Wedding Photographer

Is the rise of surrogacy deepening class divides?

Increasingly, patients are avoiding pregnancy or lost labor by paying someone else to carry their baby – without medical necessity to do so. But it’s a luxury few can afford, writes Katie Tobin.

Increasingly, patients are avoiding pregnancy or lost labor by paying someone else to carry their baby. Could this make people unable to pay for this service more vulnerable?

For the wealthy, parenthood without pregnancy has never been easier. Kim Kardashian, Nick Jonas, Amber Heard and Elon Musk and Grimes are among the growing number of high profile personalities who have used surrogates in recent years. According West Coast GPA, intended parents can expect to pay between $90,000 and $130,000 for their gestational surrogacy service. However, this exorbitant price has not prevented a massive increase in the number of children born to surrogate mothers in the United States, with global industry revenues expected to exceed $27.5 billion over the next three years.

But when some mothers have the luxury of handing over childcare and even pregnancy duties to other women, how will that affect those who don’t have that option? The impact this can have on working mothers is unprecedented, and many fear that assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as surrogacy, will only deepen class divisions.

While U.S. employers are legally required to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many new parents cited a huge discrepancy between these guidelines and their experiences in the workplace. For example, 2018 saw the jury of the Mosby-Meachem vs. Memphis Light trial rule that an employer violated the ADA by refusing to allow a new mother to work from home after she suffered complications from her pregnancy and her doctor put her in bed.

Concerns about the impact of the pregnancy on her career are what led wedding photographer Mari Smith (not his real name) look for a surrogate mother to carry her child instead. “I could be outside [of work] three or four months,” she says. His story, told in She, expresses his fears about the protection of his livelihood. “People might forget about me. I have to be out there constantly, producing and being visible.

These fears are not unfounded. An employee has been informed that he “would be fired if his child ever appeared on Zoom” during a 2020 lockdown. As Marianne Cooper, writing in Atlantic, said: “The ‘motherhood penalty’ results in mothers being paid less and not considered in hiring and promotion decisions.

“This dynamic sets the stage for maternal bias to occur,” Cooper continues. “Stereotypes, such as the idea that mothers focus more on their children than on their work, can draw a manager’s attention to the few times a mother has failed, and away from all the other times she gave birth.”

In order to avoid the burdens of pregnancy, the Guardian reported that an increasing number of women are using “social surrogacy” arrangements. “They want to have babies that are biologically theirs, but don’t want to carry them,” said Dr. Vicken Sahakian, who works at the Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles. “There is no medical reason for them to use a surrogate; they simply choose not to be pregnant.

While surrogacy is generally associated with a clientele of same-sex male couples, a University of Kent Study 2021 suggests that of the 413 UK couples in 2020 who had children through surrogacy, two-thirds were heterosexual. By comparison, only 117 surrogate children were born in 2011, meaning the number of parents using a surrogate quadrupled in just a decade.

Amid this increase, workplaces continue to limit pregnancy-related breaks that go beyond the scope of childbirth and recovery. In the United States, workers exempt from overtime do not have a guaranteed right to lactation interruptions under federal laweven if they may be covered by state laws. And while UK employers are legally required to provide space for new mothers to pump or feed, there is no legal obligation for bosses to give workers nursing breaks during a shift. Under the specter of capitalism, surrogacy – once intended for those for whom it is impossible or dangerous to become pregnant and give birth – has become a way for the wealthy not to be burdened with the physical limitations of pregnancy.

In some countries, surrogacy companies have also faced immense ethical criticism due to their treatment of workers. While surrogacy in the UK is limited to an altruistic model, in which surrogates are not paid but their expenses are covered, countries like India and Ukraine have a booming tourism industry. of surrogacy.

In Chennai, the surrogacy tourism industry was worth £1.3 billion per yearattracting a global clientele that comes to “rent a womb” capital of the world. Despite this staggering turnover, Indian surrogate mothers are only paid between £4,602 and £13,805.85 per birth. In 2016 it was reported that 12,000 tourists visited India to hire surrogate mothers, “many of whom come from the UK”. And while California has earned a reputation for its “surrogacy-friendly” nature, surrogacy laws aren’t as surrogacy-friendly as they might seem. In 2015, several surrogate mothers took their case to The Supreme Court clarify the rights of women and children within the surrogacy industry.

With such potential for exploitation, it is no surprise that there has been a global crackdown on the surrogacy tourism trade. In the United Kingdom, British surrogates serve as legal parent of the child after birth until parental status is transferred to clients through family court, giving the gestational worker more leverage and power over the terms of her “employment”. The parental order procedure can only be done with surrogate mother’s consentbiological parents are more encouraged to treat their substitute workers well. India has since followed a similar modeland chose to limit its mass tourism trade in surrogacy.

But while working conditions for surrogate mothers themselves are improving, the increasing accessibility and ease of social surrogacy is bringing unknown complications for workers who cannot afford the service. While many mothers are still fighting for maternal rights in the workplace, the fear that an increase in social surrogacy will exacerbate class divides is only becoming more relevant.

Although the increasing accessibility and affordability of antiretrovirals is not necessarily a bad thing, the rights of mothers and pregnant women must be defended. Pregnancy is not a burden and employers should not view it as such either.

Follow Katie Tobin on Twitter.

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