Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Interpretations, perspectives and intentions in surrogate motherhood
  1. Liezl van Zyl,
  2. Anton van Niekerk
  1. University of Waikato, New Zealand and University of Stellenbosch, South Africa respectively


    In this paper we examine the questions “What does it mean to be a surrogate mother?” and “What would be an appropriate perspective for a surrogate mother to have on her pregnancy?” In response to the objection that such contracts are alienating or dehumanising since they require women to suppress their evolving perspective on their pregnancies, liberal supporters of surrogate motherhood argue that the freedom to contract includes the freedom to enter a contract to bear a child for an infertile couple. After entering the contract the surrogate may not be free to interpret her pregnancy as that of a non-surrogate mother, but there is more than one appropriate way of interpreting one's pregnancy. To restrict or ban surrogacy contracts would be to prohibit women from making other particular interpretations of their pregnancies they may wish to make, requiring them to live up to a culturally constituted image of ideal motherhood. We examine three interpretations of a “surrogate pregnancy” that are implicit in the views and arguments put forward by ethicists, surrogacy agencies, and surrogate mothers themselves. We hope to show that our concern in this regard goes beyond the view that surrogacy contracts deny or suppress the natural, instinctive or conventional interpretation of pregnancy.

    • Surrogate motherhood
    • parental rights and responsibilities

    Statistics from

    Request Permissions

    If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


    • Liezl van Zyl, Dphil, is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. Anton van Niekerk, Dphil, is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

    Other content recommended for you