An inhuman and degrading practice that disfigures the dignity of women by violating that mysterious bond that develops from the first instant between a mother and the child that is growing inside her womb day after day; an abhorrent practice that negates the dignity and the rights of the child made into an object of sale. In the last few days the images of scores of babies – with numbers increasing every day – born from surrogacy in Ukraine thanks to BioTexCom, a reproductive medicine and mitochondrial replacement clinic, stranded in their cribs in a hotel in Kiev due to the lockdown caused by Covid-19, preventing their “clients”, living in other countries, from “picking them up”, hit world news. Just like any other commodity, stored in a warehouse waiting to be delivered to the purchaser.
Surrogate motherhood is expressly forbidden in Italy under Law 40/2004 on medically assisted procreation, but many couples bypass the ban by relocating for as long as necessary to the countries where it is allowed. In addition to Italy, surrogacy is forbidden in Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Hungary, Greece and the Netherlands. In the United Kingdom surrogacy is legal, but limited to British citizens and only allowed at no cost (altruistic surrogacy). Ukraine and Russia have the most permissive legislation in Europe, under which a “surrogate mother” can be paid for her service. The all-inclusive package ranges from €39,000 (“standard”) to €65,000 (“VIP”), as explained on the website of the BioTexCom clinic. Women are entitled to only 1% or 2% of the fee. The poorest and most disadvantaged, often illiterate – as is the case in Cambodia and India – are the first victims of this modern form of slavery. Over the past few years some agencies have created a dedicated branch dealing exclusively with male homosexual couples.
“At the sight of those images I felt sad and bitter thinking about what’s behind them: exploitation, poverty, demand for possession, trade in human beings, commodification of human life since its inception, planning of children as consumer goods to be manufactured for heterosexual or homosexual couples who commissioned them,” Marina Casini, national president of the Pro-Life Movement in Italy, told SIR.
A new form of slavery…
Connected to a business that also involves eugenism, trafficking of gametes and embryos, distortions of the parental and family bonds. This approach to a newborn life is a lifelong approach, it marks an understanding of the other person that violates their inherent dignity.
With nascent life, the whole of life is at stake.
Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis both reaffirmed that “if we lose personal and societal sensitivity to welcoming a new life, other forms of acceptance beneficial to social life will also come apart.” In the case of Kiev embrace is replaced by abuse. It’s a shocking case, but these attitudes are found every time suppression and manipulation characterize the approach to a new human life. Let it suffice to mention abortion claimed as a fundamental right and the various forms of destruction of newly conceived human beings (morning-after and five-day abortion pills), experiments, preimplantation genetic diagnosis…). The real antidote is to start from an unambiguous, firm and determined recognition of the newly-conceived as “one of us”.
The absolutization of individual freedom and the self-determination principle. When the full humanity of others, their equal dignity from conception to death, is not recognized, this paves the way to reducing the human person to an object. It was the case for slaves – an object of trade and bargaining for centuries. The growing recognition of human rights, based on the principle of equality in dignity, finally abrogated the notion of human beings as commodities. Unfortunately, today we are witnessing the resurgence of age-old inclinations that run counter to civil progress by claiming to legitimize alleged rights.
While the desire to become a mother and a father is a noble one, a child cannot be considered the object of other people’s rights to be acquired at all costs, but rather a rights-holder himself.
“Surrogacy” is another name for “womb for rent.” A subtle hypocrisy to clean one’s conscience?
Definitely. Ethics starts with semantics. In order to promote issues contrary to the respect of human life, people use sugar-coated formulas that mitigate factual evil, deceive and entice. The rented womb practice is also called “gestation for others” (Gestation Pour Autrui – GPA) and “solidarity gestation”, with an obvious intent to transform commercial exploitation into something praiseworthy because it is “altruistic.” This phenomenon occurs also in other areas concerning nascent life: voluntary pregnancy termination instead of abortion; emergency contraception instead of abortion pills; therapeutic cloning indicating test-tube conception of cloned human beings to be used – and destroyed – for therapeutic purposes.
Here a sort of power struggle comes into play between wealthy would-be parents and extremely poor pregnant women. Does nobody worry about the devastating psychological and emotional impact that a “contract,” undersigned perhaps in a moment of vulnerability or even despair, can have on a woman who, feeling the child to be “hers” as the pregnancy progresses, no longer wants to part with it?
The economic, contractual, commercial and profit-oriented criteria excludes consideration for the psychological and emotional impact on the victims, respect for life and motherhood. However,
the “cry” of the woman carrying the child commissioned by others is sometimes heard.
The bond that develops between a woman and her biological child during pregnancy is strong, intense, rich in interaction. It is no coincidence that several times legal proceedings have been filed with regard to the relationship between commissioners and the “surrogate mother”, as the maternal feelings induced by gestation had led the woman giving birth to decide to violate the agreements and not to give up her child, or to refuse to have an abortion in the case of an “imperfect” embryo. An emblematic and touching case was that of Pattaramon Chambua, a young Thai woman, married and mother of two children, who had refused to abort the baby inside her womb affected by the “Down’s syndrome”, as provided for in the contract with the wealthy Australian couple who commissioned the baby.
The woman kept her son, Gammy, and when she received the “One of us” award from the European federation in Paris, she said: “Everyone has the right to life. I came to this realization through my experiences with Gammy. He is a child who needs love, like all human beings. He is sociable, kind and loved by everyone.
I want to say to families expecting a child with trisomy 21 that they will have a pearl among the pearls, a gift that will make you see things differently and introduce you to love with a capital L”.
How can we counter this phenomenon?
First of all, the request made by a group of politicians to the Italian Government to take action on the Ukrainian Government in order to permit the adoption of the stranded infants in Ukraine, in compliance with Italian State laws and those on international adoptions, is to be endorsed. This would break with the concept of parenthood as a business transaction. In general, it is not enough to say “no,” it is necessary to affirm “yes.” The future must be shaped according to a higher level of civilization and humanity, overcoming evil with the persuasive force of good. It is necessary to promote an anthropological vision that draws on the beauty of what is true and fair with regard to human life, motherhood, the family, the wonder of existence as generated – and not commissioned -children. We are all responsible, believers and non-believers alike, because this issue concerns everyone. We must take seriously the words of St. John Paul II in “Evangelium vitae”, the topicality of which is astonishing: “What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life.”