When a couple is unable to bear children, there can be a lot of pain and confusion. They want a family so dearly, but for whatever reason they struggle to get pregnant. Sometimes, couples choose to turn to different avenues in order to have the family of their dreams. While adoption is a great choice for some, many couples have also started looking into surrogacy.
The surrogacy process allows the couple to see a child through conception, pregnancy and birth. It also allows there to be a biological connection to the child for one of the parents. In this situation, a third-party referred to as the surrogate mother, will carry the embryo throughout the pregnancy. The surrogate will give up the baby to its intended parents at het time of birth.
While this practice has certainly grown in popularity over the decades, many Christians struggle to understand if this is the right option for them. What does God think, and what does the Bible have to say about it?
Story of Abraham and Sarah
The Bible does not address the issue of surrogacy directly. The closest Biblical story we have to surrogacy is of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis chapter 16. Sarah was unable to bear children, so she gave her servant, Hagar, to Abraham. This was a common practice during the Biblical times, since a childless woman was considered shameful. This story more closely resembles what we call “traditional surrogacy” today, where the mother is impregnated with the sperm of a man—often one whose wife is incapable of producing eggs—usually by means of artificial insemination.
There is also the option of “gestational surrogacy,” which involves transplantation of an already-conceived embryo containing the sperm and egg from a couple. In this case, the surrogate’s role is simply that of a carrier, which was not the case with Hagar.
Through Hagar’s story, we see how complicated a surrogacy process can be. There is a chance of pain, heartache and confusion for both the surrogate and the couple. Hager has problems giving up the child to Sarah when it was born, and this kind of problem can certainly still happen today. Giving away a child, despite the financial aspect of surrogacy, can cause incredible pain because of the bond that forms between the mother and the child she’s carrying before it’s born. However, many surrogate women and couples who employ them today are able to stick with their established and agreed upon roles happily and with contentment.
Morality of Surrogacy
The Bible does not forbid the practice outright, but it does bring up questions of if surrogacy itself is moral or ethical. In Psalm 127:3 we see that children are a gift to couples and not everyone is blessed with them. God will not always give us exactly what we want. Just as He blesses some people with incredible wealth, He only blesses some of us with the ability to have children. Could you possibly be going against God’s plan for you by trying to have a child anyway? In addition, marriage is designed to be between two people, and children are to be born of that union (Genesis 1:28, 2:24). To bring in a third party means that the child will have a third parent.
Further questions have to be asked that may be difficult to answer. For example, will the baby know its surrogate mother? Will there be visitation? How will the child be expected to feel about the surrogate mother and will there be jealousy?
Many Christians also struggle with the financial aspect that is tied to surrogacy. Some consider it to be selling a child, and go as far as to say it’s a form of human trafficking. In the United States, surrogate mothers are typically paid $20,000 to $25,000 for their help in the process.
Seek God for wisdom (James 1:15) and discern the root of your desire for a family. If using a surrogate is in defiance of God and a way to “get your own way,” that would be sin. If using a surrogate is a way for you as a couple to bring glory to God, then carefully plan and define each person's role going forward and seek God's blessing. All that we do should be done to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Couples who use a family member as surrogate can often head off problems before they arise if the surrogate has a strong bond with the couple and has their welfare and that of their child at heart.
While certainly moral issues are important to follow and abide by, it is difficult to judge anyone unless or until they "have walked a mile in the other person's shoes." This being the case, it is felt by many that infertility is a medical condition – and until anyone has actually faced the reality of not being able to have a child, it is difficult to get a feel for how truly devastating this situation can be. With all of this in mind, it’s truly up to God and the couple about what is right for them. Above all, those who are in the process should consistently pray for wisdom.