Religious Views on Surrogacy

by Eleanor McKenzie
Some religions teach that surrogacy is a form of adultery.

Some religions teach that surrogacy is a form of adultery.

Surrogacy is a complex and contentious moral and ethical issue across global cultures. Religions naturally have views on procreation, because the spiritual laws guiding human life are their domain. Religious views on surrogacy vary from complete prohibition to acceptance. The rise of Westerners using Indian surrogate mothers has added a political dimension to the religious and legal debate.

Christianity

Christians are not unanimous in their opinion about surrogacy. The Catholic Catechism states that a child is a gift not a right, and that surrogacy is "gravely immoral" because a third party comes between the "one flesh" principle that unites husband and wife. In 1987, the Donum Vitae congregation issued a statement on surrogacy, echoing the views of the Catechism and adding that it violates the dignity of the child. A further statement in 2008 through the Dignitas Personae congregation reinforced the teaching that conception should only be a product of conjugal love. The question of surrogacy is less cut and dry in Protestant denominations. In general, the churches falling under this umbrella have a more liberal attitude to infertility treatments and surrogacy, but point out the potential problems arising from it such as future psychological problems for the child and questions regarding who the child belongs to.

Judaism

Judaism also has a spectrum of attitudes toward surrogacy. Orthodox and Conservative rabbis take the view that using another person as an incubator is degrading and devalues motherhood. There is also concern that it accentuates economic differences, claiming that there is an inherent imbalance of power between wealthy parents and poor surrogates. However, there is also the view that infertility causes couples sadness and suffering. In Judaism there is an obligation to remove this suffering through surrogacy as long as nobody is harmed in the process.

Islam

Islam also has divided views on infertility treatments and surrogacy. Muslim scholars approach it from the perspective of shariah law. Some Muslim scholars claim it is akin to adultery, because it involves a woman who is not the husband's legal wife carrying an egg fertilized by him. It also means that the child has no legal lineage, making him or her illegitimate. Islamic arguments against it also point to the problems that arise if the surrogate refuses to give up the baby. However, other Muslim thinkers claim that surrogacy is permissible, because humans have a responsibility to preserve the human species and that it is in the public interest to allow surrogacy for infertile couples.

Buddhism and Hinduism

Buddhism totally accepts surrogacy. This may be because Buddhism, unlike Christianity, Judaism and Islam, doesn't make procreation a moral duty. Couples are not under pressure to marry or have children, and there are no Buddhist teachings suggesting that infertility treatments or surrogacy are immoral. Hinduism allows infertility treatments in specific circumstances. Children are very important to Hindu families, and medical help is allowed if a couple can't conceive. Hindus permit artificial insemination using the husband's sperm, but not that of an unknown donor, because the child would not know its lineage. Surrogacy is rarely used by Hindus, but surrogacy clinics are a booming industry in India.

About the Author

Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.

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