The European Christian Political Movement (ECPM) is very concerned about the implications of a recent ECHR ruling regarding an international surrogacy arrangement. The ECPM calls on all EU Member States and Council of Europe state parties as well as main international partners such as the US and India to address the concerns with regards to surrogacy. The ECPM is currently supporting a Council of Europe motion to this effect.
In the light of the reappearance of the surrogacy issue on the Council of Europe agenda – with the ECHR ruling on the status of the children born to two French couples through an international surrogacy arrangement and the introduction of a motion for resolution on the topic in the Parliamentary Assembly – it seems appropriate to bring into discussion some of the ECPM’s main concerns surrounding this phenomenon.
Surrogacy is a phenomenon that reports over the past years have shown to be on the increase, although no statistics showing the exact number exist due to the highly unregulated nature of the practice in many countries. A surrogacy arrangement can be defined as the practice whereby a woman accepts to bear and give birth to a baby for someone else. Surrogacy can take different forms – traditional surrogacy is understood as the situation where the woman carrier is biologically related to the baby, while in gestational surrogacy the woman is implanted with a fertilized egg that has no genetic relation to her. The legal, ethical and human rights implications of this practice are complex.
The ECPM is particularly concerned with the undermining of the health and human dignity of the women carriers involved in the process and, just as importantly, the human rights of the child conceived and born as a result of the arrangement.
In the practice of surrogacy, and in particular commercial surrogacy where a woman receives payment beyond expenses incurred for carrying the baby, the womb of the ‘carrier’ is being effectively treated as a part distinct from the rest of her, ‘rented out’ as a commodity. The ECPM believes no human being or any part of him or her should be treated as a commodity as this belittles their worth as a person.
Moreover, the assisted reproduction techniques used in order to ensure conception place the women carrier at risk of a number of health problems, particularly in the case of gestational carriers. In the case of the latter situation, where conception is achieved by using the egg of a donor different from the surrogate mother, similarly serious health risks also apply for the egg donor. The ECPM is deeply concerned about the health and social implications for the egg donor and women carriers brought about by the practice of surrogacy and points to the need for further discussion and research on this aspect of the topic.
As commercial surrogacy is illegal or unregulated in most European states, a growing number of couples seek help abroad and engage in surrogacy arrangements abroad in countries such as India, Ukraine and the U.S.A. The ECPM would like to draw attention to the risks that this type of fertility tourism poses, particularly in regard to the exploitation of women in disadvantaged positions.
At least an equally if not more concerning issue to do with surrogacy is the clear undermining of the human rights and human dignity of the babies who are born as a result of these arrangements. The Convention on the Rights of the Child expressly states that children have a right to be protected from exploitation and calls on states to act in the best interest of the child. The ECPM finds it evident that surrogacy arrangements undermine this right. Surrogacy robs the baby of his or her claim to their gestational carrier, which research points is harmful to their development and wellbeing and, particularly in the case of commercial surrogacy, effectively turns the child into a commodity. Moreover, in the case of international surrogacy arrangements, where European couples undergo the arrangement abroad due to it being illegal in their home country, children very often find themselves in a legal limbo and are not able to enjoy full rights as citizens in their country of residence.
The ECPM and its member parties will continue to monitor legal and practical development of surrogacy. The ECPM calls on legislators and policymakers to deal with the many legal and ethical issues that currently remain unaddressed. In the meantime, the ECPM urges France and other Council of Europe state parties to continue to consider surrogacy arrangements on a case-by-case basis.