Michigan’s surrogacy laws have become a subject of a few media stories in recent months. On the surface, helping couples who are having trouble conceiving by allowing surrogacy may sound good in theory, but in practice surrogacy creates an entirely new group of victims.
In 1988, Michigan banned surrogacy contracts to get ahead of feared abuses down the road. Despite accusations that our state’s law is “archaic” or “outdated,” those fears proved accurate. As other states and countries experience these abuses, our law appears to actually be way ahead of its time.
Surrogacy involves introducing a third party into the process of childbirth. Either the parents use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to create a child, and then a different woman gestates the child—the most frequent method—or the surrogate is inseminated or donates her own egg to create the child.
To be clear, Michigan law doesn’t ban “altruistic” voluntary surrogacy, but specifically bans the practice of creating a binding surrogacy contract. These contracts create two major problems.
First, they turn the child into a marketable commodity. Human beings aren’t things to be bought or sold. Besides the many problems with IVF involving eugenics, health effects on the child, and “leftover” children, these contracts can come with “abortion clauses.” If the “product” doesn’t meet quality assurance standards for health or sex, the “product” is killed according to the contract. Even abortion supporters should see the obvious problem with making abortion a tool to enforce obedience to a business contract.
Michigan’s law has saved lives. Disabled baby Seraphina Harrell’s life was spared in 2012 when her surrogate mother moved here to avoid being pressured into abortion. If our law didn’t exist, Seraphina’s life would have been prematurely taken from her, and her surrogate mother scarred for life.
Second, surrogacy contracts reduce motherhood to a business relationship—one that often preys upon poor women. Often, a woman’s decision to enter into a surrogacy contract is based on financial hardship. While the agreement may relieve temporary financial stress, a breach in contract could result in devastating legal and financial consequences for the surrogate.
In addition, this commercialization of creating a child seldom considers the short-term and long-term impact on the surrogate mother, who is legally forced to give up the child she spent 9 months caring for.
There are many other ways to help infertile couples that don’t treat women and children as objects to buy and sell.