Fireworks erupted last week after Pope Francis demanded a global ban on the practice of surrogacy. He described it as “deplorable” and “a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child”. “A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract,” he said.
As a sign of the issue’s importance, he included it in his annual foreign policy speech to the Vatican diplomatic corps, along with Gaza, Ukraine, Myanmar, Armenia and other hotspots for war and violations of human rights.
The Pope’s critics pulled at the heartstrings; their argument is surrogacy is merely a way for childless people to build a loving family. “The Pope’s opinions on surrogacy are outdated, uninformed and condescending to the women who choose to be surrogates,” wrote an Australian surrogacy lawyer who has also been a surrogate mother in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Surrogacy is relied heavily upon for people who have no other options and really really want to grow their family,” Stephanie Levich, of Family Match Consulting, told People magazine.
“It’s insensitive and not in touch with the world,” Judith Hoechst, a surrogacy lawyer in Denver, told USA Today. “My son would not be on this Earth but for God, and God makes no mistakes.”
Although Pope Francis has a reputation for being “progressive”, he has condemned surrogacy many times. Bishop Robert Barron, one of the most cogent Catholic apologists in the US, explained the Pope’s sentiments forcefully in a press release from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“The commercialization of women and children in surrogacy is underlined by the belief that there is a right to have a child. The child becomes an object for the fulfilment of one’s desires instead of a person to be cherished. In this way, the genuine right of the child to be conceived through the love of his or her parents is overlooked in favour of ‘the right to have a child by any means necessary.’ We must avoid this way of thinking and answer the call to respect human life, beginning with the unborn child…
“The desire to utilize surrogacy might feel like the desire to form a family naturally, but no matter how well-intentioned, surrogacy always does grave injustice to the child, any discarded embryos (who are our fellow human beings), the commodified birth mother, and the loving union of the spouses.”