Pope Francis made a major policy address on Monday calling for a worldwide ban on surrogate pregnancies, arguing the practice of pregnancy for pay “reduces life to a mere commercial object” and allows for the exploitation of women and children.
Surrogacy is an arrangement where a woman carries and delivers a baby for another couple or person. The most common type of surrogacy uses the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or donors, rather than the surrogate. This is known as gestational surrogacy.
Surrogacy has become an increasingly popular way for people struggling with infertility to start families. Countries like the United States, Russia, and Israel have commercial surrogacy industries. Meanwhile the practice remains banned in places like France, Germany and Italy.
The Catholic church has consistently opposed surrogacy, along with abortion and in vitro fertilization. Pope Francis has frequently spoken against the idea of surrogacy, but Monday’s speech marks his strongest condemnation yet and most forceful call for an outright ban.
Pope Condemns Surrogacy as “Deplorable”
In his annual “state of the world” address to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See on Monday, Pope Francis went further than before in directly calling surrogacy “deplorable” and saying it should be universally outlawed.
He said surrogacy has reduced children to “mere commercial goods,” allowing them to be “bought and sold.” He likened the industry to “human trafficking” and said it exploits poorer women who “lend their wombs for money.”
The pontiff acknowledged that those who choose surrogacy may be “spurred by the desire for motherhood and fatherhood,” but said there were limits when pursuing such noble aims.
“Children are subjected to parents rather than accepting them as a gift,” said Francis. “By deviating from the loving gaze of God, new forms of relationship are invented which deviate from original sin.”
Surrogacy was just one in a long list of concerns Francis raised over threats to human dignity and peace, including war, inequality, poverty, corruption, human trafficking, organ trade, abortion, euthanasia and political repression.
Support and Criticism
The pope’s words were met with both support and opposition from groups around the world.
Conservative Catholic leaders and publications praised Francis’s strong stand. Some called for national bans to follow his lead in places where commercial surrogacy remains legal.
Meanwhile LGBTQ rights advocates and reproductive health groups largely opposed the speech. OutRight Action International called it an “anti-family tirade” that failed to consider the needs of intended parents.
Brad Hoylman, an openly gay New York state senator who himself has two daughters born via surrogate, tweeted:
“Surrogacy provides paths to parenthood for those who can’t have kids on their own. Most surrogates help other families out of generosity, not financial need.”
While Pope Francis leads over 1 billion Catholics worldwide, his direct influence in secular politics is limited. National governments are unlikely to pass sweeping bans on surrogacy solely due to his exhortations.
But the speech could lead to further advocacy from Catholic groups against surrogacy around the world. It may also result in attempts to tighten restrictions where surrogacy is already limited, such as in parts of Europe and South America.
The church itself has little power to directly enforce a ban, but by taking an uncompromising stand Francis and Catholic lawmakers may aim to place surrogacy on par with abortion as key “pro-life” issues. This could further energize conservative opposition.
Surrogacy looks set to remain a hot-button topic as medical advances expand options for would-be parents. With emotional arguments on all sides over children’s rights and women’s rights, expect debate to continue even if sweeping reforms remain unlikely for now.
|Legal in most states
|Illegal since 1994
|Major destination for foreign couples
Quotes on Pope Francis’s Speech
“Surrogacy is based on the exploitation of women’s bodies and the denial of the integral relationships between parents and child.” – National Review
“He fails to address the rain of ethical complexities that attend the matter.” – America Magazine
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