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Is There a Right to Surrogacy?

Journal of Applied Philosophy

Published online on


Access to surrogacy is often cast in the language of rights. Here, I examine what form such a right could take. I distinguish between surrogacy as a right to assisted procreation, and surrogacy as a contractual right. I find the first interpretation implausible: it would give rise to claims against the state that no state can fulfil, namely the provision of sufficient surrogates to satisfy the need. Instead, I argue that the right to surrogacy can only be plausibly understood as a contractual right. I then investigate two different sets of harms that are often employed to argue against such a contractual interpretation of the right to surrogacy: (1) harm to women's interests in a gendered society, and (2) harm to the sense of self of the surrogate. I assess both of these through the analytical lens of vulnerability. I find neither of them to be convincing arguments against surrogacy contracts. In conclusion, I agree that surrogacy contracts should be carefully regulated, but I disagree with those who call for prohibition of the right to surrogacy as a contractual right.