Eric Chwang (Rutgers University-Camden): "Commercial Surrogacy as Less Objectionable Baby-Selling"

Wed, Sep 27, 2017, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Location: 
Robertson Hall Bowl 001

Eric Chwang is assistant professor of philosophy and Henry Rutgers Term Chair in Ethics, Health, and Society at Rutgers University Camden.  Before that, he was assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  He received his Ph.D from Princeton in 2003, and an M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine in 2005.  His research mainly focuses on ethical issues surrounding consent.

ABSTRACT: In the 1980s, a pair of controversial court cases—“Baby Cotton” in the UK and “Baby M” in the United States—led to a flurry of scholarly work on ethical and legal issues surrounding contract pregnancy for profit, or paid surrogacy for short.  In this paper I will focus on just one alleged problem with paid surrogacy, namely that it sells babies.  This particular problem has been under-explored, and though many authors have commented on it, those discussions have conflated a semantic question—whether paid surrogacy sells babies—with a moral one—whether paid surrogacy is wrong.  Thus, critics of paid surrogacy who discuss baby-selling think that is exactly what the practice is, whereas defenders of the practice deny it.

I will separate these two questions, one semantic and the other moral, and treat them independently.  Thus, I will first argue for the purely semantic thesis that paid surrogacy sells babies.  Then I will argue that the concession that paid surrogacy sells babies gives us no additional reason to ban the practice beyond whatever reasons we might have already had without that concession.  Finally, I will argue that paid surrogacy evades serious objections that afflict paid adoption.

Respondent: Melinda Roberts, Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Religion, and Classical Studies (The College of New Jersey)