New Perspectives on Care Work through Surrogacy Arrangements

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
L. M. Anabel STOECKLE, Wayne State University, USA
What constitutes care and care work? Only recently, sociologists have begun to include surrogacy practices into the category of “care work.” Discussions of the care-aspect of surrogacy have focused on the theoretical framework and real-life examples of power and exploitations as well as on the beneficial aspects of this form of work.

Surrogacy arrangements help to elucidate problems linked to the care work and the in local, national, and global contexts in three ways: First, the previously uncompensated form of work, in the case of surrogacy pregnancy and childbirth, now has become commodified and marketized. Secondly, care work that has been traditionally performed in a family unit becomes outsourced to non-family members. Third, care work provided by surrogates oftentimes constitutes cross-border arrangements with clients having more negotiation power than the surrogate workers from lower classes.

My research focuses on the following questions: Do surrogates in the US agree with the notion that they are considered to be “care workers?” What do surrogates think about the marketization and commercialization of their bodies? How do they negotiate negative experiences?

Based on interviews with both surrogates and intended parents in the US, it has become clear that the attitudes towards surrogacy as care work differs to what other researchers have found in different global contexts. The women I interviewed are deeply devoted to being surrogates and want to help childless individuals. Even when they do talk about issues such as power difference and exploitation, they consider them to be individual issues. How then do surrogates challenge injustices that are a result of the care work they engage in? This paper discusses the ways in which US surrogates envision surrogacy arrangements that avoid potential pitfalls that are part of this care work agreement and make surrogacy a fair work relationship.