Surrogacy amounts to buying and selling children and must be stopped, a campaigner from ‘Stop Surrogacy Now’ has said.
Jennifer Lahl was in Ireland this week to speak at a conference hosted by the Iona Institute on How surrogacy exploits women and commodifies children.
In the run-up to the publication of the government’s plans for
regulating surrogacy in Ireland, Ms Lahl appealed for a complete ban on
surrogacy, like the one in place in Sweden, France and Spain.
“Europeans voted two weeks ago to not recognise surrogacy,” she told Pat Kenny on Newstalk.
“They say it is an undignified use of the woman’s body and it is an
undignified way to bring about a child.”
Ms Lahl is very encouraged by
this and by India’s recent closure of its borders for those travelling
in from abroad to “rent a womb”.
‘Stop Surrogacy Now’ is a broad coalition of women and men of the
left and right, of LGBT and religious backgrounds and from all regions
of the world who are concerned about women and children exploited
through surrogacy contract pregnancy arrangements.
“I’ve read surrogacy contracts,” she told Pat Kenny. “A surrogate
woman is basically agreeing for nine months that other people dictate
what she does with her body.” The contracts specify what food she can
eat, when she can have intercourse and so on. “You are basically
becoming a slave signing away your rights. It is appalling.”
All surrogate pregnancies are achieved using IVF and 75% of all IVF
cycles fail. Ms Lahl said she was not against IVF in itself – “It is
different to risk your own body because you desperately want a child”
– but surrogacy was different. “It is the rich that are buying and poor
that are selling. I’m a feminist and I’m outraged that we would use and
exploit a woman’s body, mostly for money, and pat ourselves on the back
and say that we’re lifting her out of poverty. [We say] ‘It’s win-win,
we get a baby, she gets much needed money.’”
On 8 October a surrogate in the US carrying twins for a Spanish
couple died due to “complications during pregnancy”. Ms Brown was
survived by her husband and her own three children. The twins, just days
from a planned delivery, also died. Even with a tragic case like this,
nobody is talking about surrogacy “as a matter of policy” in the
US, said Ms Lahl.
the case of so called ‘altruistic surrogacy’, where a family member
carries a baby for another and no money is involved, is flawed, she
says. “I produced a documentary film on surrogacy – Breeders: a subclass of women.
I had a woman who was surrogate for her brother and his same sex
partner. It has destroyed that family.” And she knows other ‘altruistic
surrogates’ who ended up deeply hurt. “The media doesn’t want to talk
about their stories. They want to talk about the poor [infertile] couple
and are terribly sympathetic to that. That is the only story that comes
Ms Lahl, a former paediatric nurse, knows that mother-child bonding
begins in the womb.
“The one and only thing a baby knows when they are
born is they know their mother’s voice, they know her movement, her
rhythm, they know her scent. They don’t know that this is just a nice
woman helping to have a baby. That is their mother. And there is a wound
when you separate that child at birth.”
Those risks are recognised in the cases of adoption or where a mother
dies in labour, and society tries to alleviate it in some way. “Then in
surrogacy we just say ‘It doesn’t matter that we might be creating a
We have to hear the voices of the children who are just starting to
come of age, said Ms Lahl. “I have interviewed people that are born of
surrogacy – one woman calls herself a ‘product’. Her first picture of
herself as a baby is in a lawyer’s office being handed over.” Her
genetic parents had paid $10,000 to the surrogate mother.
“We are experimenting on the next generation doing this and we’ll
have to wait and see as more and more of these children are born and
grow up. We are only now getting a large enough sample size in the
medical literature to show that babies born through IVF have medical
According to ‘Stop Surrogacy Now’, no one has a right to a child,
whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, or single by choice. “We
stand together asking national governments of the world and leaders of
the international community to work together to end this practice and
Stop Surrogacy Now.”