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Under-regulated and unaccountable

The surrogacy industry is a very dark business indeed

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Under-regulated and unaccountable
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In a recent sting operation, the FBI arrested and charged a Chicago man for knowingly distributing child sexual assault material and boasting about sexually abusing his young nieces and nephews. The arrest came less than a week before he and the man identified as his husband were set to collect their newborn son from a commercial surrogate in California.

Commercial surrogacy is a contractual agreement where someone pays a woman to gestate and birth an unrelated child for a fee. In the United States, it’s an under-regulated and unaccountable practice. Unlike adoption, the intended parents are not required to undergo a background check or home visit. Male same-sex couples or single men, who lack a womb in their fruitless arrangements, make up a large percentage of this industry’s clients. Morally, the inclusion of a third person into the package deal of marriage, sex, and procreation violates God’s “one-flesh” vision.

Proponents tend to frame surrogacy as a beautiful experience in which a woman helps someone complete their chosen family. This overlooks serious concerns. Critics have pointed out that surrogacy is effectively a form of baby-selling that exploits women who need financial assistance. Moreover, the practice flourishes when loose laws allow bad actors to create children.

Unfortunately, as the recent FBI arrest shows, these are not hypothetical concerns.

Here are the all-too-real details: Adam Stafford King, a well-known Chicago veterinarian and dog breeder, was intercepted by the FBI when agents seized another pedophile’s phone and gained access to his messaging accounts on Telegram and Scruff. King openly discussed how he preferred boys in the “single digits,” and that he planned to sexually abuse his surrogate-born son. King sent photos of his son’s sonogram and newborn outfit in anticipation of the sexual abuse.

King’s husband and extended family claim that they had no knowledge of this. The Kings’ surrogate-born son, who may or may not be related to either man, was born around March 29, 2024. Unless a court has intervened, King’s husband still planned to collect the newborn child and raise him at his parents’ house for the time being.

This is not the first time that men with a history of sexual abuse or pedophilic behavior have acquired a child through surrogacy. A few months ago, the well-known Youtuber Shane Dawson and his partner created twin boys through a surrogacy contract. Dawson has admitted to masturbating to pictures of minors and googling child pornography. Such behavior made it unlikely that Dawson and his partner could pass an adoption screening, yet a surrogacy contract was no problem. As Katy Faust details, there is a growing list of men who have a history of child sexual abuse or intend to abuse their own child gained through surrogacy. And these are just the ones we know about.

Even in dog breeding, the puppies remain with their mother for six to eight weeks. But not so with surrogacy.

Stories like this leave us with one final haunting question: What about the children? At no step in this legal or reproductive process did anyone stop to ask what is best for the child. This newborn son will almost certainly never know his biological mother—she is likely an anonymous egg donor selected from a catalogue.

Even in dog breeding—a subject Adam Stafford King knows well—the puppies remain with their mother for six to eight weeks. But not so with surrogacy. The child will be taken from the only mother he has ever known the moment he is born. It is the surrogate mother’s voice, disposition, and body that he is intimately familiar with and yet he will be placed in the arms of a potentially unrelated man and his parents. Even if the child never meets Adam Stafford King, he will likely be raised by King’s husband and whichever other male partners he brings into the child’s life. This alone makes the child at least eleven times more likely to suffer sexual or physical abuse as unrelated men frequent in his home.

This newborn son will one day realize that in vitro fertilization—where an egg is fertilized by sperm in a petri dish—routinely allows people to eugenically select the kind of child they want, even selecting the sex of the embryo. Moreover, the child will have to come to terms with the fact that he was not conceived in a loving union but purchased through a highly lucrative contract. If a man buys the egg, rents the womb, and completes the necessary paperwork to create a child, it’s hard to see how surrogacy is morally different from buying a child after his birth.

On April 1, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a law that reversed the states ban on commercial surrogacy while Minnesota prepares to create loose laws to enable it. Notably, neither state has introduced basic safeguards to protect children. Our laws should encourage, whenever possible, married mothers and fathers to raise their children. We should not legalize the buying and selling of children, especially when such contracts reinforce disordered sexual fantasies and serve as a vehicle for adult wish fulfillment.

Emma Waters

Emma Waters is a research associate in The Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Life, Religion and Family.

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