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University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Social Change


surrogacy, bioethics, globalism, feminism, liberalism, autonomy, dignity


This article explores some of the ethical issues raised by the rise of a global reproductive tourism model that includes “the reproductive brothel,” a place where women are gathered together in confined areas and their reproductive capacities sold to men as commodities. After exploring the phenomenon of reproductive tourism as it has developed in India, and the ways in which economic globalization has shaped the practice, the article then considers two ethical responses to the development of the practice of global commercial surrogacy; the first of which focuses on the value of autonomy (both as choice and as dignity), and the second on the value of justice. The emphasis on autonomy is found in the response of traditional bioethics as well as in discussions of reproductive liberalism. The emphasis on justice is generally found in more radical feminist critiques of the practice, including those that focus on reproductive justice. After consideration and critique of these moral values, the article moves briefly to a consideration of the appropriate legal response. While neither regulation nor prohibition perfectly fit with the values of autonomy as choice, autonomy as dignity, or justice, the article nevertheless concludes that given the context in which commercial gestational surrogacy occurs, prohibition is the wiser course because regulation, under current conditions of globalization (including commodification and degradation), simply serves to reinforce gender, race, and class hierarchies; diminishing the authentic choices and dignity of the individual, as well as weakening access to reproductive justice, rather than enhancing it.