Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Surrogate Motherhood

Before reading my diatribe or even discussion of the issue please read this article: http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/03/outsourced-wombs/

There are couple main issues here. First the broadest issue, what is the relationship between you and your body. One might say that you are your body but using a grammatical argument I can assert that the mere fact that we can say "my body" implies a fundamental difference between I and body, the body is relegated to possession of the I, much like we can say "my car". The subject, I, has possessory control over the object, body. Now, an argument to counter this that grammatical arguments aren't arguments of reality but of practicality and cultural milieu. While there is some merit to that, given that some languages do not have the concept of mine that English and most languages have. I don't want to delve into that argument but just want to say that lets assume a possessory interest between you and your body. If there is a possessory interest then next logical question is what level of interest do you have in regards to your body, meaning is it absolute or conditional.

Absolute interest means just what it states, the individual has total control over what they can or cannot do with their body much in the same vein as they have total control over what they can do with their car. If I want to destroy my car then I can do it and no one can stop me. Now, if the interest is conditional then how much control does one have over their body? The answer is that for nearly every state in this world, the individual does not possess absolute interest in their body. The governments regulate what we can do to ourselves and what we cannot. The United States has outlawed most drugs while in Amsterdam some drugs are allowed. In many countries, attempted suicide is a crime and for those who are wondering why suicide isn't considered a crime, send me your address and I will come and hit you upside your head. If you complete a suicide, YOU ARE DEAD. The government asserts some interest in your body. Whether they should be able to or not is another question, a question I will delve into at some point because it depends entirely on your view of the body and also the role and origins of government/statehood.

Now, how does all this apply to surrogate motherhood. Surrogate motherhood is about two key issues. First, does a woman have an possessory interest in her reproductive organs. Second, can that possessory interest be used for monetary gain? The answer to the first question is yes but in most of the world it seems to be absolute interest. A woman can do what she wants with her reproductive organs and if that is the case then it follows that she can loan or rent out those organs. If a man can donate his sperm to a sperm bank for money and a woman can donate her eggs then why can't a woman rent her uterus out? Consider manual labor such as construction work, is that not using of ones limbs directly for money? How about test subjects in medical trials, don't they use their bodies as grounds for determining if a drug works properly? It is theoritically speaking almost the same thing.

I think the issue that is most argued is that surrogate motherhood allows for society to view the human body and specifically a woman's body as merely an object, which many argue would dehumanize and allow people to disrespect and abuse women. This, I think would only occur when society begins to treat the act of surrogate motherhood in a mechanical fashion, not if we treat it as a way to help both infertile couples and woman who are poor. There is another argument that this is taking advantage of the poor woman and using her poverty to one's own advantage. The same can be said of any sort of labor, one of the main reasons that people get jobs is to make money so that they aren't poor and can live or survive. It is part of the human condition in this day and age. If the woman who decides to become a surrogate mother and does so because she needs money, what is wrong with that? We assume that people make rational decisions in regards to any other job so why don't we do that in this regard? I think a reason is that we are still paternalistic in regards to poor woman. There is a sense that poor women are less able to make these huge decisions which I believe is wrong. In fact these women are doing the opposite they are making rational decisions to help and further their lives and the lives of their families. They view surrogate motherhood as a job that lasts 9 months but which will keep help their families for the next 10 plus years.

People might also argue that infertile couples should adopt instead of trying to go the path of surrogacy but I think that ignores the fact that one of the goals of human existence is to perpetuate one's own genes. Adoption is something that lofty and I think something people should do but its not the only alternative to actually having children of your own. Surrogacy can and should be an option if that is something that one really desires. Nor should it have any moral indignation attached to it.

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