Bioethics Blogs

My Child, Your Womb

Gestational surrogacy contracts have been in the
news again recently as
a gestational surrogate reports
that the intended father, having discovered that she is expecting triplets, is
demanding that she undergo selective reduction to abort one of the fetuses.  Situations such as these, while often not reported,
are not necessarily uncommon.  In 2013, a
gestational carrier was
offered $10,000 to abort
when a second trimester ultrasound discovered congenital heart and brain
abnormalities.  Despite a
well-established Constitutional right to privacy that includes a pregnant
woman’s right to procure – or refuse – an abortion,
surrogacy contracts
routinely include provisions that not only prohibit a surrogate from having an
abortion unless there is a medical need, but also give the intended parents sole
discretion to determine whether the surrogate should abort where there is
evidence of a physical abnormality or other issue.  Such provisions have not been tested in court,
but would almost certainly be unenforceable based on the surrogate’s Constitutionally-protected
right to reproductive autonomy.

In India, where there is an estimated $400 million
surrogate tourism industry, women agree to be surrogates in exchange for
$5,000-7,000, which is far more than they could make otherwise.  In many clinics, surrogates live in
dormitories for the duration of the pregnancy and their food and medical care
is provided by the clinic.  There are
also reports that some clinics have policies against pregnancies of 3 or more fetuses
– meaning that
selective reduction may occur as
a matter of course
to reduce the number of fetuses
to 2 or 1.  If this is in fact happening,
are the surrogates (or even the intended parents) aware of what is
happening?  Are they given a voice in the
medical care and treatments they receive? 
Or are the decisions made by the intended parents or the clinic, and
simply imposed on the surrogate?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.