It has been announced that Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban used a gestational surrogate for the recent birth of their second child. Apparently, they are the biological parents of the child and the surrogate mother carried the child to term. The couple issued the following statement: “Our family is truly blessed, and just so thankful, to have been given the gift of baby Faith Margaret. No words can adequately convey the incredible gratitude that we feel for everyone who was so supportive throughout this process, in particular our gestational carrier.” Note the term “carrier” and we should all recognize that this word usage is indicative of what is to come—an acknowledgement of the woman who “carried” the child while clarifying a clear boundary from the family unit which has been built of such an arrangement.
While the celebrity couple is to be congratulated on this obviously joyous occasion, it leaves one to wonder when surrogacy will be truly regulated in the USA and abroad. While wealthy individuals and families can afford the very expensive arrangement of surrogacy on US soil, middle class families are turning to overseas surrogates in the global environment. The less expensive practice of global surrogacy costing a fraction of US-based surrogate services, using the wombs of poor women overseas, does not come without a different sort of cost for the surrogates themselves. In India, surrogates are stigmatized and women live away from their communities during pregnancy. In traditional societies where purity is honored and even required, this is not an uncomplicated experience and surrogates face many hardships—not just the emotional complications of parent-child attachment, but also social consequences of shame and stigma.
As more and more celebrity couples like Kidman and Urban as well as Elton John are honest about their use of surrogate mothers, it is predictable that the idea of surrogacy will begin to take hold amongst the masses. However, each US state regulates the process differently and then in global surrogacy arrangements, each nation varies. In some countries, like Guatemala where surrogacy is just beginning to take hold, there are no regulations or oversight and this is a recipe for disaster. The system is more developed in India, but ultimately the protections for the surrogate mothers are lacking.
Ultimately, in this neolibrel economic environment of globalization, just about anything and everything is for sale. However, let there be no doubt that sales of surrogacy services are anything but uncomplicated. It is time for the USA to begin to regulate surrogacy consistently across all 50-states both inside and outside our borders. On the latter, the only fast answer is immigration policy related to children born overseas with surrogate services. Changing the definitions of children born of US citizens (genetic offspring) will inevitably be a hot issue if it should be included into the immigration debates. Ultimately, this is not an ideal approach, but it should be considered as one potential solution.
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If there is not regulation, you can count on one thing, surrogacy services en masse from developing nations will become highly organized human sales networks with incredible dividends. The human slavery that will emerge will not be science fiction fantasy, but rather a grotesque manifestation of the intersection of fertility technology and the demand for babies at any cost.