Surrogacy and human flourishing
Seow Hon Tan Associate Professor, School of Law, Singapore Management University

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Opposition to legalizing surrogacy often involves the argument that it commodifies or objectifies women and children. When surrogacy involves consenting parties claiming to benefit from the transaction, commodification- or objectification-based arguments seem unpersuasive. This article argues that new natural law theory offers an alternative case against legalizing surrogacy based on the violation of basic goods of human flourishing, a notion which unpacks afresh what is really at stake in the commodification/objectification arguments. Exploring the new natural law approach through John Finnis’s theory, this article suggests that the new natural law case against surrogacy hinges on the link between childbirth and raising children, which turns out to be the major bone of contention in the surrogacy debate. The establishment of the link turns on answers to empirical questions as to what is in the best interests of the child, as well as on contested notions of motherhood, raising questions of a philosophical or normative nature. This article elucidates for policy makers and legislators the precise issues they must face squarely in order to determine whether to legalize or prohibit surrogacy arrangements.

Contributor Notes

Part of this article was presented at a workshop at the IVR World Congress 2019, as well as at a research seminar at the Singapore Management University. I appreciate the discussion with participants on both occasions, and also the constructive feedback of anonymous reviewers and comments of editors of this journal. I thank Iris Ng for her assistance several years ago in finding articles on surrogacy as I started researching on this area.

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