What is your view about surrogate motherhood? Does it liberate or enslave women using technology

What is your view about surrogate motherhood? Does it liberate or enslave women using technology.

The word ‘surrogate’ is derived from the Latin word ‘subrogare’, which means ‘appointed to act in the place of’, or, in other words a substitute. In simple terms, a surrogate woman is one who agrees to carry a pregnancy to term for a couple or an individual, in case it is not possible for the couple or individual to do so themselves.

What is your view about surrogate motherhood , women using technology,  Although surrogacy can be done through different techniques/technologies, it in itself is not a procedure, but an arrangement. Generally, this arrangement is placed under the umbrella term of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs), which you have read about in the previous unit on ‘Reproductive Technologies’. The surrogacy arrangement involves the use of these technologies and procedures.


The arrangement of surrogacy can be defined on the basis of whether the child is born using the egg of the surrogate woman, or of the intended mother, or of the egg donor. In the first instance, where the surrogate provides the egg, the arrangement is known as Genetic Surrogacy or Traditional Surrogacy. This is done through the process of Artificial Insemination (AI) or Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI). Since the genetic material (egg) of the surrogate is being transferred, this kind of surrogacy is termed as Genetic Surrogacy.

The other kind of surrogacy is known as Gestational Surrogacy, where the surrogate conceives through Embryo Transfer, following the procedure of in vitro Fertilization. The embryo might be a result of the fertilised gametes of the intended parents, or gametes (either sperm or egg or in some case both) obtained from the donors. Since the surrogate is not providing the genetic material (i.e. her egg), but only gestates or carries the child in her womb for nine months, such an arrangement is known as Gestational Surrogacy.

What is your view about surrogate motherhood? Does it liberate or enslave women using technology,

The use and abuse of women’s bodies has been written about extensively. You have already read about the mind-body dualism in the first unit “Body in Bio-medicine” of this course. This dualism re/presents women as close to nature, living through their bodies, and men as close to culture, living through their minds. As such, women’s bodies are subjected to control by male agents, while all forms of their labour (public and private) are devalued. This includes their sexual and reproductive labour, which is domesticated and therefore, not recognized or rewarded as typically ‘productive’.

Feminist Perspectives on Surrogacy

The debate around the female body being ‘inferior’ and ‘weak’ has been a matter of long standing contestation, and feminists have long struggled to challenge this patriarchal notion of ‘biology as destiny’. Surrogacy is able to push pregnancy from the private to the public, from care to work, and in doing so, is able to destabilise binary notions of women’s capabilities and roles.

Shulamith Firestone (1971) has hailed reproductive technologies as having the potential to emancipate women by liberating them from motherhood, which is their primary link to the private sphere. With surrogacy, not only is the domestication of women’s sexual and reproductive labour challenged, but women’s autonomy—financial and otherwise— is also enhanced. What is your view about surrogate motherhood? Does it liberate or enslave women using technology,  In regarding surrogates as providers of a ‘service’, we are recognizing reproduction as a resource in society, for which we are compensating surrogate women as economic agents in the public sphere.


Cultural Acceptance and Reproductive Technology

The development of reproductive technology has been built on the cultural notion of parenthood and infertility. Therefore, new reproductive technologies have been put to use and accessed in relation to infertility treatment exclusively. In this section, we will focus on the understanding of reproductive technologies, in particular, IVF, through a cultural lens. Reproductive technologies are the embodiment of cultural norms and are entwined with the lives of people in a complex way.

The advancement of reproductive technology has shaped the way women, in particular, experience their body, motherhood, and their lives. For a majority of women, the female body has been the primary site for innovations in reproductive technology.

These technologies are not liberating in themselves, but are instrumental in shaping the lives and thoughts of men and women in and around conception, childbirth, and infertility. What is your view about surrogate motherhood? Does it liberate or enslave women using technology,  Sarah Franklin (1997) uses the term ‘embodied progress’ to explain the growth of IVF in the late twentieth century as a range of resources which produce new form of reproductive choices for women. Innovations related to reproductive technology have been rooted in the cultural values of scientific growth and moved by market and economic indicators. Here, both scientific progress and reproductive based innovations are supported through the cultural notion of childbirth and the biological family.

As feminists and anthropologists argue, the progress of reproductive technologies have not only seen nature as a category that can be manipulated, but also acquired an understanding of human interventions in the process of reproduction as being ‘normal’.

Fertility Industry and Its Growth

After the birth of the first test-tube baby in England, IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies had moved from the laboratory and experimental stage to its operational-use stage across the developed and developing worlds. Initially, reproductive medicines such as oral contraceptive pills, IUD (Copper T), hormonal injectable contraceptives, hormonal implant, morning-after pills were developed in order for women to have control over their bodies and for treatment of problems related to the fallopian tube. Other advanced technologies, including IVF, started to focus on the problem of male and female infertility directly while viewing infertility as a form of ‘illness’.

Eventually, these technologies were advised to patients/couple when they visit infertility clinics for medical guidance and counseling. Recently, IVF has been projected as a viable option within the range of medical options in the name of infertility treatment. Such programmes were specifically encouraging women in their thirties to experiment with the notions of a ‘take-home baby’. What is your view about surrogate motherhood? Does it liberate or enslave women using technology,   In spite of its high cost, many couples in the developed world saw IVF as an option to treat infertility. During the 1990s, there was a significant growth of IVF centers in United States to facilitate infertility treatment.

Similarly, the criteria for accessing IVF became flexible - raising the age limit from thirty-five to forty, accommodating consumers of various income levels, and treating all kinds of infertility in the name of IVF. With this process of corporatization, IVF aggressively penetrated into the market of both developed and developing countries. The flexibility in the criteria was targeted at creating a consumer-friendly culture towards these technologies.


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