This bioethics thesis concerns some of the ethical issues surrounding the transnational gestational surrogacy industry between the United States and India. Facilitated by the Internet, a demand for genetically related children, political factors, and widespread poverty, India has become a popular destination for parents seeking children born through surrogates. This research primarily analyzes existing philosophical literature, but it was informed by a set of interviews conducted in India during the summer of 2014. In this research project, I address some of the issues with previous research done on surrogacy, as a substantial portion of this research focuses only on surrogacy in the Global North and promotes certain themes and narratives that are, from a feminist perspective, undesirable. Some of the interviews revealed consistent themes, including the concepts of majboori and dharma. These ideas come from Hindu theology, and will be explored in depth. I ask whether surrogacy in India is exploitative by analyzing various conceptions of Marxian exploitation, and find that there is no single definition of exploitation that perfectly applies to surrogacy. Further, I ask if there are other philosophical issues that should be cause for worry, including coercion, objectification, neocolonialism, and market expansionism. Overall, the research shows that surrogacy has some aspects of exploitation, but does not neatly fit any existing definitions of exploitation. Surrogacy involves a necessary level of objectification, though it is not coercive. Market expansionism and promotion of narratives are serious concerns that should not be taken lightly, though neither is sufficient to justify banning surrogacy. However, recognizing surrogate mothers’ work as “legitimate labor” will lend value to the idea of “women’s work.” This thesis was motivated by a worry about what should be done regarding surrogacy. Ultimately, I find that surrogacy has some aspects that ought worry us philosophically, though those aspects ought not stop us from recognizing surrogacy, socially and legally, as a legitimate form of labor.


Schiltz, Elizabeth




Bioethics and Medical Ethics


Surrogacy, India, Dharma, Hinduism, Pregnancy, Transnational Feminism, Bioethics, Medical Ethics, Exploitation

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Alana S. Deluty