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What is surrogate pregnancy? Ethical debate and risks

What is surrogate pregnancy? Ethical debate and risks

April 19, 2024

A large proportion of the population wants or intends to have children at some point in their lives. Within this group we find that there is a majority of people who are going to be able to have them in a biological way with their partner.

However, there are many other people who, for some reason, do not have this possibility. For example, women with problems in their reproductive system that prevent them from giving birth to a child, same-sex couples, or men or women without a partner who seek to have offspring. In these cases there may be different alternatives, being one of them the surrogate pregnancy .

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The concept of surrogate pregnancy

Surrogate gestation is understood as a reproduction technique by which a woman voluntarily gestates a child for a person or a couple who does not belong to it . The person who is going to gestate the baby is the so-called pregnant woman, while those who request the pregnancy are called intentional parents.

This technique requires a formal agreement between both parties, through which the first accepts to gestate the baby of the couple, renounce motherhood and deliver the child to the couple in question while the second accept to take care of the child and, in case of which it exists, to give a retribution to the pregnant woman.

It is usually carried out by artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization , giving the intentional parents both the ovules and the sperm or one of them if it is not possible to do so with both.

Those who attend this type of pregnancy are usually heterosexual couples with fertility problems, homosexual couples (usually of two men, not being so common that they resort to this practice couples of women to be able to resort to other means such as sperm banks), or people without a partner who do not want or can not adopt or resort to other means.

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Types of surrogacy

Different types of surrogate pregnancy can be established depending on the biological relationship between pregnant and gestated and according to the characteristics of the agreement between pregnant woman and intentional parents, from two main dichotomies: partial subrogation-full subrogation and altruistic subrogation-commercial subrogation.

1. Partial or linear surrogacy

The first to arise and therefore also called traditional, refers to the type of surrogate pregnancy in which the pregnant woman is also the biological mother of the child born. Thus, it is the pregnant woman who puts the ovule that is going to be fertilized by the sperm of the intentional father.

2. Complete or gestational surrogacy

In this type of surrogate pregnancy the pregnant woman has no biological link with the pregnant minor future. Ovum and sperm are provided by the couple , be these your own or resort to those of another person outside the pregnant woman. It is the most usual.

3. Altruistic surrogacy

It is a type of surrogate pregnancy in which the pregnant woman does not receive any type of remuneration for the fact of gestating the baby, this being agreed and previously accepted. The exception is medical expenses or the loss of possible economic gains when the pregnant woman can not exercise her profession.

4. Commercial subrogation

In this type of surrogacy, the agreement between pregnant and intentional parents establishes the realization of a certain payment in exchange for carrying out the gestation of the baby.

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Controversy and debate around this type of pregnancy

Surrogate pregnancy has been and continues to be a controversial concept on which there is a broad debate . This debate deals mainly with the ethical aspects of this practice, its application and the risks it may entail.

One reason for discussion is the link between the right to sexual freedom and dignity in pregnant women. Associations and groups against indicate that subrogation is an attack to the sexual freedom and the dignity of the pregnant woman , which is forced to comply with the agreement even if it changes its mind during the pregnancy and that is commercialized, and the rights of the child itself.

However, the people in favor consider that it should be taken into account that the surrogate pregnancy supposes a mutually accepted agreement between pregnant and intentional parents, not violating the rights or freedoms of any of those involved and being an act done voluntarily and freely.

Mercantilization of motherhood

A second reason for controversy stems from the consideration by some groups against the fact that maternity is being commercialized. These groups propose that gestation is used as a mechanism to obtain a monetary reward, which can ultimately lead to subjects with high economic capacity take advantage of the desperation of women with low economic resources .

Linked to this is discussed is the fact that the creation of networks and mafias dedicated to forced subrogation is promoted . On the other hand, the people in favor indicate that it is possible to regulate this process legally (being the absence of legality which facilitates the creation of networks) and point out the possibility of making a non-lucrative agreement (that is, employing altruistic surrogate gestation).

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The alternatives

Another reason why the existence of surrogate pregnancy is debated is due to the existence of other methods to have children, as the adoption . However, it must be taken into account that this, at present, is difficult to achieve. Adopting requires complex, costly and very long procedures (in some cases it can take up to five years or more between the start and effective adoption occurs) that sometimes do not have sufficient resources to cope.

In other cases, all the requisites demanded for this purpose are not fulfilled, despite the fact that many of them may be due to bureaucratic aspects that are not linked to the parental capacity of the applicants. Finally, there are also people who want to have children with whom they have a relationship of consanguinity (that is, they want their children to be biologically).

How does it affect children?

Reason for debate is also how the knowledge of this fact can affect the minor gestated through this medium. The investigations carried out show that there are no notable alterations even in the case of partial subrogation (except perhaps curiosity about their biological progenitor, similar to what happens in adopted).

Several studies indicate that most parents who resort to this medium inform their children of cHow it was developed at an early age, before seven years . No type of difficulties have been reflected in the children themselves. Only in cases where this information is hidden and discovered in periods of adolescence, or live or transmitted as something shameful or negative can generate negative responses to parents.

Finally, the possible relationship between the pregnant mother and pregnant woman and the consequences it may have on the mother is also taken into account. In this aspect mostly women who agree to be pregnant, provided they receive adequate advice and support and perform the act convinced of it, do not usually have problems in this regard . On the other hand, in some where it is carried out due to great economic precariousness or under duress, harmful effects such as depression or sensation of being used can be observed.

Legal situation in different countries

Surrogate pregnancy has a different legal status depending on the country or region, being legal in some countries and illegal in others. And even in cases where it is legal, differences and limitations may be found that allow only a certain type of population to have access to the surrogate pregnancy or that it be carried out only if it occurs altruistically.

Legal situation in Spain

Currently, the surrogacy It is not legal in Spain . At the legal level, it is considered that the legal mother of the child would be the woman who has gestated it, and any contract in which the right to maternity in favor of third parties is waived.

Most people who want to resort to this type of pregnancy in our country should resort to travel to other countries where it is allowed, and still may be faced with difficulties at the time of maternity or paternity of the child in question is recognized in this country. This recognition must be done judicially. Otherwise, it will be considered that the pregnant woman is the legal mother of the baby, although the father would be the donor of the sperm.

For the child to be recognized as the child of the parents who resort to surrogate pregnancy the pregnant woman must renounce motherhood and leave as legal father only the donor father of semen, so that later the couple of the latter can adopt it. The exception to this is given in countries such as the United States, Canada or Greece, where filiation is admitted once judicially accepted in these countries.

However, there is a great debate at the social level regarding the status of this issue and several legal proposals have been made to make this practice legal and regular.

Current situation in Portugal

Recently Portugal has decided to elaborate a law that allows surrogate pregnancy, although only in the case of couples in which the woman can not conceive naturally.However, this law leaves out people without a partner and homosexual couples (whether it is two men or two women). It is also established that the pregnant woman can not receive financial compensation , and that once the child is born, he / she will not be able to have more contact with him / her than the indispensable one (with the possible exception of surrogate pregnancies within the same family).

Current situation in the United States and Canada

In these two countries the surrogacy is legal and can be applied to any type of family regardless of their sexual orientation or the existence or not of a couple. In the United States it is allowed to be carried out both altruistically and commercially, while in Canada only altruistic subrogation is permitted.

Current situation in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom surrogate pregnancy is legislated, and is allowed as long as it is altruistic and the mother gives up the right to motherhood. It requires that at least one of the parents have a genetic connection with the child, and only people with a partner (either heterosexual or homosexual couples) have access.

Current situation in Russia

In Russia surrogate pregnancy is legal whether it is altruistic or commercial and both for heterosexual couples and for single people, although not for gay couples .

Current situation in India

In India this technique of assisted reproduction is allowed both altruistically and commercially . However, it is not allowed to citizens of countries where it is not allowed, singles from other countries and homosexuals.

Legal situation in Argentina

In Argentina there is no legislation to regulate surrogate motherhood, so that in this country it is for the moment alegal. This implies that although it is not allowed, neither is it prohibited.

Despite this, the child would be legally the son of the pregnant woman and the sperm donor (whether or not the father intentional), with what it would be possible for the pregnant mother to adopt the child as a couple of his legal father. There are bills to regulate this practice that would include that it could only be done altruistically, for all types of family structure and requiring judicial approval.

Current situation in Brazil

As in Argentina, there is no clear law that regulates this practice. However, it is allowed as long as it is given altruistically and the pregnant woman is a family (up to fourth grade) of the intentional parents. In principle, it would be open to all types of family structures (regardless of whether or not there is a partner or sexual orientation).

Bibliographic references:

  • Golombok, S .; Blake, L .; Casey, P .; Roman, G. & Jadva, V. J. (2013). Children born through reproductive donation: a longitudinal study of psychological adjustment. J Child Psychol Psychiatry; 54 (6): 653-60
  • Rodrigo, A. (2017). What is surrogate pregnancy? Babygest [Online]. Available at: //
  • Smerdon, U.R. (2008). Crossing bodies, crossing borders: International surrogacy between the United States and India. Cumberland Law Review, 29 (1).

Surrogate abortion battle (April 2024).

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