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PHI 2396 Lecture Notes - Categorical Imperative, Surrogacy, Deontological Ethics

Course Code
PHI 2396
Caroline Sullivan

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Elizabeth Anderson, “is women’s Labour a Commodity?”
Types of surrogacy: genetic and gestational (not your genes, just lending womb); commercial
(get paid) and altruistic (do it as a favor)
Surrogacy in Canada is legal, but only altruistic, get paid as gift, pay for travel and vitamins etc.
Commercial surrogacy: morally inappropriate it applies economic norms to reproduction
Reproduction involves people and an appropriate treatment of people would involve such
values as “love” “honor” “respect” etc. (remember Kant’s categorical imperative!)
Economic norms are manipulative
Reproduction involves parental rights and responsibilities which are anything but manipulative
Commercialization reproductive labour turns it, as well as the mother and the child into
commodities Objects for sale and buying
It also values reproduction inappropriately which leads to exploitation and inferior
understanding of human flourishing everything turns out for sale
Defence of commercial surrogacy on 4 grounds:
1) Shortage of children for adoption: legal cumbersomeness of the adoption process;
2) Right to produce and freedom of contract
3) The labour of the surrogate mother is a labour of love and her acts are altruistic;
4) Surrogacy no different than the practices of daycare, insemination by donor, adoption and wet
Anderson refutes all of them as invalid grounds
The biggest problem for Anderson with commercial surrogacy : children are treated as
Parents’ rights over their children are trusts which must always be exercised for the sake of the
child (parent and child have shared interest)
Commercial surrogacy understands parental rights not as trusts but as property rights (to own
and dispose of things owned)
A result of the commercial transaction of surrogacy all the parties exhibit attitudes that
undermine the norms of parental love becomes like any business transaction
A few objections:
1. What if we say that no matter how the child has come to a home, if the child is desired and
loved, then the fact that the child is purchased doesn’t matter (e.g adoption?)
Anderson: yes, it doesn’t matter if the child is purchased but the fact that the child is sold does
matter it is the transaction of sale that undermines the parental love and trust
The unsold children of the surrogate mother are also affected by surrogacy (find out the answer
in the text) if you don’t want the child anymore, you can just “pull” out, especially if you
have a good lawyer
2. Surrogacy doesn’t sell children because the father already owns half of the genetic material
Anderson: treating the child as a commodity is reflected in the way we treat the rights of the
surrogate mother
The surrogate mother is forced to relinquish her rights as a mother and the biological father
pays for the exclusive right to own the child
3. How is surrogacy different from other practices such as adoption?
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