The Ethics Around International Surrogacy

By: Friday Faraday

Alcea Surrogacy
4 min readMay 19, 2023

Sometimes we can get so lost in our lives, seeing the same people everyday, and going around the same neighborhoods that we forget that the world we live in is vast, and the struggles that we go through are often shared with people on the other side of the world. Infertility has no boundaries and limits, about 17.5% of the adult population (nearly 1 in 6 people worldwide) experiences infertility.

That number can also get overlooked even if it touches our lives in some way, and with the rise of surrogacy and other assisted reproductive technology (ART) methods the possibility of having a child is not that far off for many families, but with that rise also comes criticism. There have been many groups vocal within the US against surrogacy, but in the world of international surrogacy, what do those voices sound like and what are their joys and concerns?

Is Cheaper Better?

In the United States there are no federal laws or regulations when it comes to surrogacy, so it is left up to the regulations and protections within the individual states, if they have any at all. This is a similar case when it comes to international surrogacy as in some countries, the national government does not regulate surrogacy, but some states and provinces do. As that initially sounds like not much of a difference, there are some stark realities on the other side of the surrogacy world.

Price is always behind any decision we make, and it has been long criticized within the US that surrogacy is too expensive, reaching six figures. In other countries that price can fluctuate anywhere between $40,000 to $50,000, making it much more attractive to a lot of intended parents, but that smaller price can potentially come with some ethical concerns. Gestational surrogates in other countries receive far less compensation than their US counterparts, and if a surrogate lives in a country that does not regulate surrogacy, it can leave the door open to that surrogate or the intended parents having less protection and advocacy.

That protection and advocacy extends to medical care. One of the top reasons that surrogacy is much more expensive in the US is because of medical care, but that higher cost comes with a higher success rate once a surrogate becomes pregnant. That success rate and level of medical care will vary from country to country, and that in itself also carries a level of risk.

In the end, intended parents could pay more for unexpected medical bills. Additionally, the money for travel to the surrogate’s country can add up depending on how often the intended parent needs or wants to visit.

Equality or Nah?

Surrogacy brings hopes to many families, including those in the LGBTQIA2S+ community, and within the US those queer intended parents can generally find safety when exploring surrogacy as an option. However, that is not the case internationally as many countries that firstly do not recognize same sex marriage also do not recognize surrogacy for LGBTQIA2S+ intended parents, with requirements that intended parents must be heterosexual and legally married, no matter if domestic or not. For countries that have growing equality for LGBTQIA2S+ rights, there can still be legal challenges that could cost intended parents more to settle, as some countries recognize the birthing person as a legal parent, no matter if there was a surrogacy agreement or not as they can not be enforced.

Outlaw

The connection between the lack of LGBTQIA2S+ rights and the lack of acknowledgement for LGBTQIA2S+ intended parents can be easily made, and with the criticism that comes along with surrogacy the connection between the fight to have it restricted or ban is clear as well. The compensation that a gestational surrogate receives is always looked at as a possible form of manipulation, and internationally, critics see it as a forced action for birthing people to escape poverty. That possibility has led to many countries restricting surrogacy in many ways, including banning compensation for surrogates which can lower the number of available surrogates, or simplifying outlawing surrogacy altogether.

The Important Bits

The struggle is real and unifying. What people generally think of as an issue that is affecting only them turns out to be something shared by a large number of people, including infertility. With that struggle to have a family, the chance to do it in a price range that seems too good to be true is enticing. The adage of “you get what you pay for,” while harsh depending on the situation is no less true. Going the route of international surrogacy will come with many challenges along with that lower cost, especially if you’re not a heterosexual married couple. Countries are constantly growing and changing as a society, but knowing the laws are just one part of the equation, also knowing if you can handle the risk is the other, and having that knowledge before making any decision is important.

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