Reality TV star Khloe Kardashian spit some accurate but often too-taboo truths about the harms assisted reproductive technology can have on families when she revealed on the Season 3 premiere of Hulu’s “The Kardashians” that she did not immediately connect with her biological son because he was born via surrogate.
“I felt really guilty that this woman just had my baby,” the middle Kardashian sister confessed. “I take the baby and I go to another room, and you’re sort of separated. It’s such a transactional experience ’cause it’s not about him.”
Khloe’s second child, Tatum, was born in July 2022 after he was conceived via in vitro fertilization with Khloe’s on-again, off-again baby daddy Tristan Thompson. Despite spending years desiring and trying for a sibling for her daughter, True, whom she birthed in 2018, Khloe admitted she felt less bonded with her surrogate-born son than with her daughter.
“It’s a mind f-ck. It’s really the weirdest thing,” Khloe said.
Khloe’s feelings are not uncommon, especially among celebrities. In fact, they are all too prevalent among women who pay to outsource pregnancy.
There’s no denying that babies and the women who carry them form a unique and undeniable physical and emotional bond during gestation. Living in close proximity for the better part of a year promotes a connection that studies show leads mothers to positively interact with their children post-birth. Not to mention the fact that unborn babies and their birth moms literally exchange cells that can stay in their bodies for decades.
Surrogacy deliberately severs those important and life-changing bonds. In some cases, parents choose to pay thousands of dollars to rent someone else’s womb simply to avoid the symptoms and bodily changes required of carrying a baby.
As Khloe accurately noted in her short reflection, renting a womb violates not just the dignity of biological and birth mothers, it hurts the child whose rights and needs get sidelined by adults’ desires since conception in a lab.
Babies who are separated from the woman who carried them for nine months often suffer from increased stress and even brain structure alterations. Similarly, the women who spend months nurturing infants in the womb only to part ways at birth have a “three-fold risk of developing hypertension and pre-eclampsia” and report feeling heightened anxiety.
Meanwhile, women like Khloe, who play no physical part in the gestational process, are left feeling distant and disconnected from their own blood.
“I wish someone was honest about surrogacy and the difference of it,” Khloe divulged.
The pain and suffering caused by surrogacy are not unknown to the Western world. In fact, many European countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Bulgaria have banned the commercial practice altogether. Unfortunately, the profit-driven fertility market in the U.S. is, if anything, emboldened by cultural and political players who repeatedly promote problematic practices without disclosing the negative effects they have on babies and women.
Khloe is the second Kardashian sister to begin publicly acknowledging that assisted reproductive technology isn’t all that the nearly billion-dollar fertility industry — which preys on the poor and the unfortunate and exploits them for profit — chalks it up to be.
Kourtney Kardashian confessed in October 2022 that she stopped doing in vitro fertilization because it “really took a toll on my health.” She said the hormones prescribed for the IVF process caused her several negative side effects, something many women who do IVF report. Complications such as weight gain, loss of energy, and premature menopause affected her body for more than a year after she ended her last IVF cycle.
Kourtney claims she’s done messing with ART and the physical and emotional downsides that come with it. Khloe, however, has made no public pledge to swear off of it. Even after she admitted to feeling uninformed about the severe side effects surrogacy has for babies, mothers, and surrogate moms, Khloe said she believes surrogacy is “still great.”
The fact that Khloe accurately identifies surrogacy as a “transactional experience” instead of pretending it is a legitimate family-building practice with no pitfalls is refreshing, but her insistence that the practice be viewed as beneficial in spite of vast moral, ethical, and other drawbacks is tone-deaf.
The only way to protect mothers and babies from the physical and emotional trauma that comes with surrogacy is to decommercialize it and maybe even ban it completely, like most of Europe already has.