A Feminist Discourse on Surrogacy: Reproductive Rights and Justice Approach

  • Sheela Saravanan


Feminists have upheld the inclusion of reproductive rights such as using medical technologies for abortion, contraception and safe childbirth and these efforts need to be celebrated (ICPD Programme of Action in Cairo Egypt: international conference on population and development. United Nations Population Funds, 1994; UNFPA in Investing in people: national progress in implementing the ICPD programme of action 1994–2004. United Nation Population Fund New York, 2004). However, in the last two decades, developments in reproductive technologies and its use for practices such as sex selective abortions and pregnancy contracts has challenged some of the very ideologies that feminism fundamentally represents; equality (Structural inequalities and commodification in the surrogacy markets has been discussed in detail in Chaps.  4 and  5.) (socio-economic, health, legal), liberty (freedom of choice, autonomy) and justice (social and reproductive). Liberals supporting ARTs base their arguments around pro-choice, self-determination over one’s body, liberty of using these technologies as women’s empowerment, and contractual liberty (Inhorn and van Balen in Infertility around the globe: new thinking on childlessness, gender, and reproductive technologies. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2002; Zilberberg in Bioethics 21:517–519, 2007; Becker in The elusive embryo: how women and men approach new reproductive technologies. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2000; Roberts in Race and the new reproduction, 1996; Petchesky in Reprod Health Matters 3(6):152–161, 1995; Kishwar in Reprod Health Matters 1(2):113–115, 1993; Mies in Reprod Genet Eng 1(3):225–237, 1988). Feminists opposing reproductive technologies such as surrogacy are concerned that people, especially women, are becoming mere body parts in the flourishing global markets and that women may feel pressurized to become a part of it (Pfeffer in Reprod Biomed Online 23(5):634–641, 2011; Truong in ISS Working Paper Series/General Series 339:1–30, 2001; Gupta in New reproductive technologies, women’s health and autonomy: freedom or dependency. Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, 2000; Shanley in Signs 18(3):618–639, 1993; Wichterich in The globalized woman: reports from a future of inequality. Spinifex Press, Melbourne, 2000; Roberts in Cyborg babies: from techno-sex to techno-tots. Routledge, New York, 1998; Rothman in Creighton Law Rev 25:1599–1616, 1992; Corea in The mother machine: reproductive technologies from artificial insemination. Harper and Row, New York, 1985), causing commodification, exploitation, alienated labour, and denial of subjectivity (Hassan in WSQ: Women’s Stud Q 38(3):209–228, 2010; Dickenson in Property in the body: feminist perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007; Scheper-Hughes in Curr Anthropol 41(2):191–224, 2000; Sharp in Ann Rev Anthropol 1:287–328, 2000; Kimbrell in The human body shop the engineering and marketing of life, 1993; Swazey in Spare parts: organ replacement in American Society. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1992; Raymond in Hastings Cent Rep 20(6):7–11, 1990). Scholars, activists, and some lawyers have questioned the individual reproductive rights approach in that it overlooks inequalities from a feminist social justice perspective (Donchin in Bioethics 24(7):323–332, 2010; Callahan and Roberts in A feminist social justice approach to reproduction-assisting technologies: a case study on the limits of liberal theory, 1996). This chapter reviews and critiques the liberal feminist approach of reproductive rights, drawing primarily on a reproductive justice framework.


Reproductive and contractual rights Agency Alienation Altruistic surrogacy Embodiment Social stereotypes Infertility Stratified reproduction Surrogacy as work 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, South Asia InstituteHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany

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