What Proponents of Bodily Autonomy Miss

uTN Social - Free Speech Social Media
(Blue Planet Studio/Getty Images)

The gratification of our desires must end where the commodification of human beings begins.

The discussion surrounding surrogacy is a fraught one. With all that is wrong in the world, one might wonder why we should take issue with distressed people using science and mutually beneficial market arrangements to orchestrate a goal as human and wholesome as parenthood.

Buttressing this position, Ella Whelan argues in The Critic UK that commercial surrogacy cannot be banned without sacrificing female autonomy.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Whelan attributes much of the desire to limit commercial surrogacy to a knee-jerk aversion to the wrenching reality of gestating a child only to give that child away. But that it is unpalatable, she writes, is not sufficient to make it illegal.

To her credit, Whelan also references problems surrounding surrogacy that pose a more direct threat to her preeminent concern of female autonomy. A multi-billion-dollar commercial-surrogacy industry in which the wealthy can, for the right price, rent the bodies of often desperate and impoverished women is difficult to reconcile with a movement that claims to empower all women.

Even in less desperate circumstances, the surrogate and the child are at a steep disadvantage. For one thing, surrogate pregnancies are far riskier than non-surrogate pregnancies. The physical threats posed to both the surrogate and the child are staggering. Yet these grim realities seem like little more than an abstraction. They are not part of the picture on Instagram when celebrities — from Pete Buttigieg to Alec Baldwin — toast the arrival of a child delivered from some well-compensated womb somewhere off-camera.

Despite all this, Whelan states that “limiting women’s ability to make free decisions about their body based on a moral objection to those decisions in certain circumstances (or the abuse of that decision by coercion) has ramifications for our bodily autonomy more broadly.”

Advertisement

Advertisement

In the shadow of our modern monument to the autonomous self, coercion and exploitation are collateral damage.

NR Daily is delivered right to you every afternoon. No charge.

Get Jim Geraghty’s tour of the political news of the day.

Get Kevin D. Williamson’s newsletter delivered to your inbox each Tuesday.

A weekly digest on business and economics from an NR sensibility.

Far from being an incidental peripheral issue to be mitigated by policy tweaks, exploitation of the vulnerable is a direct result of the commodification of persons. But this is difficult to see if our final measure of what is acceptable is that it be consensual.

This elevation of personal autonomy forces us to relegate questions of how we ought to live, questions that affect us most deeply, into the sphere of private opinion. We take our desires for connection, love, and sex, and rather than treat them with moral seriousness, we move through the materialist paths presented to us with our autonomy in our wallets. In the marketplace of persons, everything is a negotiation.

But some things are not meant to be transactional. Our bodies are not made for this. Our humanity isn’t, either. Even with contracts and consent, there are invisible but messy risks and ruptures and sorrows.

The obvious and inevitable injustices that flow from this reduction of the moral life are subordinated to the need to empower some to maintain the autonomous life — especially concerning sex and family formation.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Predictably, Whelan then connects the case for surrogacy to the case for abortion. “By criminalizing or limiting women’s decisions around how they use their bodies when it comes to prostitution or surrogacy, we set a precedent that says other people have a right to be involved in what decisions are made about our bodies.”

She is correct in linking the two. In the brute calculation of autonomy, if a child is not wanted, she must be able to be eliminated. If a child is not possible, she must be engineered. What is scarcely considered in any of this is the human cost of such a transactional view of humanity.

In Lost in the Cosmos, Walker Percy writes, “You live in a deranged age — more deranged than usual, because despite great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.”

With the rise of the technological view of the human person, we have collapsed the question of what should be done into the question of what can be done.

Advertisement

The price of this degradation benefits no one ultimately, not even those ostensibly privileged by it. In the history of the world, has the serial gratification of the autonomous self ever led anyone to a more deeply human life? Or even to a happy one? If, in the face of the mystery of a new life, we are prompted only to demand it as our right, then we lose the sort of reverence that is born of gratitude — gratitude for what cannot be bought, and whose deprivation we are at times meant to endure.

The progressive fear that we might end up legislating morality ignores the reality that we have long been legislating a radical moral framework of autonomy at any cost. We might instead begin with a common principle that the gratification of our desires must end where the commodification of human beings begins. If we are not willing to do that, then we can at least stop pretending that female liberation is anything more than a fig leaf for the perpetuation of the powerful at the expense of the weak.

Recommended


After Altercation at Restaurant, Black Lives Matter Claims NYC Vaccine Mandate Is Being Weaponized

‘Black people are not going to stand by, or you will see another uprising,’ BLM NYC co-founder says at Monday protest.


My Going Maskless Is Different, Says San Francisco Mayor, Because ‘I Was Feeling the Spirit’

Know who else feels the spirit and objects to the fun police? Everybody, that’s who.


Justice Kavanaugh Refuses to Buckle

He had to have known that voting as he did in the Texas case would bring him bad press.


The Real Story in Durham’s Indictment of Democratic Lawyer Michael Sussmann

The special counsel’s final report on the Clinton campaign’s manufacturing of the Trump–Russia collusion narrative will be very interesting reading.


Senator Sinema to Nancy Pelosi: Break Your Word on Infrastructure, and I’m Out

Sinema reportedly has told Joe Biden that she’s aware of the game being played by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.


The Real Biden Presidency Emerges

The heroic period of his administration was always a mirage.

The Latest


CVS Health Training Asks Employees to Make a ‘Personal Commitment Plan’ to ‘Mitigate Bias’

‘Understanding your privileges and how to leverage them so we can support others is a key component in being an active ally,’ CVS employees were told on an online call.


ASU Students Harassed at Multicultural Center over Being White, Supporting Police

Video of the incident purports to show minority students attempting to force two white male students to leave a common study area.


Harris Claims Footage of Border Patrol on Horseback Is Reminiscent of ‘Times of Slavery’

Her comments come after the media caused a frenzy by falsely portraying the videos and photos as showing agents hitting Haitian migrants with whips.


A Tale of Two Spaceflights

It’s SpaceX vs. Boeing, and so far, the private sector is outpacing the government-backed aerospace behemoth.


Democrats Face a Reckoning

Now is the autumn of their discontent.


Biden’s Shameful Attack on Border Patrol

Anyone with an interest in the truth knew that no one was whipped in Del Rio almost immediately after this became a trending topic.

Top Stories

Get our conservative analysis delivered right to you. No charge.


Most Popular


Border Patrol Outraged by Biden’s Scapegoating: ‘He Just Started a War’


Border Patrol Outraged by Biden’s Scapegoating: ‘He Just Started a War’

‘I see the administration wants to fry our agents, he just started a war with Border Patrol,’ said one agent.


Biden’s Shameful Attack on Border Patrol


Biden’s Shameful Attack on Border Patrol

Anyone with an interest in the truth knew that no one was whipped in Del Rio almost immediately after this became a trending topic.


CDC’s Rochelle Walensky Overrules Her Own Agency


CDC’s Rochelle Walensky Overrules Her Own Agency

The Biden team doesn’t always ‘follow the science.’


View More

Read More Feedzy

The Foxhole App - Trusted News Podcasts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *