61-year-old woman gives birth to her own grandchild, and so what?

The “news” is that a 61 year old from Illinois served as a surrogate mother for her daughter’s son, carrying in her womb the embryo created using her daughter’s and her son-in-law’s egg and sperm.

Anyone shocked?

I guess no, and this is instead a (nice) surprise to me.

When I started my first class in Bioethics, in 2001, surrogate motherhood was still a very controversial topic, at least in Italy. People were passionately debating about the moral legitimacy of such  kind of “unnatural” practice. Also, people were really worried about the fact that women who had already passed menopause could procreate.

Ten years later, (almost) no one  complains. I could not even find the news on Italian newspapers, as no one noticed or considered the news relevant enough to put it on newspapers (OK, it can be that Italian journalists are all focussed on another topic right now, but still it surprises me that the news is not mentioned on the most important newspapers).

I read the comments of people from different countries on this news,  but I could hardly find someone claiming it was wrong, for any reason, to serve as a surrogate mother for a daughter. People were keen on judging this choice as sweet, lovely, but not immoral.

But still ten years ago, and even more in the 80s when this kind of practice  started to spread in the Sates, people considered it somehow shocking and especially religious and/or conservatives people thundered at such a  misuse of reproductive technologies.

A few years later,  it seems that many of the objections and of the worries left place to a serene and benevolent acceptance of surrogate motherhood.

Now, it would be interesting to understand whether  the common opinion about this practice has changed because people just have become used to this practice, or if  it is because they have really changed their mind about the moral legitimacy of the practice.

It seems more plausible to think that people realized that, at the end of the day, if no one is harmed and all the people involved are happy, there is no good reason to be against this kind of practice.

Other practices, as abortion, for instance, are still controversial after centuries of debates and analysis of the issue, and this shows that people just do not get used to practices they (really) believe to be immoral also after centuries of debating (and practicing).

If we think of other medical or legal practices like euthanasia, divorce, same sex marriage, in vitro fertilization etc., we  realize that the common perception of these practices has changed radically in the last 30 years. And this shift of values took place even if the practices were illegal or forbidden. For instance, surrogate motherhood is fully legal  just in Ukraine, illegal in most of the European countries and accepted just in its altruistic (but not commercial) form in countries where it is allowed, being anyway illegal in most countries all over the world.

This suggest, at least to me,  that citizens are quicker than the laws that regulate their conducts to become familiar with novelties.

If we think of smart drugs, for instance, it seems that the stubborn a-priori prohibition to start experimentations on these drugs for enhancing goal, is symptomatic of a short-sightedness of legislators. As many people already use smart drugs to enhance their performances, the attempt to prevent them from doing so (banning the experimentation) instead of regulating the use of these enhancers, seems to be doomed.

The point is that if people think that a certain practice, or drug, or option in general is good to them, and if they will easily find someone who will help them to achieve their goal, they will probably ignore the legal ban. At the end of the day, abortion has been legalized in order to avoid back-street termination of pregnancies that caused the death in many women.

Prohibitions and bans, far from discouraging people to do something,  end up encouraging a black market, with all the related  dangers to health.

It would be much better if legislators had  the finger on the pulse of the real situation and adapt laws to a continuously changing society, banning practices that are seriously dangerous to citizens, but  regulating non harmful  practices in a way that they will be safe to anyone using them under medical and public control.

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