Should Surrogates Be Paid?


Heather Murphy-Raines/Scout's Honor
Suppose a strange couple came upon you on the street and thrust their child in your arms. They ask you to care for the child for months upon months, feeding, protecting, and caring for the baby with much self-sacrifice, pain, and risk to your health. Would you do it? Would you do it for free?

Now imagine instead of on your hip, someone asks you to care for their child in your womb. It is not your egg nor your cells nor your DNA. You are simply asked to be a surrogate. You want to help, but pregnancy is work. It's a strain on any woman, yet this back-breaking, 24-hour-a-day, exhausting work is not valued enough to merit minimum wage in some states. You're just a vessel so that another couple may have the gift of parenthood.

Now imagine you have your own children -- which, in essence, qualifies you for this job in the first place. You have bills to pay, but your ability to work could be jeopardized by carrying another's child. 

In fact, most people consider motherhood the hardest job they have ever had. Some, mainly lawmakers, male lawmakers, do not. Apparently to them, the burden and beauty of pregnancy are so under-valued in some states that women are expected to do it for free. It seems so unfair outside the womb and there are no questions of it being worth the hundreds to thousands of dollars that childcare costs. But caring for a child inside the womb? Supposedly, it's unethical to be paid a dime.

Some suggest it is akin to selling babies. Yes, you are supposed to give this gift to strangers out of the goodness of your heart. Rubbish!

Don't blame the strangers. They just want to be parents. They would do anything to have their own child. They'd gladly pay you for your gift ... except it's illegal to pay for surrogate mothers in Washington and many more states.

I found this out when I first came to Washington from California. It had long been a wish of mine to be a surrogate mother to a couple who could not conceive or perhaps someone who had triumphed over cancer. I even had the cutest little gay couple in my dreamy mind. They would provide the batter, they'd find themselves a juicy, fresh egg from a cute college girl, and I'd cook 'em up a baby as healthy as my three.

However, I thought it would be only fair to be recompensed for the physical stress not on just me, but on my young family. I slept a lot more while pregnant. I found housework impossible with morning sickness. And oh, the cravings. The extra food. The need for babysitters. The extra leaning on my husband. The risks. The deprivation of red wine and sushi. God forbid if there were complications, C-sections, gestational diabetes, infections, or worse ...

I'd like to see one of those male lawmakers try to carry a baby, much less labor 24 hours to push it out. My guess? Suddenly surrogacy would be a million-dollar industry.

Back to that dream, I found Washington was one of those states where it's illegal to recompense a woman for carrying someone else's DNA for 9 months. Luckily, six years later, that seems poised to change. Passed 57-41 in the House and scheduled for a hearing in the Senate, new legislation would finally legalize compensated surrogacy in Washington state.

"This takes a practice that is occurring out of state and underground in our state ... and moves it to a place where there's more protection for the intended parents, the surrogate, and the children being born," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle.

Finally, it appears a deal will be struck, supported by the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood, which balances protecting and empowering women who have children for a fee with protecting parents. 

The bummer? At 38 years old, I am too old to be a viable candidate anymore. Still, I am happy the bill looks close to passing. Child-bearing women should be paid just as men are paid for their sperm deposits and young women are paid for their egg donations.

So this bill? Win-win? To me, a moderate conservative, yes. The government really has no business putting their noses in this issue in the first place. To Catholic groups and some of my fellow more right conservatives, no. They shriek it's tantamount to selling babies!! 

"We are treating children as a commodity; we have real concerns about the selling of a child," said Sister Sharon Park. Russell Johnson, representing the Family Policy Institute of Washington, compared surrogacy parenting to slavery. "It's based on an exchange of money rather than the best interest of the child .... Allowing women to be bought and sold as livestock should not be allowed," Johnson said.

Expecting women to bear children not their own, without payment, sounds more akin to slavery. Yes, it's a choice, but it's also work. Even paid, it's not going to rake in the money. Typical surrogates in the United States receive payments of $20,000 to $25,000. I reckon for a full-term 40-week pregnancy, that is still less than 50 cents an hour. 

Yes, 50 cents or less an hour for grueling IVF treatments, bed rest, C-sections, stretch marks, and morning sickness.

And you? Do you think the risk and work of surrogacy should be paid? Would you take on the danger and exhaustion of a pregnancy for a stranger who couldn't have their own, for free? Do you object to others being paid? Is it baby brokering or fair recompense?

Image via Scout's Honor/United States of Motherhood

discrimination, feminism, in the news, law, politics, motherhood, trying to conceive, the pregnant life, relationships, stress, sleep


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jalaz77 jalaz77

Yes, it's like renting an apt except this is a life not four walls. I would absolutely love love love to be a surrogate, not using my DNA, I just don't know the laws in SD. I saw an oprah show where American couples were having their babies "grow" in India because it would only cost around $3-5K as opposed to an American surrogate charging $40K, that is absurd!!!! I feel the carrier should not have to pay a dime, insurance wise, and be compensated something. I will carry babies, I tell you what, my body will carry babies til full term if not a little longer.

: )

cara75 cara75

It never occurred to me that surrogate mothers WOULDN'T be compensated. Is there medical care at least required to be paid for?

Beths... Bethsunshine

I also  never knew that surrogates weren't paid!!!! Yes they absolutely should be paid.

sassy... sassykat122

If men who donate sperm and women who donate eggs are compensated then yes.

Jennifer Storkamp Fortwengler

Two (soon to be three) time surrogate mother and this is an issue that makes me crazy every time I hear it discussed. I love, love, love being a surrogate mother and I consider it one of the best things I've ever done. That said, the idea of doing it for free is just plain nuts. Morning sickness, back pain, hormone surges, stretch marks. There's no way anyone should be expected to go through all that without reasonable compensation. I always tell people that I don't do surrogacy for the money but there's no way I would do it without it. As a side note, you are not too old to be a surrogate at 38. I know of agencies that work with women up to the age of 42. :)

Heather Murphy-Raines

Really? I could still be a surrogate? I always see the ads that say 35 years or younger. One other obstacle is that i have gained 50 lbs since so I would need to lose that, but hey, you just made me smile Jennifer. :) Thanks!

Zamaria Zamaria

You pay a daycare or a babysitter to take care of your child. Why wouldn't you pay someone to care for your baby for nine months? I don't think it should be mandatory to pay a surrogate if they want to do it for free, like if they are a close friend or a family member and they just want to do it as a gift. But they definately should pe payed if they want to be! It's not selling babies, it's paying for quality childcare.

Rnae1 Rnae1

I definitely think that women should be paid!  I consider myself pretty conservative, but you are right, pregnancy is work, and for all the reasons you listed, it should have some compensation.  The only thing that I worry about is women trying to do this who aren't fully committed to giving up things like alcohol and drugs, because they are more after the money than the health of the baby.  But, I am sure that there are many checks and balances in place to prevent this.  (This is said as a woman who has never been a surrogate, so please don't attacke me!  ;) )

nonmember avatar zizzler

Absurd. Surrogates should absolutely be paid. What idiot decided it's in anyone's best interest that they aren't paid?!

Pam MacPhee

I was a surrogate for my cousin and so obviously I did not accept any payment. But while it was the most fulfilling journey of my life to deliver them the gift of a family (, it was an exhausting, time-consuming, difficult-at-times women carrying a baby for strangers absolutely deserve to be paid. Surrogacy is not baby selling, it is baby growing and baby nurturing and baby delivering. All of which a surrogate should be compensated for her time and effort. It's an absolutely amazing journey and I applaud efforts to put laws in place to support and regulate it so it is accessible and all parties are protected.

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