Human Exceptionalism

Biotechnological Colonialism

We, the rich (compared to the rest of the world), the lovers of “choice,” the oh, so liberal and enlightened, seem to be moving toward a new form of colonialism. Only this time, it isn’t about copper mines or timber forests. It deals in human body parts (buying the organs of the destitute or

the executed, for example) and body functions.

The latest is this story about women in the west renting the wombs of poor women to have their children. From the story:

In a new twist to the outsourcing for which India has become renowned, poor Indian women are renting out their wombs to foreigners. Surrogate motherhood–carrying to term and giving birth to another woman’s baby–once was limited in India to helping close relatives who couldn’t complete a pregnancy due to medical difficulties.

But leading gynecologist Dr. Kamla Selvaraj says it’s now becoming a regular “profession” in India, with more and more women willing to carry babies for others, for a fee.

India has for years been providing foreigners with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment at a cheaper rate than the equivalent services in Western countries. Surrogacy comes in when the biological mother is unable to carry the child. Alternatively, a surrogate also provide eggs when the woman wanting a child is unable to do so herself.

Pressure is building in India to outlaw this practice:

Dr. Mohanlal Swarankar, chairman of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in Jaipur and one of the leading fertility experts in India, is firmly opposed to the practice of surrogacy and wants what he called the “commercial sale of wombs and babies” to be outlawed. “Surrogacy affects the whole moral fabric of a society and could trigger complex psychological and ethical dilemmas with no easy answers,” he said.

Swarankar said he worried that in a country where women are often forced into submission, “Who could tell if a woman hadn’t been pressured to be a surrogate mother for the sake of big money?” He also warned that “the social stigma attached to carrying the child of another man” could traumatize women and their relationships with their husbands.

Add to those matters, the potential for health consequences, subsequent infertility, and the emotional trauma of carrying a baby for nine months and having to give it up.

As enlightened people, we are the ones who should shun anyone participating in biotech colonialism and seek legal prohibitions on such “outsourcing of ethics.” But our society is caught up so blindly in “choice,” libertarian ethics, and entitlement, many of us could care less.

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