Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Buying women's eggs and selling babies

An issue which was raised in the Minnesota legislature a few years ago and is likely to come back again is efforts to encourage surrogacy and gestational activities through establishing legally enforceable contracts. Surrogacy and gestational agreements involve women who contract with other individuals to carry to term a baby for those individuals. The baby may or may not be derived from the intended parents.

The practice raises all sorts of moral and ethical issues. Who's really the mother? Doesn't it constitute baby selling for a birth mother to turn over the baby she carries to term for compensation? What will this do to adoption, if babies can now be exchanged for compensation? (Currently, compensation for the baby is prohibited in adoptions.) Will there now be a push to allow compensation for adoptions? Will people avoid adopting kids if they can pay a woman to carry just the baby they want, e.g. designer babies? Doesn't this practice further breakdown the genetic, biological and social link between parents and their children?

A related issue is the selling of embryos by women. Allowing compensation for a woman's eggs raises the specter of exploitation for compensation.

A law in Massachusetts which gives women information on what's involved and prohibits compensation for the eggs has resulted in fewer eggs being transferred to third parties.

Interestingly, European countries have very restrictive laws regarding surrogacy and gestational practices. This is one instance where the Europeans get it right.

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