“Motherhood is the genesis of all possible meaning in life. In ‘saying yes to life,’ a woman proclaims to herself that she is open to the life within her. Time stands still, and eternity becomes part of this world. Then… humanity is created.”
This is how the very young Simone Tropea, author of Generated and Not Created. Mysticism and Philosophy of Birth: Surrogacy and the Future of Humanity (available now in Italian at Libreriadelsanto.it), introduces us to the “mystery of motherhood.” It’s a mystery that – as he demonstrates throughout the text – cannot be “reduced” to the buying and selling of human beings.
Why Even Question This?
Recently, on a social network, I came across a post that spoke positively about surrogacy, more delicately called “gestation for others.” It described surrogacy as a supportive practice for couples who cannot have children.
I immediately noticed that the economic aspect of the matter was completely ignored (the woman doesn’t “give away her maternity.” In most cases, she “sells it” and, often, because she is in a state of poverty); but beyond money (which makes any talk of altruism and gratuitousness false or bogus), are there any intrinsic reasons for this practice that can be seen as unethical?
The Underlying Question Is: Can One See Motherhood as a “Job”?
Encountering that post, I felt the need to go deeper on the subject, even though I had already taken a bioethics course on the beginning of life at university, and – as a woman and mother – I felt an instinctive repulsion for the practice.
In any case, it was this desire to delve deeper into the topic that brought me to the book Generated and Not Created. Tropea is a scientific journalist, born in 1993, who specialized in History of Theological Thought and Moral Philosophy. He studied in Spain (at the Pontifical University of Salamanca and at the "Rey Juan Carlos" in Madrid), before returning to Italy to study bioethics at the University of Rome ("La Sapienza").
He focuses on the bond between mother and child, citing texts such as Maternal Care and Mental Health, by J. Bowlby, a doctor who edited a document for the WHO on the topic of motherhood and the attachment of the newborn to its mother.
Tropea explains why “Bowlby, through an integrated scientific approach, demonstrates how contemporary science definitively states that the fundamental psychic experience, for every human individual, is its relationship with its mother. It’s a pre-cultural relationship, which can be wounded or negatively compromised when it is altered by a historical and social context, or by a biographical event, which produces a violent and unnatural tear between genetrix and generatus, thus becoming the unconscious origin of many psychic and physical pathologies."
Separation from the Mother Should Be Gradual
A few pages later, he continues: “If this separation did not take place gradually, so that the subject may be able to internalize it over time and recognize, in a positive way, what this separation means for the construction of their identity – which is the only possible condition for originality – then this is precisely why we cannot escape the Oedipal paradigm.”
The author succeeds in demonstrating – without falling into moralisms and clichés – that any practice that voluntarily denies the original bond between mother and child is not in the interest of either the woman or the child involved. Rather, it reveals how we are still steeped in a techno-masculine mentality, which sees the woman as a “thing”, a “child-bearing machine” and does not respect her as a person.
It sees as being simply “useful” (as a “servant for generation”) and does not consider her to be a sacred and inviolable temple of life.
The Difference between Adoption and Surrogacy
Tropea explains that if a child is left without a family, it makes sense to place the child with someone who can care for him/her. Looking for someone to take the place of the absent parents is in the child’s best interest.
In surrogacy, too, someone “takes the place of the mother,” but the premises and reasons are totally different.
From a legal point of view, in the first case, the child’s rights are protected; in the second case, the child becomes the “object” of a presumed right, so much so that he/she is “purposely generated” and intentionally separated, from birth, from the one who gave birth to him/her. It’s cruel. How could we define it as “necessary”?
An Interesting Book that Challenges Relativism
Tropea is aware that he might receive criticism from those who think you can’t reach any absolute truth in the area of morality, but he is also aware of the contradiction that lies within this criticism. He remarks, “Most people not only believe that we cannot say anything absolutely true about practically anything. However, they are convinced that this thing is absolutely true.”
We are faced with a crisis of logical/rational thinking. Every thought is exclusively linked to the subjectivity of an individual, and this is also causing an implosion surrounding Law. However, if someone is interested in taking a look at a philosophical text and wants to know the rational explanations why it’s legitimate to doubt “the goodness” of the “uterus for rent,” then this text is for him.