Sunday, December 30, 2007

Outsourcing Birth

Some people are not physically capable of carrying a child to term, so they get a surrogate to do it for them. This is why you hear stories of women giving birth to their own grandchildren and whatnot. Apparently, surrogacy is a growing business in India, where women carry babies for perfect strangers in exchange for housing, medical care, and an amount of money that is large to them but relatively small for the families who want a child.

The group that the article's author talked to says that they screen families based on need and counsel the surrogates after the birth. But the article speculates that some people may decide that using a surrogate is just easier than giving birth themselves, leading to perfectly healthy people to decide to use surrogates. Somehow, though, I don't see this becoming common place. Sure, there are women who are concerned about being out of work or worry about their figure, but I think enough women would prefer to have that first bond with their child if they could. Assuming that some very old instincts will somehow fall away for the sake of convenience or cosmetics in a large enough segment of the population for it to a have an effect on the market is, I think, stretching the limits plausibility. (David Levy should take notes here, though if his speculations come true, then surrogates for fertile women will probably become necessary).

Of course, despite this, my sci-fi brain went into over driver. I imagined a young woman in the future telling her family that she wants to have a child. They are excited until she mentions that she wants to carry it herself. What about your career? What about the side effects? You really should leave that to professionals! And then I thought of all of the sci-fi stories with three-gendered species. Is this where that would lead? Could we create an entire class of incubators? It's scary stuff.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

In "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" Wyoming Knots paying job was as a host mother. I could see this happening. However, haven't they found that the host mother contributes to the DNA in some manner, and this puts doubt into the genetic mothers' total gene donation.


1/10/2008 9:37 PM  
Blogger SpakKadi said...

I almost mentioned her in my post. In her case, women were so outnumbered by men on the moon that any woman capable of carrying a child would be highly prized and perhaps highly paid. This has the potential to help economically disadvantaged women lift their families out of poverty, but we have to be careful of exploitation as well.

I know an egg donor contributes mitochondrial DNA, which certainly changes the genetic contribution a bit. I think one study found that cat clones came out a different color than the original due to this effect (can't find a link, though, may I imagined it). I'm not sure how a host mother would contribute DNA. However, Diana and I figured that, in the modern world, a child could have anywhere from 1 to 5 different parents. On the low end, a woman could clone herself using her own egg and carrying it to term. On the high end, you have a surrogate, an egg donor, a sperm donor, and adoptive parents. You thought custody battles were complicated now...

1/10/2008 11:25 PM  

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