The surrogate mother business model is flourishing worldwide. Poor women are abused as incubators and children are traded like commodities. A billion-dollar market that breaks ethical and moral boundaries and exploits both women and children.

What do Paris Hilton, Elton John and two American gay priests have in common? They all had children born to strange women in order to then buy the children from them. Foreign childbirth is trendy.

The so-called “surrogacy” is currently becoming the modern human trafficking of our time on a global market. Yes, human trafficking. That’s what happens when a person changes hands in exchange for money. If you believe you have the right to negotiate and conclude contracts about someone’s marital status, place of residence and price.

It is already a 14 billion dollar business worldwide. The business model works in distributed roles: it benefits the rich, those unwilling or unable to give birth, singles and homosexuals. Modern reproductive medicine deserves a billion-dollar industry.

Poor women around the world are exploited, reduced to incubators and whose plight is exploited. Children are sold, traded like goods on the world market or thrown away if they are not as perfect as advertised in the catalogs of the enterprising agencies.

The child is degraded to an object. Unlike slavery, which was rightly abolished, the child sold globally should be grateful and happy and not ask stupid questions about his or her biological origins later on.

The child becomes a commodity that should be available to its customers without production errors, in the right gender, in the right number, in full health, at an affordable price and at the right time in the work-life balance. After all, everyone has the right to have a child without discrimination, right? To do this, all ethical and moral boundaries that have already been recognized worldwide are torn down: human trafficking for adults is socially outlawed, but buying children is okay? Are human rights now measured in kilos of life weight?

While it has been agreed, at least in the civilized part of the world, that organ trafficking must be outlawed worldwide so that the plight of poor people cannot be exploited, it is okay to sell women in Third World slums, destitute single mothers or even desperate women in Georgian women’s shelters to recruit and buy their children? A kidney no – a whole child yes?

Birgit Kelle, born in 1975, publishes as a freelance journalist for various print and online media in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. She is the author of various bestsellers, such as the feminism criticism THEN SHUT THE BLOUSE, the satirical gender criticism GENDERGAGA and the polemic MOTHERTIER and co-author of numerous other books. The last thing she published was STILL NORMAL? – THIS CAN BE GENDERED. She has been known to TV audiences for years as a pointed talk guest in the German media landscape and as a sought-after expert in the areas of gender, women’s and family policy as well as bioethics and civil rights. Kelle is an enthusiastic mother of four, a female feminist and has a chronic tendency to speak uncomfortable truths. She lives in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The perfect, healthy child that can be delivered promptly is only a question of money. Do you want good genes? Costs extra. Do you want it delivered quickly without waiting? Costs extra. Do you want a baby take-home guarantee? Costs extra.

Do you want a guaranteed healthy child? Costs extra. Oh, you just wanted a boy? Also costs extra. Do you want three at once? No problem, it just costs extra. Everyone here wants a child, but absolutely no one cares about their rights as a human being. It should finally come and spread joy and make his intended parents happy – after all, it was quite expensive.

Anyone, absolutely anyone, can have a child without state control and without asking. It is not for nothing that investigative authorities around the world are sounding the alarm because surrogacy is another link in the chain of forced prostitution, organized crime and organ trafficking. Not all children are produced in the “baby factories” of Africa, Ukraine, Mexico or the USA to be loved.

The first cases of pedophiles who offer their purchased children on the Darknet and abuse them themselves are already before judges. Even in Germany. If you pay 60,000 euros for a child in Europe and up to 300,000 euros in the USA and the surrogate mothers are fobbed off with sums between 5,000 and 20,000, there is a higher profit margin than with drug trafficking and it is easier and more legal to deal with.

Even in Germany, despite the ban on surrogacy, so-called baby wish fairs have been taking place for years without being interfered with by the authorities, such as the “Men Having Babies” fair in Berlin, a fair specifically for gay men, or the “Wish For A Baby” in Berlin and Cologne, where I was offered a child without any genetic relationship through an agency in Ukraine. I could have bought the eggs in Spain to get around the German ban on egg donation. I get an anonymous sperm cell from Denmark to get around the German ban on anonymous sperm donation.

I can have as many embryos as I want created in a cheap laboratory in Ukraine and thus circumvent the German embryo protection law. I choose the surrogate mother in the online catalog from Bulgaria, Romania, Kazakhstan or Georgia and the child is then born in Cyprus because you can count on friendly authorities there.

Or on Crete, where other agencies were only exposed in the summer of 2023 with a human trafficking ring and several dozen women from the East who were kept there in rented apartments to give birth to children. I could have had “my” child cheaply for 52,000 euros, or ordered online for a paltry 36,000. No one asked me any questions about my motivation.

In Europe, Ukraine is the Eldorado of the scene. Nowhere else can you get a child cheaper and with fewer questions. And business continues buoyantly despite the war, as the agencies themselves confirm and spread on the Internet in numerous languages ​​with advertising videos like those from the holiday catalog. War, where? Other agencies from Kiev and Kharkiv have moved the business to the border or even to new premises behind the border, as agencies confirmed to me, so that anxious customers from the rich West do not have to travel to the war zone.

 “Surrogacy,” it sounds so cute, but it’s not. This isn’t a library where you return a book after you’ve finished reading it. There is no mother being “borrowed” here, but rather a woman being exploited and her child being sold. She is explicitly not supposed to be a mother, nor is she supposed to develop or claim any maternal feelings, because the child she carries in her body for nine months is not supposed to be hers. That’s why people around the world don’t call her mother, but rather “surrogate”, “carrier” or “birth person”.

The linguistic elimination as a mother is then followed by the real un-mothering of the child. As a rule, the child is taken away from her immediately after birth, some never get to hold it even once, and many don’t know where the child will go afterwards. The testimonials from former surrogate mothers tell of legal gag contracts, subsequent physical damage and emotional wounds.

From the woman’s perspective, surrogacy is simply prostitution 2.0. The modern pimp no longer works in the dingy red light milieu, but is much more lucrative as an intermediary in the reproduction business across continents. In the past, people “only” exploited women’s sexuality, but today they want their ability to give birth in exchange for money. Traditional prostitution is sex without procreation. Surrogacy is reproduction without sex.

The principle remains: the woman becomes an object. The person is no longer interested, not the person, no longer the woman, only her stomach and the smooth functioning of her childbearing capacity.

While legions of feminists accuse the church, patriarchy and reactionaries of degrading women to an “incubator” in a normal father-mother-child marriage, modern reproductive medicine has actually long since been implemented and sold with the friendly support of progressive “family politicians”. it even represents a new reproductive self-determination for women.

She should breed, throw and then shut up. Not even the patriarchy, which is still being fought against, has practiced this in such a disgusting way. At least she was married beforehand and looked after afterwards. Here she is left behind without rights and medical care. The prostitute has been verbally promoted to a “sex worker,” while the surrogate mother is analogously turned into a “reproductive worker” who is supposed to sell the product of her work. What an emancipatory achievement!   

Anyone who wants to legalize surrogacy in Germany should first look at the whole truth behind this business. Because it’s not about the understandable desire of a handful of people to have children, not about anti-discrimination for that part of the LGBT community that cannot fertilize each other, not about cute googly-eyed photos of celebrity babies of aging Hollywood starlets, but about broken women’s bodies and sold children and also organized crime. Anyone who agrees here is also getting their hands dirty.

The traffic light government had a group of experts on reproductive medicine working for a whole year and presented the results in April. They want to legalize not only abortion and egg donation, but also surrogacy “in certain cases,” for example when “the protection of the surrogate mother and the well-being of the child are sufficiently guaranteed.” 

If “parents and surrogate mother know each other through a family relationship,” for example. If they “make an agreement that a relationship between both parties will continue beyond birth. And if a “surrogate mother receives appropriate compensation”. A very inflationary and uncontrollable “if” on many levels, which also combines the fundamental and the impossible and raises the question of how the state actually wants to implement its many “ifs” and whether this will really make things better?

I’m buying myself a child: The ignoble business of surrogacy

Time for some hard facts that cannot be resolved by laws or pretty contracts. There is no morally acceptable form of surrogacy, even if it is supposedly not done for money, a child will still change hands like an object. The question of whether a child has to be expensive or free in order to justify passing it on to a stranger to oneself and the rest of the world would be an exciting discussion for any slave market.

There is no right life in a wrong one, said the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno, countering man’s self-deception that he can somehow manage well in a fundamentally wrong or even evil social system.

Something wrong doesn’t become right by making the conditions of injustice prettier. “Surrogacy” does not become more morally acceptable if you paint the delivery room brightly, pay the mothers who give birth better or offer the purchase of children in a legally secure and financially special way on the market.

Nobody has ever come up with the comparably absurd idea that the earlier slave trade simply had to be carried out with more love at cheaper prices in their own country with decent contracts and DIN standards for the size of rooms in Uncle Tom’s hut in order to ensure universal human rights to be compatible. Because in the end a person would still have changed hands like a piece of cattle for money. Why should this be any less reprehensible for a small person than for a tall one? Are human rights now measured in kilos/live weight?

In terms of health, there is no other option that is more dangerous or less dangerous for the surrogate mother, because her health risk with an artificially forced pregnancy is extremely high, no matter how you twist and turn it.

You cannot protect the health of the women used for this purpose, you can only endanger them. Every, really every surrogacy is a high-risk pregnancy. The women are pumped full of leuprolide, estrogen, progesterone, antibiotics, the steroid Medrol and immunosuppressants such as tacrolimus so that their bodies do not reject the embryo like a foreign organ.

All of this leads to the extremely high number of miscarriages, then the process starts all over again until it works, or the woman’s body no longer cooperates and she is exchanged for a new incubator with a healthy body. Surrogacy leads to high blood pressure, pregnancy toxemia, cramps, liver rupture – to name a few common side effects.

Quite a few women lose their uterus after this procedure and are then infertile themselves. This is not a “happy expectation”, but rather pure health horror.

Nobody knows what surrogacy does to the children affected. How does this bomb of drugs actually affect the unborn child in the womb?

What does it do to a child to learn that he or she has been purchased as an object? That his mother already has children that she kept while it was sold herself? What happens to the children from whom the fact that they are surrogate children is hidden and to those who spend their lives searching for their biological origins?

The answer is simple and sobering: It is not even being researched, there are no medical studies on it, although 10,000 children are born using this method every year in the USA alone and are distributed all over the world. We don’t know, but we can imagine the damage the children themselves will suffer by filling their mothers with this medication kit, as every normal pregnant woman is advised to avoid medication altogether if possible.

The child is also always at risk due to the high-risk pregnancy, the unfortunately standardized health risks and long-term consequences of all artificial insemination, the many premature births and psychologically due to the separation trauma that is given to it immediately after birth by taking away its mother.

So how exactly do you want to ensure “children’s welfare” in German politics, which is now looking for ways to legalize at least the altruistic, i.e. non-commercial, variant? We always like to hear the heartwarming examples of the sister or mother who could carry a child for their sister or daughter with cancer, so it would stay “in the family”.

Is it better for the child’s well-being if he knows which mother didn’t want him? Or is it better for the child never to know who he is descended from? The sentence, “The main thing is that the child is loved” is just a selfish phrase used by adults who want to have children. No matter what, the health risks remain, see above.

We have absolutely no idea what it means psychologically for the child if his mother is also his own grandmother or sister. But of course, children certainly find such family puzzles very exciting.

Furthermore, what is this “agreement on a further relationship” supposed to be, which is supposed to put surrogacy in a good light as a prerequisite? Can relationships now be enforced and recorded by law? Then it will definitely work in the same way as with a forced marriage and with a forced relationship with a child. By the way, bad relationships are also ongoing relationships, or do we even want to legislate good relationships?

In fact, this suggestion from the expert commission is null and void, as a relationship between children and adults cannot be contractually agreed upon. In fact, we cannot even force biologically related children of divorce that their parents take care of their children after a divorce. But now you want to legally force buyers, surrogate mothers and children into an emotional relationship and thus “heal” the strange family constellation?

Then, of course, there’s still the dear money. So it should be altruistic, the woman should definitely approve of her physical and mental exploitation so that everyone else feels a little better, but at the same time she should also be compensated “appropriately”, which is like squaring the circle.  Apparently only altruistic surrogacy has been practiced with devotion in England for 30 years and the earth is apparently flat after all.

The whole truth then looks like this: The helpline against human trafficking not only reported a 30 percent increase in victims last year, but also several calls from surrogate mothers who were forced to do so. Others have their altruism rewarded with up to 25,000 British pounds per year in the low sector. However, it is not called the purchase price, but rather “compensation for expenses”.

The “ifs” of these proposals from German experts who believe that an enclave of philanthropy could be created in a business that already operates across borders with German regulations are nothing more than nonsense.

In the end, a child is still produced like a thing in order to hand it over to another person in exchange for money and the ownership rights to the child are even contractually regulated before conception. Children are not things. That would actually say everything. It’s pathetic that we have to discuss this again in the 21st century.