May 19, 2024

Commercial surrogacy hammered in Rome

Momentum in growing in Europe for a global ban on surrogacy. Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni has blasted surrogacy as an “inhuman practice”. Addressing a government-sponsored conference on boosting her country’s below-replacement birth rate, Meloni said “I support the bill that makes it a universal crime.” 

Surrogacy is currently illegal in Italy, so intending parents are engaging surrogate mothers overseas. Declaring it a “universal crime” means that Italians who go to countries like Spain and the United States could be prosecuted. 

In her characteristically combative style, Meloni framed the surrogacy issue as a demand by the gay lobby which necessarily exploits poor women. Her words were savage.

“some go so far as to deny that bringing a child into the world requires a man and a woman and, when faced with the facts, they think they can resolve the matter by perhaps fuelling a transnational market that exploits the bodies of poor women and turns children into a commodity, passing this off as an act of love or an act of freedom … No one can convince me that it is an act of freedom to rent out your womb; no one can convince me that it is an act of love to consider children to be like an over-the-counter product in a supermarket.”

It was a grim month in Italy for surrogacy. The Vatican also released a white paper on human dignity, Dignitas Infinita. It quotes Pope Francis: “A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract. Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally.”

And a two-day conference in Rome earlier this month was devoted to international surrogacy. Organised by the international movement behind the Casablanca Declaration, it was lobbying for a global ban. Speakers contended that surrogacy violates United Nations conventions protecting the rights of the child and the surrogate mother. 

Discussions centred on whether there is a fundamental right to have a child, or whether the rights of children are more important than the desires of the commissioning parents.

The stand-out speaker at the conference was Olivia Maurel, a 33-year-old mother of three, who was born from surrogacy. She attributes a lifetime of wrestling with mental health issues to what she called “the trauma of abandonment.”

“There is no right to have a child,” Maurel told the conference. “But children do have rights, and we can say surrogacy violates many of these rights.”

However, supporters of commercial surrogacy are bound to resist a possible ban. According to market research, global surrogacy is an industry which was worth about US$16 billion in 2023 and is predicted to rise to US$75 billion by 2031. The doctors, the IVF clinics, the lawyers, Big Pharma, the agencies, and the brokers are unlikely to disappear.