What is surrogacy?
In surrogacy, a woman carries and delivers a child for another couple or individual. Also known as “renting a womb”, she is impregnated by transferring a created embryo into her body in a clinical setting. The sperm or eggs may be provided by the clients (sometimes called “social parents”) or obtained from a donor. Monetary compensation may or may not be involved in the process.
Is surrogacy legal in Singapore?
In Singapore, while there are no laws that explicitly prohibit surrogacy, it is illegal for health institutions to offer such arrangements under their assisted reproductive services. For childless couples in Singapore, intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) are still the main treatments offered, but these may be too inadequate a solution in some cases.
Authorities, including the Ministry of Health (MOH) have cited social legal, moral and ethical issues that legalized surrogacy could perpetuate. However, an increasing proportion of medical professionals and infertile couples are pushing for “limited surrogacy” to be allowed for certain cases. Couples who seek such a procedure would need to be medically examined to prove that they have exhausted all other means of reproducing before getting approval to go ahead.
The issues at hand
Dissidents of the legalization of surrogacy say that there are several hard questions that the state needs to look at before changing the rules on surrogacy. For example, who decides the citizenship of the child? What if the surrogate mother decides to keep the baby after delivery? Who constitutes the child’s legal ‘family’? What about the rights of the child to the dignity of morally acceptable conception and to know his or her parents? And what if certain women abuse the system, seeking surrogacy as a way out from putting their own bodies through the stress and physical change of a pregnancy?
Indeed, ethical and moral issues abound, especially among religious groups who hold that the traditional model of a family should still stand – that of a stable married husband and wife, and their (natural) children. Surrogacy can seem to discount and devalue the exclusivity and worth of the marriage relationship, turning the act of child-bearing into a business enterprise.
The only way for some
And yet, more couples are seeking out this option – if not within our shores, then in other countries, such as India. Some have exhausted all other means and considerable wealth in the process. For them, is surrogacy warranted?
These include women who have no or too small a uterus, women who have suffered multiple miscarriages, and women who would be prone to heart disease if they get pregnant. Without surrogacy, there is little or no hope that they will ever conceive a child of their own.
Without surrogacy, then, their only option is to adopt. Nature has seemingly denied them the chance to become parents the natural way, but they can take in a child who has no parents to call his own. Yet not many childless couples go down this road, as adoption presents a whole other list of challenges and issues to consider.
Indeed, the surrogacy issue is not an easy black-and-white one, especially for the couple longing to start a family of their own. If you were that couple, what would you choose, and why?
By Dorothea Chow