What is “Social Surrogacy?”

Surrogacy has the ability to make many dreams come true when it comes to family planning, especially for families of different backgrounds, genders, and sexualities who are unable to have children on their own. We have seen numerous stories across all forms of media about the medical struggles that many families have faced but kept silent about, and how surrogacy has helped them. This leads to a more acceptable public view of surrogacy. However, what happens in the case where a person with the capacity for birth, but no prior medical issues stopping them from carrying a child, decides to pursue surrogacy as an option?

The Nuances

What was just described is called “social surrogacy,” and thinking of it as a new function in the reproductive world would be false, as we have seen it before in various situations. A well-viewed example is when a celebrity or someone with significant financial means, able to carry a child without increased medical risk, chooses not to carry the child themselves and instead reaches out to a surrogate due to career concerns or body image. By many people, this could be seen as going against the “true” meaning of surrogacy — helping families suffering from medical complications. However, is that the “true” meaning or does this form of surrogacy fall under the right for the intended parent(s) to make their own reproductive choices?
The fight for reproductive justice has never stopped in this country, and the central piece of that fight is that reproductive choices should be left to the individual because each person has different experiences defining their reproductive journey if they choose to embark on one. That sentiment is what leads many, if not all intended parents, toward surrogacy in the first place. For example, there are many non-binary and trans intended parents with the capacity for birth, but it would cause them such distress and dysphoria that it could jeopardize the pregnancy. We wouldn’t want to subject that intended parent to such an experience.
However, let’s return to the criticism. What many people generally take issue with is that while surrogacy is an amazing experience, it is not readily available to everyone. Price is the most significant barrier for many. It is undoubtedly frustrating on multiple levels and incredibly heartbreaking when intended parents have to repeatedly try to start a family. This unnecessary divide due to scarcity provides an ideal environment for those opposed to surrogacy to question the industry and advocate for restrictions. We can already see such restrictions in place in states like Utah, where laws require medical evidence that the intended parent cannot carry a child. Such laws remove reproductive choice from the hands of some intended parents.

The Important Bits

There is no doubt a medical aspect associated with surrogacy, but what is often overlooked is the emotional and mental toll it can take alongside the physical toll. Many birthing people feel they are not up for it, even when they desire children, and there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. At the core of everything we want to do with our lives is the ability to choose what we want, because our choices have numerous nuances behind them that are not as simple as people might believe. There are many reasons why a birthing person might not want to carry a child but still desires a child. It should be respected, as it is their body and their decision what it goes through.