Unlike many other countries, the United States does not have federal statutes or guidelines governing surrogacy parenting. Thus, many states have their own laws in this regard. Currently The District of Columbia prohibits surrogate parenting: Any person or entity who or which is involved in, or induces, arranges, or otherwise assists in the formation of a surrogate parenting contract for a fee, compensation, or other remuneration, or otherwise violates this section, shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $ 10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both.” (D.C. Code § 16-402)
But Council Member David Catania has introduced legislation that would legalize and regulate surrogacy parenting within the District of Columbia. Every council member except for Council Member Marion Barry co-sponsored the proposed legislation.
The Catholic Church opposes surrogate motherhood, a process wherein an embryo from one couple is placed in the womb of a second woman and carried to term by her, usually for remuneration.
Even many Catholics are not certain why we oppose this, along with the similar procedure of in vitro fertilization. Let’s consider from a faith perspective and also from Natural Law why the Church must oppose such procedures.
We begin by noting a kind of sacred trilogy that encompasses human sexuality and procreation.
First, we begin with the truth that human life is sacred. In saying that our life is “sacred” we do not mean merely that human life is somehow “very special” or “unique.” Rather, to say that human life is “sacred” is to say “it is of God.”
Human life comes intentionally and lovingly from the very hand of God. Every human being, even our enemies, and great sinners, are known by God, loved by God, willed by God, intended by God. In Jeremiah 1:5 God says Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Thus, in a mysterious way, our existence was already present to God long before we were ever conceived. We were already in the heart and the mind of God as he was preparing for our conception and existence. Psalm 139 speaks about God knitting us together in our mother’s womb. The same Psalm says that all of our days were written in gods book before one of them ever came to be.
Thus, the human person is sacred. That is, our lives have the mark of God upon them. Our life, our very existence, is caught up in the intention, the will, the very heart of God. Human life is sacred.
Second, since human life is sacred, so are the means by which we come into existence. Thus, our second truth is that sexual intercourse is sacred. Again, the word “sacred” is not simply a way of saying that sex is very special. Rather, it indicates the sexual intercourse is from God, and is touched by him.
Just as in marriage there are three to get married, the husband, the wife and the Lord; so, in the great sacramental expression of marriage, sexual intercourse, the husband and wife are joined, but in the Lord. The Lord, who is the author of their love, joins the spouses and, according to his will, makes their love fruitful in their children.
So, the origin of every sacred human person, is in the sacred sexual act, which involves not only the spouses, but also the Lord.
Sadly, in our culture, sex is treated as anything but sacred. It is often the butt of jokes, suffers from lewd conduct, countless misapplications and perversions, to include: fornication adultery, pornography, immodesty, homosexual acts, and so forth. What is beautiful and sacred, is treated to base and profane. What is serious and requires commitment, is treated as casual and often passing.
And, if the sacredness of sex is treated lightly, so is the sacredness of human life easily discarded. It is no coincidence that the culture of death has emerged in the age of promiscuity. The body count associated with lust is truly staggering.
Third, since human life is sacred, and the sexual intercourse, which gives rise to it, is sacred, so is the context of sex and life we call marriage also sacred. Once again, calling marriage “sacred” is not merely a way of saying it is “really neat” or “very special.” Once again, we call marriage sacred because it is set forth by God, and is from God, and every valid marriage is in fact a work of God.
Scripture details in Genesis (1 & 2) how God set forth marriage, declaring that it was not good for the man to be alone. God thus made Eve, and we are told that, for this reason a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two of them become one (Gen 2:24). Therefore, marriage is one man, for one woman, in a stable and lasting bond. Jesus adds, What God has joined together, let no one divide (Matt 19:6). In saying this, Jesus also underscores that, not only is marriage an institution from God, but that every valid marriage is in fact a work of God. What God has joined together, no one is to divide.
It makes sense that marriage should be an enduring institution, for each couple. Why? For God sets fourth that the fruit of marriage should be godly offspring. He tells the first couple, Adam and Eve, to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth! (Gen 1:28). Thus that marriage should be heterosexual, fruitful and lasting makes sense, because that is what is best, and what is just for children. Namely, that they should be raised by their own father and mother, formed by a male and female influence, in an environment that is both stable, and gives complementary witness to the fullness of the human person.
And so, having set forth a kind of sacred trilogy that the human person, human sexual intercourse, and marriage are all sacred, we now observe the God has united these three sacred realities and intends them to be together. The human person, who is sacred, is intended to be conceived in the loving and sacred embrace of sexual intercourse, between a man and woman in the sacred union of holy matrimony.
Marriage, sex and children are all meant to be united, and God has joined them. Sadly, we seem today to be intent on dividing them.
We see any number of ways that the sacred trilogy is often violated today. Obviously fornication, adultery, and homosexual acts, all violate the trilogy by separating out or removing essential parts of it.
Fornicators and adulterers violate the marital aspect, and usually also, (by contraception), violate the connection to life. Indeed, all contraception denies that there is any necessary connection between sexual intercourse and procreation. As such, contraceptives separate what God intends to be joined.
Homosexuals deny the nuptial meaning of the body, and obviously cannot procreate in any way or be open to life in their acts. And now they seem, at least collectively, determined to utterly set aside marriage as God himself sets it forth in the Scriptures.
But now we also come to other aberrations that are proposed today which also violate the sacred trilogy of sacred human life, being conceived in the sacred sexual embrace, within sacred marriage.
Thus we see, so called “in vitro” fertilization wherein human conception is removed from sacred sexual intercourse, and done in a petri dish. Life now is no longer caught up in this sweet mystery of the marital embrace, and left to the hand of God. Life becomes now a product, produced in a laboratory, usually at a stated price. Sacred human life, becomes a commodity for sale.
The hand of God is overruled as is done in every human sinful practice where in God’s will is simply overridden by prideful human beings.
It will be admitted that infertility in certain couples is lamentable and, at human level, it may seem understandable that they should want to do what is possible to conceive. Yet, in the end, the reality is that we are separating what God has joined.
Also resisted is the notion that perhaps the couple is infertile for reasons known to God. Perhaps he wishes them to adopt. Or, perhaps He wishes them to engage in some dedicated work in the Church or the world, other than parenthood. In vitro fertilization resists discerning God’s will and seeks merely to supplant our wishes.
The killing of many embryos is also morally odious. The vast number of embryos that are conceived are either discarded, frozen, or sent off to experimentation and to be harvested by those engaged in stem cell research etc. Again, human life is treated as a commodity to be bought and sold, and used at will.
And this leads us then to the problem of so-called surrogate motherhood. The process is similar to in vitro fertilization wherein the father and mother both contribute sperm and ovum and these are combined in a petri dish. But the difference is, instead of being placed in the womb of the genetic mother, the embryo is placed in the womb of a second woman who carries the baby to term.
Genetically, this is not her child. But of course, motherhood is little more complicated than simply whose genes are involved. The mother who carries a child in her womb develops an intimacy and a real bond of connection to that child. And hence we are involved in some very great distortions of what God intends, and are playing with the notion of what motherhood really is about.
Once again, we are seeing a great break up of the trilogy that God intends to be together. The child is not conceived in the sacred marital embrace, but rather in a petri dish. God’s hand is once again overruled, or in effect He is a dis-invited from the decision of conception. Thirdly, the couple, even if married, goes outside the marriage and places their child in the womb of another woman.
There is a kind of a notion to work here, it would seem, that the womb of the surrogate mother is simply a container, a temporary resting place that can be borrowed or rented, if you will.
Absolutely nothing is left in place of what God intends to be together. There is a complete break up here.
Again, it will be admitted that infertility for a couple is a less desirable, even a very sad reality. But here too, the Church cannot simply say it’s okay to overrule God seems to will, or at least permit for reasons of His own. Neither can we fail to insist on the need to discern God’s will. If natural parenthood is not open, what is? Adoption? Some other worthy and noble undertaking? God never closes one door without opening others.
Surrogate motherhood is forbidden to a Catholic for the reasons stated above. We in the Church also argue that it is bad public policy to be supportive of the sorts of activities.
Natural law – In surrogate motherhood, not only is human life treated as a commodity; not only are many embryos discarded in the ways described above, but Natural Law and common sense arguments also show that surrogate motherhood is a bad idea to encourage.
Even without mentioning God, is clear that nature provides that children are conceived in the heterosexual embrace of sexual intercourse. Further, nature also shows that it is best for children to be raised in a stable environment and be raised with a male and female influence. Further, nature also demonstrates that the natural affections created by physical descent are stronger than merely legal or secondary relationships. Tampering with the normal course of families, and what nature provides as the best and most healthy environment to conceive and bear children, is a recipe for trouble.
It is bad public policy to in any way encourage the willful tampering with the natural order of things.
That the DC government thinks it necessary to pass laws regulating legal transactions around surrogate motherhood, shows that the practice is leads to all sorts of legal problems. What frequently happens is that when we meddle with natural affections, and try to think of motherhood merely in terms of genetics, (rather than nurturing and so forth), we end up with a real mess, and many conflicted feelings. Surrogate mothers are not always so happy to relinquish their babies after all. Imagine that!
Now into this fray, with all of its confusion, is proposed all sorts of legalities and a government trying to regulate but really shouldn’t be happening in the first place.
The District of Columbia should leave unchanged the current laws which forbid and discourage surrogate motherhood. Certain District residents may want to engage in practices harmful for the reasons stated, and the District government may not be able to stop them or enforce the laws forbidding the practice, but in no way should the District encourage such practices by enforcing contractual agreements related to them. Surrogate motherhood is a lamentable practice, and it is bad policy to support it in any way.
This video illustrates the strange but true world of Surrogacy.