When I first started writing Due Date, way back in the dark ages of 2006, I was intrigued by the complex relationship between a surrogate mom and the intended parents. I think it’s become even more complicated since then. For example, I had no idea about the business side of things. Apparently, now, surrogacy is a multibillion-dollar industry, with international surrogacy arrangements in India alone valued at up to $2 billion in 2016. Wow. The industry is complex, with technological, legal, and ethical factors to consider in every transaction.
Covid has impacted this industry in significant ways, by creating “…unnecessary risks and challenges for surrogates, egg providers, babies born, and intended parents.” (Source: “Business Not As Usual: Surrogacy in the Time of COVID and Beyond” by Emily Galpern) The author suggests that the pandemic has exacerbated the already existing inequality in the surrogacy industry, an inequality that is particularly apparent in international surrogacy arrangements.
There are now movements in the US and globally to legislate commercial surrogacy. In New York state, for example, the Child-Parent Surrogacy Act enacted in 2020, mitigates the traditional and powerful principle that the birth mother is the legal mother. In the UK and the Netherlands, government is laying the groundwork for a system of pre-authorization of surrogacy agreements, where the intended parents would be the legal parents from birth. In France, however, commercial surrogacy is illegal, leading to thorny question of whether a child born through a surrogacy arrangement can become a French citizen. (Source: “Surrogacy: New Challenges to Law and Ethics” by Donna Dickenson)
And recently, with the ability to create an embryo from a genetic technology called mitochondrial donation, an embryo can contain genetic material from three people: a mother and father, plus a mitochondrial donor. This procedure is sometimes called “three-parent IVF” because while the main DNA comes from the father and mother, mitochondria from the donor also carry tiny pieces of DNA. This means that the resulting embryo will have DNA from three people. The technology, used to prevent genetic illnesses, is banned in the US as it is viewed as germline editing. (Source: “Three-Parent IV Might Open the Door to Human Genome Editing” by Diana Bowman, Karinne Ludlow and Walter Johnson)
Before Due Date, I had written a book about an open adoption, with themes around inequality, ethics, and the concept of motherhood. I thought it would make great fiction. And it would, just not the way I had written it! I pivoted my idea to a book of suspense, using surrogacy as the launchpad. I stand by my instinct that this topic is perfect for fiction of any genre. There’s a recent novel called The Farm, by Joanne Ramos, that’s on my reading list. It was published in 2019 and raises the questions of inequality, commercialization, commodification, and legalization well enough that is has almost 1000 reviews on Amazon with a 4-star rating. Impressive! I know there are plenty other books as well.
Well that’s it for today. I do wonder where we will be in ten or twenty years. Will we have designer babies? A new species of humanity? Will genetic disorders be eradicated? Will surrogacy be outlawed or embraced? There are so many lenses through which to view this topic.
Anyway, cheers! I hope anyone reading this is staying safe, sane, and healthy.
Until next time,