The Mailbag: Should Christian women serve as surrogate mothers?

I’m a single mom in my 20s with a small child. I know a couple who is having difficulty conceiving and was thinking about offering to be a surrogate for them. A donor egg will be used, so the child will not be biologically mine. This couple would only be “renting my womb” so to speak. It would mainly be to help them out, but the fee I would be paid would really ease the financial stress I’m under. Would I be sinning if I did this?

Infertility can be a heartbreaking experience. It is very kind and compassionate of you to want to help this couple out.

Whenever we’re trying to make decisions like this, the first thing we need to do is look at what the Bible says about it. The New Testament does not prohibit Christian women from serving as surrogate mothers. However, just because Scripture doesn’t mention something or specifically prohibit it doesn’t mean it’s permissible. We need to consider why surrogacy isn’t addressed in the New Testament.

If surrogacy had been addressed by Paul, Peter, or any of the other New Testament writers, it would have been denounced as sin, because in that time, the only way for a woman to become pregnant was through sexual intercourse, and sex with anyone other than her husband would have been sinful.

We do see instances of “surrogacy” in the Old Testament (Sarah, Rachel, Leah) in the ancient Middle Eastern cultural practice of a barren wife giving her maid to her husband. The child that the maid bore would then be legally considered the child of the husband and his wife. But, in this case, we have to remember that just because Scripture does mention something doesn’t mean it’s OK with God.

God did not instruct Sarah, Rachel, or Leah (or any other infertile Old Testament woman such as Hannah or Samson’s mother) to give their maids to their husbands to serve as surrogates. This was a cultural practice of the time that these women took it upon themselves to participate in without regard to whether or not it was godly. We also need to remember that these are descriptive (simply telling what happened) passages of Scripture, not prescriptive (a command or instruction we’re to follow – more on that here). Furthermore, we need to consider the context of these surrogacies: the maids had no choice in the matter, the pregnancy came about through a sexual act, the child the maid bore was biologically hers, and the maid continued to live in the same household with the husband, wife, and child after the birth, factors, most of which, normally do not apply to modern day surrogacies.

But there is one aspect of most surrogacies that the Bible does speak directly to in a prescriptive way: “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) Surrogacy is a legally binding contractual agreement between the biological parents and the surrogate, and most surrogacy contracts require the surrogate to agree to abort (sometimes called “selective reduction” or “termination”) any or all of the babies she is carrying at any time and for any reason the biological parents demand it. If that is the case in your situation, the Bible prohibits you from serving as a surrogate under that stipulation.

But even if that is not a requirement of your contract, there are still a couple of principles we can glean from these Old Testament surrogacies that you would do well to consider as you make your decision.

First, as with the Old Testament surrogacies, surrogacy today is a practice of our modern culture. It is not something God affirmatively instructs either couples or potential surrogates to do in response to infertility. The difference is that modern surrogacy does not involve a sexual encounter, so it may be considered as an option by Christians.

Next, even though the Old Testament surrogacies are different from modern day surrogacies in many ways, one thing they both have in common is that unforeseen problems and complications can arise and cause heartache for the surrogate, the couple, and others.

A great guiding principle in making this decision is found in 1 Corinthians 10:23:

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

In other words, the Bible does not say you’ll be sinning by carrying this couple’s child, but is it the wisest and most godly thing to do in your particular situation? Think about some of those unforeseen problems and complications that could arise:

☙Women do still die in pregnancy and childbirth. What would happen to your own child if you died serving as a surrogate?

☙Many health issues (morning sickness, bed rest, etc.) come along with pregnancy and childbirth. How will these impact your body and your ability to mother your own child, who is your responsibility before the Lord?

☙Will the couple raise this child to know Christ? Could you, in good conscience, bring a child into the world you know will not be raised in a godly home?

☙Hormones run rampant during pregnancy and carrying a child brings with it strong emotions. What if you end up being emotionally devastated to give this child up?

☙What would happen if, during your pregnancy, the couple suddenly becomes unable or unwilling to fulfill their financial responsibility to you? Would you be able to absorb the loss or pursue legal action against them?

☙What happens if one or both of the couple dies in a tragic accident, or becomes direly ill or disabled, or the couple divorces, or some other circumstance occurs during your pregnancy which causes them to be unwilling or unable to take the baby? 

☙What if, prior to birth, the baby is found to have a disability and the couple backs out of the agreement?

☙How will it impact your own child to see you give this baby away? Will he be fearful that you will give him away, too?

I would encourage you to enter into this decision-making process with much prayer, asking God for wisdom and searching His word for guidance. I would also encourage you to set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling on this matter, speak to some godly older women in your church who are mothers, and carefully examine the materials in the “Additional Resources” section below.

Additional Resources:

‘Big Fertility’ & The Truth Behind The Surrogacy Industry with Jennifer Lahl on Relatable with Allie Beth Stuckey

IVF, Embryo Adoption & Surrogacy: Answering the Hard Questions with Jennifer Lahl on Relatable with Allie Beth Stuckey

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

3 thoughts on “The Mailbag: Should Christian women serve as surrogate mothers?”

  1. Those are some good points and Scripture references, Michelle. I, personally, am not convinced that Christians should do this. I am so very thankful for medical advances, that I have been blessed with. However, in this case, surrogacy is optional, and sometimes optional medical procedures are questionable. The medical field has gone too far in many areas regarding picking out “designer babies,” by non-believers.

    There are opportunities for infertile Christian couples to carry an embryo that has been frozen from another couple. That, in turn, saves a life.

    If the infertile couple are Christians, there may be other areas where God wants them to serve. I have not dealt with infertility, so please understand I’m writing this with all due respect for those who have. I’m sure it is very hard.


  2. There are a lot of foster children hungry for love and even children in third world countries (often disabled) who need parents. My sister spent the first year and a half of her life in a Korean orphanage. She might have died if she had remained there. And she never would have been able to walk. Or be involved with campus ministries–like she is today.


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