Saturday 11 May 2024

What Does Surrogacy Say About Us?

Helen Gibson writes:

Many readers will have seen that surrogacy clip which went viral on Twitter this week. A man, complete with false nails and hair in pigtails, having a newborn baby handed to him, ostensibly for the bonding process of “skin to skin”; a process usually reserved for the baby and their mother, in order to calm the baby after delivery, stimulate her milk production, and encourage the expulsion of the placenta. The baby in the aforementioned clip was distressed, and shuddering. As the man, apparently the father, held the baby, she started to scream. Not the cries of a hungry newborn, but the screams of a desperate infant.

For the tens of thousands who have seen the footage, the majority of us, I think I can safely claim, felt sickened to our core. For here is surrogacy in all its raw truth. A baby is born, and handed away from the mother it knows and wants, and to hell with the consequences. Whether you’re a mother or not, most people who see such footage will have a visceral reaction.

Of course, the optics of this particular case put the situation even more clearly: a man, cosplaying as a woman, able to design and commission a baby in order to validate his lifestyle choices; with no thought for the impact on the newborn child, desperately flailing and wanting her mother. This particular situation jarred with so many because it so obviously sits at the centre of the Venn diagram between surrogacy and gender ideology, with all the latter’s negatives for women and children already understood by most of the viewers of the clip.

Outside of feminist Twitter, many people have never given surrogacy any thought at all; but this is what it is. This is what it looks like. Newborns handed away at birth, with no thought given to their needs or welfare, or who the commissioning parent might be. No follow up by any agency, clinic or social services after delivery. No tracking of the child or idea of where they end up living, or what happens to them. In many US states the baby buyers gain parental rights at birth and the baby removed, often abroad; the mother simply seen as a vessel, in all but name, with no rights to the child or recourse if she changes her mind. If the Law Commission of England and Wales, with the Scottish Law Commission, gets their way, it’s where we’ll be headed in the UK, with oversight and granting of Parental Orders by the Family Court stripped away for surrogacy “teams” proceeding on a new Pathway.

And surrogacy can be far darker even than this video suggests. In March, a Chicago veterinarian was charged on suspicion of distributing child sexual abuse images, just days before he was due to fly to California and collect his son, who was born to a surrogate mother. The child is, as I currently understand it, living with the arrested man’s husband and in-laws. Three weeks ago, the anti-trafficking charity Unseen declared the first cases of forced surrogacy in the UK being reported to their modern slavery helpline in 2023. Meanwhile, we have seen a post which shows a pregnant surrogate mother expressing concern at never having met the commissioning (single) father of the child she is carrying, even online. “I’ve been informed the parent has hired someone to come pick up surro baby after delivery to take him back home(china). Idk how to feel, I would have thought the IP would be more involved…I Guess i just would have thought he’d want to at least be there for the birth:/”.

And for a very English spin on things, in April the multi-millionaire British socialite Alice Naylor-Leyland had her fourth child, born to a surrogate mother in the US. “I’m aware it was greedy to have this burning desire to complete our Family, but due to too many complications, setbacks and miscarriages & then being told I was no longer able to carry, we decided to venture down the world of Surrogacy”. Naylor-Leyland was already a mother of three but decided to outsource the risk of “complications and miscarriages” to another woman instead, in order to fulfil her dream of a fourth baby.

Surrogacy only exists to satisfy the desires of adults, and to hell with the consequences for women and children. The numbers have ballooned around the world since the first cases of surrogacy in the 1980s. Tens of thousands of children have been born through “gestational surrogacy” in the US alone; the industry is worth billions. Thailand, which banned international commercial surrogacy in 2015, has recently announced it is to lift its ban on the practice; meaning within the next few years we will see Thailand become the main surrogacy hub for south-east Asia, with women undoubtedly being trafficked in to, and within, the country in their hundreds, if not more, to meet the new demand.

Surrogacy is growing, just as social media is helping more people come to understand precisely what the practice is, and what it means. Seeing babies taken off their mothers so freely is so shocking that most people who witness photographs and videos which show surrogacy happening can’t believe it is legal. As I have written about previously in The Critic, the women involved in surrogacy are groomed by the industry in to not realising they are the mothers of their own children, even in cases where they use their own egg; believing the lies peddled to them by a rapacious industry, that they are doing something “kind” and “beautiful”. A mother is the primary safeguarder of her child; if the mother in the case of surrogacy doesn’t believe herself to be so, who is acting to keep the child safe? Certainly not the agencies, who are incentivised by both money and an apparent evangelical commitment to the ‘miracle’ of surrogacy.

The test for whether or not surrogacy is acceptable to its supporters seems to be “she consented”. That old chestnut, which allows so many despicable practices to flourish, while those who might be expected to be tasked with thinking about them shrug and are relieved of the intellectual burden of doing so.

And is it true consent if it is bought? Is it true consent if she doesn’t understand she is the mother, even when her own egg is not used? It certainly can’t be construed as consent in cases where the woman is coerced, pressured by family, or, as in one case we saw, offered up for surrogacy by her own husband, without her prior knowledge.

It is extraordinary to consider, that in this time of hyper awareness of social injustice, when every perceived slight or misdemeanour can be considered a cancel-worthy offence, that so many think nothing of the process of commissioning a baby to order: anonymous eggs harvested from a twenty-something woman and chosen from a catalogue, surrogate mothers matched with strangers by agencies, and ditched when they have one too many miscarriages. That so many think so little of women and children says so much about our society. None of it good.


  1. Capitalism in action.

    1. Indeed. If there is a "free" market, then there is a "free" market in everything, as a matter of political choice.