The commercialisation of motherhood

Foto Reuters

Ana Cristina Villa Betancourt

The terrible tragedy of the earthquake in Nepal produced many chilling headlines, and amongst them, perhaps one slipped by; a story about the speed with which the numerous homosexual couples, who were in the country in the process of renting a womb and obtaining a baby, were evacuated. The story briefly appeared in the international media and then disappeared. The noise which these stories produced throws light on a rapidly growing phenomenon: couples from powerful countries contract the production of babies through reproduction agencies. These offer their services thanks to women hired in poor countries, with all the guarantees of the best marketing, and produce enormous profits. The euphemisms are intended to hide the reality: they call it ‘fertility tourism’. If you pay extra, you can choose the sex of the baby or obtain genetic examinations of the embryos. The total cost of the process approaches tens of thousands of Euros. The euphemisms barely hide the reality; they do business through an enormous hole in national and international legislation. They commercialise motherhood.

According to the report, Surrogate Motherhood – Ethical or Commercial published by the Indian Centre for Social Research in 2014, there is an obvious abuse even when only considered from a commercial position. The surrogate mother earns between 1 and 2% of what the parents pay for this child. This economic aspect allows the reality to show: a real buying and selling of human beings, enslaving of women and commercialisation of newborns. There are strong arguments in favour of the legal regulation of this practice in order to avoid abuse. But one wonders whether greater legislation will resolve the ethical questions associated with this practice?

It therefore appears important to give due weight to the questions nobody wants to ask. Firstly, how do these mothers feel? Secondly, what will happen to these children in the future, when they get to know their origin?

In the above report, published in India, various women who practiced surrogacy were asked about how they felt when the baby was given to the couple who ordered it. The majority refused to respond. In fact, the contract established between the ‘clients’ and the ‘surrogate’ clarifies that the latter totally dissociates herself from the destination of the children which she carries in her womb, which she does not consider her children, in order to avoid undesirable interference in the family life of the clients. There are different types of anonymity clauses which guarantee the peace of all (the adults!) involved in the process. Thus, the surrogate mother must exert herself to undergo her pregnancy in a state of indifference, insisting in thought that this is not her child. Furthermore, by contract, she must accept the demands of those to whom she has literally ceded all rights to her womb. If the child is deformed or not of the right sex, she is obliged to abort.

Natasha’s testimony is interesting: ‘I am 29 and I’ve been married for 11 years. I have a nine year old son… I am a perfect machine for procreation; it’s not me who says that, that’s want the doctors in the Biotexcom Clinic in Kiev told me […] I have just one child who is the greatest joy of my life. The others that I have brought into the world are other people’s children. I don’t remember the day they were born, or if they were boys or girls, or how much they weighed. I wasn’t interested then and I’m not interested now. These children have nothing of me: they don’t have my DNA, they won’t be raised by me. I just gave birth to them, I’ve helped those who couldn’t have them naturally.’1

Is it possible that she doesn’t feel her dignity has been trampled when they call her ‘a perfect machine for procreation’? Does she really believe that her action helps others, even at the cost of her own dignity? Is it true that she isn’t interested in when these sons and daughters were born or what their future holds? Is her indifference authentic? How will Natasha feel when one day, one of these children is interested in knowing her?

The second big question is, what will happen in the future, with these sons and daughters, when they know of their origin? Will they want to know the woman who, for nine months, welcomed their nascent life? Won’t they want to at least thank her? Will they not feel that she is a part of their lives?

Here we can visit the testimony of Alana, born thanks to sperm donation and raised by a lesbian couple: ‘My father accepted money, and promised to have nothing to do with me. My mother was wonderful and I have always loved her deeply, as she has loved me. But my journey is a battle against the void left by my father’s absence, and a particular disability in understanding the difference between sacred and commercial, exploitation and cooperation.’2

Is it just to bring children into the world, depriving them of their sense of belonging, endowing them from the beginning of their lives with a complicated heredity, a permanent longing to know who they are and unanswered questions about their origin? Some resolve these dilemmas by proposing that the parents are ‘honest’ with the children from the start, and don’t hide their origin. And perhaps this is better than hiding the truth but it doesn’t cure the longing.

We live in a complex world, where human beings no longer accept our limits, where we feel capable of everything and avail ourselves of the right to do what we want. A sick humanity born of a runaway feeling of omnipotence, without points of reference for those who are looking to see what is right and what is wrong. As Nietzshe well predicted, once we have cut off our Creator, it’s as if we have erased the horizon, rid the earth of the sun, as if we were falling incessantly, uncertain as to whether there is above and below…roaming lost in the infinity of nothingness.3

It is at this point that we glimpse the urgency of working for a ‘human ecology’ which preserves the humanity of those deluded by omnipotence and which affirms the right of a child to be born from the love of its parents, a father and a mother. A ‘human ecology’ which helps us to recover our place as creatures, all sons and daughters of God the Father who loves us and forgives us, and which allows us to recover the immensity of welcoming the gift of life.


1 From: [accessed 12th May 2015]



2 From: [accessed 12th May 2015]



3 F. Nietzsche, Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft, número 125.


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