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Assisted Reproduction

Are Surrogates Racist?

I should have known that a newspaper article entitled White surrogate mother breaks silence on bearing Asian baby was going to head down a road I did not want to travel. But like roadkill, it hard to avert your eyes. It is only after you see the remains that you wondered why you lacked the impulse control. This article in the Times Online left me feeling like that.

The article begins:

“A WHITE British woman has given birth to an Asian baby as a surrogate mother for a childless couple.

The baby boy, now three months old, is genetically the child of the Asian mother and father. The embryo was created using her egg and his sperm.

The surrogate spoke this weekend about giving birth to a baby of a different race, saying: “Colour wasn’t an issue for me. It didn’t make any difference.”

Not one sentence in and we can see where this article is heading. Can someone explain to me why they put “WHITE” in all caps? The article spirals downward from there as after getting a candid admission by the surrogate that race did not play an issue in her decision, the Times decides that race is the only issue.

Doctors say the arrangement may be to the advantage of the “commissioning” couple because the surrogate mother may be less likely to become attached to the baby, and even to refuse to give it up, if it belongs to a different race.

Really? It never occurred to the Times Online that the very subject of their story just refuted these unnamed “doctors.” I guess it also did not matter to the Times or their editors that the “commissioning couple” were the genetic parents of the baby. Apparently though, race would trump genetics in a world where surrogates are inclined to change their minds.

But the article does not end there. It goes on to quote a physician I greatly respect, Dr. Ian Craft. Dr. Craft, contends:

The major risk in surrogacy is that the surrogate mother may not want to yield the child. The surrogate is unlikely to want to keep a child of a different race. That is just human nature.

I could not be more repulsed by this statement, particularly given its source. Now perhaps the author of the article misquoted Dr. Craft. I have been interviewed enough to know that reporters often distort what is said to them so I would like to give Dr. Craft the benefit of the doubt here. But it is hard to do so given that each sentence in that paragraph is demonstrably false.

First of all, the major risk in surrogacy is not that the surrogate will refuse to relinquish the child. Since 1979, we have had more than 36,000 surrogate deliveries in the United States and only 30 times has a surrogate attempted to change their mind. To illustrate just how wrong Dr. Craft is, a greater risk is that the Intended Parents will refuse to take their child! Over the same time period, 74 Intended Parents have sought to abandon their pregnant surrogate. But that is only part of the story. The risk of multiples, insurance coverage denials and major medical complications to the surrogate far and away dwarf any risk of the surrogate trying to keep the child.

Secondly, contending that the surrogate is unlikely to keep a child of a different race is, quite frankly, odious and racist in its own right. A surrogate is unlikely to want to keep ANYchild that she is carrying for someone else. Full stop. To attribute a racial motivation to these women is appalling and flat out inaccurate. I have worked on hundreds of surrogate cases where the Intended Parents were of a different race or ethnicity than their surrogate and never once was it even suggested that the carrier would be more likely to relinquish custody because of her race. For that matter, I have worked with hundreds of Recipient Parents who end up choosing an egg donor without regard to the racial makeup of the participants. Dr. Craft also ignores the tens of thousands of cases of couples adopting children of different races.

I applaud the selflessness and compassion of this surrogate mom. Her willingness to serve as a surrogate multiple times is admirable. Clearly she did not view her Intended Parents through the filter of race. It is a travesty that her sacrifice was colored in such a way.


One comment for “Are Surrogates Racist?”

  • I agree with you 100% Andrew Vorzimer, I can not believe that race can still play such a front line role in media today or editors would even allow such an article to grace their pages. I admire the surrogate mother and very happy for the Asian parents. This is 2009 not 1909

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