Hannah Gibson


PhD Candidate in Cultural Anthropology

Supervisors: Dr Catherine Trundle and Dr Caroline Bennett

Exploring Surrogacy within New Zealand

A topic that is found at the intersection of parenthood, medical interventions, and politics, surrogacy engages with the social and ethical implications of medicine and biotechnology. In New Zealand, whilst commissioning someone to carry a baby is prohibited, altruistic surrogacy is legal. This includes traditional or partial surrogacy (whereby the woman also donates genetic material as well as carrying the baby) and gestational (where the woman has no genetic connection to the baby).

The Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ECART) claim that the shortage of surrogates and eggs (where required) motivates New Zealanders to go overseas to locate Cross-Border Reproductive Services, or international surrogacy. The practice is not prohibited by New Zealand law, yet with no international guidelines in place, this global market carries the dangers of intended parents and surrogates being exploited. As a result, offspring can be left vulnerable, with possible parent-child, immigration and citizenship status in question. I aim to situate the global debate within a local purview to facilitate discussion on how New Zealand domestic surrogacy regulations influence people in their decision to pursue surrogacy overseas.

For my research, I will be exploring the everyday domain of reproductive practices and conducting experience-centred research that examines the reproductive hopes, motivations, and experiences of intended parents and surrogates. This includes how they navigate the biomedical, legal, and regulatory processes and challenges. I am particularly interested in personal narratives in response to contested citizenship rights when a parent has ‘biological status’ without the parental privileges that a surrogate mother receives, altruistic notions of ‘gift giving’ and monetary payment as two distinct payment types, and how peoples’ relationships are constructed via changing circumstances and to see when these intersect with or are distinct from bureaucratic and medical worlds. I seek to contribute to policy, ethical, and regulatory debates regarding surrogacy, as well as the broader topic of reproduction and parenthood in contemporary New Zealand.

Contact: hannah.gibson@vuw.ac.nz