The suffering of surrogacy: A veteran feminist spells it out

Ewing, Selena
Date Written:  2018-01-15
Publisher:  MercatorNet
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22122

In Surrogacy: A Human Rights Violation Dr Renate Klein takes on the surrogacy industry with plenty of sass and hard evidence. A dogged feminist academic and publisher for over thirty years, her critique of neoliberal capitalism is always underpinned by an authentic concern for women’s wellbeing and a focus on patriarchal structures. She never fails to point out the power differentials. She completely rejects surrogacy in all its forms.



The word "radical" refers to getting at things right at their root, and this is the essence of her approach. She is careful to distinguish women’s difficult decisions (for example deciding between poverty or prostitution) from women’s choices (for example choosing between chocolate cake or lemon tart). And she insists unswervingly that we must always consider the social context in which women make their decisions.

She demonstrates the harms – physical, psychological and sociological – that women endure because of their difficult decisions. Her analysis reveals the nonsense of the liberal feminist mantra of "self-determination" and "choice" in the case of surrogacy. We are shown throughout the book that women’s "choices" to engage in surrogacy “never fail to fill the coffers of the greedy sexual exploitation and reproduction industries”, a market expected to be worth US$31 billion by 2023.

In Chapter 3 Dr Klein connects surrogacy with the horrific abuse and trauma of women and girls in kidnapping and sexual enslavement, The Stolen Generations, and forced adoption in Australia. Readers may see this as an exaggeration. Surely surrogacy is undertaken with the consent of all parties?

But again, Dr Klein wants to get to the root of the problem. She points to the wealth of the commissioning couple (think Nicole Kidman, Elton John, Kim Kardashian), while the "surrogate" mother remains faceless, nameless and absent from the child’s life - because in a patriarchal culture, women and particularly poor women can merely be vessels to be discarded.

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