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Posted in: Motherhood & Custody

Published on Jan 15, 2020 by Phyllis Chesler

Published by Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence

On the Proposed Legalization of Commercial Surrogacy: I Thought We Had Abolished the Sale of Human Beings

More than thirty years ago, I viewed the rise of legal, commercial surrogacy with fear and trembling. I immediately saw it as another kind of custody battle, one that pitted wealthy people against impoverished women.

In 1986, I had published a pioneering and controversial book about custody battles—Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody which documented the most profound anti-mother biases among both male and female lawyers, judges, and mental health professionals (Chesler, 1986).

In 1987, when I read the headlines about the Baby M case, I immediately met with the birthmother’s lawyers and traveled to New Jersey to organize pro-birthmother demonstrations outside the courthouse in Hackensack. Mary Beth Whitehead, Baby M’s birthmother, had signed a surrogacy contract but chose not to give up her daughter; at the time, she was within her legal right not to do so. Whitehead was a married mother of two other children, a high school graduate, and a Catholic.

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