‘Google Babies’ – A Violation of Human Dignity

Roxana Stanciu
May 20, 2017

  Roxana Stanciu

 

A 2011 documentary, “Google Baby”, provided a glimpse of the growing ‘baby-making’ business across the world. In one scene, customers of an Israeli entrepreneur select their preferred sperm and eggs online. The frozen embryos are then shipped to India to be implanted in the wombs of surrogates. Nine months later, customers pick up their babies at an Indian facility.

This ‘industry’ is facilitated by marketing efforts. An online advert for a surrogate child in 2009 states [sic]:

“Caucasian infant, as embryos used where Caucasian, however gestational carrier is of colour. Carrier is in Nebraska however birth will occur in California! […] names of new parents names will be put on the birth certificate, no adoption necessary, no home study needed! The minute the baby is born, parents will have 100% custody!”

 

What is surrogacy?

According to a study published by the European Parliament (EP) in 2013, surrogacy is “a practice whereby a woman becomes pregnant with the intention of giving the child to someone else upon birth”. Surrogacy literally means “taking the place of someone else”. In the case of a surrogate mother, she bears a child on behalf of another person or couple, having agreed to surrender that child to them at birth or shortly afterwards.

But are women and children to be treated as commodities?

 

ECHR: “No” to surrogacy

In January 2017, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) handed down a decision in Paradiso and Campanelli v. Italy, an important case concerning a surrogacy arrangement made in Russia. The ECHR ruled that by putting the child in the care of the state after the surrogacy arrangement, Italian authorities were failing to meet the requirements of the European Convention of Human Rights.

According to ADF International, this was an important decision and it has had major implications for family law across Europe. It has meant that European governments can now act to protect children who have been ‘trafficked’ into countries through dishonest or false surrogacy arrangements.

The ECHR’s decision also held that “the right to respect for ‘family life’ does not safeguard the mere desire to found a family”. In his Concurring Opinion, Judge Dedov made some very clear statements that prove the danger that surrogacy represents for the society:

Any compromise with human rights and fundamental values entails the end of any civilisation. […] As regards solidarity, I do not believe in surrogate motherhood as a voluntary and freely-provided form of assistance for those who cannot have children; I do not believe that this is a sincere and honest statement. Solidarity is intended to help those whose life is at stake, but not those who merely desire to enjoy a full private or family life. [….] Human trafficking goes hand in hand with surrogacy arrangements. The facts of this case clearly demonstrate how easily human trafficking might be formally represented as (and covered by) a surrogacy arrangement. However, the phenomenon of surrogacy is itself quite dangerous for the wellbeing of society. I refer not to the commercialisation of surrogacy, but to any kind of surrogacy.”

 

The Council of Europe also rejects surrogacy

In 2016, a report that recommended the liberalisation of surrogacy was submitted to the Council of Europe. The rapporteur, Belgian Senator Dr. Petra De Sutter, had advocated for the 47 member states of the Council of Europe to legalize provisions for surrogacy agreements – ostensibly in the best interest of children. The report also recommended that the Committee of Ministers draw up a set of European Guidelines on surrogacy.

Dr. De Sutter was, however, accused of having significant conflicts of interest. For example, at the same time that she served as rapporteur, she also served as head of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University Hospital of Ghent (Belgium), which practices surrogacy. This seems a clear violation of PACE guidelines, which stipulate that

“[m]embers shall avoid conflicts between any actual or potential economic, commercial, financial or other interests on a professional, personal or family level one the one hand, and the public interest in the work of the Assembly on the other” (Paragraph 8, Rules of Conduct, Code of Conduct for Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe).

After many months of fierce debate, Dr. De Sutter’s report was rejected in October 2016 by the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly.

 

European Parliament opposes commoditization of women & babies

On 17 December 2015, the EP adopted a resolution condemning “the practice of surrogacy, which undermines the human dignity of the woman since her body and its reproductive functions are used as a commodity.” The motion went on to say, “[t]he practice of gestational surrogacy, which involves reproductive exploitation and use of the human body for financial or other gain, in particular in the case of vulnerable women in developing countries, shall be prohibited”. 

The European Parliament is not the first entity or authority to denounce surrogacy. There are some European countries – such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Bulgaria – that prohibit all forms of surrogacy.

 

Why surrogacy should be banned

But surrogacy is not merely an innocent employment option or a benign ‘service’. Surrogacy poses many problems and contradictions with established international human rights framework. Moreover, it entails numerous medical and psychological risks for the surrogate mother, the child, and the egg donor.

Surrogacy also goes against several existing conventions. It violates Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which establishes for a child to know his or her origin and identity. In addition, surrogacy is proscribed by the International Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of Human Beings (1997 Oviedo Convention), which prohibits the use of the human body for financial gain.

Considering all of the above, surrogacy is by no means an appropriate answer to infertility. It is a clear violation of the human dignity of all parties involved. It should be completely banned – and those who profit from it sanctioned.