‘Don’t legalise commercial surrogacy’, says bioethicist

Parliament should never countenance the legalisation of commercial surrogacy, a leading bioethicist has said.

Dr Calum MacKellar, Director of Research of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, fears that proposals may soon be put to Westminster for a commercial surrogacy system in the UK.

Surrogacy is a controversial practice which the Government describes as when “a woman carries a baby for someone who is unable to conceive or carry a child themselves”.

Erasing humanity

A surrogate can be the genetic mother of the child, via artificial insemination, but a child can also be implanted following IVF, meaning the surrogate is unrelated.

Dr MacKellar argued that, having carried a child to term, a surrogate is still a mother, regardless of whether or not the child is genetically related to her.

He branded terms such as ‘carrier’ and ‘gestator’ – often used to refer to surrogates – “unacceptable” because they reduce women “to a biological process”.

“Moreover, erasing any reference to the woman’s humanity and her status as a mother cannot ever be seen as responsible or appropriate.”

‘Linguistic cleansing’

He said this “alteration of language” encourages the surrogate and society “to disconnect and deny what the woman is really experiencing in order for her to be able to separate herself from the child”.

“Indeed, it is necessary for her to believe that this child is not really her child, to repress her emotions, to convince herself that this abandonment is done for the good of others.”

He argued that such “linguistic cleansing” may even be intended to get society to accept a process “which amounts to the sale of babies”.


Dr MacKellar also said that asking a mother to give up a child she has carried is distressing, and offering payment “does not make it any more ethical”.

“Instead, it represents one of the most unacceptable forms of exploitation being done against women.”

He highlighted that the exchange of money for gestating a baby constitutes the sale of a child, and that it equates to a modern day slavery.

“This is because a woman would be selling her body for reproduction which is completely unethical.”


In conclusion he argued that compassion “demands protecting women from unacceptable exploitation”.

“Accordingly, the UK parliament should never countenance the legalisation of commercial surrogacy.”

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