IT is not legal in the UK to pay a woman a fee for carrying a baby intended for somebody else. Women who do this, called ‘surrogates,’ will receive full expenses but cannot charge the sums that surrogates in the USA can command. It’s becoming increasingly common for ‘celebrity’ couples to share their experiences of having a baby via a surrogate.

Thankful phrases like ‘our sensational surrogate’ are increasingly common on social media. According to the price of US surrogacy ranges from $110,000 to $170,000 for most families. So, once you’ve added in all the other costs, you’re likely looking at half a million dollars to complete a family of four.

Clearly, this makes surrogacy in the US a choice for very rich people. Clearly, it makes being the surrogate a choice for women who need the cash. And that’s where I start feeling conflicted. What is the payment for? Pregnancy is dangerous. Women still die, develop horrible complications, and wreck their insides in the process of making and pushing out babies. (And perhaps because I just binge-watched 9 whole series of ‘Call the Midwife’ I’m simply not going to sugar-coat that!)

It’s the same conflict I feel about legalising prostitution. Women’s bodies are often their only means of making money, of surviving. It’s the oldest profession in the world after all. I rewatched the film ‘Pretty Woman’ recently – Julia Roberts plays the tart with a heart who wins the respect of billionaire businessman Richard Gere. It’s a cliché of a film, a Cinderella with condoms who’s a class act and wants to go back to studying. It’s a transformation story similar to ‘My Fair Lady’ where in this case Roberts scrubs up well in a classy frock while cutely spitting the language of the street in the stalls at the opera.

If women are desperate for money, and selling their bodies for sex or baby-making is the only option, who am I to say they shouldn’t be able to? If what we do with our bodies is ‘our business’, then if it is literally our business, who should object? And yet, I find myself far less worried by the way we Brits do surrogacy.

Women have borne children for other women for centuries – sisters for sisters, friends for friends, even mothers for daughters. Being a surrogate has been an act of love for many. I wouldn’t want to stop that. But the commoditisation of babies in the USA – taking a baby away from its mother at birth seems brutal. We don’t allow that for puppies! Why babies?

There are thousands of children waiting to be adopted in the world. Is it too much to hope that fabulously wealthy couples might choose to adopt rather than indulge what my 25- year-old stepson describes as the narcissism of buying a genetic future?

The language of rights further complicates things. Nobody has an inalienable ‘right’ to have a child. Rights are defined in law and by institutions – and laws can change. In the UK, thanks to the NHS, there are fertility treatments available, but these are limited and a private industry in fertility is booming for those with deep pockets.

With a General Election in a year or so’s time, all the national parties are campaigning already for our votes and what the NHS provides will always be a hot discussion topic. How many rounds of IVF should the NHS offer couples? Should we pay more tax and expand what the NHS provides? Should we make choices between say funding social care and funding fertility treatments? There is a pot – it’s up to we voters to decide how big it should be (and for the record I’d like it to be much bigger!)