An Irish parliament committee has proposed recognition of commercial surrogacy, a practice banned throughout Europe with the exception of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
In some countries, including Italy, there are discussions about how to punish those who resort to so-called “womb renting” by traveling abroad to procure children that way. Instead, Ireland, now lost in a hyper-permissive drift, is moving in the opposite direction, one that could even make it the new destination for procreative tourism, now that the war has overwhelmed the very traditional destinations.
In February, the Irish Department of Health introduced a bill to regulate various forms of assisted fertilization, including surrogacy. However, it was not part of the government’s intent to address the issue of recognizing births to surrogate mothers outside the country. And yet, after a media campaign that also featured entertainment personalities who had themselves resorted to surrogate mothers abroad, the parliament decided to set up an ad hoc committee that, just in the past few days, presented its puzzling conclusions.
The government bill only allows for the so-called altruistic surrogacy, but at the same time it also envisages reimbursement of “reasonable expenses” incurred by the “surrogate mother.” That is, not only medical expenses in the strict sense, but also any loss of income over a 12-month period, which for many women would represent a substantial amount of money.
In fact, one of the experts called to testify told the commission that, “under the bill, it is possible to pay an Irish surrogate mother for reasonable expenses. Once you calculate the loss of income and other expenses, the figure can easily be as high as 10,000 euros, which is probably not very different from what surrogate mothers are paid in other countries, with the exception of the United States.” In Ukraine, where couples seeking a surrogate usually go, the average per capita income is 2,500 euros a year.
In short, while theoretically banning commercial surrogacy, in practice the government’s proposal allows for some leeway, through expense reimbursements, which for many poorer women would represent real work.
The commission’s report also underscores the hypocrisy of calling a practice involving substantial payments “altruistic” and therefore calls for the bill to be amended. But the same report goes further and recommends payment for certain services performed abroad that the government’s proposal would prohibit, as they are explicitly commercial in nature. For example, payment of agencies or clinics that arrange or give effect to a contract between principals and the surrogate mother is prohibited.
During the Commission’s work, only one of the participants denounced the risks of commercial surrogacy, which turns the baby into a commodity and the woman into an incubator. All others, prompted by a very effective press campaign, have been willing to meet any request from couples or singles resorting to surrogacy.
Some state officials who had helped prepare the bill during Commission hearings on international surrogacy recalled the impossibility of using a double standard, allowing the recognition of a practice banned at home only because it is possible abroad. If it is wrong to rent a womb in Ireland, why should it be acceptable to do so abroad?
But the Commission says that while it would be desirable for the conditions covered in contracts signed abroad to match the conditions required within the Irish state, this principle is almost impossible to enforce, and therefore the Commission believes that “it is sufficient that the medical and health conditions set by the surrogate’s state are met.”
That is, precisely the double standard and the double moral is applied: a little stricter at home, but turning a blind eye to what is happening abroad. And this will obviously give boost to procreative tourism.
If the Commission’s proposal passes, Ireland would become the only state in the world to give legal recognition to foreign surrogacy contracts. However, there would be a safeguard: for example, the child must have a genetic link to at least one of the commissioning parents. But another puzzling passage in the report is the Commission’s finding that such a requirement in the government’s bill is unnecessary if and when surrogacy takes place in Ireland.”
It means that an unmarried man could pay a woman to bring into the world a child conceived using the reproductive cells of two donors, who will also be reimbursed. What would be the difference between this practice and buying children?
The baby would grow up without having any relationship with the genetic mother, with the genetic father, with the other mother who cared it for nine months and then gave birth, and with genetic brothers and sisters, if any. Legally, in short, it would only be linked to the outsider who commissioned it, paying the various actors in this tragedy. It seems incredible how a once-Catholic country like Ireland has completely lost its sense of the maternal bond and is about to approve an aberrant practice that the rest of Europe rejects and condemns.
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