The advancement of technology in relation to artificial reproductive techniques have thrown open a social debate that has wide-ranging implications. The society is challenged to find a balance between new commercial opportunities and their moral underpinnings. In this essay, salient points in favor and against such reproductive practices will be presented from a neutral perspective.
One of the clear dangers of scientifically engineered reproduction is the unprecedented social and moral complications entailing a cloned human being. The debate on cloning is a subject in its own right and hence this essay will only pertain itself to surrogate motherhood in its traditional and modern versions which categorically excludes the concept of cloning.
It is believed that nearly one in eight heterosexual couple in the United States cannot have babies due to infertility of one or the other. Reproducing and having a family of one’s own is a basic human objective. In this context, artificial reproduction techniques will prove to be a blessing for these couple, who are perfectly capable of raising a healthy child, if only they can have one. But, there is a catch though, as the following paragraph will show (Annas, 1998).
While it is perfectly agreeable to facilitate infertile married couple to have a child of their own, the process gets complicated if the surrogate mother is hired. The passion associated with the act of copulation is an essential ingredient that binds the couple emotionally. When this act is mechanized, as is usually the case with surrogacy, then it is equitable to prostitution. Feminists would argue that this is one more way in which men try to control women and their concern is not unfounded (Callahan, 1999).
Another objection that is raised against artificial reproductive techniques is that it will lead to making babies and surrogates mere commodities. There are already certain websites in the Internet that offer these services and it won’t be long before it spawns an industry of its own. It is appalling to think of a commercial enterprise in which price tags are attached to human eggs, ovaries and surrogate mothers. This will undermine the long-standing tradition of family values and relationships. A renowned anthropologist raises questions about unusual relationship dynamics that could unfold in the future, thus:
“A woman can give birth to her own grandchild, for example, by carrying a pregnancy from her daughter’s egg. Embryos can be frozen and a child brought into the world long after its genetic parents are dead. The existence of such choices makes once apparently secure connections between biology, folk biology, conception ideology, and kinship categories less stable than they were.” (Konrad, 2002)
But, people who welcome commercial surrogacy have more to say. The conventional option for infertile couple is adoption. But the process of adoption had become increasingly more complicated in the modern world. The red tape involved can also be quite tedious. Moreover, the adopted baby will not be genetically related to the couple. Some studies have shown that the available pool of babies for adoption is also decreasing. Commercial surrogacy on the other hand can off-set or mitigate these drawbacks.
The skeptics make a pertinent objection when they say that commercial surrogacy can lead to deepen the social fissures existing in the contemporary world. They point to a particular statistic in the surrogacy cases registered so far in the United States to support their argument. For instance, most of the surrogate mothers who offer their service are almost always from the lower strata of society. They opted to this mode of “employment” not because of altruistic or humanitarian reasons but for basic sustenance. Another relevant fact is that most women are either of African American or Hispanic lineage. If this phenomenon is left unchecked, there will come a time in the near future when a separate demographic category of surrogate women would develop, which would comprise the racially oppressed and economically backward women participating unwillingly in a baby-making industry (Mcewen, 1999).