By Princess Chukwuneke
Surrogacy is a hotly debated topic in Europe. The general public currently awaits the results of the March 15th meeting held in Paris by the Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to discuss a draft report on “human rights and ethical issues related to surrogacy.” Whether or not this report was adopted is still unknown.
If the report written by Belgian member of the European Parliament, Dr. Petra de Sutter, is adopted, it will go public and will be debated by the 324-member plenary Assembly, which congregates parliamentarians from all 47 member states of the Council of Europe. Deliberation over this report is hardly new. In September 2015, the committee held a hearing with surrogacy experts, and later in November, Dr. de Sutter went to both the U.K. and Ukraine to collect further information for the report.
One of the ethical considerations surrounding this report is the choice of Dr. de Sutter as a rapporteur. Dr. de Sutter is head of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at Ghent University Hospital as well as partner with an Indian Surrogacy clinic called Seeds of Innocence. As actively involved as she is with the provision of reproductive options for women, would she not be biased toward supporting surrogacy? On the contrary: when challenged about this apparent conflict of interest, Dr. de Sutter told the French Huffington Post that there was none because “she rejects commercial surrogacy” and “thinks it should be banned.” However, she endorses surrogacy for Europe because there is a need to support and protect vulnerable children and mothers.
Dr. de Sutter will face some opposition on her journey. Several official EU documents do not view surrogacy as a solution for infertility. According to the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2014 and the European Union’s policy on the matter (which was voted on in 2015), surrogacy “undermines the human dignity of the woman” and allows “[the woman’s] body and its reproductive parts to be used as a commodity.” It also states that gestational surrogacy, which involves exploiting vulnerable women, especially in developing countries, “shall be prohibited and treated as a matter of urgency in human rights instruments.”
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