It's All About the Money
Gestational surrogacy is an arrangement whereby a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy to term for another couple who plans to be the parents of the child. Wealthy couples where a woman either can't conceive or doesn't want to go through pregnancy and delivery are turning to surrogacy, along with older couples where the woman is past childbearing years. The child or children (arrangements involving multiples are common) may be the product of donor eggs and sperm, intended parents' eggs and sperm, or some combination of the two. Surrogacy is especially becoming prevalent as a way for gay men to acquire a child.
As compensation for her services, a surrogate is offered somewhere between $30,000 to $50,000—a hefty sum for a many young women. It's also billed as a compassionate service that a healthy woman can provide for someone less "fortunate" than her—less fortunate, obviously, in the reproductive sense. And so, you can probably see how the combination of money plus the appeal of helping others would attract well-meaning women into the marketplace of surrogacy.
Wise people, though, will ask, what could go wrong?
And as it turns out, almost anything can go wrong and often does. Jennifer Lahl at the Center for Bio-Ethics and Culture has long been sounding alarms about the problems of ethically questionable medical practices, and her latest film #BigFertility addresses gestational surrogacy through the long and winding saga of Kelly Martinez, a three-time surrogate.
Kelly was a healthy mother of two who saw surrogacy as a way to bring in extra income for her young family. Her husband Jay was skeptical of the idea but agreed to it because it seemed important to Kelly and the money would be helpful.
Here is just a sampling of the curve balls Kelly and Jay had to contend with along the way:
• They asked to be matched with a heterosexual couple because they believed a child deserved a mother and father. The first match presented to them was a gay couple, and a guilt-trip-based sales pitch ensued.
• They were directed to travel out of state post-delivery and then falsify information to facilitate transportation of children to a country where surrogacy was illegal.
• Kelly was implanted with two gender-selected embryos, a boy and a girl, without her knowledge.
• Kelly developed pre-eclampsia (a potentially life-threatening risk with any pregnancy but surrogates are at higher risk) and had to be hospitalized. In the attempt to save all three lives, the two children were delivered ten weeks premature.
• Agencies refused to pay medical bills for both Kelly and newborn babies.
In those instances where Kelly and Jay were told to "adjust" to some unanticipated situation, agencies threatened to withhold all payments of medical bills and surrogacy fees. Agencies and/or intended parents also threatened to abandon the children, potentially leaving Kelly and Jay to figure out what to do with or about them.
You might ask, why, given all this, did Kelly and Jay do three surrogacies? I suppose you could say they were probably guilty of being optimists or they were gullible. Probably, it was a combination of the two. In each case, they thought it would be different this time, and in that they were right. Certainly, each case was different. But every case was difficult, and in no case did it turn out to be a net benefit for their family.
"Yes," says Jennifer Lahl, producer of the film and an international advocate for surrogates, "this story is horrible," and here she pauses for effect. "But I know fifty Kellys."
In other words, Kelly's story is not the exception. These abuses and snafus are far more common than the agencies would have you believe.
If all this sounds overblown to you, you really should check out #BigFertility and hear Kelly's story for yourself. Click here for the trailer.Terrell Clemmons
has a BS in Computer Science and worked as a software engineer with IBM until she hopped off the career track to be a full-time mom. She lives in Indianapolis, IN, where she works as Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #46, Fall 2018 Copyright © 2021 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo46/bigfertility