The Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC) is an organization committed to “bioethical issues” such as surrogacy, stem cell research and human cloning, amongst other issues. They have recently produced a documentary entitled “Breeders: a subclass of women?”
It is a cautionary tale, and a very sad one. The film focuses on women who chose to be surrogates (one chose surrogacy several times), and the turmoil that arose. The issue of surrogacy comes down to the buying and selling of children, one woman states; contracts and money are involved. Yet, one lawyer interviewed admits surrogacy is a “chaotic” area of the law – there are few standards and precedents to help when things go wrong, as they often do.
The film also includes interviews with people who work at IVF clinics (in-vitro fertilization), as they often work with surrogacy cases. Surrogacy is a conglomerate of possibilities: a donated egg placed in the surrogate’s womb, the surrogate’s egg with the biological father’s sperm, etc. Yet, as one surrogate woman pointed out, “the womb is not arbitrary,” as she reveals how she completely overlooked how she (and her child) would feel after the birth.
Surrogacy seems to be an altruistic act: one woman cannot have a child, so another has one for her. But the money, the emotions, the legalities involved muddle the picture. And the ultimate issue is this: what about the child? There is an air about surrogacy: what do the adults want? There is little thought about the baby, who becomes an adult with a lot of questions (the film interviews one such adult, the product of a surrogacy transaction.)
Surrogacy also preys upon women in need of money. The documentary briefly touches upon issues of overseas surrogacy, including India, Mexico and Thailand, places where women are often desperate for money, are illiterate and may have little understanding of how surrogacy will affect them physically and emotionally.
One surprising aspect to “Breeders” is that it brings together those who would label themselves pro-life and feminists from the National Organization for Women (NOW.) Two women from NOW discuss how surrogacy commodifies women, likening surrogacy to prostitution and pornography, and acknowledging that surrogacy preys on financially vulnerable women.
The documentary, with commentary from Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, requires us to re-think what it means to have a child and form a family: is it simply about “love?” Is is about what the adults want? What happens when money changes hands? Why must the child be taken into consideration? “Breeders: a subclass of women” is a cautionary tale of the physical, emotional and ethical hurricane that is surrogacy.