“Own Child” in Gestational Surrogacy. Who Defines “Own Child” and How Is This Concept Defined?
In 2012, Melhuus analyzed the changing definitions of “own child” that parents move through when they require different degrees of reproductive assistance, from definitions based on genetic material and gestational processes to definitions emphasizing intention and social parenthood. Gestational surrogacy, involving a contract by which a child carried and given birth to by one woman is understood as the “own child” of another woman, requires a great deal of defining of this concept. In this case, it is not only the parents who will receive and raise the child who participate in this process of defining. Many other agents and experts, including agencies, doctors, lawyers, judges, and administrative personnel, are involved, often in cross-border processes that may bring conflicting definitions into contact. In addition, other family members and relatives, as well as acquaintances, the media, and the public in general, weigh in with their opinions on whether these children are “own children” or not.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out with Spanish parents who form their families by means of gestational surrogacy, this paper will explore the different agents who participate in defining children born through surrogacy as “own” or “not own” and the different definitions that appear, as well as how these definitions are navigated by the families involved. In this way, the legal and social issues of defining “own child” will become apparent in their interaction with the supposed privacy of family formation and family life.
Nancy Konvalinka is a professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) in Madrid, Spain. Her area of expertise is the anthropology of kinship and family, with special emphasis on contemporary family formation. Her particular interest is in how people understand and practice family in changing situations in the world today. She has directed and participated in various national and international research projects, including a Wenner-Gran grant and a Spanish I+D research project for research on late-forming families in Spain. She is presently pursuing research with colleagues in a Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity I+D+i project titled “Mothers, Agential Subjects or Individuals with Agency. An Ethnographic Study of Gestational Surrogacy.” She has also participated in research projects studying single mothers by choice and the revelation of donor-conception to children born by means of ARTs in the Spanish context.
Her publications include the book Gender, Work and Property: An Ethnographic Study of Value in a Spanish Village (2013), which analyzes the changes in family farming enterprises in the second half of the 20th century in a Spanish village, and the edited volumen Modos y maneras de hacer familia: Las familias tardías, una modalidad emergente (2012), which brings together research on late-forming families by several scholars from the fields of anthropology, the social sciences, and philosophy. A selection of book chapters and articles, as well as additional information can be found at: http://portal.uned.es/portal/page?_pageid=93,25410440&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL