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Too Posh for Pregnancy?

Are there good reasons and bad reasons for surrogacy?

Most people who hire a surrogate to carry and deliver a baby for them are women who cannot become pregnant or have been advised not to for medical reasons, or men (typically same-sex couples) looking to become parents. But some women who opt for surrogacy face no biological barrier; they say they're too busy to be pregnant, or don't want to lose their figures.

It's impossible to know how common "social surrogacy," as it's sometimes called, really is. It popped up last week in an article in The Telegraph of Calcutta, India, about an American woman who got frustrated by delays in getting an Indian passport for her surrogacy-produced baby, and walked out of the government office in a huff, leaving the infant on a bench. It's a strange and sad story. But what really caught my eye was this statement from a Hyderabad fertility doctor:

"Most of the clients are women from well-to-do Indian families who want to avoid childbirth so that their lifestyle, or body shape, is not affected," said Srinivas Prasad, a doctor at one of the city's top 15 fertility centres.

It took only a bit of Googling to confirm that affluent North Americans and Europeans are also using surrogacy for lifestyle and vanity reasons. Last August, Dr. Stuart Fischoff, a psychologist who consults with the film and television industries, talked with the Toronto Sun about why surrogacy is gaining ground in Hollywood. "Celebrities can afford the same luxury of avoiding bearing and birthing and not have to worry about societal clucking," he said. Furthermore, for those

who can't afford the risks of pregnancy or carrying to term, or of losing precious time from their burgeoning careers, or who might find it hard getting into fighting shape and sloughing off weight again, then off-the-shelf (adoption: Madonna and Brangelina) or right from the factory (surrogacy: Kidman, Bassett, Sara Jessica Parker) might be just what the doctor ordered.

As far back as 2001, The Sunday Times (UK) carried a story about social surrogacy. Reporter Tessa Mayes found that

successful businesswomen, actresses, athletes and models are among those opting for 'social surrogacy'. They cite career pressure, the pain of childbirth and the prospect of stretchmarks as the main reasons for avoiding pregnancy.

And guess who The Sunday Times cited as its surrogacy expert? None other than Theresa Erickson, who opined that "it's not for us to judge why people do not want to carry a baby." Erickson is the San Diego lawyer recently convicted of running what the US government termed a "baby-selling ring" that involved deceiving intended parents, surrogates, California courts, and a state program to provide prenatal care for uninsured women.

Even within the fertility industry, social surrogacy is often held at arm's length. Many fertility clinic websites are circumspect about appropriate reasons for considering surrogacy; some clearly state that they will not accept clients who are themselves able to carry a pregnancy. Surrogacy broker and advocate Sharon LaMothe is quite clear about her views:

Plain and simple, if you are too busy or stressed out about how your body will look after a 9 month pregnancy and childbirth then perhaps YOU, my friend, are not prepared for motherhood!

More from Marcy Darnovsky Ph.D.
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