The ethics of surrogacy

Dr Herjeet Marway is a Lecturer in Philosophy and a Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics in the Department of Philosophy.

One area of Herjeet's research focuses on the ethics of surrogacy, an arrangement whereby a woman (the surrogate) agrees to carry and give birth to a child and then give that child to other (the intended parents) to raise. Surrogacy is often thought to be a ‘treatment’ option for the infertile or an alternative to adoption, and so to be celebrated in fulfilling people’s desires to be parents. However, surrogacy also brings a wealth of more complex ethical issues around gender, labour, payment, exploitation and inequality.

a pregnant womanOne ethical conundrum focuses on payment: in the UK, altruistic (unpaid) surrogacy is permitted, but commercial (paid) surrogacy is not. At present, however, Britons are the largest consumers of the Indian commercial surrogacy industry (reportedly worth US$400m to the Indian economy every year). Herjeet explores the issues of how surrogacy laws are different across the globe, and argues for a global approach to help limit the exploitation of women, in this article in The Conversation (with colleague Dr Gulzaar Barn).

Herjeet discusses further ethical puzzles around surrogacy - payment, gender and exploitation - in this article for the Birmingham Brief.

Herjeet has also recently been appointed as the founding chairperson of the Surrogacy UK Ethics Committee. You can read more about her appointment and the role in this news announcement on the Department of Philosophy website.

Further reading