Multiple biological mothers: The case for gestation

Journal of Social Philosophy 23 (1):98-104 (1992)
It is now medically possible for a baby to have two biological mothers. A fertilized ovum from one woman can be implanted into a second woman for gestation in her uterus. In fact, there have been several such cases. The ova donor is the mother in the genetic sense: her genetic material,along with that of the sperm donor,appears in the developing baby. The uterine hostess is the birth mother: she gestates the fetus and gives birth to it. In essence, the two female reproductive functions, genetic and gestational, can be and have been divided from each other. Our current conception of biological maternity has lagged behind these technological marvels and still assumes that both functions will be performed by the same woman. At a time when two "biological mothers" can and do make claims for the same child,each on the ground that she is the "true mother", it is crucial to examine our concepts of biological maternity and their relation to our social policies about maternity in these cases. In this paper I will argue that the best social and legal policy would involve a prima facie preference for the claims of the gestational mother over the claims of the genetic mother for custody of the child in a contest (if there is no question of parental unfitness on either side). That is, in any dispute, presumption should be in favor of the gestational mother. This argument is made independent of considerations about pre-birth and pre-conception contracts, because the issues raised about the roles of gestational and genetic maternity are substantial in themselves and have obvious implications about the acceptability of such contracts.Rather, I argue that a revision of our concept of biological maternity which emphasizes the importance of gestation and which would prefer the claims of the gestational over the genetic mother would have positive benefits for both women and newborns.
Keywords gestational surrogacy  biological maternity
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9833.1992.tb00488.x
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