NOTE: Yesterday we filed the letter below with The Hague Conference on Private International Law. In addition, we have joined with a number of other organizations to petition the Hague, calling for an end to surrogacy.
24 March 2015
To Whom It May Concern:
The Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC) is pleased to submit this letter in support of the growing international effort to abolish the practice of surrogacy.
For the past fifteen years I have served as President of the CBC, which has been one of the leading opponents of third-party assisted reproduction. In addition, I am a nurse with over 20 years of experience in pediatric critical care nursing. I have contributed chapters in a nursing textbook on maternal and child health, and was three-time editor of Facts and Comparisons, a drug reference book for use by healthcare professionals. I have written and spoken extensively on reproductive technologies, the exploitation of women by the profit-driven fertility industry, and the risks to the health and well-being of women and children. I have testified to members of the European Parliament in Brussels on the exploitation of women for their eggs by the international fertility industry. I have briefed members of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill on numerous occasions, and I have been interviewed by numerous media outlets in print, radio, and television. In 2014, the Center for Bioethics and Culture released our documentary film on surrogacy, Breeders: A Subclass of Women?, in which we interviewed many surrogate mothers, adults who were conceived through surrogacy arrangements, and experts from the fields of medicine, law, and psychology.
The practice of surrogacy has grave implications for women’s health and for human rights in general—it should be an issue of primary concern for The Hague. The many issues raised by surrogacy include: the rights of the children produced, the ethical and practical ramifications of the further commodification of women’s bodies, the abundance of fraud committed by surrogacy companies, the exploitation of poor and low income women desperate for money, and the moral and ethical consequences of transforming a normal biological function of a woman’s body into a commercial transaction.
In surrogacy, the rights of the child are almost never considered. Transferring the duties of parenthood from the birthing mother to a contracting couple denies the child any claim to its “gestational carrier” as well as to its biological parents if the egg and/or sperm is/are not that of the contracting parents. In addition, the child has no right to information about any siblings he or she may have in the latter instance.
We believe surrogacy to be another form of the commodification of women’s bodies. Surrogate services are advertised to those with means to pay, surrogates are recruited most often from among the less well off, and operating agencies make large profits. These unequal transactions result in “uninformed” consent, low payments, coercion, poor health care, and severe risks to the short- and long-term health of surrogate mothers.
Consistent with a recent European parliament resolution from Great Britain and Romania, we believe that surrogacy and egg sale constitute an “extreme form of exploitation of women.” Here in the United States, The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law has stated that commercial surrogacy “could not be distinguished from the sale of children and that it placed children at significant risk of harm.”
As The Hague considers new measures on international surrogacy, we ask for you to consider the fact that surrogacy is indistinguishable from the buying and selling of children. Even altruistic surrogacy exposes women and children to risks and harms and must be banned. There is no regulation that will make surrogacy ethical, responsible, or in the best interest of women or children. We will be sending this letter to all member states of The Hague, and we urge you to act now to support the growing international effort to abolish the practice of surrogacy.
Founder and President of the Center for Bioethics and Culture
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.
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