Should Surrogates Be Paid?

Posted in Surrogacy on May 11, 2011

Suppose a strange couple came upon you on the street and thrust their child in your arms. They ask you to care for the child for months upon months, feeding, protecting, and caring for the baby with much self-sacrifice, pain, and risk to your health. Would you do it? Would you do it for free?

Now imagine instead of on your hip, someone asks you to care for their child in your womb. It is not your egg nor your cells nor your DNA. You are simply asked to be a surrogate. You want to help, but pregnancy is work. It's a strain on any woman, yet this back-breaking, 24-hour-a-day, exhausting work is not valued enough to merit minimum wage in some states. You're just a vessel so that another couple may have the gift of parenthood.

Now imagine you have your own children -- which, in essence, qualifies you for this job in the first place. You have bills to pay, but your ability to work could be jeopardized by carrying another's child.

In fact, most people consider motherhood the hardest job they have ever had. Some, mainly lawmakers, male lawmakers, do not. Apparently to them, the burden and beauty of pregnancy are so under-valued in some states that women are expected to do it for free. It seems so unfair outside the womb and there are no questions of it being worth the hundreds to thousands of dollars that childcare costs. But caring for a child inside the womb? Supposedly, it's unethical to be paid a dime.

Some suggest it is akin to selling babies. Yes, you are supposed to give this gift to strangers out of the goodness of your heart. Rubbish!

Don't blame the strangers. They just want to be parents. They would do anything to have their own child. They'd gladly pay you for your gift ... except it's illegal to pay for surrogate mothers in Washington and many more states.?

I found this out when I first came to Washington from California. It had long been a wish of mine to be a surrogate mother to a couple who could not conceive or perhaps someone who had triumphed over cancer. I even had the cutest little gay couple in my dreamy mind. They would provide the batter, they'd find themselves a juicy, fresh egg from a cute college girl, and I'd cook 'em up a baby as healthy as my three.

However, I thought it would be only fair to be recompensed for the physical stress not on just me, but on my young family. I slept a lot more while pregnant. I found housework impossible with morning sickness. And oh, the cravings. The extra food. The need for babysitters. The extra leaning on my husband. The risks. The deprivation of red wine and sushi. God forbid if there were complications, C-sections, gestational diabetes, infections, or worse ...

I'd like to see one of those male lawmakers try to carry a baby, much less labor 24 hours to push it out. My guess? Suddenly surrogacy would be a million-dollar industry.

Back to that dream, I found Washington was one of those states where it's illegal to recompense a woman for carrying someone else's DNA for 9 months. Luckily, six years later, that seems poised to change. Passed 57-41 in the House and scheduled for a hearing in the Senate, new legislation would finally legalize compensated surrogacy in Washington state.

"This takes a practice that is occurring out of state and underground in our state ... and moves it to a place where there's more protection for the intended parents, the surrogate, and the children being born," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle.

Finally, it appears a deal will be struck, supported by the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood, which balances protecting and empowering women who have children for a fee with protecting parents.

The bummer? At 38 years old, I am too old to be a viable candidate anymore. Still, I am happy the bill looks close to passing. Child-bearing women should be paid just as men are paid for their sperm deposits and young women are paid for their egg donations.

So this bill? Win-win? To me, a moderate conservative, yes. The government really has no business putting their noses in this issue in the first place. To Catholic groups and some of my fellow more right conservatives, no. They shriek it's tantamount to selling babies!!

"We are treating children as a commodity; we have real concerns about the selling of a child," said Sister Sharon Park. Russell Johnson, representing the Family Policy Institute of Washington, compared surrogacy parenting to slavery. "It's based on an exchange of money rather than the best interest of the child .... Allowing women to be bought and sold as livestock should not be allowed," Johnson said.

Expecting women to bear children not their own, without payment, sounds more akin to slavery. Yes, it's a choice, but it's also work. Even paid, it's not going to rake in the money. Typical surrogates in the United States receive payments of $20,000 to $25,000. I reckon for a full-term 40-week pregnancy, that is still less than 50 cents an hour.

Yes, 50 cents or less an hour for grueling IVF treatments, bed rest, C-sections, stretch marks, and morning sickness.

Reprinted from The Stir by Heather Murphy-Raines
And you? Do you think the risk and work of surrogacy should be paid? Would you take on the danger and exhaustion of a pregnancy for a stranger who couldn't have their own, for free? Do you object to others being paid? Is it baby brokering or fair recompense?

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