Similarly, many instances of the term “woman,” “man,” and “paternity” have been removed and replaced:
“A [woman] genetic surrogate agrees either to be inseminated with the sperm of a [man] person who is not her [husband] spouse or to be impregnated with an embryo that is the product of [an] the genetic surrogate’s ovum fertilized with the sperm of a [man] person who is not her [husband] spouse.”
Language is being deliberately obfuscated to cover up what this issue is really about: fundamentally, legalizing commercial surrogacy would secure male entitlement to paternity certainty — so a man can be assured the child is his genetic descendant. This is not a new concept — rather it is the basis of patriarchy. For centuries, men have subjugated women in order to secure their paternity.
At Fair Observer, Dianne Post explains:
“The birth mother is not in the place of another; she is the mother. That was the law in every country in the world until now. We always knew who the mother was — she was the one who gave birth. That is the first definition of a mother. We weren’t so sure about the father, which is why women’s freedoms have been curtailed so men could be assured of their lineage. Now, with DNA, we can be scientifically certain of the father. So the first ‘success’ of the surrogacy movement was to change the definition of the mother and remove the woman who gave birth from the frame. By applying the word ‘surrogate’ to the wrong person, it depresses the position of the birth mother but does not elevate the position of the other woman. Instead, the position of the sperm donor, or the father, is elevated as the only person with rights.”
In reality, a surrogate is someone other than the birth mother who raises a child; this means that commercial surrogacy refers to the birth mother as the improper parent, while conferring authority and legitimacy to the male parent or intended parents. In this way, the true aim of the industry reveals itself: the commodification of the female body for the extraction of reproductive labour, in order to protect paternity certainty and replicate the male’s genetic material for him.
This is especially troubling given that there are no official records kept regarding how many women die in the surrogacy industry. In January, Michelle Reaves died due to complications from a surrogacy birth. Reaves succumbed to a condition known as an amniotic fluid embolism. According to a statement from the Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC):
“Recent studies have shown that surrogate pregnancies are different and are high-risk. Studies show that women pregnant with donor eggs (as in gestational surrogacy) have a more than three-fold risk of developing pregnancy induced hypertension and pre-eclampsia.”
All surrogate pregnancies are medically classified as “high-risk” due to the use of hormones involved, and even egg donation confers risks of developing endometriosis, infertility, or the fatal condition of OHSS.
By passing the CPSA quietly and attaching it to a budget intended to help those suffering financial repercussions as a result of a global pandemic, New York lawmakers are sending a clear signal that they are deliberately ignoring women’s opposition to the surrogacy industry, and that they value profit and male entitlement to use female bodies over women’s safety and health. Surrogacy is a predatory, profit-driven industry — whether appealing to women’s kindness through terms like “compassion” and “altruism,” or exploiting marginalized women in economic need, it turns both women’s bodies and children into a commodity to satisfy the desires of the wealthy for a child that carries their genetic material.