The possible outsourcing of a pregnancy continues to stir up the emotions. Surrogacy already takes places in my country but now that foreign companies threaten to take control of the market, our Senate decided to address the issue.
Taking hostage by the assumption that if something is possible or already happening, we should not only permit it but we also should legally facilitate it on Belgian soil. For over a year politicians worked on a law proposition to allow these practices.
The proposition contains a legal framework and conditions so that clinics can offer the latest expansion in the catalog for intended parents who are short of a uterus. We call it a form of permitted exploitation so that a child can be traded.
In the song that is sang to justify these practices the interests of the surrogate mother and the child always get a prominent place in the first stanza and chorus. Even our politicians state that their interests should come first. If so, why did none of them even bother to invite organizations defending their rights to come and speak at one of the 20 hearings?
A number of women rights organizations even wrote to some of the politicians to have the opportunity to be heard. They got an answer back saying that there was no time left for them.
The ones who got a spot during the hearings were the LGBT community and fertility industry, aka the potential customers who hopefully will be able to check in at official recognized cash registers. It is a first huge sign on the wall that the interests or the welfare of the other parties involved do not really matter.
On Tuesday, January 19th, this sore point become even more visible when politicians came to explain the political views on the subject at the conference of L’Université des Femmes.
They all started their speech by emphasizing that the interests of mother and the child were the most important to them. However, those interests were not really addressed during their presentation. They mostly talked about the conditions and diffusing rights and obligations.
Politician Brigitte Grouwels (CD&V) started her pitch by saying that her political party approves surrogacy but only when expenses fees are paid. She continued by saying that identity of surrogate mother must be known to the child (they even want to obligate it). However the identity of the egg or sperm donor is not granted to the child. She shocked the room by telling us that in when a child is rejected by its parents and surrogate, the baby will be placed. His intended parents will be forced to finance its upbringing.
Benoit Hellings of Ecolo/Groen stated that the reason why we should facilitate surrogacy was because adoption and foster care is so badly organized in our country. His political party is against commercial surrogacy but he is happy to refer us to the clinic that is run by his fellow party member.
He compared surrogacy with adoption. Yet he forgot that there is a big difference between the two. Whilst in adoption it is about an actual existing child in need, surrogacy is premeditated putting everything in place so that a child can be ordered, fabricated, a price/expense fees is determined and once the child is born it is given away to those who placed the order.
The majority of the political parties are firmly against commercial surrogacy yet they do not wish to take action against surrogacy agencies and those who go shopping for a child abroad. Most of the politicians gave us the impression that they not really have thought things through: all the possible complications, risks, implications for mother and child.
The only politician who was still in possession of his balls was François Desquesnes of the cdH. He remembered us about a few important fights our ancestors fought so this society could be built on humanity, morality and ethics. He told that we had abolished slavery because, we as community, considered it as great injustice that other human being could be considered as someone else’s property.
He talked about emancipation and the movement that stood up to elevate women from their reproductive role so that inequality could be addressed. He also referred to our criminal code that condemns without any doubt any form of exploitation and trafficking of human beings.
If surrogacy, in any way or form, is allowed we betray several moral values we hold dear. Surrogacy is the dehumanization and commercialization of women and children … and this solely for the fulfillment of a personal desire of some one else.
François Desquesnes wants to take his responsibility as a politician by not to allowing such practices. Even more, he and his party want a total ban. He is surprised by the attitude of the other political parties who assume that a legal framework is needed, whilst the first question that should be asked is if should even think about enabling surrogacy.
For his party even considering legalize surrogacy is mockery towards our moral values when we think we that it could ever justify trying to bind and trade people by contracts.
All women’s organizations present at the conference shared the same view. Belgian organizations, but also a number of French, Swiss and European associations stood shoulder to shoulder on this. The European annual report was cited, but also numerous cases and important signals from abroad were discussed.
Arguments against surrogacy
Surrogacy: the supermarket of desires
Multinationals but also our own fertility industry are fully aware of the market value of gametes, wombs and children.
A prior lucrative business was already built on the desires of indented parents.
This sector, and the lawyers that are pulled in, earn the most amount of money from selling options to people in despair, advertising the idea that the unreachable is reachable when tricking nature.
The illusion of a perfect child is projected through their websites, waiting rooms and pamphlets. They are the actual ones who want to convince the policy makers to give them a legal framework so that expansion of their market can be assured.
A wrong cannot be turned into a right
In the law there is a strict distinction between people and objects. People cannot be catalogued as objects and vise versa. The actual body of person is attached to the person, so it can never be regarded as an object.
The body of a human being cannot be taken nor used, even if the person gave her permission or signed a contract. These types of ‘agreements’ are in conflict with universal human rights as well as with the moral values of our society. A body and her reproductive organs cannot be rented or sold. A child can never be an object that can be traded.
Surrogacy attacks the integrity of both mother and child.
Right to a child?
The right to a child does not exist. This reasoning is however often used when someone wants to address a self-proclaimed injustice due to the fact that they are unable to procreate. The desire is understandable yet there can be no justification in the persevering a fulfillment of a desire, to be established at the expense of the interests of the child and mother.
Surrogacy is a construction where with premeditation a fundamental injustice is imposed on those who don’t have an actual voice. Their interests will always be inferior to that of those who placed the order.
Devastating effects on the child
Studies show that the separation between mother and child is harmful for the child. Infants can endure a deep subconscious trauma because they were removed from the person that offered their first feeling of security.
During the 9 months of pregnancy the baby connects with its mother through her voice, heartbeat, smell and flavors in the womb. Both of them are emotionally and physically connected. To separate them goes against our nature and is not in the best interests of of them.
We already know the implications on children who were traded by contract. There are stories of adoptees who got their price tags mentioned on a daily basis, or they were criticized for failing to not exceed the expatiations. From the moment you order a child by application and contract, you attach conditions to that very child. There are already cases of parents who are trying to force their surrogates to have an abortion and even parents who have left their child behind due to the fact that it wasn’t in perfect health.
The knowledge that someone was conceived with purchased third-party gametes, through an outsourced pregnancy, where the child is given away by his mother and forced to grow up in a family that is semi or non-biologically his, will leave inevitably psychological marks.
Add little or no knowledge about his own biological background (because the sperm or eggs came from an anonymous donor) and the realization that he is 1 out of the bash of 100 other offspring, significantly increases the issues.
The icing on the cake comes by the awareness that he is a finished product of negotiations in which your mother, in exchange for a certain amount of money, subjected herself contractually to abandon him. There is a study that implies that children through surrogacy are more likely to suffer from a depression than children who were carried by their real mother.
But as long has the intended parents can have child, right?
Altruism does not exist
In the dictionary the word altruism is described as follows: act of selflessness is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others.
In this debate this term is often used. Surrogacy is rarely for pure altruistic reasons.
Being pregnant for some one else implies availability and implications for months in their private life, health and work. Being a surrogate is not something you would easily consider. Recently in America a surrogate died due to the complications of a pregnancy.
What sensible, healthy, confident person would risk her own life or health for some one else?
The biggest reason to consider surrogacy is money. The price is set: either by a fix amount or by rating at expenses fees. But is the same because you are putting a price on a child whether is high or low.Expenses fees cannot be defined, nor can we actually check what is exchanged under the table.
And what if complications occur and the surrogate mother suffers life long health problems from it? Are those costs going to be covered by the indented parents or will our society have to pay for it?
Surrogacy opens the door to open to exploitation
Surrogacy, or a service as the industry likes to call it, not only implies dehumanization, but it also opens the door to abuse and exploitation of poorer population groups.
It inevitably generates discrimination because only the happy and rich few will be able to make use of it. It is the kind of outsourcing where women are downgraded to their
prehistoric reproductive status. Not only their bodies but also their reproductive organs are rented out so that other people can get something out of it.
Under the false assumption that if strict conditions are imposed, it would be possible to apply ‘an ethical form of surrogacy’ politicians neglect their responsibility by not protecting the weaker parties involved: the mother and the child.
To allow one form of surrogacy will not stop indented parents to buy children through other channels. Even more: it will only give the other forms of surrogacy leverage to be pushed through.
Surrogacy, in any way or form, is the prostitution of our moral values at the expense of mother and child. I hope the Belgian politicians realize this soon enough. If not, they are nothing more then the castrated pimps of the industry.