Surrogacy and the throwaway culture

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has waged a war on the “throwaway culture,” in which anything can be commodified and given a dollar value, and where life itself can be, in his words, “considered a consumer good to be used and then discarded.”

The commercial surrogacy industry is a product of the throwaway culture. In surrogacy arrangements, a baby can be bought and sold, a woman’s body can be used as a human incubator, and those with the most wealth — i.e., the surrogacy industry — are in charge of the decisions. A surrogacy arrangement can cost between $100,000-$150,000, with only a small portion going to the surrogate mother. A good majority of the money goes to the surrogacy industry itself, a multi-billion-dollar, ever-expanding international business.

This international business lobbies to create laws in states like Minnesota that would enable the surrogacy market to continue to grow unchecked by giving legal recognition to surrogacy contracts.

Often, these contracts create an imbalanced preference favoring the industry’s financial interests over the surrogate mother’s well-being, not to mention the well-being of the unborn child. Recognizing this danger, some countries are starting to clamp down on the surrogacy industry.

For example, the European Parliament recently condemned surrogacy, concluding that the practice “undermines the human dignity of the woman since her body and its reproductive functions are used as a commodity.”

Heedless of a global movement in which countries such as Canada, India, Cambodia, Mexico and many European states have either banned or restricted the practice, our nation’s leaders have refused to take steps to protect citizens from the dangers of surrogacy. Without federal regulations banning or restricting the practice, states have cobbled together inconsistent laws — most that favor the industry and enable its growth.

In California, for instance, two separate cases recently emerged in which surrogate mothers were pressured to abort one of the three fetuses they were carrying. When both mothers refused, the would-be parents’ attorneys threatened to sue them for breach of contract, claiming they were liable for money damages unless they complied.

One of the mothers, Melissa Cook, is now challenging the constitutionality of California’s surrogacy contracts, saying, “I no longer view surrogacy arrangements in the same favorable light I once did. . . . [I] think that the basic concept of surrogacy arrangements must be re-examined, scrutinized and reconsidered.”

Similar stories continue to surface with increasing frequency.

Last year, the Minnesota Catholic Conference assisted legislators in introducing a bill that would do exactly what Cook said was necessary: establish a study commission to “re-examine, scrutinize and reconsider” surrogacy arrangements. The bill was drafted to be a bi-partisan, fact-finding mission where the practices of the industry could be brought to light — a commonsense approach necessary to protect children, women and intended parents from the potential harms of surrogacy arrangements.

Despite the fact that this bill proposed nothing but the study of surrogacy, the industry strongly opposed it. If surrogacy arrangements are without any negative consequences, as proponents contest, their vehement opposition to examining the issue more closely leaves us to wonder what the industry has to hide.

This session, the surrogacy industry will undoubtedly try to block the creation of a commission again. The question will be, are we as Catholics willing to call our legislators, go to their offices and attend hearings to stand up for the vulnerable, oppose a throwaway culture, and insist that — at a minimum — our legislators study this issue?

Mollen is policy and outreach coordinator for the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Action Alert

Tell legislators to protect vulnerable women and the best interests of children

Contact the Judiciary and Health, Human Services, and Housing Committee chairs and urge them to support the following bill by sharing this message:

SF 348: Support a legislative commission on surrogacy
“Please support SF 348, which would establish a legislative commission to study surrogacy arrangements. The commission is structured to be a bi-partisan, fact-finding mission where the practices of the surrogacy industry can be examined and the Legislature can take a more serious, in-depth look at the many concerns associated with surrogacy. This is a commonsense approach necessary to protect potentially vulnerable women, children and families from the potential harms of surrogacy arrangements.”

Sen. Ron Latz – [email protected] or 651-297-8065
Sen. Kathy Sheran – [email protected] or 651-296-6153

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