Alex Kuczynski’s Moral Blindness

How is it possible that Lisa Wilson, in a three-sentence, 58-word letter to the editor, can raise more serious and more interesting moral issues surrounding the institution of surrogacy than Alex Kuczynski did in her entire 7,700-word cover story on the subject? I’m not sure, but that’s exactly what she did:

If prostitution is unethical, immoral and illegal, why is it O.K. for one woman to pay for the use of another woman’s body? If it’s unethical, immoral and illegal to buy and sell body parts for transplantation, why is it O.K. to rent a uterus? Our morality seems so malleable in the hands of those who feel entitled.


Yarmouth, Me.

Thank you, Ms Wilson, for nailing the real fault with this story, instead of getting sidetracked by a silly discussion about the semiotics of the accompanying photographs.

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5 Responses to Alex Kuczynski’s Moral Blindness

  1. Quarrel says:


    Of course in the rest of the (developed?) world it’s the opposite. Renting a uterus is off-limits, but prostitution is a-ok.

    Glad we got convicts and not puritans as founders here in Oz…


  2. Barry Kelly says:

    I think you have this one the wrong way around. It’s not Alex’s moral blindness, it’s the moral puritanism and insanity in the rest of the world.

    Why *is* it wrong to purchase organs for transplant? What is actually wrong with that?

    Why exactly is a *free* exchange of money for sex wrong. Leaving aside women who are coerced by third parties, why are the others, who freely make that economic choice, so despised?

  3. Amanda Clayman says:

    This story is an interesting moral rorschach test. Each person sees the dilemma that most closely reflects their own view of the world. Some people react to the economic disparity, the writer’s vanity (well established even before her quest for a child), or the narcissistic justification of wanting a baby who “looks like them” at any cost.

    We can and should ask questions about how gestational surrogacy is the same and different as prostitution or organ selling. These events are related to each other in that they are all biological, but as they are not the same things, therefore it is unreasonable (if not impossible) to expect moral equivalence between the three.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t spend all our time on “if” something is right or wrong, rather *when* it is right and wrong, and then put our energies into promoting those conditions. This is messy and difficult to be sure. I am thinking of the mountains of research that shows that in societies where prostitution is legal and regulated you will still find an abundance of sex workers who are trafficked and coerced – and “willing” to provide services that fall outside of those that are regulated.

    Does it matter that Kuczynski is far from a perfect victim of her infertility because of her money and vanity? We do tend to afford the poor innocents a bit more moral latitude than those who have already enjoyed more than their fair share of privilege.

    I don’t have the answers, but I think it is good and right for people to explore these moral dilemmas and to listen to each other’s points of view.

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