates, Lahl demonstrates that the relationship between the prospective parents and the surrogate is often exploitative. It could hardly be otherwise—we are talking about women who, for the most part, are economically desperate enough to rent out their bodies for nine-to-ten months.

That being the case, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that, increasingly, Western couples turn to third-world women to serve as surrogates. There’s even a euphemism for the practice: “reproductive outsourcing.”

Thus, the title “breeders” is apt. These women aren’t seen so much as people but as machines whose function is unrelated to their well-being or dignity, apart from pre-natal care.

But if the women are machines, then the children are products and treated accordingly. Whereas mother-child bonding is regarded as a vital and necessary ingredient in a child’s development, surrogacy, for obvious reasons, discourages such bonding—this despite growing evidence that what happens in the womb has an impact on the unborn child.

As this film makes clear, surrogacy is about the “needs” and desires of the couple with the money, not the child’s, and certainly not the surrogate’s.

These “needs” and “desires” aren’t limited to the desire for a child. They are also related to issues of lifestyle. As the owner of a website that brings together prospective parents and surrogates says in the film, “women and men” put off starting a family in order to work on “career,” “self-development,” “travel,” and “other life experiences.”

The rise of surrogacy means that those with the means don’t have to trade all this self-actualization for having children. In this and many other senses, surrogacy Newsletter_Gen_180x180_Brepresents the coming together of many of our culture’s worst ideas, including the commodification of human life. It’s an exploitation uniquely crafted for our times—and it is on the rise.

For information on how you and your church or small group can view “Breeders” and obtain resource materials on the issue of surrogacy, please come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. We’ll also have information on the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.

Further Reading and Information

BP-Takeaction_021114Breeders: Surrogacy and the Commodification of Human Life

As Eric said, the practice of surrogate pregnancy is a part of our culture's commodification of human life. Get information on this rising trend and further details on "Breeders" for your church or small group. Schedule a viewing, and then start a discussion.


Breeders: A Subclass of Women?
documentary trailer

Center for Bioethics and Culture Network


You've Got It Wrong
First off, the following statement is not accurate: "In a surrogate pregnancy, a couple that cannot have children on their own pays a woman to carry their child to term."
Not every surrogacy involves paying the woman to carry the child. Someone women do not ask for or accept payment. These women are perhaps the minority but defining all surrogacy as being a financial transaction misrepresents what surrogacy is about.

Secondly, any REPUTABLE agency or fertility clinic will not allow women who are "economically desperate" to become surrogates. Money should never be the motivating factor in offering to grow a tiny human.

Please do some research and get your facts straight. I don't doubt that there are former surrogates out there who had a bad experience but they are only part of the story and do not represent surrogacy as a whole.
Response to Greg
1. When I first read your comment, I had to guess what you meant by CBC. The only CBC that I am at all familiar with (and I'm not really familiar with it but I've heard the name) is the Canadian Broadcasting Company. I even used my browser's Find command to search for "CBC" anywhere on this page. It does not occur in the commentary or in the Resources list or anywhere else but in your comment. Then I looked at the Resources list and saw a reference to the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, and I realized that that must be what you meant. I wonder how many other readers of your comment didn't go so far as to read the list themselves and guessed wrong about what you meant. I wish commenters would define abbreviations the first time they are used and save everybody else the trouble of searching all over creation (and the Internet) for it.

2. The Lord doesn't close wombs? Really? His Word says exactly the opposite. I could mention examples, but they are already mentioned in the commentary ... in the first paragraph! As for whether He gives people diseases (or allows them), I need only mention one scriptural example: Miriam's leprosy (Numbers 12:10).
Infertility Education
This article along with the CBC's paint an uniformed description of infertility and what drives people to surrogacy and other avenues for people to become parents. Not all infertility is due to people delaying having children. In our case if we had tried to have children at 20 the results would have been exactly the same as they were at 31 when we tried.

There are many causes of infertility and a lot of it is due to how toxic our environment is. Fertility rates in men in particular are lower than they were 50 years ago. But that's something the CBC will never tell you.

The other aspect of infertility that is missed is the emotional aspect and how life changing it is. Those who become childless by circumstance are outcasted from society. These are people who are expected to carry the bulk of the workload in the workplace, the bulk of care for elderly parents that siblings with kids don't want to and these are people who end up lonely with no families around them.

The best thing the church could do is support these people as Jesus would rather than shame them with pieces like this and documentaries like the ones the CBC puts out.


I disagree with you that The Lord closed that couple's womb. I think it's just something that happens that The Lord has nothing to do with. I don't believe The Lord gives people cancer, other diseases and I certainly don't think he opens wombs for bad parents and closes them for good ones.
A different perspective
While reading this article my memories were stirred to a time when I had offered to be a surrogate to a couple whom the Lord had closed the womb. While we didn't move forward, it would have been my pleasure and an act of love
to carry child for this other family. And I would have cared for the child as much as my own during pregnancy. (I will note that no finances were involved.)