It’s time again for celebrities making headlines with their babies born of surrogacy and often anonymous egg “donation.” My inbox lit up like a tiki torch last week when colleagues in Spain sent me the news that 68-year-old celebrity Ana Obregón became a grandmother via surrogacy. In 2020, at age 27, her son Alessandro lost his battle with cancer, and it’s reported his sperm was used and this baby girl was born to fulfill her dying son’s wish. He must have had his sperm frozen in anticipation of his death. Since Ana is 68, I’m stating the obvious in saying an anonymous egg donor was used. It is reported that a U.S. surrogate in Miami, Florida gave birth to Ana Sandra Lequio Obregón born on March 20th. Pictures of Ana leaving the hospital in a wheelchair, holding the baby, sparked outrage as we have another example of the birth mother and egg “donor” being erased out of the picture. It should be the case that babies are wheeled out of the hospital in their mother’s arms.
The Spanish were outraged for other reasons, too, primarily because surrogacy is prohibited in their country. I have been to Spain to speak many times, even bringing with me Kelly Martinez from our film #BigFertility, who was harassed and exploited by a Spanish couple who hired her to be their surrogate. The loophole in the Spanish law is it is not forbidden to travel abroad to rent wombs, so this particular couple hired Kelly, a young mother living in South Dakota. I do find it odd that payment for eggs is permitted in Spain but not for surrogacy. But clearly, Spain needs to address their imperfect law to protect women and children.
My latest saying is “Be like Italy” where a national debate is taking place on surrogacy. Italy, like Spain, prohibits in-country surrogacy but to date has allowed Italians to travel abroad to rent wombs and buy babies. Women may donate their eggs in Italy but they cannot sell them, which means most women won’t undergo this risky procedure. As we say in #BigFertility: It’s All About the Money. But with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in charge, now there is a debate taking place which would criminalize people traveling to other countries to hire surrogates. Brava, Italy if you are able to accomplish this and stop reproductive tourism.
When I was last in Spain, I spoke to many members of the Spanish Parliament. I thanked them for their good law which prohibited surrogacy in Spain, but I encouraged them to expand the law by refusing to allow the Spanish to come to my country to exploit women like Kelly Martinez.
In additional celebrity surrogacy news, Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley and his husband Dustin Lance Black have just announced the birth of their second son born March 28th via surrogacy and egg “donation.” Daley is quoted as saying, “Lance and I had lost so many people in our families, and there was something about surrogacy that we were drawn to that just meant that we could pass on the people that we’d lost.”
In these two new stories of the rich and famous getting the babies of their dreams, there is never a mention of the women who were used and perhaps even harmed, in order for them to buy their children. And there seems to be no acknowledgement that children need, deserve, and have a right to a relationship with their biological and birth mother.
- 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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