Recruiting Wombs:Surrogates as the New Security Moms
In the military, we have that mentality of going to extremes, fighting for your country, risking your life. . . . I think that being married to someone in the military embeds those values in you. I feel I'm taking a risk now, in less of a way than he is, but still a risk with my life and body to help someone.—Jennifer Hansen, gestational surrogate, in Lorraine Ali and Raina Kelley's "The Curious Lives of Surrogates"
The cover art for The Surrogates shows a futuristic robot in a full-armored suit with fire shooting between its hands. In the background is an ominous city. This graphic novel tells the story of a place called Central Georgia Metropolis in the year 2050. In this city, everyone who can afford one owns a surrogate, to complete activities deemed too dangerous for the individual, who safely remains at home giving directions. This narrative fits nicely into the science fiction genre, yet, and maybe not surprisingly, what it relates is no longer entirely science fiction. Predating the events of this futuristic tale by forty-five years, Major Isaac J. Peltier, in the 2005 report "Surrogate Warfare: The Role of U.S. Army Special Forces," declared that the special forces, also called surrogate forces, play a "critical role in prosecuting the Global War on Terror. Their ability to wage unconventional warfare remains their trademark. Operations in Afghanistan and northern Iraq . . . successfully leverage a surrogate force to achieve U.S. objectives."
Of course, these special forces are not the robots of 2050, but Major Peltier's description raises questions about the types of "unconventional warfare" that exist and the range of individuals who are contracted as "surrogate forces" to achieve U.S. objectives in the current moment. On April 7, 2008, Newsweek published an article on reproductive surrogates titled "The Curious Lives of Surrogates," uncovering just one special force of the "global [End Page 167] war on terror." The authors explain, "In the course of reporting this story, we discovered that many of these women are military wives who have taken on surrogacy to supplement the family income, some while their husbands are serving overseas. Several agencies reported a significant increase in the number of wives of soldiers and naval personnel applying to be surrogates since the invasion of Iraq in 2003" (Ali and Kelley 2008, 47).
What makes this exposé so shocking is its revelation that at a time when stereotypical representations of surrogates are increasingly visible in popular culture, in vitro fertilization clinics and surrogate agencies in Texas and California are reporting that military spouses represent 50 percent of gestational surrogate carriers.1 With gestational surrogacy, an embryo is implanted in the surrogate's womb and no part of the surrogate's genetic makeup is transferred to the fetus. Some critics of surrogacy thus call this process the "renting" or "outsourcing" of a womb.2 The Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering and its advocates criticize the development and use of reproductive technologies on several counts, but the central focus of their critique is that these technologies embody and institutionalize the patriarchal domination of women and scientifically managed reproduction (Balsamo 1996; see also Corea 1985 and Purdy 1996). Likewise, some European countries and twelve U.S. states, including New York ban the practice to protect women from becoming exploited as hired surrogates.3 Other feminists (see Shalev 1989) maintain that surrogacy is simply an economic transaction (similar to the reproductive transaction of men's selling sperm) and to deny either the commissioning parent or the surrogate the right to enter into that contract limits a woman's right to choose. Within these two polarized camps, however, a range of practices in and opinions about the morality of surrogacy exist that reflect the changes that have occurred over time in reproductive technologies, surrogacy laws, and surrogate availability. These factors shift as they are embedded within the relations of production between the hired and the hiring (the surrogate and the person desiring a child, respectively).4
Some will argue that this story of military wives as surrogates is a straightforward account of how reproductive technologies exploit women for patriarchal gains. Alternatively, others will stress that this could easily be a story about labor availability and the constant quest to find someone who will provide work for lower wages. But surrogacy now is not the surrogacy of the Baby M trial twenty years ago (see note 3), and one must account for how these changes shift the focus from local stories of infertile women to [End Page 168] a greater national and global project. As Faye D. Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp (1995) argue, "New strategies have emerged that comprehend the transnational inequalities on which reproductive practices, policies, and politics increasingly depend" (1). This is precisely how a reproductive technology procured and sanctioned across certain nations develops into a military technology, and Newsweek's account of military wives reveals the exact mechanism in which this mission is accomplished.
Although surrogacy is strictly outlawed in many places, there are states where it is legal (Texas, Illinois, Utah, and Florida) as well as states where it is both legal and regulated (a half dozen states, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and California).5 There appears to be a noncoincidental geography to surrogacy, as witnessed in the overlap between states where surrogacy is legal or unregulated, and those with large numbers of military bases.6 Like any other spatial story, this geography reveals something deeper about the social and cultural contexts in which this phenomenon occurs.
The Newsweek article illustrates how with one pregnancy, military wives who become surrogates can earn more than their husbands' annual base pay, which for new enlistees ranges from $16,080 to $28,900. Besides the limited economic opportunities in many of the places where military bases are located, military wives may have difficulties finding jobs since they are relocated frequently. A nine-month pregnancy provides the perfect time frame for earning income during their husbands' assignment at a particular base. Further, "military wives are attractive candidates [for surrogacy] because of their health insurance. Tricare [military health insurer] . . . has some of the most comprehensive coverage for surrogates in the industry. Fertility agencies know this, and may offer a potential surrogate with this health plan an extra $5,000" (Ali and Kelley 2008, 48).7
This essay is by no means an attempt to represent the embodied and varied experiences of the women who act as surrogates or the individuals who commission surrogates. No ethnographic fieldwork was completed to inform my analysis of this phenomenon. Rather, what interests me, in the words of Arturo Escobar, is that "ethnographies of technonature not focus on elite contexts only or on their impact on nonelite communities; they should also explore the locally constituted cultural and material resources that marginalized communities are able to mobilize for their adaptation or hybridization in the production of their identities and political strategies" (1999, 13). The portrayal of surrogate women in the media and the strategic decisions to tell only particular parts of their stories serve as a kind of political [End Page 169] strategy on the part of both Newsweek and the military wives who take on this role (Martin 1987; Ginsburg and Rapp 1995).
Drawing on feminist technology studies that explore how the coproduction of technology and gender serve as a point of political leverage (Bray 2007), I attempt to identify, through Newsweek's retelling, the new subjectivities—such as military wives as gestational surrogates—that have been created in our contemporary world. For Félix Guattari, social life is organized around the economy and therefore the productions of new subjectivities are created by "the deconstruction of the market and the recentering of economic activities" (1995, 122, qtd. in Escobar 1999, 12). Now more than ever, we are able to understand the implications of what the "destruction of the market" might look like and how this destruction results in new types of social practices.8
Although it has been in existence since biblical times, surrogacy, as described by Newsweek, is one of these new social practices because of the multitude of technologies associated with it. There are several ways in which technology is being employed here. Technologies of reproduction are the simplest, or most literal, in that these technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, are necessary for surrogacy to exist. Access to them is not equal across society and they are connected with hierarchies that highlight race and class (Inhorn and Birenbaum-Carmeli 2008). Ginsburg and Rapp (1995) encourage us to focus our analyses on "nexes of power shaping reproduction and not simply on the technologies themselves," since in the workings of power relations we see how "the control and distribution of knowledge and practices concerning reproduction are contested in everyday society" (5). Indeed, I am using a more complex notion of technology to describe the "political technologies of life" that discipline the body (Foucault 1978). These technologies, enacted through knowledge and everyday practices, are subsequently applied through micropower mechanisms, such as surveillance, as "interventions aimed at the entire social body or at groups taken as a whole" (146). Foucault emphasizes the important role of sexuality in politics, economics, and ideology and, in turn, why sexuality "was put forward as the index of a society's strength, revealing of both its political energy and its biological vigor. . . . This technology of sex was a whole series of different tactics that combined in varying proportions the objective of disciplining the body and that of regulating populations" (146). Whereas before the nineteenth century, Foucault argues, the regulation of populations was accomplished through technologies of death (citizens were disciplined through the guillotine), [End Page 170] we have moved away from a power whose function was to kill and instead toward "the development of the modern technologies of power that take life as their objective" (152). In accordance with this change, "there was an explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugation of bodies and the control of population, marking the beginning of an era of biopower" (140). Is surrogacy, in the form detailed in Newsweek, a part of that biopower era or a component of what comes next?
In After Nature, Escobar lists science fiction–like examples of what happens "after nature;" ultimately, the political ecology field, he believes, should "examine discourses and practices of life and the extent to which they are conducive to new natures, social relations, and culture practices" (1999, 13). Drawing on Guattari (1995), Escobar establishes a relationship between new technologies and subjectivity by emphasizing how "new technologies today are reinforcing the most retrograde aspects of capitalist valorization . . . also adumbrat[ing] other forms and modalities of being" (1999, 12). In terms of surrogacy, this framework provides a useful look at how "the possibilities created by new technologies are most promising when thought out in conjunction with the defense of place and place-based ecological, social, and cultural practices" (12).
The possibilities created by new technologies, those of surrogacy among them, are most capable when brought forth in a society that is in perpetual risk because of husbands (and wives) being sent off to war and because of looming economic collapse. This type of society moves us past Foucault's notions of discipline in a civil society to intensified disciplining by and through private entities—both citizens and corporations. Gilles Deleuze calls these "the societies of control, which are in the process of replacing the disciplinary societies" (1992, 4).9 Ulrich Beck (1992) describes such a society as one in which "the social production of wealth is systematically accompanied by the social production of risk" (19), a "risk society" emerging from a new modernity. "Risks are defined as the probabilities of physical harm due to given technological or other processes" (4). Similar to Deleuze's notion that we are moving toward a corporate society where individuals do not rely on the public sphere for solutions, Beck's claim is that the risk society is individualized with identities constructed and controlled around risk. "The promise of security grows with the risks and destruction and must be reaffirmed over and over again to an alert and critical public through cosmetic or real interventions in the techno-economic development" (20). Risk, which can be mitigated through the use of other technologies, is itself a technology, [End Page 171] since it exists only when knowledge about it is produced. "[Risks] can thus be changed, magnified, dramatized or minimized within knowledge, and to that extent they are particularly open to social definition and construction. Hence the mass media and the scientific and legal professions in charge of defining risks become key social and political positions" (23). Thus risk, not equally dispersed among individuals, becomes stratified (for instance, by such entities as Newsweek). Beck argues that this stratification of risk continues the capitalist development strategy, because society is producing both "the hazards and the political potential of the risk society" (23).
Twenty-five-year-old Jennifer Hansen, a paralegal married to army sergeant Chase Hansen, lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her two young children. Her husband has been deployed to Iraq for two of the past five years. In her interview with Newsweek (excerpted in the epigraph of this essay), Hansen's description of surrogacy as a "risk with my life and body" is not surprising, given that birthing in the United States is viewed as a medical crisis that requires technologies to ameliorate the situation (see Dumit and Davis-Floyd 1998). The medical establishment produces the discourses of risk associated with birthing, but also the solutions (such as the epidural, to rid woman of pain during her labor). Simultaneously, the risk Hansen is referring to has nothing to do with the pregnancy itself, but rather with fears of the future. At a time of war (even if it is a "War on Terror"), as in Beck's risk society, "the axes of gender, family and occupation begin to shake," leading to certain anxieties about the existence of future generations (1992, 15). As Deleuze and Beck maintain, society is becoming increasingly privatized and individualized, and thus, instead of the government's intervening in this risk of losing "the family," the replication of a generation becomes the work—the mission—of private citizens such as Jennifer Hansen. The reproductive technology of surrogacy is used as strategy against risk, and the production of this risk, as it is enmeshed within social relations, is a technology in itself.10
Donna Haraway writes that Zoe Sofia taught her that every technology is a reproductive technology. "She and I have meant that literally; ways of life are at stake in the culture of science. I would, however, like to displace the terminology of reproduction with that of generation" (Haraway 1992, 299). Haraway replaces the word "reproduction" with "generation" because in the "natural political economy . . . the group that loses its alpha males loses in the competitive struggle with the other organized organic societies (18). The best strategy to counter this loss might be for a certain group [End Page 172] of women (who are willing to participate because they not only believe in the cause but also lack any economic alternative) to replace the alpha males who have been lost to military technologies (guns and bombs) in the past five years or so in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Zoe Sofia maintains, "Every tool has reproductive implications and represents a form of reproductive choice" (1984, 48). For Sofia, the abortion debate and arguments over nuclear weapons are equally about reproductive choices, since both technologies have the possibilities to take away life: "It seemed at first that a contradiction existed between the ruling conservatives' interest in military escalation and their espoused desire to protect fetal life, but both positions turn out to be articulations of the collapsed future" (59).
This is precisely what Foucault refers to when he suggests that "the sovereign exercised his right of life only by exercising his right to kill," as often happens during a time of war; but now, one exercises power through life-affirming practices—in this case, carrying a fetus for another human (1978, 136).
In 1985, Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid's Tale, a fictional account of "wives [who] are married to men with military rank, which allows them a measure of privilege, including the right to employ a handmaid. . . . Econowives are coupled with the younger men who form the rank and file of the military regime and who do not have enough status to obtain a handmaid" (Balsamo 1996, 83). Handmaids serve as surrogate wombs for wives of infertile military leaders. So while this tale ostensibly represents the reverse scenario to the Newsweek story of military wives providing surrogate wombs for needy couples, Anne Balsamo explains that the handmaid Offred, the central character in Atwood's novel, understands her importance to society, as revealed in Offred's confession that she is "a national resource" (65). In her Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women, Balsamo uses The Handmaid's Tale reference as an example of how new forms of reproductive technologies are "subtly but unmistakably being used as surveillance devices." In reality, "for some women, the regime of surveillance described in humiliating detail in the novel is less fiction than biography" (1996, 86). The use of reproductive technologies is not mainly directed at the health and survival of the mother; instead, as Joseph Dumit and Robbie Davis-Floyd stress, "the most desirable end product of the birth process is the new social member, the baby; the new mother is a secondary by-product" (1998, 5).11 To achieve this new (and perfect) social member, the mother concedes to both aggressive social monitoring as well as the monitoring of her womb [End Page 173] through reproductive technologies such as ultrasound and amniocentesis.12 Likewise, the fetus the woman carries begins its lifetime of being watched before he or she is even born.
Without personally conducting in-depth interviews with the surrogates profiled by Newsweek, it is difficult to fully comprehend how, if at all, surveillance techniques involved with reproductive technologies affect the agency of military wives who seem more than happy to allow their bodies to be watched: "One could posit that in order to establish themselves as the parents of the child gestating in the surrogate, the commissioning couples use the technologies common to surrogacy to merge with (hormone synchronization), regulate (labor induction), or peer through (ultrasound) the surrogate's body, thus ignoring her personhood" (Roberts 1998, 203).
In the ethnography "'Native' Narratives of Connectedness: Surrogate Motherhood and Technology," Elizabeth Roberts urges readers to consider that surrogates are not acting out of false consciousness and instead are actively shaping their experiences. "The surrogates [Roberts] spoke with embraced metaphors of themselves as receptacles for the children they gestate, which may stem from a contrarian delight in turning criticism on its head" (1998, 204). Such subverting criticism allows "the woman who agrees to be a surrogate . . . a chance to have a 'cathartic' experience which will allow her to break out of her primary role while staying within the boundary of the traditional female domain" (204). Surrogacy is the perfect job for a woman who is situated in a gendered culture (such as the military) and unemployed: "Military wife Gernisha Myers, 24, says she was looking through the local San Diego PennySaver circular for a job when she saw the listing: 'Surrogate Mothers Wanted! Up to $20,000 Compensation!' The full-time mother of two thought it would be a great way to make money from home, and it would give her that sense of purpose she'd lacked since she left her job as an X-ray technician in Phoenix" (Ali and Kelley 2008, 48).
This sentiment of having a "sense of purpose" alluded to by Myers is not exclusive to military surrogates, but is prevalent in most of the narratives of military wives' motivations to become a surrogate. Jennifer Hansen describes the importance of her role as a surrogate—a role that remains within the boundary of the traditional female domain—as being parallel to that of her husband's duty in Iraq. Hansen's interview became the focus of the shorter reprints of the Newsweek article in major U.S. newspapers, probably because her empowerment is enmeshed in a greater discourse of nationalism. Her breaking out of her primary role as a mother to that of primary (or secondary) [End Page 174] earner is sanctioned because it is performed in the name of nationalism. Is the reader supposed to learn that one can break with gendered roles (although is becoming a surrogate really breaking that role or is becoming the breadwinner where the break occurs?) if it serves a national agenda? What is that agenda?
According to Inderpal Grewal, the national agenda is twofold: "In the public realm of defense, the state remains powerful and uses female subjects within the private sphere, such as the mother to produce soldiers and patriots, as well as to become both the subject and agent of security through new surveillance technologies that emphasize the governmentality of security. The work of security is governmentalized through the function of the mother" (2006, 28). Motherhood and nationalism have been well examined previously (e.g., Kahn 2000, Kanaaneh 2002); however, it is through Grewal's notion of "security moms" that the reader begins to truly understand the ways in which the current trend of U.S. military wives becoming surrogates and the lives of the fictional handmaids of Atwood's world begin to merge and intersect, blurring fact and fiction—through the pervasive discourses of nationalism and biological as well as social reproduction that underlie both phenomena. Grewal describes the "security mom" figure as a female citizen-subject who was "called forth in the last presidential election [that of George W. Bush] by the Republicans and that brings even more to the forefront the ways in which the neoliberal state maintains and disavows its powers and limits through the dynamic of public and private" (2006, 25). "Islamic terrorists" and "criminal illegal aliens" are the two figures that the security mom fears most; Grewal stresses, however, that things are not as straightforward as simply protecting one's family from those two threats, as women have a more complex notion of security. In Grewal's assessment, the security mom links home to homeland and then motherhood with the responsibility to protect something larger than just one's family: "By making the mother into both the subject and the agent of security, motherhood becomes governmentalized. However, the increasing power of the religious right and the control of reproduction suggests that this subject is also the focus of sovereign and disciplinary power, producing domestic subject-citizens whose empowerment coincides with the needs of the nation and the state" (30).
Security moms are women who initiate the policing of themselves, their family, and those around them through surveillance techniques, such as home security systems or cell phones, which allow them to track the location of their husbands and other family members. These acts are empowering for [End Page 175] the women, since they are actively reducing risk by controlling the safety of themselves and those around them; but as Grewal adds, these actions simultaneously serve a function that suits the needs of the state that has extended to its citizens the responsibility of maintaining a secure nation.
Ali and Kelley describe surrogate Jennifer Cantor as "perfectly built for [surrogacy]: six feet tall, fit and slender but broad-hipped" (2008, 45). Cantor does indeed sound strong—a perfect recruit for basic training. Yet military surrogates are recruited not for their physical strength, but for being socially reproduced obedient citizen-subjects: individuals who are normalized to surveillance, security, and risk and who can perform the explicit mission of biologically reproducing a certain race and class of new citizen-subjects. Military wives as surrogates are a product of the same hegemonic cultural forces that create security moms and the Homeland Security Advisory System, which alerts us to our current threat level through the use of colors—red for severe and green for low. Surrogates provide an even more distinct and tangible connection to the process of governmentality, since military wives are protecting the nation not through the standard means of surveillance but by physically "produc[ing] soldiers and patriots . . . through new surveillance technologies" that have traditionally been embedded in the reproductive technologies of surrogacy. While Grewal's security moms are part of a security project "not just of the state or individual subject within liberalism that relies on civil society, but of a nation as a space of security that is both deterritorializing and reterritorializing" (2006, 31), military wives as surrogates are not, in fact, the classic subjects of governmentality on civil society. They move us to the "after nature" of modern subjectivity—past using cell phones for surveillance—to a new form (or era) of privatized biopower. The society of risk in which security moms and military surrogates exist is no different, but military surrogates are part of a culture of risk in a very real way, on a day-to-day basis, in comparison with security moms. Military surrogates have husbands in Iraq, whereas security moms have kids at soccer games; military surrogates are recruited (or are recruiting themselves) not only for their ability to give life, the new form of disciplinary power, but also for their knowledge—their technology—of what it means to truly live in constant risk.
Donna Haraway maintains that "biopolitics is a flaccid premonition of cyborg politics, a very open field" (1991, 150). If we were to use a Venn diagram, we would see military wife surrogates located in the overlapping area where biopolitics meets cyborg politics. Perhaps we would then rename [End Page 176] this overlapping area "cyborg moms." As Grewal stresses, security moms produce security families, who live by the same security ethos as that of their mothers; likewise, cyborg moms produce cyborg babies. "Like the toys labeled 'transformers,' cyborg babies are malleable, fluid, available for socialization into the latest technomania" (Dumit and Davis-Floyd 1998, 9). Both Jana Sawicki and Donna Haraway "regard new reproductive technologies as 'potentially insidious forms of social control'" (Sawicki 1991, 70; qtd. in Roberts 1998, 196). In the same way, the military wife's work as an agent of security is a process of socialization into the risk society, initiated through the reproductive technology itself that monitors her and the fetus she carries. Like security moms, military wives are protecting something larger than just one's family through social surveillance measures. More important for the military surrogate, surveillance also becomes biological, in order to ensure the longevity of families (and communities) through providing the masses needed for a new generation of security agents—individuals who can physically outnumber "Islamic terrorists" or "criminal illegal aliens."
I do not mean to imply that the families who (can afford to) commission a surrogate are the same individuals who have sons (and daughters) who enlist in the army. In many cases, these are not the same people. Rather, I am interested in how surrogacy serves a broader goal of creating/maintaining a certain class and race of individuals who are "soldiers" in the sense that they do the privatized (and outsourced) work of security such as has been established in these neoliberal times. In her comprehensive overview of reproductive politics in the United States, Susan Markens finds that, historically, reproductive politics have been shaped by various factors. "These include cultural assumptions regarding the relation among womanhood, motherhood, and equality; the role and the needs of the state and nation; and race-based anxieties" (2007, 12). Markens further suggests, as we begin to see in the readers' comments to the Newsweek article, that surrogacy "taps broader societal concerns about the future of white families" as well as race and gender: "The category of women considered fit to be viewed or promoted as the 'honored mothers' of the nation, for instance, clearly had (and continues to have) a race and class component. Just as gender ideologies underlie political discourses about surrogate parenting, so do racialized notions of 'good' or 'natural' mothering" (Markens 2007, 14).
Further, Markens finds that the focus of anxieties surrounding the recent trend to delay marriage and subsequently childbearing (which can result in increased infertility) are caused by "fears about the reproduction of [End Page 177] the American family itself—meaning, of course, the white middle-class family (180). In fact, this uneasiness even becomes institutionalized in health insurance plans: "Evidence of stratified reproduction can be seen in attempts in the last decade to legislate infertility coverage that benefits typically white, middle-class workers who have health insurance but whose policies typically do not include contraceptive coverage" (171–72).
Ginsberg and Rapp (1995) similarly employ the term "stratified reproduction," "an idea developed by Shelle Colen, to describe the power relations by which some categories of people are empowered to nature and reproduce, while others are disempowered" (3). Who are the carriers of these babies and for whom are these babies being produced? Race is mentioned on only one occasion throughout the entire Newsweek article. The authors provide the context that Gernisha Myers, who is African American, is now eighteen weeks pregnant with the twins of Karin and Lars, a white couple who live in Germany. Notwithstanding the example of Myers, the reader will no doubt gain the assumption, supported by the photographs of pregnant white military wives inserted throughout the article, that all other individuals (both surrogates and commissioning couples) who are noted in the piece are white. Yet while gender and race are key to the greater story of social/biological reproduction and the national project, the race of the surrogate woman is inconsequential to Newsweek and its readers, since it is in the race, class, and gender of the fetus the surrogate carries that it is important. Reproductive technologies are used so that the African American Myers can herself maintain the dominant cultural mode of whiteness by carrying a white fetus for Karin and Lars.
Can the military wife as surrogate, regardless of race, truly be a (private) accomplice of the state if she is carrying a child for a couple in Germany? Yes, because the surrogates who are disciplined through reproductive technologies are themselves disciplining others, like couples in Germany, through their bodies—with their ability to give (or not to give) life. That is why this story of military wives as surrogates is not necessarily one of country-sanctioned pronatal policies that compensate for lost soldiers or workers or influxes of new immigrants. Rather it is one of a country's sanctioning private citizens to act in their own (economic and security) interests in order to alleviate risks (of poverty and terrorists attacks).13 The goal of this project reinforces, in Grewal's words, "a complex notion of security," which reveals the strength of the nation to reproduce and enforce new subjectivities that meet the needs of both individual citizens and the state in a society of risk. [End Page 178]
Bree Kessler is a doctoral student in the environmental psychology program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and an adjunct lecturer at New York University and Marymount Manhattan College. Her interests are gender and the built environment, reproductive/sexual health, and participatory action research. Her current project studies reality TV show home makeovers and the production of citizenship. She is a trained birthing doula and a frequent contributor to Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture on issues related to public health and the media.
Many thanks to Cindi Katz, Setha Low, Summer Wood, and Christine Caruso for their invaluable feedback on this essay.
1. Some examples from the popular culture in which surrogates are addressed include the 2008 movie Baby Mama, in which Tina Fey, a white businesswoman in her midthirties, commissions Amy Poehler, the stereotypical surrogate—a poor white woman without a college education and desperately in need of money—to become her surrogate; ABC's Ugly Betty, containing a surrogacy story line; and Dancing with the Stars, in which contestant Marissa Jaret Winokur continued to perform while the media discussed her pregnancy via gestational surrogate, but without giving any details about the actual surrogate.
There were about one thousand surrogate births in the United States in 2007 (Ali and Kelley 2008). However, these figures are unreliable, given that many clinics do not report to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the only organization that attempts to track surrogate births.
2. Since late 2007, there has been abundant coverage of "outsourced wombs," that is, the practice of foreign women using surrogates in India. Several months before the Newsweek article appeared, Judith Warner (2008) reported in the New York Times on women from the global North traveling to India to hire gestational surrogates at rates much cheaper than what was available to the former in their areas of the world.
3. Much of this debate began in 1987 during the infamous "Baby M" trial (see Pollitt 1987). Mary Beth Whitehead was paid ten thousand dollars in 1986 by a New Jersey couple, William and Elizabeth Stern, to bear Mr. Stern's child. Later, Whitehead asked for the baby (whom the Sterns named Melissa) to be returned to her. In 1988, the Supreme Court of New Jersey heard the case and awarded custody of Baby M to the Sterns. The Baby M case has had subsequent major implications for surrogacy law in the United States.
4. Some feminists might view paying a woman an appropriate wage in exchange for her "labor" as a fair transaction; however, the same feminists may not support surrogacy if the terms were different—if a woman received less payment (is valued less) in a different part of the world for the same work of being a surrogate (as in the case of the so-called outsourced wombs in India). [End Page 179]
5. The legal policies across the United States are varied and complex and outside the scope of this paper.
6. It is easy to see from a map of military bases in the United States that a significant difference exists between the number of bases located in California, Texas, and other states, and the number in Montana, South Dakota, and elsewhere. See http://www.nps.gov/history/nagpra/documents/BasesMilitaryMAP.htm.
7. In most circumstances, the individual(s) who contract the surrogate are responsible for paying for her health care during the prenatal, surrogacy, and postnatal periods. But Tricare currently will cover these expenses, relieving the contracting individuals (or agencies) of those costs. As noted by Newsweek, military officials asked for a provision in the 2008 defense authorization bill to cut off coverage for any medical procedures related to surrogate pregnancy. They were unsuccessful in this attempt.
Interestingly, after reading through hundreds of responses to the article on blogs (such as Surrogacy Lawyer) and in newspapers, and after watching TV shows such as Good Morning America, that addressed Newsweek's findings, I determined that most reactions concerned either the issue of "our" military men being underpaid—and of that being seen as a national crime—or the belief that military wives were abusing the health insurance system (and abusing Americans who pay taxes into that system to support the military). Unlike readers' postings to Warner's article "Outsourced Wombs," none of the responders asked who these women were carrying babies for, even though in some cases the U.S. military wives were outsourced and carrying fetuses for couples in Europe; nor did the responders worry that these military women themselves were being exploited. For a sampling of readers' comments, see "Member Comments" 2008.
8. After several weeks of continued decline on the New York Stock Exchange, on September 29, 2008, it was reported that by the end of the day, $1.2 trillion dollars had vanished from the U.S. stock market. As of early November 2008, the New York exchange and others around the world continue to fluctuate significantly.
9. In all quotations, emphases are in the original.
10. The risk of losing a generation is perpetuated not only by news of the number of soldiers who continue to be lost daily in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also xenophobic discourses in the United States that refer to how immigrants, mainly people of color, are beginning to outnumber white (English-speaking) citizens in this country.
11. Likewise, the sexual orientation of the commissioning parent is of no importance, since it is the baby—"the new social member"—that is the desired "end product." As Newsweek mentions, it is difficult to know the exact statistic for how many commissioning couples are same sex, since many agencies do not advertise that they assist same-sex couples and often couples themselves want to keep the matter private.
An important example of social monitoring is the public health campaign against smoking during pregnancy (see Oaks 2001). Essentially, the campaign provoked citizens to monitor pregnant smokers and shame them into quitting, to prevent births of "imperfect" children whose health problems would have been the fault of the smoking mothers.
12. Amniocentesis can be used to predict the sex of a fetus, but usually not until after the fourteenth week of pregnancy. Ultrasounds also can be used, but not until at [End Page 180] least the twentieth week. There are new technologies (not approved by the medical community) that are used to predict sex earlier. For instance, a British company called DNA Worldwide manufactures a blood test that analyzes fetal DNA for the presence of the male Y chromosome, allowing sex to be determined as early as five weeks into the pregnancy. Another company, Urobiologics, claims to be able to detect fetal sex using a sample of the pregnant woman's urine as early as one day after her first missed period. With these technologies, will commissioning parents begin to pick which embryos to implant in surrogates on the basis of desired sex or even decide to discontinue a pregnancy following knowledge of the sex of the fetus? In addition, we must consider whether surrogates are more prone than nonsurrogates to invasive technologies, such as amniocentesis, that are used early on to detect genetic diseases such as Down syndrome so that the commissioning parents can be ensured a perfect baby (free of disease and disorder). Could surrogates be additionally subjected to these procedures, since commissioning parents are removed from the embodied experience (the physical pain) of the women carrying the fetus?
13. Pronatal policies have been enacted to various degrees, from authoritarian to laisser-faire, in Russia and other countries in eastern Europe, and historically in Israel and Germany to serve as a way to ensure maintenance of a workforce or an army. One might argue that during the administration of George W. Bush, U.S. pronatal policies have existed through such devises as abstinence-only education and the appointments of pro-life Supreme Court justices. But still, this is not what is meant by pronatal policies in the traditional sense.