Sanford M. Benardo, the founder of the Northeast Assisted Fertility Group, wishes to expand the “reproductive rights” of those who are infertile, unable to carry a child, suffering from cancer—or are men. He paints a very sympathetic portrait of such “intended parents” and claims that most “surrogates” are well educated, middle-class women who are “not wealthy but far from destitute.”

Benardo is among those who believe that everyone has a right to become the parents of “surrogate children.” This phrase is harsh, jarring, but no more so than the phrase “surrogate carrier” or “surrogate breeder” which is how Benardo refers to what laws have historically defined as “mother,” namely the woman who is pregnant for nine months and who gives birth.

Viewing a woman as merely a vessel for property that contractually belongs to “intentional parents” erodes and is in direct conflict with the grounds for a woman’s right to an abortion. The embryo/fetus/developing child is part of the woman, it belongs to her because it is in her body. This fact gives her the right to terminate a pregnancy. If others—the surrogacy profiteer, the sperm or egg donor—claim this right, then what is to stop the state or the church from making this same claim?

Commercial surrogacy contracts breed a false equality between sperm, egg and nine months of pregnancy and childbirth. More: They completely disappear the pregnant woman and childbirth. Doing so disenfranchises womankind even further and privileges external genetic material over the biological reality of pregnancy, which includes an exchange of blood, cells, emotions, ideas, etc. Many pregnant women bond with the developing embryo in their bodies whether or not the genetic material belongs to them or to their husbands. Developing fetuses also bond with their birth mothers and this may be one of the many reasons that adopted children are often at risk psychiatrically.

A five-minute donation of sperm and a painfully harvested egg are not the same as, and should not pre-empt, nine months of pregnancy and childbirth with all its attendant short- and long-term medical risks.

In her article, “Pregnant Bodies and the Subjects of Rights: The Surrogacy-Abortion Nexus,” Columbia University lawyer and sociologist Yasmine Ergas, writes: “Neither parental rights nor property rights can be assigned to third parties over fetuses, for that would amount to assigning rights in a woman’s body, and hence, in her person.”

Thus, in addition to the problem of baby buying and baby selling, the grounds for our right to an abortion may be in complete conflict with the rights to a “surrogate child.”

Either the Child-Parent Security Act must not be legalized in NYS or the act must follow closely upon adoption law e.g. the birthmother can change her mind and not hand over the child; cannot be forced to have an abortion or to gestate a child that is less than perfect, one that may be rejected by the intended parents—who cannot just walk away from their obligations, etc. And yes, the birthmother should still be allowed to keep the money for having worked for nine months.

This would severely jeopardize a profiteering surrogacy industry and open the way for altruistic, compassionate surrogacy arrangements with creative legal protections for all.

 

Read More:

Handmaids for Hire: Should Commercial Surrogacy Be Legalized in NYS?