Public Discourse 22 May 2015
On May 11, 2015, an unprecedented global campaign was launched: Stop Surrogacy Now!
What sets this campaign apart is that Stop Surrogacy Now (SSN) unites organizations and individuals with opposing positions on many other issues—including the emotionally explosive issue of abortion. In the United States especially, no other issue ignites such passionate responses and produces such vitriolic debate. It has even led to violence, including eight murders and over forty clinic bombings. As time goes on, the contentiousness of the issue only seems to increase rather than dissipate. It is therefore extraordinary that so many people who stand on opposite sides of this issue have come together to stop the surrogacy juggernaut.
This campaign also brings together the fervently religious and the entirely non-religious, those who advocate LGBTQ rights and those who oppose same-sex marriage, feminists and non-feminists, the radical right and the radical left along with those in between, neoliberal capitalists and socialists, death-with-dignity supporters and those who consider it to be a form of euthanasia.
I write as someone who is committed to a woman’s right to choose and who supports extending legal marriage to include same-sex couples—but opposes surrogacy. What is it about surrogacy that joins people together who otherwise might be at each other’s throats?
An Unlikely Alliance
In spite of their differences, the members of this movement all share certain fundamental areas of agreement. We all oppose:
– The commodification of women and their bodies.
– The transformation of children into commodities who can be made to order for purchase by the wealthy, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
– The violations of women’s and children’s human rights.
– The transformation of a normal biological function of a woman’s body into a commercial contract.
– The serious, even life-threatening health risks that face surrogates and egg sellers.
– The severance of the primordial bond between mother and child.
– The eugenic implications of creating “designer” children.
– The ever-increasing growth of global reproductive trafficking.
– The sheer exploitation that surrogacy embodies.
So there’s actually quite a bit that unites us.
The genesis of this unlikely alliance began at Harvard Law School in 2011. It was there, at a screening of the documentary Eggsploitation—a film that exposes the exploitation of young women by the fertility industry for their eggs—that I met the filmmaker, Jennifer Lahl. During the post-film discussion sponsored by Harvard Law Women, plants from the fertility industry began to attack Lahl. They accused her work of being driven by a hidden pro-life agenda and called her anti-women and therefore not credible, discounting her expertise in nursing and bioethics. All of this despite the fact that the mission of Lahl’s organization is to bring diverse groups together on matters of bioethics.
Rising to her defense, I announced that I was a board member of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the largest grassroots feminist organization in the US, that I am strongly pro-choice, and that I completely agreed with and supported all of the contentions made in the film. A stunned silence enveloped the room, followed by a productive discussion about the real issues of health endangerment, the perils of a profit-driven, unregulated, exploitative business, the lack of informed consent, the emotional manipulation, and the necessity of exposing the fertility industry’s “dirty little secrets.”
So how did an “abortion on demand and without apology” feminist leader come to oppose surrogacy and egg trafficking—and join forces with an abortion opponent in the process? This personal herstory reflects the larger context that has produced SSN.