Saturday, October 24, 2015

Commercial Surrogacy Debate - Opening Statement

On 22 October 2015, I participated in a debate about the legalisation of commercial surrogacy (that's why I have been writing about the topic recently). Above you can find an audio version of my opening statement. This was a version that I recorded in advance to see whether what I had to say would fit within the allotted 15 minutes, but it should be pretty close to what I actually said.

When I initially agreed to participate in this debate, I was asked to argue against commercial surrogacy. In the week before the debate, I was asked to switch sides by the organisers, which I did. The very fact that I was willing to do so probably indicates that this is a topic about which I feel somewhat divided. In general, I lean in favour of legalising most things (e.g. drug use, sex work), but prior to this debate I had never really thought about the surrogacy issue. On balance, I think legalisation is probably the better option, largely for reasons I expressed in a previous blog post (and repeat in my opening statement), but I'm not sure.

Anyway, you can listen to what I had to say above. Before you do, here are a few listening notes:

  • I really struggled to reduce what I wanted to say to 15 minutes. To do so, I had to skip over some of the nuances and grey areas in my argument. This was an interesting exercise for me as it was the first real public debate in which I participated with such time limits.

  • In my initial definition of surrogacy (and later when responding to one of the anti-commodification arguments), I did not distinguish between genetic and gestational forms. I am aware of the distinction, but decided not to mention it because I felt my argument covered both types.

  • I did not discuss all possible forms of the anti-commodification argument. I do a slightly better job of this in one of my previous blog posts.

  • The empirical studies (or reviews of such studies) that I mention in the speech are more complex than I let on. Although I stand by the claim that surrogacy agreements in developed countries are pretty well implemented, I appreciate there have been problems with them too. 

  • I am aware of issues associated with exploitation and consent in surrogacy agreements. I discuss them at greater length here, but I did not have time to address them in my opening speech. The idea was that the third argument I offered could address these concerns.

If you care, the proposition won the debate (i.e. the audience voted in favour of commercialisation), but I view this as being virtually meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

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