June 29, 2022

Is the UK slowly approaching legalization of commercial surrogacy?

A debate over the legalization of commercial surrogacy is simmering away on the back burner in the United Kingdom.

Last year the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission issued a 475-page report exploring the possibility of surrogacy in the UK. A final report with their recommendations is due later this year.

Catherine Bennett, a columnist at The Guardian, is an implacable foe of surrogacy. She criticised last year’s consultation paper for enabling “the instrumentalising of generally poor women and the commodification of children”. She concluded that “there now seems every prospect of legal change that will allow this country to become, just as our fish run out, a niche, global supplier of beautiful little blessings”.

She returned to the topic last week with a blistering attack on supporters of legalisation: “It would be a moral and medical disaster if Britain became a surrogacy centre”.

Surrogacy is inherently exploitative, she contends, recalling that one surrogacy agency in Ukraine advertises candidly that “Surrogate mothers tend to come from lower social classes, yet live in clean and modern homes and be [sic] employed.”

Surrogacy is not a pro-woman policy, she contends:

What if a surrogate (the commissioners dislike adding the word mother) is left not just permanently changed, but physically or mentally impaired by childbirth? Infertile? Dead? In a section on compensation … the commissioners accept that the sort of hazards depicted in [the BBC TV series] This Is Going to Hurt could damage, even kill, its UK surrogacy recruits. Like surrogacy’s paying clients, they clearly considered that women’s injuries and the occasional hysterectomy or death could be a price worth paying for this inessential service. [Even though] As the UN’s rapporteur said, warning about the sale of babies, “there is no right to have a child under international law”.