While some people see surrogacy as just another option for having a family in a high-tech world, others see it as morally fraught or even objectionable. While there isn't an organized anti-surrogacy movement, certain religions oppose it because it separates procreation from marital sex.
Many conflicted or negative opinions surface as reactions to news stories on surrogacy. Wrote one online commenter on a New York Times article, "What about adopting kids who are already here and need a loving family? I guess I can understand the desire to have some of your own genes in a kid, but it definitely seems an option only for the upper middle class and the rich."
Dr. Norman Fost, the director of the UW's bioethics program, summarizes the three main areas of concern posed by ethicists: the surrogate mother, including medical and psychosocial risks to her; the child and its potential "commodification"; and the requesting parents, "who may be out of money if they don't get the desired child, or may lose custody of the child post-delivery."
Fost, a pediatrician, says he knows of no convincing evidence that children born through surrogacy face negative psychological ramifications.
"I don't know that there are well-designed, long-term studies of outcomes, but the data that there is — and the anecdotal evidence that I know of — suggests surrogacy is not a key variable in whether a child becomes happy or healthy," he observes. As in other families, the most important aspect is the environment the child is raised in, and whether or not it is stable and loving.
Others who object to surrogacy claim that it exploits gestational carriers. Fost is skeptical, noting that many jobs entail physical risk. "It's paternalistic to tell a competent woman how she can use her body, whether it's to work in a coal mine or as a surrogate mother," he argues.
Another Times online commenter griped that "a child is not a consumer good, to be bought and sold like an iPod." Yet Fost says of this "commodification" argument (a term he finds to have no clear meaning), "It's not clear why that would even be of any great consequence to the child if he or she is raised in a loving home."
Increasingly, couples in the U.S. and abroad have been turning to India for surrogates, and this does trouble Fost.
"All the things that can go awry are more likely to go awry," Fost claims, from information about the health status of the surrogate mother, to the type of health care available to her, to legal ramifications. Still, he doesn't deny that there could be well-run programs abroad.