December 5th 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Well designed same-sex marriage law no solution

CANBERRA OBSERVED Kidman hectares to stay in local hands ... for now

EDITORIAL How to respond to Islamic State's latest outrages

OPINION What's left if Malcolm is in the middle?

LIFE ISSUES Feminists, conservatives unite against surrogacy

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Turnbull government is not serious about defence

HISTORY Geography the great shaper of Taiwan

PHILOSOPHY AND POLITICS Green ideology balances illogic with contradiction

SOCIETY Cultural displacement and the new terrorism

PUBLIC POLICY Cannabis for R&D has precedent in poppy trade

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Swedish daycare: paradigm or cautionary tale? Part I

CINEMA Not your average psychopath: James Bond: Spectre

BOOK REVIEW Fantastical Four


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Feminists, conservatives unite against surrogacy

by Madeleine van der Linden

News Weekly, December 5, 2015

The issues of family planning and same-sex marriage get a lot of attention, both in the media and in political circles.

But while airports light up in rainbow colours and people leave Tony Abbott flowers, the people who will truly suffer from the destabilisation of the family do not even have a vote. Most haven’t even got a voice to speak with yet. The children being created in test tubes, brought to term in surrogate wombs and aborted or abandoned are not heard.

surrogacy commodifies women's bodies

Surrogacy commodifies women and children.

Children are no longer seen as human beings, with a right to life and a mother and father. They have been accessorised, like so many Paris Hilton Chihuahuas. It is now an adult’s “right” to have a child, regardless of where that child comes from or what type of family they will be entering. You can get a designer baby any time you want, especially if you’re willing to go overseas. There are no police checks or home visits, as in Australia. A convicted sex offender can go to India and use a surrogate to get a child. No questions asked.

On most life issues, feminists are at war with conservatives. However, the issue of surrogacy is beginning to unite both sides in an alliance against the commodification of children, and women’s bodies. Many pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia feminists, such as Kathleen Sloan, Professor Michele Goodwin from the University of California, Irvine, and Mirah Riben, author of The Stork Market: America’s Multibillion-Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry, have joined forces with pro-life activists to campaign against surrogacy in Australia and overseas.

Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia, but that doesn’t stop people going overseas to access surrogacy. The largest international surrogacy markets are India and Thailand, where poor, illiterate women are easily coerced into becoming breeding machines. Desperate for money, women agree to contracts they cannot read and which have been drawn up to protect the people buying the baby, rather than to protect the child or the surrogate mother.

These women are then separated from their families for the duration of the pregnancy, living in substandard conditions until the baby is born. The minute the child is born, he or she is hurried away by the new parents and the surrogate is left to recover under poor medical supervision.

These women are often ostracised by their extended family and friends because of the manner in which they made their money. As feminists and conservatives alike are quick to point out, there is nothing glamorous about being a commercial breeding machine.

It is common practice for a woman to be impregnated with more than one foetus, in order to guarantee a viable child. If both foetuses survive the initial process, one is often aborted and neither the surrogate nor the prospective parents has any say in the matter.

However, many sets of twins are allowed to be born alive so that the “spare” child can be sold to people who may not want to wait the full nine months for a surrogate child. This black market for babies means that many children are left without parents or citizenship, in poor conditions until they are sold off to anyone who wants them.

Surrogacy destroys the mother-child bond and turns a woman’s unique and special ability to bear children into a commodity. Needless to say, feminists are as strongly against such a demeaning industry as are conservatives. Surrogacy, stripped of all its window dressing, is simply the commodification of women and children for human trafficking.

As feminist activist Kathleen Sloan wrote in her article, “Stop surrogacy now: Why we must unite” (The Witherspoon Institute, Public Discourse website, May 22, 2015): “[People are] surprised by the dehumanising and harmful realities of surrogacy … The media focuses almost exclusively on the beaming smiles and happy families created through this ‘miraculous gift of life,’ while ignoring or de-emphasising the very real harms and exploitation that are inherent in the business of surrogacy.”

The Stop Surrogacy Now (SSN) movement aims to bring together those who support abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia, as well as those who stand on the side of life for all and traditional marriage. The fate of children who have become accessories, and the women who are being used to produce these children, will hopefully unite them.

One particular clause in the SSN mission statement sums up this truly diverse movement: “We are women and men of diverse ethnic, religious, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds from all regions of the world. We come together to voice our shared concern for women and children who are exploited through surrogacy contract pregnancy arrangements” (See the full mission statement at

Everyone under the SSN banner recognises the fundamental right of a child to know his or her parents, and of a mother to enjoy the special bond that she has for her child. They all protest against the commercialisation of women and children.

This movement could be the one that unites people of different persuasions enough to fight back. This is a fight that can be won for the good of women and children. Those who oppose surrogacy must put aside their differences and work cleverly to bring the dirt of surrogacy to light and put a stop to the baby black market.

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