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Media Coverage of Surrogacy is biased - AIBU?

(32 Posts)
OhHolyJesus Mon 29-Jun-20 10:44:53

I've been watching the media coverage of the babies born from surrogacy in Ukraine, who are being cared for in hotels by 'professional babysitters' due to the travel ban in the global pandemic.

So much of the coverage barely mentioned the surrogate mothers and focused mainly on the parents who obviously had issues entering the country. I've seen one piece from Marie Claire cover the story of the surrogate mother in more detail, all other coverage from mainstream media, from print to TV,/Radio is overly sympathetic to the parents.

UK Women's magazines have for years spun surrogacy as a generous undertaking and I think that women are being gaslit by this representation. This is one article that I think sums up the issues well, it is from a religious source and refers to the Ukraine story, but as the mainstream media consistently obliterates the mother from the picture, I make no apology for the source. It is obviously not mainstream media.

"For me it was a sad reminder of the months our adopted daughter spent in a Chinese orphanage while her father and I longed to fly to her rescue. Living in a cold bassinet under the indifferent attention of overworked nannies, after being unnaturally parted from her birth mother, is no way for a child to spend the first months of her life.
Our daughter’s plight was the result of unjust laws and morally problematic cultural attitudes — namely, China’s brutal population control policies and a culture that values sons over daughters.
The plight of the babies in Kiev likewise has similar social roots. In their case, a Wild West-style sense of lawlessness has created a thriving, unethical, commercial child-producing industry in Ukraine, an industry built on a growing acceptance of the concept of a child as a bespoke commodity that can be artificially created by rich Westerners and implanted in rented women. In both cases, the babies suffer by being torn away from the woman who nurtured them for months."

...and this

"At home or abroad, surrogacy is the most unethical practice (so far) of a reproductive-industrial complex that has utterly monetized and debased one of the most intimate and meaningful aspects of human existence."

...stood out to me in particular. Why do we not see these sorts of opinion pieces or more factual stories on surrogacy in the media?

Is the news coverage of surrogacy (around the world or UK) only representing one side of the story?

OP’s posts: |
thatsnotgoingtowork Mon 29-Jun-20 10:51:36

Egg donation too.

So many nasty, nasty side effects studiously not studied because its no in the interest of anyone offering funding.

Egg donors are told there are no know side effects but people who take the same drugs to produce eggs for their own IVF know that there most certainly are. It's one thing to take the risks to have your own baby, quite another to do it because you've been emotionally blackmailed with the be kind message and feel you have to donate eggs to your relative or be resented by your family, or to do it for money when you've been lied to about there being no health consequences.

It very occassionally makes the main stream media, but not often as people want to believe its fine...

OhHolyJesus Mon 29-Jun-20 11:00:31

Yes! Egg donation is far more risky than I realised, it's like a state secret or something, keeping the information away from the masses in some kind of conspiracy theory so women keep offering up their bodies (I'm not being serious but sometimes I wonder if this is not far off).

I imagine clinics do go through the details of the risks at appointments but why doesn't the media cover this part of it in more depth, it's part of the whole issue of surrogacy and egg donation...and sperm donation too, since the law changed and children resulting from donor gametes can look up their biological parents on a register.

It seems to me that it's not simply about lazy journalism but that there is an agenda at play perhaps?

OP’s posts: |
ShebaShimmyShake Mon 29-Jun-20 11:05:06

What do people think of rules not to allow payment for egg donation or surrogacy? It's intended to stop exploitation, so women won't be driven to it by poverty or literally bought if the price is right, and do it only if they truly want to...but does it also mean that women's bodies are up for other people's reproductive use with no recompense or acknowledgment? I've never been able to decide how I felt about it.

thatsnotgoingtowork Mon 29-Jun-20 11:20:54

ShebaShimmyShake I don't personally think any form of surogacy or egg donation should be legal. I think like prostitution the number of women who generally enter into it freely (by which I mean really, genuinelly fully informed about all aspects of what they're getting into and all the many, many things that dould go wrong and the ethical questions down the line, aware of all the risks to themselves and everyone else involved, physically and psychologically and long term, and not under the pressure of poverty, debt, family pressure, social conditioning, emotional blackmail etc. etc) is an absolutely tiny percentage of the total number of women dragged into the industry.

Ultimately the made to order babies cannot consent, and the women potentially harmed are often misinformed, lied to, cooerced or exploited in one of many ways.

So my personal opinion is that surrogacy and egg donation should both be illegal. However I realise this is controversial amoung people who think they have the right to buy and sell humans.

FannyCann Mon 29-Jun-20 11:57:08

I have copied this from the CBC (Centre for Bioethics and Culture) newsletter that I am subscribed to, for some reason I can't make the link work.

The Risks of Egg Donation
by Kallie Fell, Executive Director
The infertility industry in the United States has grown to a multi-billion-dollar business.

What is its main commodity? Human eggs. Young women all over the world are solicited by ads--via college campus bulletin boards, social media, online classifieds--offering up to $100,000 for their “donated” eggs, to “help make someone’s dream come true.” But who is this egg donor? Is she treated justly? What are the short- and long-term risks to her health? The answers to these questions will disturb you.
 Misleading advertisements in online classifieds, social media, and college newspapers offer money for school, spring break, or other college expenses. A quick google search will show you that these ads are markedly coercive and manipulative of young, college-aged women as they directly appeal to their financial need without any mention of the potential health risks involved-- essential information to enable informed decision-making and consent. --
Once selected, the medical process required for egg retrieval is lengthy and there are medical risks associated with each step. Risks include, but are not limited to:
--•--Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS)
--•--Loss of fertility
--•--Ovarian torsion (requiring surgery)
--•--Kidney Disease
--•--Premature menopause
--•--Ovarian cysts
Although sufficient data exist on procedure-associated short-term risks for oocyte--** --donors, such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, long-term follow-up studies of egg donors are lacking and their health risks are unknown. Possible long-term risks could include breast cancercer_----; egg donor registries are desperately needed to facilitate long-term studies on egg donors!--
Lupron®, the drug commonly used in the first step of the egg donation process to stop ovarian function and thus medically induce menopause before hyperstimulation of the ovaries, is a synthetic hormone that is not approved by the FDA for use in fertility treatment. It has a Category X rating, which means if a woman gets pregnant while taking the drug there will be harm to the developing fetus. This is extremely concerning with respect to egg donors who are very fertile and may not be compliant with instructions not to be sexually active during ovarian stimulation. 
Lupron® is a synthetic hormone and an “antineoplastic agent”, meaning that it is a cancer chemotherapy drug and, as such, has many risks and side-effects: 
--•--Hot flashes
--•--Tachychardia (elevated heart rate)
--•--Hypotension (low blood pressure)
--•--Constant gnawing bone/joint pain
--•--Autoimmune Diseases
--•--Hematuria (blood in urine)
--•--Vitamin D deficiency
--•--Degenerative disc disease
--•--Blood disorders

A few studies have come out touting the successes of egg donation. But when you get past the headlines, what you find is that these successes refer to pregnancy outcomes, not to the health of the woman who “donates” her eggs. Unfortunately, to date there has been no major peer-reviewed medical research on the long-term effects of egg harvesting on the health of the young women who provide their eggs. This makes it impossible for women to give true meaningful informed consent relative to the health and psychological risks involved with egg “donation."----

----Let the words of these egg “donors” echo in your mind: 
^•----Even though I suffered immediate life-threatening complications from the process [egg donation and retrieval], it wasn’t until many more years of medical training that I was able to understand the full scope of how I had been taken advantage of, mislead, and abandoned by the egg harvesting industry.^-- – Sindy, M.D., Ph.D--
^•----As a result of selling my eggs, I survived a torsioned ovary, intestinal failure, and a body cavity infection. I have also survived breast cancer, including having both of my breasts cut off, and eighteen months of harrowing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I am grateful to be alive, but I believe that all of this could have been avoided if I had not sold my eggs – a procedure that I thought was safe.^-- – Alexandra, Ph.D.--
--^•----So at some point while I was in the hospital, and they’ve never been really able to pinpoint when this happened, I had a fairly major stroke, and was paralyzed on my left side for about four and a half weeks. They went in and did an emergency surgery. And I’m talking to the woman who set up the whole egg- brokerage deal, and she said, “It sounds like we have to send you a ‘drop cycle check’”^--^which means you didn’t quite manage to produce what you were asked to produce. So we’re just going to send you $750 and we’re just going to call it good. –^ Calla, suffered a stroke after taking Lupron® and lost her ability to ever have children of her own.
^•^Egg donation is NOT harmless like I was led to believe. It has seriously affected every part of my life. I often cry about the loss of my friends, my family, the little person with half my DNA and my ability to have my own genetic children someday. If you're thinking about donating your eggs for ANY reason--DON'T. It's not worth it. – Cathy
You can learn more about these women and their stories by watching our documentary Eggsploitation on Amazonn_.
You can also watch a shorter documentary, Maggie’s Story  _, to learn about one woman’s journey of “helping” others have a child they desperately wanted. Maggie was told how special she was, but she was never informed of the risks egg donation posed to her own health and well-being. She was used repeatedly for others’ gain, but when things turned bad, she was left on her own to navigate tests, treatments, surgeries, and an unknown prognosis. 
Learn more about egg donationheree_. 
Join the movement to #StopSurrogacyNow.._

FannyCann Mon 29-Jun-20 12:04:28

I've no idea why it does all that underlining / crossing out business, apologies!

Egg "donation" in the USA is big business and very harmful. Typically students are targeted at college, as a way of paying their fees, with no information about the possible harms.

As to long term harm there is little information as the research isn't there, no one is following them up.

In the UK egg "donors" cannot be paid more than £750 but women undergoing IVF are given a substantial discount to encourage them to "egg share" which imo is very ethically dubious. My local IVF clinic advertises on its website that egg sharers can have their treatment for £1000 as oppose to the £3500 plus full price.

Imagine having unsuccessful IVF and always wondering if you have a child you don't know about out there, if one of your eggs gave another woman the child you so desperately wanted.

I also have concerns that egg sharing arrangements will mean the woman is given higher doses of hormones than she would have needed to produce just a few eggs for her own purposes, putting her at increased risk of ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome.

ShebaShimmyShake Mon 29-Jun-20 12:11:13

This is all very sobering, I clearly need to do some more reading on the topic. Is there an age limit on the egg sharing IVF discount? I'm wondering if any women pay for donor eggs which are less likely to take because of age and therefore more likely to waste their money and have them come back again and again. And of course all the excellent points about buying and selling women's bodies and eggs even if they do have a good chance of success.

FannyCann Mon 29-Jun-20 12:16:47

Also OP you are not being unreasonable!

I get particularly infuriated by the lack of critical examination of surrogacy tourism. This BBC radio 4 programme is a prime example. Two men, one a BBC journalist and one a Lawyer cheerfully discussing obtaining babies from Nepal and India. About six minutes in they claim that Indian women were demonstrating on the streets of New Delhi as they wanted the right to be a surrogate mother and earn a life changing sum. I've never seen evidence of this, but there is lots of evidence of the harmful practices going on in India and other surrogacy destinations.

I find it laughable that whilst people are demanding evidence of our colonial past and links to slavery be removed, those same people are likely to think it is fine to go to an impoverished country to obtain a baby.

FannyCann Mon 29-Jun-20 12:22:41

It's all here on the website ShebaShimmyShake , you need to be under 36 and screened for genetic disorders to egg share.

Care Fertility is one of the big players in the fertility business.

FannyCann Mon 29-Jun-20 12:32:13

In her book Surrogacy: A human rights violation Renate Klein cites the case of a poor Indian woman who aborted a baby she wanted in order to earn money carrying a baby for strangers. Utterly tragic.

Media who do not examine the ethics of surrogacy tourism are deeply irresponsible.

Personally I think surrogacy tourism should be prosecuted as a criminal offence in the same way we prosecute paedophile tourism. It's the only way to protect these poor women.

OhHolyJesus Mon 29-Jun-20 12:46:33

Thanks Fanny a font of all knowledge as always!

I continue to be frustrated that the main stream media are gaslighting us all. From misrepresenting the law, to reporting things inaccurately to basic lazy journalism. I find it patronising and offensive and they all do it, ITV, BBC, Sky and magazines I no longer read...

If the stories of surrogate mothers who have had bad experiences were told hand in hand with the positive stories it would at least be balanced but this bias shows an agenda and the general public are lapping it up and believe it to be true.

As an atheist I find myself reading and agreeing with faith-based articles so that's what drove me to start this thread really, out of shock and frustration more than anything else I suppose!

OP’s posts: |
SerenDippitty Mon 29-Jun-20 12:58:37

Media coverage of the fertility business/IVF etc is generally very biased. Only the success stories are covered.

SerenDippitty Mon 29-Jun-20 13:00:53

That said there was an edition of Panorama a while back about IVF clinics and how much they charge for "add on" treatments to cycles which have not been proven to do any good.

thatsnotgoingtowork Mon 29-Jun-20 13:08:46

This is a good article:

It's old though, I don't think the Guardian would publish anything like that now as they've become a bit hamstrung.

Isthisfinallyit Mon 29-Jun-20 13:22:25

I do think that altruistic surrogacy or egg donation should be possible for people you know. I've done ivf and would happily take the same risk to donate an egg to my SIL, favourite cousin or best friend. They don't need it but I do feel that if that is what I want to do to my body then it shouldn't be made illegal.

Having said that, I think commercial surrogacy is very exploitive and should be banned.

Janeandthedragon Mon 29-Jun-20 13:30:01

I agree this issue is totally unexamined by the mainstream media, especially the BBC. Not sure why really.

thatsnotgoingtowork Mon 29-Jun-20 13:39:32

Janeandthedragon I think because it's controversial in the "wrong" way - it's not a straightforward case of good versus evil or uncovering exploitation. It's too tangled and sticky to touch as it's too easy for the journalist to be painted as insensitive or hurtful.

There aren't two clear sides of Big Fertility versus exploited women and trafficed babies, there are also indertile couples (obviously nobody wants to be accused of being insensitive) and male same sex couples (the eternal issue of a conflict of interest between potentially disadvantaged groups - gay men who want to be parents tend to be higher priority than poor women or babies who can't consent to being bought and sold and created to be removed from thier mothers at birth).

It's too thorny for mainstream media because there are so many exceptions and whatabouts, and so many people who want something lots of couples want, and it's controversial to say my heart aches for you, but it doesn't make expoitation OK.

belfastmillie Mon 29-Jun-20 13:59:37

Something that I see very rarely acknowledged about egg donation, and surrogacy (where the birth mothers own eggs are used) is that the child is the biological child of the surrogate or egg doner. The language used)in appealing fir doners/surrogates seems designed to avoid stating this very obvious fact, presumably so that women won't think of it as basically adopting out one of their biological children, which it clearly is. I feel the same about sperm donation.
I do understand how wonderful it can be for couples who want a baby, and the altruistic intentions of the doners/surrogates, but not enough emphasis is placed on this fact.

OhHolyJesus Tue 30-Jun-20 10:38:33

See, France shows both sides...

"The industry is poorly regulated and rife with abuse and corruption, says Sergiy Antonov, who runs a law firm specialising in reproductive issues.
Women are sometimes not paid promised amounts or are housed in terrible conditions during the later stages of their pregnancies. In some cases parents have discovered they have no genetic link with children born to surrogates.
Authorities suspect some clinics are also using surrogacy as a cover for illegal commercial adoptions.
"It's total chaos," Antonov says. "


"I'm proud to be able to provide babies to people who couldn't become parents in a different way," she says.
"But if I had a normal job, of course I wouldn't have done it."

OP’s posts: |
Iverunoutofnames Tue 30-Jun-20 10:48:05

I know someone whose wife (or now ex wife) is a surrogate. It’s almost some sort of mental illness. The last time she went ahead without telling her husband and they did a DIY job at home with 2 gay men she met on the internet. She seems desperate for the attention and is happy to break up a marriage to do it.
She has a professional job and I wonder what they think of her taking this time off every few years.

ShebaShimmyShake Tue 30-Jun-20 10:51:22


I know someone whose wife (or now ex wife) is a surrogate. It’s almost some sort of mental illness. The last time she went ahead without telling her husband and they did a DIY job at home with 2 gay men she met on the internet. She seems desperate for the attention and is happy to break up a marriage to do it.
She has a professional job and I wonder what they think of her taking this time off every few years.

The attention? What attention do you get from surrogacy? I can't believe any woman would do this purely for...attention? Also can't believe it's something a woman would break up an otherwise happy marriage over. There's more to this story.

AlternativePerspective Tue 30-Jun-20 11:05:28

I may be flamed here but tbh i think the reason why the media only present one side is because it’s considered a taboo to actually acknowledge that in some cases, people just can’t have children and therefore won’t be having them.

it’s incredibly difficult for someone who wants a baby who then can’t have one, but reality is that infertility exists. And the longing for a baby doesn’t make it ok to exploit someone else (including the baby) to get what you want. And that includes so-called altruistic surrogates/donors because they are the ones actually going through the process while the parents are the ones collecting a shiny new baby at the end of it all. A baby they have equally given little thought to as they bring it up without one or in some instances both biological parents in its life.

The reason why children of egg/sperm donors are now able to trace their biological parents is because these people have grown up with something missing from their lives. And they still run the risk that those biological links may reject them.

I’m sorry but “mummy and daddy couldn’t have a baby so Auntie Anne carried you in her tummy,” or “a lovely man/woman gave us their sperm/eggs so that you could be born,” just doesn’t cut it.

IMO all surrogacy, sperm and egg donations should be illegal.

And before someone comes out and says “but you have no idea what it’s like to struggle with infertility,” perhaps not. But just because something can be done, doesn’t mean that it should.

happydappy2 Wed 01-Jul-20 13:37:04

There is clearly a huge push to make surrogacy legal as that would benefit gay men-I find the whole thing utterly depressing. Our planet is overcrowded already, many children are in the care system and in desperate need of adoption/fostering. Surrogacy facilitates the buying of a human baby. It is never right to separate a Mother and baby unless the Mother is clearly incapable of looking after a child.

Iwalkinmyclothing Wed 01-Jul-20 13:48:58

Paid surrogacy as an industry bothers me so, so much.

I genuinely considered being a surrogate for a close friend of mine a couple of years ago. When we sat down to think about it, we came to the conclusion that much as I love her, I don't love her enough to risk my life (and thus my children being without a mother) or my health for her to have a baby. Because pregnancy and birth are a risk to life and to health, they are emotionally, mentally and physically demanding.

If I had been really strapped for cash without any options and she was there waving the promise of money in my face... I bet I would have made a different choice. I don't believe most surrogates would be surrogates if they had the option to earn the money in other ways, so it's not a beautiful fairy story about some kind angel growing a baby in their tummy for the real parents, is it? It's another variation of the same old "poor women are exploited by the rich" thing and I am over that.

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