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November 2017

Kim Kardashian and the Moral Questions of Surrogate Motherhood

1200px-Kim_Kardashian_West_2014

You might not know much about Kim Kardashian. You also might not know much about surrogacy. The average young adult knows much more about the former than the latter. I often quiz students on their knowledge of the culture, and most students are able to tell me about Kim Kardashian, who she married, and even the names and ages of her two children. And if you haven’t heard, Kim is going to be having her third child. Unlike her first two children, her child will be born to a surrogate mother due to medical reasons.

Since many students are probably aware of this situation, and since it might come up in a conversation at school, it would be a good time to discuss the moral questions surrounding surrogate motherhood. We want our students to see how the biblical worldview addresses important issues instead of being influenced only by culture. My goal is not to determine if surrogacy is right or wrong. Instead, I want look at some important questions on this issue to help get the conversation started.

What is surrogate motherhood?

Merrian-Webster defines surrogate motherhood as “a woman who becomes pregnant usually by artificial insemination or surgical implantation of a fertilized egg for the purpose of carrying the fetus to term for another woman.”

There are different types of surrogate motherhood. Genetic surrogacy is when the surrogate is inseminated with sperm from the male. The surrogate will carry the child and has a genetic relationship to the child since she supplies both the egg and the womb. Gestational surrogacy is when the surrogate doesn’t have a genetic relationship. The infertile couple will remove eggs and sperm, and will have in vitro fertilization (IVF) performed. The embryo will then be implanted into the surrogate.

There are also two possible arrangements with surrogate motherhood. Commercial surrogacy is when either of these types of surrogacy are done for a fee. The surrogate mother will be reimbursed beyond medical expenditures. Altruistic surrogacy is the term used to describe a surrogate arrangement in which a fee is not paid.

What does the Bible say?

Even though the Bible never mentions IVF or any other reproductive technologies, it does give a few guidelines that can help us in this discussion. One that I will mention here is that the Bible establishes a clear definition for marriage and also says that procreation should happen inside of that relationship (Gen. 1-2). This definition would mean that any premarital or extramarital sexual relations are against God’s design. Even though the Bible does describe many relationships that went against God’s design for marriage and procreation, the Bible often describes historical events that are not prescriptive for us. Things in Scripture like surrogacy are often allowed but are never accepted as the best option.

This doesn’t mean that surrogacy is strictly forbidden in Scripture, because it’s not. All I’m saying is that we do see a difference between the biblical design for procreation and surrogacy with the addiction of the third-party contributor. This should cause us to spend more time thinking through the issue before jumping to a conclusion. However, this is also a public policy issue and doesn’t only raise theological questions.

Who is the mother?

The definition of “mother” has been blurred with the advancements in reproductive technologies, and this is a critically important definition in this debate. Is the mother the woman who gave birth to the child or the woman who donated her egg? If we define “mother” as the woman who gave birth, then the surrogate would be the mother in both types of surrogacy. If a genetic relationship is required to be a mother, then the surrogate is only a mother when genetic surrogacy is performed.

Either way we define mother, genetic surrogacy would then entail taking the child away from its mother. Is it ethical to intentionally enter into a surrogate relationship knowing the mother will hand the baby over the moment it’s born?

Gestational surrogacy would have different issues since the surrogate doesn’t have a genetic relationship to the child. This is exactly why it is critically important to get our definitions straight. Is the child being taken from its mother or not? What if we sign a contract establishing that the surrogate isn’t the mother?

Does signing a contract solve the issues?

There is an important principle that I constantly remind my high school ethics students: Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should do it. It is clear that something isn’t moral simply because it is possible. The same is true for surrogacy and signing a contract. Just because we can sign a contract stating that the surrogate will hand over the baby at birth doesn’t mean that she should do it. What do we do when the surrogate forms a connection with the child eight months into the pregnancy? In this situation, the surrogate would be forced to give up the child should she have second thoughts.

Should we see genetic surrogacy as an adoption process since the surrogate is the mother? Doesn’t a mother have the right to raise her child given that she wants the child and is a good mother? Does the idea of “renting a womb” turn procreation into a business deal? Simply creating a contract doesn’t make the moral issues disappear.

Is there a potential for exploitation?

Even though it is not common, commercial surrogacy does have a potential for exploitation. Some people may choose to be surrogates because they want to help an infertile couple while others may become surrogates to make money. Surrogates in the United States cost roughly $40,000 to $50,000. This is a big difference compared to surrogates in other countries that cost around $6,000 to $10,000. Should we be going to other countries in order to find poor women willing to be surrogates for a fraction of the price? How will this affect the lives of those women?

If allowed, should certain conditions be met?

Kim Kardashian has mentioned that she desired to be pregnant with her third child but was physically unable due to medical complications. Should surrogacy be seen as a last resort and reserved only for women who are physically unable to carry a child? What about a woman who is physically able to carry a child but is too busy to be pregnant?

Another condition that should be considered is the payment. Does the morality change between commercial and altruistic surrogacy when a payment is introduced? Will this change how we see children and pregnancy as a blessing and turn it into a business contract? Should a surrogate being paid to have a child she isn’t going to keep receive maternity leave?

Conclusion

There are other issues that could be discussed, but hopefully this is a good start to the discussion. The most important detail to remember is that a child’s worth is not based on how they were created. IVF, surrogacy, and other reproductive technologies don’t make a child any less valuable, and we cannot treat people differently based on how they were conceived. All human beings are created in the image of God and are intrinsically valuable. This is why we have to consider what the Bible says, the definition of a mother, contract issues, possible exploitation, and what conditions should be met if allowed. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is good. It is for this reason that we need to think through issues from a biblical worldview instead of being influenced only by culture.

What do you think about this issue? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Are Old Earth creationists ignorant of their faith?

Back in May I wrote a blog discussing the 10 points of agreement between the Old Earth and Young Earth positions. The blog was not designed or written in order to argue for one position or the other. The goal was to show that both positions hold to essential beliefs that line up with the Bible.

Even though I didn’t not argue for Old Earth creationism, I received comments critiquing that view. The comments seemed to suggest that I hold to Old Earth creationism and then began to show why I don’t have a consistent faith. After a few short responses to the comments, I decided not to respond anymore. I felt like the reader was not trying to understand my position, but instead, he was trying to prove me wrong even though I never took a side.

Since I think this is such an important issue I decided to respond on the podcast. We have to understand the difference between essential Christian doctrines that determine a person’s salvation and other beliefs that we can disagree on. Believing that Jesus rose from the dead and forgave our sins is much more important than our view of the age of the earth.

Listen here for my full comments as I go through the reader’s response and offer my thoughts.

What do you think of my response? Do you have further questions about the age of the earth, death before the fall, or a global or local flood? I will be talking about these in a future podcast, so please comment below!

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Is happiness a good test for truth?

This post first appeared at seanmcdowell.org.

You might think it’s an intrusion when strangers knock on the door. But when three Mormon missionaries showed up at my friend’s apartment, I excitedly ran down the stairs to talk to them. It’s not everyday that people ride bikes to your house to discuss truth, and evangelism doesn’t get much easier than that.

The elders asked us if we had read the Book of Mormon, and I mentioned that I own a copy. This raised their curiosity and excitement as they began to tell us about how Mormonism had changed their lives. One of the elders had just left Salt Lake City the previous week to start his mission. He stated that before arriving in Salt Lake City he had not been happy, but the training deepened his faith and made him happy again. This was a timely discussion, since I just wrote about whether or not our happiness is God’s priority.

When I talk with Mormons, I want to understand their worldview rather than immediately refuting it. I do this and deepen the conversation with questions like, Why are you Mormon? Have you always been Mormon? Why do you think Mormonism is true?

It’s true because it makes me happy!

One of the elders quickly jumped in and began to tell me that he had actually gone apostate and left the LDS church as a teenager. His life had become horrible and he wasn’t happy. He then began to search for the truth and that led him back to Mormonism, which made him happy again.

To make sure I understood correctly, I repeated back to him what I heard. I asked, “Are you saying that you were searching for truth and that Mormonism is true because it makes you happy?” He responded with an enthusiastic, “YES!” The conversation shifted to another topic, but I would have loved to ask him a few more questions. What would he say if I mentioned that not being Mormon made me happy? Would that mean Mormonism is false?

If you offend someone you are wrong.

This idea that happiness is a reliable truth-detector isn’t only found in Mormonism; it is also popular in our culture. Quick emotional decisions seem to suggest that truth is relative to the individual’s happiness rather than facts. If a belief makes a person happy, then who am I to say that their belief is wrong? Bringing up a contrary point might offend them. This might seem crazy to some of you, but this type of thinking has even crept into the church.

Summit Ministries and Barna teamed up on a recent study. Their study was designed to gauge how practicing Christians have been affected by other worldviews. They found that 29% of Christians under the age of 45 thought that if your beliefs offended someone or hurt their feelings, then you are wrong. This is a huge spike compared to only 8% of Christians over 45 years old believing this. These facts should open our eyes at how culture has affected our students. Many hold to a view of truth that is based on feelings and happiness. If this is true, then we are in big trouble.

However, we know that God has revealed himself to us in Scripture. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This doesn’t mean that Jesus is my truth or your truth. He isn’t only the truth if it makes me happy. Jesus is the truth! God is the foundation for objective truth, and it is in him that we can stand firm.

If the Mormon missionary standing at the door that night was right, then all we have is relative truth based on feelings. If this is true, then he must also affirm that Mormonism is false since that is what I believe, and I’m happy. It is logically impossible for Mormonism to both be true and false at the same time. Therefore, we know that one of us is wrong and truth can’t be based on feelings. If we can’t base truth on feelings, then how do we discover the truth? We will look at that in my future post.

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