Million-Dollar Baby: How Much Would You Pay for a Baby If You Couldn't Have One?
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Even if surrogates' motives are mostly altruistic, if demand increases, more surrogates will inevitably wonder if fairer compensation for their significant effort and valuable service might is in order. While it would be fairer to them, it would make the practice unaffordable for all but the elite: a situation that bears some resemblance to Margaret Atwood's dystopic novel The Handmaid's Tale.
So it seems there are three options. The first is to follow Canada's lead. In Canada, it's illegal to pay surrogates. You can pay for expenses related to the cost of pregnancy -- food, transportation to medical appointments, vitamins and so on (with receipts required for everything). It proves the altruism case, and can lead to some very meaningful experiences for both surrogate and parents. But it also means that though in theory most Canadian couples can access the service, in practice, there are almost no willing surrogates.
One Canadian woman I know, who found a volunteer surrogate on Craigslist, was afterward besieged by dozens of calls and e-mails from other women begging for her help. Very few women will volunteer to carry a baby for a relative or friend, let alone a stranger.
Alternatively, we could continue to let the free market determine the rate. Which, in my opinion, will (and should) climb, to fairly remunerate the surrogates.
Or, for the sake of debate, we could treat it more like the college-education funding model. Here's how it could work: All couples apply through an agency and are psychologically evaluated, as they are now. Then after being either accepted or declined based on that psychological assessment, they're given a means test.
Investment bankers pay more than teachers, but each pay, let's say, 10 percent of their net worth -- the former might pay $200,000, the latter, $10,000. And surrogates receive a standard amount that fairly remunerates them for their time and effort -- maybe even one that increases with each healthy birth?
Yes, educating people about adoption is a great idea. So is working to make motherhood into more of a choice and less of a necessity for female identity. But if we want surrogacy to be an option for more than the rich and famous in the future, we might have to carry a new model to term.