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The Documentary Filmmaker Who Wants to Ban Surrogacy


Mark Stricherz - published on 10/17/14

Lahl has plunged into the debate over artificial reproductive technologies. She is the president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, a nonprofit based in Pleasant Hill, California.  The think tank differs from competitors in using films rather than white papers, blogs, or books alone as a means to influence legislation. The center has sponsored documentary films on embryonic cell technology (“Lines that Divide,” 2009), egg donation (“Eggsploitation,” 2010), and sperm donation (“Anonymous Father’s Day, 2011).

Lahl helped make each of those documentaries, and she served as co-writer, co-director, and co-producer for “Breeders.” Lahl’s contribution to the debate over surrogacy is to use a documentary film to reveal sober truths about the pitfalls and de-humanization of the process.

Early in the documentary, a woman identified as Heather said she served as a surrogate for $15,000. “I had such a wonderful beautiful experience with surrogacy. I thought, ‘Why in the world would I not do this again?’” she said.  But Heather said she found out that her clients thought of her not as the mother of their child but a “gestational carrier,” the term that the Los Angeles Surrogacy Center and other pro-surrogate groups use. The baby boy she carried had a brain problem. The couple who paid her money wanted to abort the child. “I was devastated for her, me, and the boy,” Heather said, sobbing.

Later in the documentary, Jessica appears on screen. A pretty, white 20- or 30-something, she said she was conceived through surrogacy. A Korean woman and white man paid a contract for her, and she felt no connection to her mother. “You’re paying a woman to rent out her uterus,” Jessica tells the camera. “At the end of the day, you’re conceived because of a contract and money.”

Around the same time, a surrogate mother by the name of Tanya emphasizes that surrogacy disrupts the mother-child bond formed during pregnancy. She saw one child she served as a surrogate for. The child had colic, wailing and unable to sleep at night. But as soon as Tanya rested and held the child, the child fell asleep.

After the documentary ended and the lights in the room went on, Lahl called for the outright ban of surrogacy. Then she delivered news to the audience. Facebook and Apple announced their benefits package would allow female employees to freeze and store their eggs. What should surrogacy opponents do, a woman in the audience asked. Lahl didn’t pause. “I would say play to your strengths. If I was an employee of Facebook or Apple, I would write them a letter,” she said.

Mark Stricherz covers Washington for Aleteia. He is author of Why the Democrats are Blue.

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