While I was out of town for the weekend, my esteemed co-blogger responded to my piece about last week’s mini-hullabaloo about surrogacy. I think his points have merit, but I also think there are some defenses to be mounted on my behalf.
I don’t think Dana [Goldstein] is concerned with this individual story so much as she’s troubled by the economic motivation that surrogate mothers may feel. Regardless of how you feel about surrogacy in and of itself, I think it’s safe to say that we should not be content with a society in which women feel that the only way to afford college for their own kids is to rent their body to host someone else’s baby.
So, should women be free to enter into such an agreement? Absolutely. Should we do more for everyone so that such agreements are entered in a spirit of generosity and altruism, rather than economic necessity? I think so.
And, obviously, I agree that we shouldn’t be content with such a society. And I didn’t miss that point the first time around. I get it. However, I also don’t find it overly convincing. Honestly, I don’t think that we should be “content with a society” in which certain men may feel that the only way they can afford to put food on their children’s table is to drive around in trucks and pick up my stinky trash and dump it into their truck. However, we live in just such a society. Is there an exact equivalence between picking up the trash and hosting someone’s baby for 9 months? No, of course not. But, on the other hand, it’s not entirely nonsensical, either. Both people are going through an unpleasant process, probably featuring the occasional bout of nausea, but getting fairly well rewarded in return for delivering something people want (a new infant, or a trash-free home.)
We live in a world which has, at least for the last 10,000 years or so, does, and probably always will feature fairly large levels of economic inequality. Some people, whether by dint of laziness, genetics, or just bad luck, will always be less well-off than some others. And certain opportunities, which you or I, from our positions of relative comfort, might find a bit…distasteful…will always present themselves as ways that such people, with perhaps relatively low skill levels, might be able to improve their economic lot.
Am I entirely comfortable in such a world? No, not at all. But, at the same time, I’m pragmatic enough to recognize that it’s the world I inhabit, and probably always will be. If someone is literally being forced to be a surrogate mother through illicit or immoral means, that’s one thing, and something I will always be quite loudly against. On the other hand, the woman in the Times story had 4 children of her own, and was using this opportunity as a chance to help bolster her kids’ college funds. This is not exactly ‘struggling to put food on the table’ sort of material, and I have real trouble finding the passion against this sort of thing, especially when there are so many other people suffering so much more in the world, people we should really be looking after…