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Document Details :
Title: The Ethical Relationship between Surrogates and Intended Mothers in the Context of Reproductive Outsourcing in India
Subtitle: Towards a Model of Empathic Solidarity
Author(s): HÜBEL, Maria-Szilvia
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Date: 2011
The rapid expansion of surrogacy markets in India raises questions around the autonomy of the surrogate and the responsibility of the intended parents. Some critiques decry the practice as opening the door to the commodification of women’s bodies and reproductive labour, while proponents argue that it is a way to empowerment and an expression of women’s solidarity and bodily generosity. These opposing convictions have resulted in further questions concerning the conflicts between the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence. In the Western context surrogacy arrangements are seen as dyadic body-projects, collaborative processes of the intended mothers and the surrogates. Studies have shown that the satisfaction of the surrogates highly depends on the relationship with the intended parents and more specifically with the intended mother. While a Western surrogate has regular contacts with the intended mother, often forming a strong bond with her, in the Indian context due to the immense difference and imbalance of power relations as well as the geographic distance, they do not have such a personal relationship. The personal tie of shared company is replaced by an institutionalized medical surveillance of their everyday lives. The Indian surrogates live in 'surrogate hostels' under the constant monitoring of caretakers; they can never leave these houses and they are separated from their children and husbands for nine months. In order to facilitate the development of a policy on surrogate motherhood, a cross-cultural bioethics has to take into account the asymmetric vulnerability at the core of the ethical questioning with its correlated dimension of responsibility. While most studies address the economic vulnerability of the Indian surrogates and their potential exploitation, the scholarly contributions focusing on the ethical relationship between the women involved in these surrogacy arrangements are very scarce. Some intended mothers are rising to the occasion, acting responsibly and reaching out to help, while others regard it very pragmatically as a self-evident service in a consumerist world or an employeremployee relationship. Drawing on case studies, the article proposes an ethical model based on empathic solidarity and responsibility. Before expecting solutions to these issues on governmental level and global scale, it is supposed to raise the awareness of those personally involved that an empathic, responsible approach would be a first significant step.