No room for exploitation of women

I was spammed today on Twitter, by an account called Gaydads, purporting to belong to Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, one half of the UK’s first gay couple to become fathers in the UK.

Without wishing to make too much of it, here’s their opening shot, along with their responses to questions as to the ethics of paying vulnerable women to donate eggs, and/or go through pregnancy and give up their newborn child. I would suggest that they need to employ a social media manager, given that they are currently hawking themselves and their children through the media, in order to drum up publicity for their new business which aims to exploit vulnerable cash-strapped women in America help predominantly homosexual couples circumnavigate the UK surrogacy laws by going abroad.

They are obviously threatened enough to have done their research and found out where I hail from to use as “ammunition” as opposed to engage with any actual arguments. If in doubt, chuck a few ad homs about, in an attempt to make yourselves feel morally superior. I wouldn’t usually bother blogging such silliness, however I think it’s worth noting the quality of the debate, and the personalities behind a deeply dubious business.

I’ve blogged before about the inherent difficulties with surrogacy, namely that it entails the destruction of human life if in-vitro fertilisation is used, but of equal concern, is the exploitation of women and the treating of children as commodities to be bought and sold.

Here’s a few snippets from their website. I’ve added my own comments in red:

Everyone has the basic human right to be able to have a child, really, do they? I can’t find that anywhere in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, nor is it in the European Convention on Human Rights. Wishful thinking based on subjective opinion – perish the thought!!

not everyone deserves to be a parent! – only those who are good-looking and possess class and/or money, preferably a lot of it to pay for our services, should have children.

There is no doubt about it; foreign surrogacy arrangements ARE attractive, which is why hundreds of couples every year go to America and other destinations to find a surrogate and egg donor. The laws on surrogacy are very encouraging for us to travel abroad and get our babies handed over to us without too much fuss at all. – no pesky restrictive laws surrounding the expenses that need to be paid and lax legislation allowing the obliteration of the mother from the birth certificate – we can pretend that she never existed! Plus, added bonus – we’ll push gestational surrogacy at you, more pennies for us and allegedly less of an emotional link for the mother with the baby inside her. Win, win!!

It is also worth noting that once your baby is born in the USA, we can also petition the courts to have both the intended parents names put on the birth certificate. There will be NO mention of the pregnancy being a surrogate pregnancy whatsoever. Please also note that this is NOT meant to deceive, it is a positive way forward for you to be recognised as the parents of your baby.spin worthy of Alistair Campbell or Mandy. Superb piece of re-framing there chaps!

Where are all the feminists when you need them? The silence could not be more deafening. Where is the sisterhood? What could be more exploitative than rich men using the bodies of poor or less-well off women? Nothing could be more of a feminist issue as it is only women’s bodies who can be exploited in this way and typically for the benefit of men – lesbian couples rarely have to resort to overseas surrogacy. The Drewitt-Barlows argue that surrogacy may help straight couples who have been rendered infertile by the ravages of cancer, but that still does not make the initial exploitation any the more acceptable. This has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with the exploitation and de-humanisation of poor women by richer ones.

Though Drewitt-Barlow seem to be more concerned with advancing their partner business in the USA, it’s worth looking at the situation in India where the business of wombs for rent is thriving. The women who ‘choose’ to become surrogates are confined to clinics or supervised homes where they can be closely monitored. Their “choice” such as it is, is borne out of economic necessity and cannot said to be in any way free. Which is precisely why the laws remain so stringent in the UK, where incidentally, gay single people cannot gain full legal rights over a child born by surrogacy.

For the record the Drewitt Barlows stated that they did not endorse India for potential surrogate couples, shortly after India issued a ban on gay couples in an attempt to tighten up on their surrogacy laws. This was, they said, due to concerns about exploitation, besides their partner clinic with whom they have negotiated preferential rates is in LA, where they spend 50% of their time.  The exploitation of the poor by the rich is not mitigated by the location, something tells me that Tasmania may be the next location on the cards.

There can be no justification for the exploitation of poor women by predominantly rich men. There can be no justification for deliberately contriving a situation whereby a child is deprived of its biological parent and traded like a commodity. There can be no justification for the exploitation of young children, such as those belonging to Drewitt-Barlow who are mercilessly flaunted in the press, in order to propagate the ideology that children no longer need their biological mothers.

Perhaps that’s why Drewitt-Barlow are so angry – it’s impossible to defend the indefensible. Anyone who might object to the trading of babies, to the Western colonisation of poor women’s bodies abroad, to the reduction of women to the level of brood-mare – well they are simply ugly, lack class, are homophobic and don’t deserve to be parents.

14 thoughts on “No room for exploitation of women

  1. Thanks for the information, caroline. A well-argued blog, if I may say so.

    May I also suggest that you now block that couple of self-indulgent, greedy narcissists from Tweeting you? They may have handed you arguments in a finely-crafted basket but I don’t see why you should feel obliged to put up with their nasty invective.

  2. Excuse me but who died and made you god love!! Everyone is entilted to a opnion I agree and everyone is entilted to be a parent weather they are man an woman or man an man or woman and woman!!
    Barrie and Tony are fantastic parents and their children want for nothing !! Also Bsc is one of the best things to happen in the uk in many years. They are providing what the Uk need to give gay men and woman the chance to be parents that this country has never properly done!!
    I personally think you really need to go away and do your reasearch better!! How many people are now soon to be parents thanks to Bsc? Also how many straight couples are Bsc also helping? Just because Bsc and Barrie don’t conform to your world doesn’t give you the right to put them down to the public like you have here!!!

    1. Hi Rhondda

      Actually Barrie and Tony weren’t averse to doing quite a lot of putting down to me, someone who doesn’t follow them on Twitter, who has never previously interacted with them and yet all of a sudden spammed me from the blue. I don’t see how a discussion on my perceived looks and class is pertinent to discussing the issues of surrogacy.

      The BSC is exactly as you describe it. A commercial venture that is providing the goods and services of children to those who have enough money to purchase them.

      Just because I do not condone the exploitation of less-well off women, does not give Barrie the right to attempt to belittle me and indeed all of those who baulk at the concept of the commerce of children and the financial exploitation of women to engage in insults and misguided accusations.

      I personally think you need to do some research on how newborn babies instinctively react to and bond with their mothers, how breastfeeding is best for a child and how a mother is able to intuitively calm her baby. I also suggest some research on the socio-economic status of those women who accept the offer of cash to go through pregnancy and childbirth, only to renounce all rights to their child.

      But thanks for your comment.

      1. Hi, I am a Mother of 1, I’m lucky enough to say he was made by me and his dad and I gave birth to him and brought him up 🙂 yea ok I’ve bonded with him as a newborn etc! But by no means is Bsc or any adoption of a new born causing distress to that child becuase I’m sure it would rather be with loving caring parents of either gender than be in a “normal” (and I hate that word so much) family weather it be mum and dad or single mum.
        Bsc is by no mean a money making venture that gonna die out as I know for a fact Barrie and Tony do not do it for that reason, they are giving people the right to be parents whatever the relationship type. Also who better than to have a company like Bsc than these 2 men? They have been thru the suroggacy in the USA 3 times over the last 12 years so they know what can and cannot be done.
        I honestly believe that people down looking on Bsc is wrong their not hurting anyone they making happy families for Gay, straight, lesbian and Bi people.

  3. BUT as i have said on your witch hunt page, dedicated to Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow, YOU started the whole thing off. Look at your comments on your tweet for the 15th march. You cast the first stone, making comments about them, not knowing them. You claimed in that tweet, that you “knew them as they lived in Little Baddow” if you did know them, you would know that they actually live in Danbury, where they have lived for over 20 years now. That they are Christians and attend St John the Baptist church every week and have had all of their own children christened there too. In fact what you and your group do not know about the two guys, is that they are a well respected part of the community here in Essex. They are the first to help out with causes and have for many years been huge supporters of the church. It pains me to see someone like you, who I KNOW is really a very kind person, take this aggressive feeling to them like you do? Sorry about the rambling i just hate to see good people taken down in the way that you are doing and blaming them for it when it was clearly your own doing with your initial tweets of the 15th March.

    The other thing that you do not know is that these two guys recently paid over £100,000 of their own personal money to rescue 14 women who had been sold into surrogacy in India by their own husbands of fathers to get enough money for dowries for other girls in the family. These women were forced to live for months, pregnant with western couples babies, all heterosexual by the way, in a one room prefab in Hyderabad India. These guys did this because they know people are going to go through surrogacy because they can, the BSC runs to help the women taking part and making sure that social workers and other qualified professionals keep surrogacy transparent! NOT under the counter like it is almost everywhere. The women, some of whom did NOT want to go through with surrogacy, were moved to a better place and the babies they were pregnant with, were looked after until proper checks could take place on the homes that they were going to.

    Anyway, the point i am making is that surrogacy is going to continue regardless of what you and i think or feel, I for one would be happier if it happened under the supervision of people who where there to help the women involved to make the right choices. This would not happen if places like the BSC did not open. Transparency is the key to protecting the vulnerable and the BSC’s main aim is always, the welfare of the child!

    God Bless.

    1. Hello “Reverend Jean Smith”

      As it’s your third frenzied attempt at a comment and probably the nicest out of all of them, I’ll let it pass. Firstly, with regards to my tweet of the 15th March, I did not actually contact Barrie & Tony, I was commenting on their dismal Newsnight performance with another Catholic. Living in Little Baddow, yes I do know of them as indeed I do know of St John the Baptist Danbury – very very well as it happens, which is why I know that they are a part of the Church community.

      I don’t feel particularly aggressive towards them, or I didn’t, until they started to attack me for perceived lack of class and looks. Actually, I found their remarks rather amusing in their lack of substance. It’s rather playground – “I don’t agree with you, you smell”.

      I’m sure they have their good points, but as a general rule both on Newsnight and in their general behaviour towards me and others on Twitter, belittling an opponent, accusing people of good faith of homophobia and being aggressive to those with whom they disagree is extraordinarily ill-mannered and unnecessary.

      Talking about a performance on Newsnight which was watched by millions, does not invite a rude personal response. I am sure many people said many similar things. I am not the only one who feels quite strongly that commercial surrogacy is inherently wrong and actually no matter how well provided for their children are, there is something very disquieting about the concept of deliberately contriving to remove a child from its biological parents. I am sure their children are loved, but that still does not make a wrong action, right. It is not right to treat a woman or a child as a commodity, it devalues human life.

      Good on Barrie and Tony for “rescuing” these women. But what happened to the babies? Were they still removed? Whether it goes on illegally or not, surrogacy is wrong, it is not good for women, it is not good for babies, the only person it is good for is the couples buying the services of the women. Of course the children may have better outcomes, but what we should be doing is working to eliminate poverty and situations where women feel that they have little other choice. Not sanitising exploitation to make it more user-friendly. These women deserve better.

      There is something very disturbing about the concept that these babies are better off with rich Western couples. Equally there is something abhorrent about the concept that all children need is affection and money. It seems that it’s only those who have the money are those who are deserving of children. That the value or worth of life is determined by these factors.

      God Bless.

  4. Can I ask if you had a member of your family who was gay/lesbian or unable to carry their own child…. Who would help them! I believe that you would be againts them have a surrogate!
    Which if you were would mean unhappy family member because god made it not possible for them to carry their own baby

  5. I’ve just re read some of your artical, Barrie and Tonys children know about their birth mothers and are in contact with them!
    Bsc is not about making children for the rich, good looking or just for the faces that fit!!

    1. To reply to all of your comments Rhondda – presumably you need quite a lot of money to access the services of BsC. I’ve seen the price list, which does not make reference to the cost of hiring a surrogate.

      I won’t go into a detailed faith analysis and it would be wrong of me to attempt to commiserate with people who cannot conceive as I have never experienced that agony, but one thing that my faith teaches me is that God never ever gives us anything we can’t handle. He helps us to turn bad situations to good, and there are many other ways for a Christian to fulfil a parental vocation without actually physically being a parent.

      All the research shows us that the best outcomes for children are in mixed gender stable relationships. That’s not to say that single parents or gay couples do a bad job, but that this is the ideal to which we should aspire. There is something very deep-seated about our human need to know our identities and I’m sure it’s advantageous if contact is made with the birth parent – but is it right to deliberately deprive a child of its mother, no matter how much it is loved?

      Paying women to go through pregnancy and birth, is exploitative, no matter how many “happy families” it may create. There is an ethical principle here. The end – happy families – does not justify the means – exploitation of women.

      Children are never ever “rights”.

  6. Really??…I thought the natural mothers were long gone, seeing as how these babies are conceived through egg donation ?? They really are not interested in bonding with their babies, & as for the women carrying the babies, these women do not go into surrogacy blindly, they are well aware of all the implications they do not bond with the babies as they are NOT their babies to bond with, they are simply giving their womb in which they grow.
    Far from being exploited there are many women who do not wish to have children or have completed their own families and wish to help other people be parents by donating their eggs/carry a baby. clinical i know, but science has enabled this to happen. it is 2012 after all.

    1. A baby will bond with the person whose womb it has been inside for the past 9 months. After all, it’s heard a voice and a heartbeat. We also know that breastfeeding is by far the best nutrition for a baby.

      I am sure there are many altruistic women in the UK, but if that is the case, why aren’t there more potential surrogates lining up? Why is everyone going abroad?

      Furthermore your point about the women NOT being the babies’ mothers only serves to highlight the way in which women are being used as functional objects. You say they are well aware. How can you be sure? There are well documented cases of women in terrible conditions overseas, as well as young college students going through surrogacy to fund their education or other young people raising much needed cash. If it is a woman’s first pregnancy, then how can she know what she is letting herself in for? Even if it is her fifth, every pregnancy is different, it puts a strain on your health and how can anyone know with any certainty how they will feel about giving up the child that they have carried for 9 months, even if it is not biologically “theirs”.

      Just because science has enabled something to happen, it doesn’t automatically make that a “good” thing.

  7. This whole conversation proves one thing to me: that we should leave it up to God/nature to bless a married couple (and by that I mean, one man married to one woman) with children, or not as the case may be. And if children can’t be conceived, then people have to accept that perhaps they have a different vocation in life. We have 3 couples in our family who have not been able to conceive children, despite years of trying and a long marriage, and they have come to terms with it. Children are NOT a ‘right’, not a commodity to be ‘bought and sold’, life is far too precious for that. Caroline, I totally agree with you: under the cloak of ‘helping infertile people’ a LOT of money is made…that’s how the devil works: make something sound almost like a gift, a service, a blessing…so people don’t look too closely to the darker sides of it all.

  8. It is strange that we have gone so far down the consumer line, that it seems perfectly fine to buy any commodity from anyone selling service is perfectly OK. Even when it is human life that is being sold. Caroline and Johanna, you have put it very well. When we stop seeing life as a gift and start seeing it as something we can possess we run into all sorts of problems.

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