Take the 35-year-old business executive and mother of three who recently hired another woman to carry her fourth child because she did not want to jeopardize her career.
The $60,000 procedure was organized by Conceptual Options, a private clinic in California. The woman was able to have her own fertilized ovum implanted in a surrogate mother -- and to prearrange the sex of the baby.
"I want a daughter, but I don´t want it to affect my career," said the woman, who already has three sons aged 5, 6 and 9. An increasing number of women are "renting" wombs for reasons of time pressure and vanity, with clinics in Britain as well as in the United States being asked to provide the service, the Sunday Times reported in London.
Businesswomen, actresses, athletes and models are among those opting for "social surrogacy." They cite career pressure, the pain of childbirth and the prospect of stretch marks as the main reasons for avoiding pregnancy, the Times said.
"It´s not for us to judge why people do not want to carry a baby," said Theresa Erickson, a lawyer for Conceptual Options.
The Los Angeles-based Egg Donation and Surrogacy Program said that up to 10% of surrogacy requests are for social rather than medical reasons. It added that nearly half of those are from men who do not want their wives to go through the physical endurance of pregnancy. Recent cases include:
--An actress who hired a surrogate mother to carry a baby created from her egg and her lover´s sperm. The surrogate had to sign a confidentiality agreement and, according to the clinic, "probably did it for the money."
--A model who approached a clinic in the state of Georgia for a surrogate because she feared that a normal pregnancy would lower her income while she carried the baby.
--A university professor who asked attorneys in Chicago to find out if she could have a social surrogacy. A lawyer close to the case said the professor was worried about losing her tenure at the school if she became pregnant herself.
Cases of healthy women using surrogate mothers for social reasons are likely to anger campaigners for traditional families who believe that procedures in fertility treatment have already gone too far. Last week a clinic in the state of Virginia announced that it had offered sex selection to nearly 200 couples for social reasons. The clinic said patients chose the baby´s sex for reasons of "family balancing."
Experts say it is only a matter of time before a child is conceived in Britain using social surrogacy. The practice is not illegal in Britain, although the government does not encourage surrogacy.
In the meantime, British couples who can afford it are traveling to America as "fertility tourists." Andrew Vorzimer, an attorney at Vorzimer, Masserman & Chapman in Beverly Hills, California, told the Sunday Times: "I have been approached by couples from all over the world, including models, athletes and celebrities, for vanity or employment reasons, but I have declined to help them."
The Catholic Church condemns surrogate motherhood for at least two reasons. The first involves the in vitro procedure itself; the second, the surrogacy aspect.
The 1987 instruction Donum Vitae, by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, notes: "In the usual practice of in vitro fertilization, not all of the embryos are transferred to the woman’s body; some are destroyed. Just as the Church condemns induced abortion, so she also forbids acts against the life of these human beings."
To the question, Is surrogate motherhood morally licit?, Donum Vitae says: "No, for the same reasons which lead one to reject heterologous artificial fertilization: for it is contrary to the unity of marriage and to the dignity of the procreation of the human person. Surrogate motherhood represents an objective failure to meet the obligations of maternal love, of conjugal fidelity and of responsible motherhood," the document says, "it offends the dignity and the right of the child to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up by his own parents; it sets up, to the detriment of families, a division between the physical, psychological and moral elements which constitute those families."
Many fertility clinics in the United States, in fact, do refuse to offer the "social surrogacy" service, arguing that it brings such procedures for reasons of infertility into wide public disrepute.
Observed Sherrie Smith, program administrator for the Center for Surrogate Parenting and Egg Donation in Maryland: "If a woman is too busy to carry the child, or doesn´t like the physical appearance of pregnancy and wants somebody to do that for her, she´s probably too busy to be a mother."