Conception of the (changing) heart: Reproductive justice and the contradiction of bodily integrity in surrogacy.
In surrogacy processes, biology is often downplayed in favour of the idea of parental intent (what Helena Ragoné has called a ‘conception of the heart’). But how are we to understand the empirical, political and ethical complexities when the ‘parental intent’ of the reproductive parties changes over course of the pregnancy, and a gestational surrogate, for example either wants an abortion or rejects the intended parents wish to reduce the number of fetuses she is carrying? Drawing on the current debate on altruistic surrogacy in Sweden where all forms of surrogacy are still illegal, this article discusses on the one hand the argument for a legalization of surrogacy that concerns ‘the woman’s right to choose’ to be a surrogate – and, on the other hand, the implicit or explicit expectation that her choice to act as a surrogate involves precisely ‘giving up her right to choose’ once conception has taken place. Considering this somewhat contradictory character of surrogacy, can surrogacy be said to be compatible with an intersectional approach to reproductive justice including a strong emphasis on bodily self-determination, and if so, under which conditions? Drawing on my previous research on ‘kinship grammars’, this article seeks to investigate how a ‘kinship grammar of parental intent’ might peacefully co-exist with, intersect, or, alternatively, compete with, other kinship grammars such as ‘the kinship grammar of genetics’, ‘the kinship grammar of epigenetics’ or ‘the kinship grammar of prenatal bonding’?
Jenny Gunnarsson Payne is associate professor in Ethnology and research leader at the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES) at Södertörn University. Her empirical research interests include issues concerning political mobilization and movements as well as political and cultural aspects of sexual and reproductive life, including assisted reproduction, kinship and sexual and reproductive rights. Specifically, her empirical research in the field of reproduction has dealt with issues concerning transnational egg-donation, egg freezing, surrogacy and political mobilisation for reproductive rights (including transgender reproductive rights and patients’ organisations).