Biology continues to be the most widely recognized determinant of family in the United States and heterosexual intercourse the most common form of family creation. But what happens when children cannot be created in this way? Is it still possible to create a family? Surrogacy provides an alternative means of conception, not only to heterosexual couples who encounter infertility or reproductive loss, but also to single, same-sex, or transgender individuals who want to have children.
However, surrogacy itself raises a number of concerns, arguably introducing as many difficulties as it solves. In Conceiving Family, Danielle Tumminio Hansen tackles the unnamed and unexamined problems surrounding surrogacy within a theological framework.
Tumminio Hansen begins by investigating the primacy of the biological family and the profound influence it has had on how infertility and reproductive loss have been understood culturally. By using the United States, Israel, and India as case studies, Tumminio Hansen profiles the cultural constructions of surrogacy and the complications surrounding it in places where the biological family is considered the norm. Through a theological lens, Conceiving Family analyzes what is at stake for the self, family, and society in surrogacy; through a close reading of the Bible it proposes that surrogacy is only as healthy for the individual as society’s views allow. Tumminio Hansen shows how a cultural misconception of surrogacy isolates the parents, surrogates, and children involved through self-alienation, community alienation, and divine-human alienation. She concludes that surrogates and intended parents must therefore construct their relationships in terms of social belonging, and that this process affords human dignity to those involved by expanding community beyond the simple science of biological connection.
In Conceiving Family Tumminio Hansen ultimately reclaims surrogacy as an act that exists both within and beyond the reproductive realm, concluding that surrogacy has the potential to transform the identities of parenthood and community, re-conceiving family in the process.
Danielle Tumminio Hansen is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and Director of Field Education at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.
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