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Why are so many Celebrities Choosing Surrogacy now more than ever Before?

In 2017, internet and television star Kim Kardashian announced that she and her then husband Kanye West were expecting their third child via surrogacy. The reaction was cataclysmic.  Her announcement made worldwide headlines and sparked intense debates across the globe. Was Kim and Kanye’s decision a political stunt for fame and attention? Was she simply too lazy or arrogant to carry her own baby? Or was she genuinely desperate for another child and saw surrogacy as a route towards future happiness and love?

Regardless of public opinion, Kim’s choice led to a contagious phenomenon which saw celebrities across the USA resorting to surrogacy as a means of reproduction. For example, Paris Hilton, Priyanka Chopra, Chrissy Teigen, and even Kim’s sister Khloe Kardashian – just to name a few. So the big question is, why are we suddenly seeing such an increase in surrogacy within pop culture?

Surrogacy (the process by which a woman carries and gives birth to a baby on behalf of another) is not new. The first surrogate mother in the UK was in 1985. Couples have been choosing this path for decades to overcome their fertility issues and pregnancy struggles. So the sudden rise in celebs making this choice does not necessarily mean that more people globally have also done so. Rather, it means that a brighter spotlight is currently being shone on surrogacy like never before. Where it may have been more obscure in the past, it is now unavoidable within our society.

Kim Kardashian is known for being a trend-setter online. So, perhaps we could see this rise in surrogacy as a trend reawakened by her popularity. After her announcement, many were quick to condemn Kim for exploiting a system reserved for those suffering with unresolvable fertility issues, simply to gain publicity. However, this argument has also been heavily criticised for being insensitive and unfair. Kim has been open about the struggles she faced when pregnant with her eldest two children. She revealed that she received strong medical advice dissuading her from birthing another baby. In light of this, critiquing her choice as purely reputation driven seems rather cruel. True, Kim Kardashian is no stranger to controversy. But the concerns surrounding her daughter’s birth are also an attack against women, their self-autonomy, and the female body. Kim has every right to choose this path and is the only one who can make decisions about her body.

A few days ago, I read a comment on a video in which Adrienne Bailon-Houghton was discussing her surrogacy journey. The comment stated that there was ‘something wild about rich people paying poor people to birth their babies’. From the discussion this comment ignited, it was clear that public reaction was split. So many people viewed celebrities choosing surrogacy as an exploitation of wealth and power. Many were arguing that Adrienne’s choice was an excuse for her to avoid the more arduous elements of pregnancy and childbirth. Yet despite this outrage or confusion, many also saw no harm in her choice. If her surrogate was willing and happy, then surely there isn't an issue with the arrangement.

Interestingly, there was a clear distinction made by these comments between the super-rich and the average person. Surrogacy for wealthy celebrities was viewed as a form of elitist power. Those with money can use it to avoid the strenuous burden of childbearing. On the flip side, surrogacy for the everyday citizen was portrayed as a hope for a better quality of life. There seemed to be a conflict between those who pay for it out of a desperate yearning for a baby, and those who do so simply because they can afford it. I realised that surrogacy itself was not an issue but that the motive behind it swayed public opinion on the matter.

Although, maybe we shouldn’t be so focused on the motive behind surrogacy and instead consider more about the outcome. Arguably, Kim Kardashian is contributing to de-stigmatising surrogacy by emphasising the beauty and empowerment of this medical lifeline. She herself claimed that ‘surrogacy is a beautiful thing’. Her journey is an inspiration to many women facing similar difficulties with fertility. Kim has spoken very warmly about her surrogate, claiming that she was ‘so grateful for her and that she is so selfless and kind’. Her gratitude and awe have been continuously expressed and her respect for surrogate mothers has never dimmed.

Perhaps this is the real reason behind the growth of surrogacy in pop culture. The presentation of it is becoming less negative as we become increasingly more accepting to this alternate means of reproduction. More and more women are welcoming the option as a liberating avenue to parenthood. Celebrities deserve the same opportunities as the rest of us. If the result of such an act is the love for a baby and the happiness of a family, our discomfort and outrage is surely unjust.

Ultimately, surrogacy is a means to happiness. It’s a means to fulfilment and purpose. It’s an opportunity for people to experience unequivocal parental love. Whether or not we agree or disagree with its usage, particularly amongst the rich and famous, we cannot deny that its result is one of joy. And really, what is so wrong with that?

Words: Ella Boxall, she/her


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