Arguments for and against surrogacy

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Arguments for and against surrogacy
Surrogacy can give childless couples a chance to become parents. (Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Surrogacy is a desirable opportunity for couples who cannot have babies naturally. Surrogacy comes in many forms, ranging from in-vitro fertilisation, or IVF, using donors' eggs and sperm, to transferring a couple's own embryos into a surrogate mother's body. People have used less invasive forms of surrogacy for centuries, as well. In a famous biblical episode, for example, Sarah allowed a female slave Agar to conceive from her husband Abraham, in order to become this child's mother according to the law. Surrogacy is often a polarising topic, with pros and cons that can give rise to many heated arguments.

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Pro: Surrogacy benefits

Surrogacy is desirable for many people whose health issues make pregnancy difficult or impossible. Ageing, inherited diseases and harmful environmental impacts can influence fertility. Some women have medical issues that will mean a difficult or risky pregnancy. Occasionally close relatives, such as mothers or sisters, become surrogate mothers if the pregnancy of a family member is unbearable or impossible. This is called charitable surrogacy. More often, however, couples have to look for surrogate mothers through agencies or on their own.

Pro: Desire for a family

Surrogacy can help gay couples become parents. For example, Sir Elton John and his spouse David Furnish became parents in December 2010, after finding a surrogate mother in California to bear their baby. Assisted reproductive technology can bring advantages to lesbian families, as well. Although they might not need surrogacy itself, many of them enjoy the results of intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

Con: Birth defects

Researchers report a high percentage of birth defects -- such as heart wall problems, cleft palate, cleft lip, esophageal atresia, anorectal atresia and others -- in children conceived in vitro compared to children conceived naturally, according to a 2008 report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Con: Costs

IVF and surrogacy are expensive. It can cost up to £52,000. The most significant expenditures are the surrogate mother's fee, agency fees to be matched with a surrogate, legal fees to an experienced solicitor to prevent custody litigation, and IVF fees. Lower costs -- particularly savings on legal fees -- can be found outside the UK. For example, one clinic in Kharkov in the Ukraine offers donor's eggs for £3,400, and a full program including IVF and surrogacy costs £21,950 if a client uses donor's eggs. In India, a full surrogacy program could cost from £14,300 to £22,750, according to Medical Tourism Corporation.

Con: Surrogate mother risks

For those who rely on surrogacy as a means to become parents, the behaviour of a surrogate mother and her readiness to be a part of the solution is a big concern. A woman can become attached to the child during the pregnancy on both physiological and psychological levels, and she can easily change her mind. Even if another person's ova (eggs) were transferred into her body, she may develop a strong attachment to the baby. There are cases when surrogate mothers refuse to hand over their babies because they think that the couples who use their services are not reliable. Both parties have to solve such problems in courts.

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