Priyanka Chopra’s surrogacy decision is her personal choice – my article on medium.com

A couple of days ago, Priyanka Chopra and her husband, Nick Jonas, announced that they had welcomed their first child through surrogacy. The outpouring of criticism and resentment on social media has been unbelievable.

The reasons for the criticism are wide ranging. The main objection seems to center around their preference for surrogacy over adoption. Some people seem to think that there is something noble and altruistic about adoption, as compared to surrogacy which is an ‘immoral’ option that is chosen by celebrities like Priyanka because of their profession, or more explicitly, because she doesn’t want to risk damaging her looks and figure. Some objectors think that surrogacy is an exploitation tool wielded by the rich against the poor. Others have come up with the ever-available ‘this is a big business run by big pharma’ reason. One person also derogatorily stated that ‘Can you imagine an Indian woman having to tell her child that she did not carry the child in her womb for nine months?’. Still others think that practices like abortion and surrogacy ‘can’t be allowed to be normalized’ in society and should be ‘allowed’ only in exceptional circumstances. Some objections relate to the ‘patriarchal’ wish to ‘pass on your genes’. It is distressing to see that most, if not all, objections have come from women.

The desire to have a child is normal and people have children for myriad reasons. These include the subconscious wish for continuity and a sense of ‘living on’. Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful and exciting phases for a woman and a couple. Can you imagine the mental anguish and torture that a desperate couple goes through if they are not able to conceive naturally? And then having to go through the pain and tension of seeking alternative and uncertain solutions? Surrogacy or adoption is not some mass market assembly line process that ‘big pharma’ has set up to earn money! It is a very risky and delicate decision taken after painful research and gut-wrenching analysis. Do people seriously think that Priyanka and Jonas would have gone to some poverty-stricken slum dweller for surrogacy with a view to ‘exploit’ her? That happens only in Bollywood movies! This is not some project work that you outsource to somebody else and then sit back and wait for the results. There is often more tension and uncertainty in surrogacy than in your own pregnancy, because many factors are not in your own control, and the millions of little daily decisions related to pregnancy are often taken out of your sight and knowledge. I would think surrogacy is by far the more difficult process to undergo.

We should be careful about not assigning any divine or even moralistic attributes to adoption. While I personally consider it a very brave decision, it is by no means some kind of holy or sanctified decision. To make surrogacy look immoral by comparison is wrong and unfair.

Abortion, in-vitro and surrogacy are processes that no woman or couple would want to go through without reason. They are not ‘normal’ solutions, they are exceptional situations, so there is no question of ‘normalizing’ them. And even if people want to go in for alternative solutions, who the hell is ‘society’ to criticize them? Like the desire to have children, the desire not to go through a nine-month long pregnancy can be driven by many reasons, including mental and physical health, professional constraints, financial limitations etc. Agreed, pregnancy and giving birth is almost a miracle and a joyous experience, but to assign shame or guilt to not wanting to go through it is equally wrong. It is not as if people who have children by adoption or surrogacy love their children less than those who carry their child. In fact, the it may be the other way around for adoptive or surrogate parents, because they know the anguish they have gone through before getting the child into their lives. To diminish their suffering by saying they did not carry their own child is a travesty.

Just like abortion is a woman’s personal decision, in-vitro, adoption or surrogacy is the personal decision of a couple. It may be taken for various reasons including the wish for continuity and to ‘pass on genes’. I don’t think it is right to assume the worst reasons, as has been done in Priyanka’s case, and sit in judgement. And what if she went in for surrogacy because she really wanted to avoid harming her looks and figure? That is her bread and butter, her livelihood. Who the heck are we to tell her that these should not be important to her?

Like they say, just like abortion, surrogacy is none of anybody else’s business.

I think we are lucky that abortion has been legal in India for a long time now. I would just like to remind people that we are already 1.4 billion in number! To disallow or criminalize abortion would be catastrophic for a country like India.

Consider also that women and couples have these wonderful alternatives of in-vitro and surrogacy today. None of these options were available a few decades back. These processes are nothing less than a miracle and blessing for millions of people all over the world who are not fortunate enough to conceive on their own or cannot risk pregnancy. These are medical advancements that we must be immensely grateful for. To seek to disallow them or attribute some kind of ulterior motivation to people seeking them would be a terrible injustice and a regressive step. Who knows what agonizing personal conditions Priyanka and celebrities like her undergo in their private life? They are human beings after all and are subject to the same health and emotional conditions that the rest of us are, maybe more so because of their highly scrutinized and public lives.

Personally, if my wife and I had wanted a child and for some reason, we could not have one, I would have first gone in for in-vitro and then surrogacy. And then, if I had found that neither would work, only then would I have considered adoption. But that would have been my personal preference. It may not be somebody else’s order of preference. Part of my decision is driven by the fact that I would certainly want ‘to pass on my genes’. I would definitely wish that the child should be a part of me and that we should ‘live on’ in our mortal world through his or her life.

I don’t think anybody has the right to judge me for that decision. Just as nobody has the right to judge Priyanka for hers….

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