The video above is a trailer for a new documentary titled Breeders: A Subclass of Women? The film takes a critical look at the issue of surrogacy and how the practice turns babies and women into commodities. Here’s a description from the film’s website:
Surrogacy is fast becoming one of the major issues of the 21st century—celebrities and everyday people are increasingly using surrogates to build their families. But the practice is fraught with complex implications for women, children, and families. What is the impact on the women who serve as surrogates and on the children who are born from surrogacy? In what ways might money complicate things? What about altruistic surrogacy done for a family member or close friend? Is surrogacy a beautiful, loving act or does it simply degrade pregnancy to a service and a baby to a product? Can we find a middle ground? Should we even look for one?
The trailer includes excerpts from the different experts interviewed in the film. A single sentence from one of the interviewees stood out. Take note of the radical redefinition of family implied by this statement:
A family is love. Long gone are the days where we have a mom and a dad and two children.
The context of this statement is unclear, but it sounds like it’s coming from someone who has completely embraced the new social reality. The family has been fundamentally redefined so that it no longer necessarily involves a mom and a dad and whatever children they bear. It is simply loosely identified as a group of people who love each other. If that loose association wants to rent out a woman’s womb—and perhaps someone else’s eggs and sperm—that should be of no concern. The natural biological connection between parents and children is arbitrary and morally insignificant.
Our culture has been working for decades now to separate sex from the natural consequence of childbirth. This has not been a good experiment in my view and has had many widespread deleterious effects. Surrogacy is but one more sad consequence of separating marriage from sex and sex from childrearing. Such disjunctions have become the norm in our day, but perhaps this film will cause people to reconsider the technologies that have enabled this revolution.
(HT: Frank Turk)
You know this really shouldn’t surprise us at this point. People claiming falsehoods as truth, etc. People need Christ more than ever. Don’t stop sharing the Gospel with others.
This is definitely a difficult area to grapple with. I’ve been struggling with friends who took this approach and the analogy of product (baby) and service (surrogate) perhaps makes me even more squeamish about the whole thing. Now there are two babies involved by no choice of their own. I pray most for them. Its hard.
I’m aware of Catholic objections to surrogacy, but I’m unaware of the Protestant objection. I think its worth elaborating on, Denny.
I have a close friend whose wife could not conceive & so they hired a surrogate mother–twice actually–at great expense. I’m not sure why anyone would suggest that they’re not a “real” family, or are somehow less legitimate than fully natural families. Their beautiful baby boy looks just like the two of them.
As long as we’re talking the re-definition of family, the nuclear family is a rather recent invention of the Industrial Age. Recall how the OT urges men to marry the widows of their dead brothers (something that would get a big “Ewwww” today). Even Joseph saw fit to raise a Son not his own. He didn’t consider Jesus any less his own b/cs of it. (And, from the opposite standpoint, Thomas Jefferson had many children he didn’t consider family.) There’s a reason Christ says the greatest commandment is love 🙂
John Klink, Jr.
God created one man and one woman and told them to have kids. (Which they did.) This is not only the basic definition of the nuclear family, it is the God ordained design for the family. So, how is the nuclear family an invention of the Industrial Age?
Surrogate childbirth is normally used today to get around infertility or having to go through the difficulty of carrying and birthing your own child. This is a very different situation than any of the examples you cited.
You mentioned Leverate marriage (such as Ruth and Boaz) which although similar to surrogacy, was prescribed (by God) as a method of ensuring the inheritance of the Land (of Israel) would remain within each family. From the Biblical perspective, it is specific to Jewish widows and the land of Israel.
Joseph essentially adopted Jesus, but Mary was not a surrogate in the modern sense. Adoption, itself, is a beautiful picture in Scripture of God’s provision, especially for orphans. However, it has little relationship to modern surrogacy, other than to show that a child can be considered as a real family member regardless of his or her origins.
How does surrogacy relate to God’s design and definition of the family? What does the Bible say about it? Sarah gave her maid Hagar to Abraham as a surrogate womb since she was too old to conceive (Or so she thought). The results were not good. It certainly wasn’t prescribed by God! A few other similar situations exist in the Bible, but the others were more related to adultry or polygamy than solutions for infertility.
Thanks for the explanation, John. Hagar wasn’t a surrogate womb she was essentially a concubine–Abraham & Hagar had sex, unlike w/ surrogacy. The Bible is silent on surrogacy b/cs the technology simply didn’t exist.
The standard definition of the nuclear family is 1 house w/ mom, dad & kids—no other kin. You might have something else in mind. But what we call a nuclear family didn’t really arise until urbanization in NW Europe & it didn’t become the predominant bldg block until the Industrial Age. It takes a lot of money for young ppl to live in the city, in their own home, and provide sufficient care giving to raise kids properly. Hence until the Industrial Age multiple generations shared land, housing, and living arrangements. Grandma might not be able to work but she could watch the kids while mom and dad, and uncle billy, and aunt sue worked the farm. If you visited less developed countries you’d still see multiple generations & extended family sharing housing, land, child rearing & labor. This is why many cultures still have patriarchs, matriarchs, tribes, and clans. It takes A LOT of $$$ to support a nuclear family.
As I see it you hit on the critical issue when you said, “a child can be considered as a real family member regardless of his or her origins.” That’s the case w/ surrogacy.
John Klink, Jr.
The technological distinction between modern surrogacy and the Abraham/Hagar situation certainly exists. However, the general purpose is exactly the same.
Just because it is possible to consider the child of a surrogate mother as a real family member, doens’t necessitate that it is biblically acceptable.
As for the definition of the nuclear family vs. extended family and or mutliple generations living in the same household: I understand where you’re going with the distinction. But it doens’t change the fact that God’s design for childbearing and building of a family is one man and one woman. But where does a surrogate mother fall into this equation? Is she a part of the family? A surrogate mother is technologically superior to Hagar, but is her role or service any different?
There were only 2 sins committed wrt Hagar situation. One, Sarah & Abraham doubted God’s promise; and two, Abraham had sex outside of marriage. Since the Bible nowhere criticizes Hagar’s role–as opposed to the 2 sins–there’s no Biblical support to say that surrogacy is wrong.
In terms of where a surrogate mother fits in, its entirely up to the legal parents. I’ve read of relatives serving as surrogate parents & I imagine they continue on in whatever role they had before, albeit with a closer relationship than might be usual. In my friend’s case the surrogate mother is nowhere in the picture.
In terms of extended family, I’m unaware of any scripture which downgrades their value. The term nuclear family wasn’t even coined until the late ’40s, and I think the stronger our extended families the stronger our nuclear families.
John Klink, Jr.
There is a difference between the issue of “Surrogacy” and the “Surrogate” mother. Hagar (the surrogate mother) was not condemned by God directly in Scripture. However, the issue of not trusting God and seeking a “surrogate” method to have a child their own way, was.
Natural childbrith and adoption are both biblically legitimate and natural means to incorporate children into a family unit. Surrogacy, if not explicitly unbiblical, adds layers of confusion and complexity that are very foreign to God’s natural design. It also adds complexity to the deffinition of ‘family’ . . . as is demonstrated by this whole conversation. What happens when that child finds out he/she was carried and birthed by a woman other than her ‘mother’?
Would you say that Hagar was a surrogate mother for Sarah? Or it started out that way? I’m not saying that the Bible is OK with surrogacy, only, it was an example and look how that went.
Rachel and Leah also used surrogate mothers, and Ruth and Tamar used surrogate fathers.
I’m not sure those examples are directly or even indirectly applicable. But even if they were just because people in the Bible behaved or acted in a certain way doesn’t make those actions acceptable to God. We have to be careful not to take the ethical and moral ramifications of surrogacy lightly.
Yeah, didn’t that work out great? Oh wait…
Scott Rae has a good book about this that I think is the incarnation of his doctoral dissertation. It’s called “The Ethics of Commercial Surrogate Motherhood: Brave New Families?” Check it out from the library–Amazon lists for $100.
I’ve always strongly disagreed with this practice. For one thing, it forms a physical and emotional bond between the surrogate and the baby. This woman’s body is telling her that this child is flesh of her flesh, and yet she’s not regarded properly as the baby’s mother. We aren’t talking about the single mom who can’t make ends meet and chooses to place her baby for adoption. We’re talking about a deliberately, artificially created situation. And what happens if it turns out the child is the “wrong” gender, or has a disability, and the surrogate doesn’t want the demanded abortion? There was a case like that a couple years or so ago. The woman had to run away from the child’s biological parents because they wanted to kill it.