• Monday, May 20, 2024
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Pope Francis insists on abolition of surrogacy

Pope Francis renews appeal for global peace, calls for release of prisoners of war

…as Nigeria remains low-cost destination for int’l surrogacy

Pope Francis is pushing hard for the abolition of surrogacy as he partners with international advocates to protect mothers and children from exploitative transactions in a booming global market estimated to be worth about $14 billion as of 2022.

The pope believes the practice strips both the mother and child of human dignity with transactions that pay off child-bearing services.

He has called for the adoption of the 2023 Casablanca Declaration which seeks the establishment of a treaty abolishing surrogacy.

Read also: Easter: Pope Francis prays for people slain in war

“I consider deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood which seriously offends the dignity of the woman and the child. It is based on the exploitation of a situation of material needs of the mother. A child is always a gift and never the object of a contract,” Pope Francis said during an international conference with advocates.

About 20,000 babies are born through surrogacy yearly across the world and many of the advocates against it argue that it violates the rights of the children and makes the woman an object.

Nigeria has retained its spot as one of the low-cost destinations for international surrogacy without regulations despite increasing reforms in developed countries to clean up surrogacy procedures.

While commercial surrogacy operates in a legal grey area in Nigeria, with no laws to ensure ethical practices or protect surrogate mothers, women can still be compensated for carrying another couple’s genetically related child through IVF and embryo transfer.

According to NGA Law, a UK-based fertility law firm that specialises in international surrogacy, such plans in Nigeria often lack transparency and altruism and could be poverty-induced.

Between 2014 and 2021, British parents sought UK parental orders for at least 570 babies born to surrogates, including 33 in Nigeria, 201 in Ukraine, 182 in India, 80 in Georgia, and 26 in Thailand, according to Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in England.

Sonnie Ekowowusi, chairman, the Human and Constitutional Rights Committee in Nigeria, said the body receives numerous reports of people pressured into surrogacy, sometimes by poverty.

“We always advise against it,” he said.

Vatican teaching opposes in vitro fertilisation, and Pope Francis has previously voiced the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to surrogacy, or what he has called “uterus for rent.”

At the same time, however, the Vatican’s doctrine office has made clear that same-sex parents who resort to surrogacy can have their children baptised.

Although commercial surrogacy contracts are common in the United States, including protections for mothers, guarantees of independent legal representation, and medical coverage, they are banned in parts of Europe, including Spain and Italy.

Kajsa Ekis Ekman, author of Being and Being Bought – Prostitution Surrogacy and Split Self, said many who voluntarily take up surrogacy unconsciously sell off their rights.

Read also: Pope Francis writes meditations for 2024 ‘Way of the Cross’ meets Nigerians in Rome

“A lot of people think this is about your right to decide about your own body. In reality, it is the opposite. You are renouncing the right to your body in this contract,” Ekman said during the conference.

“This contract usually stipulates that you may not eat what you want, you may not travel, and so on. The most chilling one of all is that if you have an accident and you end up in a coma, it is the buyers, not your family who decide whether you are going to be kept alive until they can take the baby out.”

Studies show adoption rate has dropped 17 percent in the United States alone as more people turn to surrogacy to have children.