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Ethical Issues in Adoption Practice Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jul 13th, 2020

Race, gender, and class dimensions of surrogacy vis-à-vis gestational surrogacy in the United States today

Gestational surrogacy is a term used in reference to the practice of carrying and giving birth to a child that is not related to the birth mother. In Vitro fertilization (IVF) facilitates gestational surrogacy. The sperm of the father and the ovum of the mother are fused externally. The fused mass is then implanted in a surrogate. The baby born bears no biological, physical, or racial resemblance to the birth mother.

In traditional surrogacy, the birth mother’s ovum is used in the making of a baby (Teman 1105). The baby therefore bears the genetic makeup of the surrogate and resembles her as well. In the United States, race, gender and class play a role in the choice between surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. This paper argues that taking into consideration these three factors, gestational surrogacy is the best method for all parties involved.

Some critics argue that gestational surrogacy is risky due to the complications faced by the surrogates. Other critics argue that there are higher chances of giving birth to unwanted babies as fertility specialists implant more than one embryo. They may even point out that it is not a guaranteed investment, although they may be pointing out to the minor setbacks encountered in gestational surrogacy.

Traditional surrogacy favors one particular gender. In traditional surrogacy, the female is never genetically represented. She ends up raising a child that resembles her partner and the surrogate. She is also not sure that the surrogate will allow her to keep the baby because the law gives them an allowance to keep the child. It is advisable for such a woman to hire a lawyer to protect her interests although by entering into a contract to carry a fertilized ovum, her legal claims are diminished (Ragone and Twine12).

In the United States today, the law on gestational surrogacy differs from one state to another. Before these new technologies emerged, the birth mother was considered the lawful mother of the child (O’reilly 28). On the other hand, the sperm donor is not expected by law to be the father of the child. There is also little or no attention paid to the reproductive health of the birth father even though this is an important predictor to the child’s health (Anderson 41). This presents a gender double standard that needs to be looked into.

With new technology, parents can choose the sex of their baby. The desire to control the sex of an offspring arose from agricultural field where there was a higher preference for more productive cows and hens over roosters and bulls. The male child was also considered to be strong and therefore important in tilling the land. With the rise in industrialization, this preference has diminished.

With new technology, the issue of race does not arise. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate’s race determines the race of the child. In gestational surrogacy, the race of the child is not determined by the surrogate but by the donors (Ragone and Twine 15). When the surrogate gives birth, it is not always easy to hand over the baby to the couple. Ragone and Twine point out that some gestational surrogates prefer carrying children from other races as they are easier to let go once they are born (19).

Gestational surrogacy is a highly expensive procedure. Fertility clinics require a lot of financial investment because the woman has to undergo treatment before the ovum can be extracted and not all implantations are successful. In the US today, the higher classes are the ones who are in a position to afford this procedure. Some argue that these facilities should be available to the entire public in order to minimize inequality. One drawback of traditional surrogacy is that if the woman is of the lower classes, she may not be in a position to take good care of her body and the baby may acquire negative physical traits from her.

Despite undergoing painful and uncomfortable hormonal medications, more and more surrogates are opting to go through gestational instead of traditional surrogacy. Some who never considered becoming surrogates are going into gestational surrogacy. The question arises as to why there has been a shift from surrogacy to gestational surrogacy. Women who choose to become gestational surrogates are convinced that although traditional surrogacy tends to be medically complicated, nonetheless, they are opposed to it as they do not feel comfortable with the idea that their ovum would be use in helping to create a child (Ragone and Twine 32).

The shift from traditional surrogacy to gestational surrogacy has altered the racialized dimensions of the process. In the 1980s, interracial surrogacy, androgenesis and species altering was only thought to exist in science fiction (Palen 8). While the surrogate’s race may have been important to those donors only wishing to have a child from their own race, with the coming of gestational surrogacy, race is no longer a factor. The fact that race is no longer important, means that there are more surrogates eligible for the job.

Unlike traditional surrogacy, gestational surrogacy is in tune with changing times. It is not heavily concerned with gender, race and class but focuses on the importance raising a child. A child born through gestational surrogacy resembles the parents who nurture them to adulthood. In such a case, there is never a doubt or a search for the biological mother (Clay and Leapman 59). It is also fair to genders in a relationship as they are both represented genetically. However, there are limitations to this surrogacy. For example, its unavailability to certain classes has led to many protests, but there are policies in place soon to correct this.

Gender, race, and class dimensions of domestic and international adoption in the US today

Adoption is viewed as a mutually beneficial situation whereby a couple that is unable to conceive under normal circumtances become parents courtesy of a mother who cannot cater for the child. Adoption adjusts the imbalance of natural maternity (Etienne 1993). Nature gives the gift of motherhood to those who appreciate, as well as those who do not wish to raise children. Adoption is, therefore, a solution to the problem of unwanted or orphaned babies.

Potential adopters can choose to adopt within the US or from other countries. There are two options available to US citizens going for international adoption: To work through specialist private agencies or to work through lawyers (Gailey 295). Gender, race and class play a role in adoption and if they are important to someone who wishes to adopt, domestic adoption would be a better option than international adoption.

In the US today, gender plays a pivotal role in the adoption debate. Before China permitted foreign adoptions, most US international adoptions, just like the domestic ones, involved almost equal numbers of boys and girls. Today, the overall sex ratio of US international adoptions favors girls (Gailey 296). This is attributed to the China law that does not permit a woman to have more than one child. If the mother wishes to raise a boy, she may give up a girl child for adoption.

When this child grows up she may wish to find out who her biological parents are and to understand why they gave her away. This is always a difficult situation for adoptive parents as international adoptions are not usually open adoptions. In a bid to decrease unwanted babies, health educators are trying to increase men’s awareness about reproductive health (Anderson 39). This is especially important in cultures where the woman is the only one tasked with the responsibility of birth control.

Race is a factor considered by adopters since the US began adopting internationally. International adoption in the US began in the late 1940s as a public relations effort to portray the US military as a friendly force. During that time, public adoption agencies practiced racial matching (Gailey 298). In the US today, there is a growing trend in the adoption of Asian babies. According to interviews conducted by Gailey, some couples did not care about the appearance of the child as long as it was not black.

This can be attributed to the fact that most of those couples adopting babies are white and it would be expected that they would choose a baby who comes close to being in their race; what Gailey refers to as a buffer race (298). Domestic adoption for these adopters would be favorable as majority of the race in the US is white. The white children available to those who wish to adopt internationally are mostly from nations that were previously at war. These children may be difficult to nurture because of their psychological trauma.

When a child is given up for adoption, an adopter has got to ask themselves what class the mother is likely belong. Most international adoptees have been relinquished for reasons of poverty or because social conditions do not allow the mothers to rear the children (Gailey 298). The case for domestic adoption may not be any different. The lower classes are the ones more likely to offer up their children for adoption. For those adopters who are interested in knowing the background of their child, investigating a domestic adoptee is easier than investigating international ones. It is easier for those with means to adopt and raise a child. The working class mothers are more likely to depend on extended family and neighbors while the middle class adopters are more likely to rely on friendship networks (Gailey 298).

In the United States’ culture, the relationships between parties involved in adoption are normally hierarchical. If the mother is white and plans to give up her baby in an independent adoption, the adoption broker can arrange for quality prenatal care unlike colored women who have to depend on the state’s help which is not always available (Anderson 89). Anderson goes on to point out that. With adoption, there are several legal and ethical issues arising. There is the child’s right to know its biological parent, gay and lesbian rights to adoption, interracial adoptions and class issues.

The adopters are faced with the ethical problem of a child wanting to find out its biological parents (Fox and Johnston para. 6.). Adopters are advised to know those parents in case of any medical problems arising with the child. Lesbian women seeking to adopt may feel it necessary to disguise their sexual orientation (Anderson 92). Due to some countries’ reluctance to accept gay adopters; one of the pair of lesbians ends up with no legal claim to the child. Interracial adoptees fare well when their adoptive parents have ties with the child’s ethnic background.

Placements should be explored in the child’s home country before international options are examined (Fox and Johnston para. 7). This paper shows that those who adopt locally are more likely to get a hold of the birth mother in case the health of the child depends on it. They are also in a better position if their child desires to know who the biological parents. Those who have a preference in race would be better suited to domestic adoption as there are not as many favorable children of the majority preferred race outside of the US. The presence of a good health care system gives a higher level of assurance that the child adopted was well taken care of prenatally. Because of the acceptance of gay rights in the US, lesbians do not have to struggle with domestic adoption as with international.

Works Cited

Anderson, Barbara. Reproductive Health: Women’s and Men’s Shared Responsibility. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2005. Print

Clay, Catherine, and Leapman, Michael. Master race: the lebensborn experiment in Nazi Germany. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1995. Print.

Etienne, Mona. The Case for Social Maternity: Adoption of Children by Urban Baule Women. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1993. Print.

Fox, Rachel, and Carrie Johnston. Ethical issues in adoption practice. n. d. Web.

Gailey, Christine Ward. Race, Class, and Gender in Intercountry Adoption in the USA. London: Skyline House, 2000. Print.

Gailey, Christine Ward. Whatever they think of us, we’re a family: Single Mother Adopters. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006. Print.

O’reilly, Andrea. Twenty-first Century Motherhood: Experience, Identity, Policy, Agency. Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2010. Print.

Palen, John. Fertility and eugenics: Singapore’s population policies. Population Research and Policy Review, 5(1986): 3 – 14

Ragone, Helena. Uncontestable Motivations. Pennsylvania: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1998. Print.

Teman Elly. The social construction of surrogacy research: an anthropological critique of the psychosocial scholarship on surrogate motherhood. Soc Sci Med, 67.7(2008):1104–12

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