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The moral scandal of surrogacy

The dehumanizing business represents a renunciation of the created order

Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra Associated Press/Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision

The moral scandal of surrogacy
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Celebrity duo Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra had a baby. Or did they? The internationally renowned couple recently announced they welcomed a little bundle of joy … through a surrogate. This is but the latest high-profile example of the surrogacy industry at work, another headline in the 21st-century’s Brave New World.

Obviously, surrogacy finds itself on the fast-track to normalcy (at least among those who can afford it). Only a few years ago, the promises of the fertility industry were the stuff of science fiction, particularly of the dystopian variety. To implant donated sperm and eggs into another woman’s womb and for her to carry the baby to term would strike previous generations as deeply unnatural—which it is.

And surrogacy is a business. Although some generous souls do voluntarily offer to carry someone else’s child, the vast majority of these birth mothers are paid for their services. There’s big money to be had in fulfilling the primal paternal and maternal desires of parents who cannot conceive or, more sinisterly, refuse to suffer the burdens of childbearing but still desire offspring. To the shallow and well-resourced, surrogacy can ensure ease of life and a pre-natal Hollywood body for the wife. Let someone else deal with the wear-and-tear of pregnancy, just pay someone to bear the child. It’s not difficult to see how this could become incredibly popular in materialistic, immoral cultures, with the wealthy offloading the burden of childbearing upon the poor.

Recently, when commenting on social media on this latest public example of surrogacy, Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene noted several critical problems with the practice and the anemic response to it from Christians, which bear repeating. He noted that surrogacy dehumanizes both women and children. Laying aside the immense confusion of who the real mother of a surrogate child truly is, separating a woman from an infant she carried in her womb for around nine months is traumatic and exploitative. Surrogacy turns the woman’s womb into a rented space. Couples that opt for surrogacy simply because they renounce pregnancy do themselves dishonor by revoking their own created nature—a God-given order that governs our flesh and our shared human life.

To put things more clearly, women are not incubators. Children are not products.

As for children, they aren’t products—they are sacred gifts of the Creator who opens and closes the womb. In terms of our own conception and gestation, we are begotten, not merely made. When God closes the womb, the right response is not to seek unnatural means.

Of course, children resulting from surrogacy are still of sacred worth and full human dignity, to be cherished by God and men, just like those that were conceived in other bad circumstances, including rape, adultery, incest, and so forth. Likewise, surrogacy is not the same as adoption. Adoption pivots on preexisting children who are orphaned or in a deeply broken situation in need of love and care. Surrogacy is about producing children to suit desires. Finally, there is no proof-text verse against surrogacy, just like there isn’t one for insurance fraud or cybercrime. It’s still wrong because it violates clear Biblical principles, particularly the sacred bond that exists among father, mother, and child—a bond God created, ordained, and blessed.

To put things more clearly, women are not incubators. Children are not products. Despite all our pride in our enlightened “progressive” society, we still haven’t learned that the human body is not for sale. Christian ethicists have been sounding the alarm on this issue for decades now, and they will continue to do so in the future. Ironically, the chaotic moral hellscape of The Handmaid’s Tale may arise, not from patriarchal, religious right-wingers who prize traditional moral values, but from wealthy Hollywood elites and, eventually, aspirational suburban couples who want babies but without suffering and sacrifice.

The struggle against the surrogacy industry may turn out to be long and difficult. Many Christians have received poor instruction on these issues and react viscerally against Biblically grounded arguments, especially if they or a loved one struggles with infertility. Even many pastors may find themselves poorly equipped to deal adequately with this discussion. But catechesis and clear teaching are paramount. In addition, the fight against this immoral juggernaut will become political. Conservatives may find sympathetic allies across the aisle who will quickly pick up on the exploitation of children and impoverished women. The first step is understanding—and making clear—what is at stake.

Barton J. Gingerich

The Rev. Barton J. Gingerich is the rector of St. Jude’s Anglican Church (REC) in Richmond, Va. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Patrick Henry College and a Master of Divinity with a concentration in historical theology from Reformed Episcopal Seminary.

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