Surrogacy — Why Not?

Sure, women should be allowed to be surrogates.  We all do work with our bodies, some of us also include our minds in the deal (some of us are allowed to include our minds in the deal), so why not?  As long as they get paid for service rendered.

Being a surrogate is sort of like being an athlete.  You have to be and stay physically healthy, for the duration: you have to eat and drink the right stuff, and not eat or drink the wrong stuff; you have to get the right amount of physical activity.  And so on.  It’s important.  Use during pregnancy of illegal drugs (such as crack cocaine and heroin) as well as legal drugs (such as alcohol and nicotine) can cause, in the newborn, excruciating pain, vomiting, inability to sleep, reluctance to feed, diarrhoea leading to shock and death, severe anaemia, growth retardation, mental retardation, central nervous system abnormalities, and malformations of the kidneys, intestines, head and spinal cord (Madam Justice Proudfoot, “Judgement Respecting Female Infant ‘D.J.”; Michelle Oberman, “Sex, Drugs, Pregnancy, and the Law: Rethinking the Problems of Pregnant Women who use Drugs”).  Refusal of fetal therapy techniques (such as surgery, blood infusions, and vitamin regimens) can result in respiratory distress, and various genetic disorders and defects such as spina bifida and hydrocephalus (Deborah Mathieu, Preventing Prenatal Harm: Should the State Intervene?).

To be an elite surrogate, you have to have a good genotype—no genetic diseases, etc.  And elite athletes—professional football, hockey, basketball, and baseball players— are paid around $3 million dollars per season (

Now, I think many people justify that level of income because of the risk of physical injury that such athletes incur.  Okay, fair enough (let’s say) (because coal-miners don’t get paid $3 million).  Being pregnant incurs the risk of nausea, heartburn and indigestion, constipation, incontinence, backaches, headaches, skin rashes, changes in sense of smell and taste, chemical imbalances, weight gain, dizziness and light-headedness, diabetes, anemia, embolism, stroke, circulatory collapse, and cardiopulmonary arrest (sorry, can’t find my reference for this list).

They are, further, paid what they’re paid because their career is over by, say, thirty or thirty-five.  (I don’t agree with that reasoning, but it’s the same reasoning construction workers and other seasonal workers charge higher-than-average hourly rates.  (At least, if they’re male: I used to teach piano, a September to June thing; in the summer, I just had to find other work.)  Similarly, women are pretty much toast as surrogates by thirty-five, forty tops.

In addition, unlike being a professional athlete, being a surrogate involves, typically, some sort of emotional expense.  The hormones, the attachment…

And, then there’s the labour.  Perhaps if professional athletes had to undergo knee surgery without anaesthesia at the end of every season…

And then, the emotional thing: the oxytocin produced during gestation will, in many cases, make handing over the newborn excruciatingly painful.  (Emotionally painful.)  (Yes, men, there is such a thing, and yes, it counts.)

Lastly, there’s the value of the service provided.  Football, hockey, basketball, and baseball players play a game the outcome of which is of no consequence whatsoever.  Surrgates grow a human being.  I’m going to make a modest proposal here and suggest that, given all of this, surrogates should be paid ten times what professional athletes are paid.   $30 million.

And that’s the problem with women being surrogates: we wouldn’t be paid what our work is worth.  (And for that, who do we blame?)


    • Val on February 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Interesting that you should post on this topic right before the Superbowl!!!
    Of COURSE surrogates should be fairly compensated – a quick Wiki search yields “average” costs of raising an American child ranging between $150K – almost 400K (obviously higher-income families spend MORE on their children).
    And a quick scan of a surrogacy site shows a figure of $56K (of which it looks like a “lowball” fee of $30K goes to the surrogate)… What is wrong with this picture???

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