- (Photo: Biola University)
Editor's Note: This is the second part in a series on surrogacy, titled "Renting a Womb." Read Part 1 here.
Although not specifically mentioned in the Bible, the act of surrogacy in order to produce a baby should be considered unethical, says Scott B. Rae, professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Biola University.
Surrogacy, Rae argued, diminishes a woman's role in procreation. The woman, he said, is reduced to a "baby breeder."
Rae, who serves as dean of the faculty at the university's Talbot School of Theology and chair for the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics board, told The Christian Post that the Bible "looks pretty skeptically at any kind of third party contributor who comes outside the matrix of marriage."
"It seems to me that procreation is intended to be done by stable, permanent, monogamous, heterosexual married couples," he said. "The norm is laid out in Genesis 1 and 2 where you have the creation of Adam and Eve, the institution of marriage, and then the mandate to be fruitful and multiply. It sets procreation within that context."
"If the question is 'does the Bible prohibit all forms of third party contributors?' I'm not sure it's clear enough to say that, but I do think the Bible tilts skeptically against that. I would never encourage a woman to sell her eggs."
Below is CP's edited interview with Rae, who is the author of The Ethics of Commercial Surrogate Motherhood: Brave New Families?
CP: What is your background in regards to the study of bioethics and surrogacy?
Rae: I've been teaching bioethics for the last 20 years and I did my Ph.D. dissertation on surrogacy at the University of Southern California back in the late '80s, early '90s. I have one book published on surrogacy and another on reproductive technologies in general.
CP: Have things changed since the time of your dissertation in regards to surrogacy?
Rae: In a way, yes. Not in my view of it, but the way surrogacy is done has changed. When surrogacy began, probably in the mid '80s, in vitro fertilization was only 10 years old at the time. So most surrogacy arrangements were what were called "traditional" or "genetic" surrogacies, where it was really not high-tech at all. The surrogate would be artificially inseminated and so the surrogate, it would be her egg and she would give birth to the child, and hence the term "genetic surrogacy" because of her genetic connection to the child. In the late '80s there was a very famous case of one of these genetic surrogacies that went badly awry and ended up in the New Jersey Supreme Court. The court ruled, in my view, correctly that any genetic surrogate is the legal mother of the child. As a result, the child is hers to keep if she wants the baby and if she chooses to give up the child to the couple that contracts her, she does so with the knowledge that it's hers to give. That was a major hit for surrogacy because it introduced this huge element of risk in there and so the couples no longer had the law on their side.
Once that ruling became more widespread, what we call "gestational surrogacy" became more the norm. That's where the eggs from the wife, sperm from the husband, fertilize them in vitro and then place in the surrogate, and so the surrogate only has a gestational relationship to the child. Starting in the early to mid '90s, that gradually became more the norm. In another case, the California Supreme Court ruled that gestational surrogates have no rights to the child they are carrying. It's not hard to see that in terms of risk to the couple who is contracting the surrogate, that gestational surrogacy was considered the only way to go.
Most of the surrogacies today are the gestational type – the surrogate has no genetic tie to the child.
CP: It's been reported that there is an increase in surrogacy. What are your observations on this issue?
Rae: It depends on what part of the world you are talking about, but there is serious outsourcing of surrogacy going on, too, which only makes sense if it's the gestational type. Otherwise, people are not going to outsource to India or somewhere in Asia any surrogacy arrangement that has a genetic component if they live here or in Europe. There's no reason to do that.
CP: What has been your viewpoint on surrogacy over the years?
Rae: It's basically been the same, that genetic surrogacy constitutes the purchase and sale of children because what the surrogate was doing was signing away her parental rights in exchange for cash – which there is no other way to call that than baby selling. And that is immoral and I think should be illegal. A number of states that have laws on surrogacy have agreed.
Gestational surrogacy is a little more complicated about "who is the mother here" because you can split biology like you never have before, meaning you can have one woman who is the genetic contributor and a different woman who carries the child to term. The question is then who is the mother? A good case could be made for both. My own preference, and I would not go to the stake for this, I think a better case could be made for the woman who gestates and gives birth to the child being the mother. She's the one that has the real sense of bonding, connection, relationship with the child prior to the child's birth. I particularly like this term, the surrogate has a much greater, what they call a "sweat equity" in the child that she is caring.
The interesting thing is that there is a group of radical feminists who don't like any form of surrogacy, but they particularly don't like the gestational surrogacy because they say it reinforces the idea of women being baby breeders. I'm somewhat sympathetic to that.
The other thing that is troubling, even about gestational surrogacy, is that I think the potential is there particularly for poor women of the world to be exploited. The outsourcing of surrogacy raises the risk of these women around the world being exploited. What I mean by that is that they are doing things that they would never otherwise do because of their financial dire straits.
CP: What is the current social thought on surrogacy?
Rae: I think the feminists who object to surrogacy because it reinforces a stereotype, that has some merit. The other thing that troubles me is that it separates procreation and responsibility. Scripture is pretty solid on the connection between marriage, procreation, and parenting. This is what troubles me about sperm donation – that you are involved in procreation but overtly disavowing a responsibility for that. Surrogates do the same.
The Bible looks pretty skeptically at any kind of third party contributor who comes outside the matrix of marriage. It seems to me that procreation is intended to be done by stable, permanent, monogamous, heterosexual married couples. The norm is laid out in Genesis 1 and 2 where you have the creation of Adam and Eve, the institution of marriage, and then the mandate to be fruitful and multiply. It sets procreation within that context.
If the question is "does the Bible prohibit all forms of third party contributors?" I'm not sure it's clear enough to say that but I do think the Bible tilts skeptically against that. I would never encourage a woman to sell her eggs.
CP: What bothers you most about surrogacy?
Rae: If we applied adoption laws to surrogacy, those participating would all be in violation, if we can show that the gestational surrogate is indeed the mother of the baby. I wouldn't say that's the majority view. I think they view surrogates as a human incubator, which in my view, doesn't do justice to what goes on in the womb. There's bonding connection, there's emotional development that goes on in the womb. To say that what surrogates do is "prenatal babysitting" doesn't do justice to what we know goes on in the womb. Even terms like that diminishes a woman's role in procreation. That reduces her to a "baby breeder."