Acton Institute Powerblog

Surrogacy: A Knot That Can’t Be Untangled

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I’ll say it again: surrogacy is a bad idea. It’s bad for the child, it’s bad for women, it’s bad for families. Even when everything goes “well,” it’s still a situation where a woman has been used for rental of her womb for 9 months. Using a fellow human being’s body because you want something is wrong, even if you pay them.

Tennessee’s state Supreme Court is trying to untangle a knotted mess of surrogacy nonsense – which is made all the more horrible because this isn’t simply a point of law: it’s about a baby. Here are the not-so-simple facts:

Unmarried Italian citizens—”L.G.” the “intended mother,” and “A.T.” the “intended father,” paid more than $73,000 to pay for “expenses” and “pain and suffering” to “J.J.E.,” the surrogate. She agreed to be artificially inseminated with A.T.’s sperm, to gestate any babies conceived, and then surrender the child and her parental rights to the intended parents. In other words, the baby would be the biological child of the intended father and the surrogate mother. In Tennessee such contracts are called “traditional surrogacy,” in contrast to circumstances in which the surrogate mother is not biologically related to the baby to which she gives birth, which is known as a “gestational surrogacy.”

J.J.E. became pregnant after being inseminated. She carried the baby. Shortly before, and pursuant to the surrogacy contract, the parties applied to the Juvenile Court terminate the parental rights of J.J.E., which was granted.

Then, just when everything seemed to be going so well, nature took over. J.J.E. asked if she could breastfeed; this wasn’t in the contract, but the “parents” consented. And she bonded with the baby, which is hardly surprising, since she IS the biological mother. She hired an attorney to get out of the surrogacy contract, and here we are, in the Tennessee Supreme Court. The legal outcome?

A.T., the intended and biological father, is a legal parent of the child, with full rights of visitation, custody, and obligations of support.

J.J.E., the surrogate and biological mother, is also a legal parent with full rights to pursue custody, visitation, and obligations of support.

Custody, visitation, support, and other such issues will be made in the child’s “best interests,” not based on the terms of the surrogacy contract.

The intended mother, L.G., is a legal stranger to the child.

Surrogacy contracts are enforceable in Tennessee generally, but clauses that violate public policy, as occurred here, will not be enforced.

One can only imagine the chaos and discord that will shape this poor child’s future. While the legal issues have been settled, the family and parental issues seem almost insurmountable. How will these people explain all of this to this little girl? How in the world will she untangle and make sense of her parents, her relationships with them, and their relationships with each other? Even if you are pro-surrogacy, you cannot miss the knotted mess that this case is.

Read “A Case of Surrogacy’s Gordian Knot” at Catholic Lane.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.


  • wonderland

    Surrogacy is salvation for many couples. Surrogacy it is a feasible and legally safe way in which to have children. I am sure surrogacy is necessary for couples that could not conceive. I against for traditional surrogacy but gestational surrogacy seem to be ok. Unfortunately there are not so many options for
    surrogacy, only Ukraine, India and USA. Thailand is still not an option at all beacuse it is banned now. About what ethics can people talk when the people can’t have children? These people are not guilty. They are victims of the fate. In order to help such people the government only complicates the situation making them suffer more. The decision of The European Court of Human Rights to adjudge that surrogacy legal is completely right. I am also going for surrogacy. I know couples that did surrogacy in Biotexcom. They looked so happy even after passing so difficult way.

    • “Happiness” and “legal” do not equal moral. One may be happy owning a slave legally; that does not make it a moral act.