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Surrogate Tourism and Reproductive Rights


  • Vida Panitch


Commercial surrogacy arrangements now cross borders; this paper aims to reevaluate the traditional moral concerns regarding the practice against the added ethical dimension of global injustice. I begin by considering the claim that global surrogacy serves to satisfy the positive reproductive rights of infertile first-world women. I then go on to consider three powerful challenges to this claim. The first holds that commercial surrogacy involves the commodification of a good that should not be valued in market terms, the second that it involves the exploitation of the labor of disadvantaged women, and the third that it depends on the illegitimate privileging of positive rights over negative rights. I reject the first of these challenges and argue that global surrogacy arrangements are indeed exploitative on the dual basis of what I call intracontractual injustice and intercontractual coercion. The latter, I contend, depends on a preexisting negative rights violation, which cannot be permitted for the sake of satisfying another's positive reproductive entitlement. I conclude not in favor of a global ban but with suggestions on how developing nations that permit commercial surrogacy might better protect the negative reproductive rights of their female citizens, thereby making them less vulnerable to exploitation.