The Opposition's spokeswoman on women, Pru Goward, says the planned changes are a good idea.
"The Opposition supports compensating women for the medical costs in the last couple of months and also the loss of earnings in the last couple of months because most pregnant women don't work in the last couple of months," she said.
"What the Opposition would not encourage is the commercial surrogacy, the hiring out of a woman's uterus."John Morrissey from the Australian Family Association says "Commercial surrogacy amounts to rent-a-womb, obviously. But our concerns are with surrogacy in itself, that it commodifies a child," he said.
I tend to disagree. I think that just because women are helping other women to become mothers does not mean that pregnancy cannot also be a business transaction. I hate that as a result of this long-standing perception of women's bodies as 'natural' and being closer to nature, therefore, anything related to motherhood is automatically pure and uncommodified. If you think about it, everything about pregnancy today is totally commodified. From designer prams, boutique maternity clothing and expensive prenatal care, affluent women spend an enormous amount of money on pregnancy and their bodies during this 9 month period. No one seems to have a problem with this. It seems ridiculous to worry about the commodification of a child through surrogacy when foetuses are commodified through entertainment ultrasounds and through the purchase of baby clothing well before the baby is born. Pregnancy is commodified through IVF when couples pay to have their eggs fertilised and no one seems to have a problem with that!
I think this is a dangerous argument because it is just like saying that women who stay at home to be mothers don't 'work' because they are not being paid to stay at home. The only reason that SAHM are not paid to be mothers and to do housework is because it is too often assumed that women should selflessly do caring work; to ask for or to be offered compensation for nurturing/domestic tasks is antithetical to everything our culture believes to be associated with motherhood. This is the same situation with surrogacy. If a surrogate is being paid, it leaves an icky taste in many a mouth because it suggests that women can sell their wombs, in effect, taking the romance out of pregnancy and motherhood.