A Critique of Contracts
for Human Reproduction
MARY LYNDON SHANLEY
FEMINIST THEORISTS AND STUDENTS of public policy are deeply divided over the question whether the so-called surrogate motherhood contract -- by which a woman agrees to undergo artificial insemination, bear a child, and relinquish that child upon birth to someone else (usually its biological father and his wife) -- is liberating or oppressive to women. Some supporters of contract pregnancy regard a woman as having a right to enter a contract to bear a child and receive money for her service; they view the prohibition or nonenforcement of pregnancy contracts as illegitimate infringements on a woman's autonomy and self-determination. 1 Others focus on the desire for a child that motivates those who hire a woman to bear a child; they argue that to prohibit or fail to enforce pregnancy contracts violates the commissioning party's "right to procreate." 2 Those who oppose pregnancy contracts, by contrast, see such contracts as oppressive to the childbearing woman, particularly if she enters the contract out of dire economic need or is forced to fulfill the contract against her will. 3 These differing viewpoints reflect a dispute even as to what to call such a pregnancy; proponents tend to accept the term surrogate motherhood, whereas those with reservations resist calling a woman who bears a child a "surrogate" mother (although some regard her as functioning as a "surrogate wife" to a man who commissions the pregnancy).
Although contract pregnancy clearly can be viewed from the perspective of those who commission a pregnancy as well as from that of the woman who