Feminists Decry UN Promotion of Gestational Surrogacy

By | October 25, 2018

NEW YORK, October 26 (C-Fam) A coalition of feminist organizations petitioned world leaders and the United Nations General Assembly to ban surrogacy, asking governments to defund UN agencies that promote the controversial and dangerous practice.

“The United Nations and two of its agencies are currently trying to influence governments all around the world, and especially from developing countries, for the legalization of surrogacy, of the so-called ‘altruistic’ surrogacy,” reads the petition deposited with the President of the General Assembly.

The feminists denounce the “womb-rental industry” for using the same tactics as human trafficking networks and making women sign contracts waiving their rights.

“Altruistic surrogacy does not exist,” they maintain.

The petition comes on the heels of a report from the UN human rights office on preventing the sale of children that surprisingly did not take a position against either commercial or altruistic surrogacy but in favor of its regulation.

Rather than call for a ban on commercial and so-called altruistic surrogacy, the UN human rights office asks states to create international regulation for both. And rather than ask countries to respect the rights of the child to know and be cared for by their mother and father, it downgrades this obligation to the mere right to know one’s biological parentage.

The UN population agency (UNFPA) has an equally ambivalent approach. While it does not have an official position on surrogacy, it promotes access to artificial reproductive technologies as part of “sexual and reproductive health” policies wherever it is politically feasible.

A report on its work in China shows the agency has promoted surrogacy since at least 2014. In India, it has produced neutral materials warning of health risks. In a handbook on reproductive rights, it mentions artificial reproduction and surrogacy in a section on the right to benefit from scientific progress. And in another report, it lists artificial reproductive technology as a component of the package of sexual and reproductive health services men should be provided.

Over two-hundred and fifty organizations from 18 countries signed the petition, mostly from Europe and Latin America. Only two U.S. organizations were among them.

Commenting on the petition, surrogacy researcher Daniela Bandelli, told the Friday Fax she was not surprised.

“There is very little information on surrogacy in the United States,” she said.

Bandelli was commissioned by the European Union through a Marie Curie Fellowship to research feminist narratives on surrogacy and has been surprised by how weak opposition to surrogacy is in the United States, especially compared to Europe.

While Bandelli’s research uses Texas as a test case, she has struggled to find much organized opposition to surrogacy at all among both feminist and pro-life organizations in the U.S. This is something also artificial reproductive technology expert Jennifer Lahl has written about recently.

“Paradoxically it is illegal in many countries in Europe, but there is a very organized and visible abolitionist movement,” Bandelli said.

The feminist movement to abolish surrogacy models its discourse on the narrative about the commercialization of women of the campaign to abolish prostitution. Bandelli speculated that this kind of dialogue fails in the U.S.’s where liberalism and personal autonomy are dominant social norms.

“If you focus only on women you end up short-circuiting,” she said, suggesting that informing the public of the broader psychological, social, economic, and health consequences of surrogacy may have a wider resonance.