A Practical Theology of Surrogacy and Self
Imprint: Baylor University Press
229 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2019
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.
Introduction: Foundations for a Practical Theology of Surrogacy
1. Infertility, Reproductive Loss, and the Significance of the Biological Family to the Self
2. Surrogacy as Culturally Constructed
3. Hagar, Sarah, and Forms of Socially Constructed Surrogacy
4. The Self, Corporate Sin, and Cultural Misorientation
5. Consonant Dependency Care as a New Vision for Family
Conclusion: Generalized Surrogacy and a Global Family
Danielle Tumminio Hansen’s deeply thoughtful and revealing Conceiving Family is a must read for both constructive theologians and pastors. It is rare to find such poetic and prophetic insight, side by side, in a work that dares to take us into uncharted territory.~Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary
Tumminio Hansen navigates the ambiguities brilliantly, showing, for example, how surrogacy takes advantage of those traumatized by reproductive loss or privileges those with money, while also displaying incredible compassion for all parties involved. But even more, this book doesn’t just transform ideas about surrogacy; it transforms how we think about adulthood, families, and communities themselves.~Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture, The Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion, Vanderbilt University
In this thoughtful, globally sensitive and theologically rich account, Tumminio Hansen examines both the exploitative shadows and joyful potential of surrogacy. In doing so she offers a novel practical course that is both ethically sensitive and attentive to the powers and perils of human vulnerability.~Candida Moss, Cadbury Professor of Theology, University of Birmingham
Tumminio argues that biology alone does not make a family and offers a new vision for family relationships, a vision that empowers those engaged in the process of surrogacy. She draws attention to the fact that surrogacy in the US is not only an industry but a politics in the service of white upper-class reproduction, and she looks at the implications for practical theology. This volume offers a valuable perspective on family and sociology more broadly.~Choice
Hansen ultimately offers an ethical appraisal of surrogacy showing societies how certain structures for surrogacy are more just, demonstrating reasons for caution, and why people turn to surrogacy to fulfill desires and heal suffering resulting from infertility and reproductive loss.~Kathryn Lilla Cox, Journal of Moral Theology