Thursday, November 4, 2010

Catching up on the Fetus Minefield

I know this story is a bit old, but I missed blogging about it so I just wanted to touch on it briefly here. You probably heard about it, and certainly it was all over the news and the internet: a couple found out that the fetus their surrogate was carrying was likely to be born with Down Syndrome, and they wanted her to terminate the pregnancy. But she didn't want to have an abortion.

Like most tricky legal situations involving abortion, this is not actually about abortion at all, and certainly the occurrence of circumstances such as this cannot reasonably be used to argue either for or against the availability of the procedure. The issue here is the quandary posed by commodifying the use of our bodies. As a feminist I can see arguments for or against surrogacy, but it must be appreciated that the concept itself is born of a complex society full of uneasy cultural relationships and various socioeconomic situations.

Whether we allow surrogacy or not, or abortion or not, the situation exists now (or at least it did) and there's no going back. Most of the opinions I've heard or read on this particular story acknowledge that it is a difficult moral/legal/ethical fetus minefield, if you will, and there is no clear solution. I'm inclined to agree. Certainly as a feminist and abortion rights activist, my instinct says the woman's bodily autonomy comes first, and as a bit of a socialist I also feel that it certainly comes before any kind of financial agreement. However, it is always good to think of what is best for the child. And one does have to admit that there is a legal problem of custody and ownership. It's tricky, friends.

In the end I think it should be up to the surrogate, and I think it would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise. If we cannot decide what happens in our own body, after all, what power do we have? It will be interesting to see, however, what kind of an impact this has on surrogacy, or at the very least what kind of lengthy changes have to be made to a whole bunch of contracts.

Human relationships are more complex than we could have imagined.

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