Don’t Let Celebrities Convince You that Commercial Surrogacy is Ethical
One unfortunately common human habit is looking to those with a high degree of fame or name recognition, particularly pop-culture celebrities, as arbiters of trustworthy ethical standards. Since the Dobbs decision, many anti-life celebrities have outspokenly advocated for unlimited abortion on demand; featuring a link to an abortion fund on one’s social media pages has become a popular way for celebrities to denote their allyship to the cause of killing babies in the womb. In recent weeks, yet another disturbing anti-life trend is rippling through celebrity circles — this one, however, under the guise of loving children.
Several celebrities have recently posted about growing their family by hiring a commercial surrogate to carry their child. In November 2022, actress Rebel Wilson announced the birth of her first child via surrogate. In an interview, Wilson ironically noted, “Having a baby via a surrogate is a bit different of an experience because in a way, you feel a little disconnected."
Meanwhile, heiress Paris Hilton, whose child was born to a surrogate last month, admitted that she is keeping 20 embryos frozen because they are all boys. “I have all boys. I have 20 boys,” said Hilton. “I just went through the process again a month ago, so I’m waiting for the results to see if there’s any girls.” Hilton revealed that she was encouraged to pursue surrogacy by her friend, Kim Kardashian, who also hired a surrogate to carry one of her children and is an outspoken advocate for surrogacy in celebrity circles. Notably, in the same interview, Hilton celebrated her prior abortion and condemned pro-life laws that protect children in the womb.
Unsurprisingly, the surrogacy industry is highly profitable — but even a surrogate who receives decent pay can still suffer from the consequences of creating a child unnaturally. One report explains that, because surrogacy often involves implanting multiple embryos in hopes of one successfully implanting, surrogates can face risks associated with carrying a higher-than-usual number of babies. The Center for Bioethics and Culture notes that risks to surrogates include Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS), ovarian torsion, ovarian cysts, chronic pelvic pain, premature menopause, loss of fertility, reproductive cancers, blood clots, kidney disease, stroke, pre-eclampsia, and even death.
There are also dubious legal protections for surrogates if the commissioning parents change their minds about having the child. Surrogates could be expected or even required by contract to undergo an abortion or “selective reduction” in which only some of the multiple implanted babies are aborted. Even beyond physical risks are the emotional and psychological harms done to both the surrogate mother and the child who is ripped away from the only mother he or she has ever known immediately after birth.
In short, while glorified by celebrity women as a magical alternative to bearing one’s own child, the harsh reality of surrogacy is that it causes immense harm to both the surrogates and the babies they carry. However, it is no stretch of the imagination to note that the influence of celebrity surrogacy is already spreading. This week, Marie Claire magazine stated that, “surrogacy is not just for celebrities” in a feature about Nodal, a “surrogacy startup seeking to be the ‘Bumble for surrogates.’” The article goes on to describe how the platform allows “vetted” surrogates to initiate contact with would-be parents seeking to rent a womb.
There are many different motivations at play behind the celebrity trend of hiring a surrogate to carry a child. Some, like Rebel Wilson, say they turned to surrogacy after struggling with infertility; others, like Paris Hilton, admit that they are afraid of pregnancy and childbirth for personal reasons. The reality that many women cannot conceive and carry their own child due to a variety of reasons is truly difficult and merits compassion.
However, in instances when a woman cannot or will not carry her own child, exploiting a stranger’s womb to carry her baby for her isn’t the answer. There is a disturbing lack of legislation regulating and protecting women and children from the exploitation of the surrogacy industry; even in the absence of ethical laws, however, Americans can still speak out against celebrity glorification of a harmful reproductive practice. Surrogacy treats financially vulnerable women as breeders for wealthy ones — and treats children as commodities to be bought and sold.