TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

New Jersey’s Surrogate Motherhood Bill and Its Vicious Opposition

A proposed New Jersey law would revise the state’s surrogate parenting laws to legalize a new type of surrogacy, called “gestational surrogacy.” A state senate committee report on the New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act explains:

A gestational carrier agreement is a written contract pursuant to which a woman agrees to carry and give birth to a child with whom she has no genetic relationship. . . .

Unlike what is now regarded as traditional surrogacy, where a woman is artificially inseminated with the semen of the intended father and gives birth to a child through the use of her own egg, gestational surrogacy is the result of developments in reproductive technology and involves a woman who does not make use of her own egg.

Megan Demarco reports that the bill “provides guidelines for legal contracts between couples and the woman who carries their fertilized egg [and] would allow the intended parents to cover the surrogate’s expenses related to the pregnancy.”

Remarkably, though unsurprisingly, various people and groups want gestational surrogacy outlawed. Demarco notes that “Opponents of the bill run the ideological gamut, from New Jersey Right to Life to the National Organization for Women.” Their main beef is encapsulated by attorney Harold Cassidy: “The exploitation of women if this bill becomes law is unfathomable.” Critics fear that the bill “will create a for-profit business, where ‘brokers’ will make a profit off vulnerable women.”

These busybodies apparently believe that women are incapable of determining what is in their own best interest. They also apparently regard women’s choice to be surrogate mothers for pay as inherently wrong—and brokers (those who help potential parents and surrogates meet each other and work out the details of their agreement) as somehow immoral. Their view, in short, is that women are stupid and profit is evil.

What a stupid and evil worldview some people have.

The fact is that women—whether rich or poor or somewhere in between—are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves what is good for their lives. And profiting—making money by providing a good or service that people want—is profoundly moral (unless that good or service is somehow anti-life, which is certainly not the case here).

In this regard, one actual problem with the bill is that it restricts payments to covering surrogates’ expenses. This is immoral. Women have a moral right to charge whatever they see fit for their services. The more money they can get in a free market, the better. Again, profit is moral.

Such agreements are rightfully private, contractual matters that government has no business interfering with. As long as all parties to a contract are consenting adults of sound mind, and no fraud or other rights violations are involved, the government’s job is simply to uphold the contract, not dictate its terms.

Legal restrictions on the freedom of women, brokers, and potential parents violate the rights of all parties involved; throttle the surrogacy market; and retard research, development, and technological advancements that would otherwise help many childless couples to have children of their own.

Still, the bill is a step in the right direction. And those who know this should support it on the grounds that women are capable, individuals have rights, and profit is moral.

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Image: iStockPhoto

Posted in: Individual Rights and Law

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Anonymous

    So, will NJ need another bureaucrat(s) to look at expenses to make sure there’s no profit for the surrogate? I didn’t see anything in the bill about how this will be handled. Maybe payment to a surrogate by a broker is against some other NJ law, but I didn’t see such a prohibition in this bill.

    The objection by NOW, as stated above, seems rather lame: the bill requires medical and psychological evaluations of the surrogate by licensed professions and that she also retain an attorney independent of the intended parents’ attorney. It looks like the bill already has some protection for vulnerable women. 

  • Michael A LaFerrara

    The issue of brokers does not appear to be explicitly addressed in the bill, which is probably why the critics brought it up. Any implication that the bill makes it illegal is inadvertent.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Michael.

    Another important point is that just because a vulnerable woman might be talked into something she really doesn’t want or isn’t good for her, does not mean that the right to be a surrogate mother should be taken away from all women. The pious often use this same objection to Doctor assisted suicide: “heirs could talk a parent into assisted suicide just to get the money.” My reply to this claim is that just because someone misuses a right and hurts themselves does not mean that it should be taken away from everyone.

    If there are lies involved in the bullying by a broker (or heirs), then it seems that there could be grounds for legal action. In general, I don’t know what specialized legal framework, if any, should be in place for surrogate motherhood.

  • Michael A LaFerrara

    Good point, Mel. Statists have long exploited the “vulnerable” to advance their statist initiatives. I think the corrosive effects of altruism strips too many people of the moral certitude to make a statement like “just because someone misuses a right and hurts themselves does not mean that it should be taken away from everyone.” Statists count on people believing that being more concerned with the “weak and vulnerable” than protecting their own rights and self-interest is somehow virtuous. Altruism is morally disarming. It’s a pervasive problem.

  • Martin Lundqvist

    I think a point that is often missed is that some women are more suited to giving birth than others. This might be because of both physical reasons (more suitable female anatomy) and psychological ones (higher pain threshholds).
    Since certain women are obviously more qualified to giving birth than others, it is perfectly viable that such women could pursue this venue as a source of extra income (perhaps even as part of a profession)

  • clark

    I don’t know why
    people want gestational surrogacy to be outlawed. This new form of assisted
    reproduction is bringing hope to a large number of women and men out there who
    want a child but cannot conceive through natural means. I agree that there is
    scope for the method to be exploited but that does not mean we need to do away
    with the method in the first place. Who can guarantee that the process would
    not take place covertly even after it is banned?

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